The Foundation of the National Lipid Association (NLA), as well as other health organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend choosing heart-healthy foods in your everyday meal planning.  Whenever you can, choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish and poultry, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and healthy fats.  When grocery shopping, notice and try to avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.  Highly processed foods are often guilty of this!  For heart health, choose foods that have less than 500mg of sodium, 1 to 2g of saturated fat, and 7g of sugar per serving.  

Sometimes healthy foods can be harder to find if you are in a “food desert” where grocery stores or farmer’s markets are not nearby.  Other times your budget may require shopping for foods in more affordable places such as “Dollar stores”.

We partnered with two credentialed dietitians* who looked at food choices you can find in Dollar General stores in Pennsylvania and Florida to make a list of heart-healthy and affordable food that you can include in your diet.  There are other budget stores like these in different parts of the country that provide many food choices, so be sure to check the food labels and compare brands to find the healthiest choice.

Fruits/vegetables

  • Frozen varieties – fruits, vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, green beans, peas, okra
  • Canned vegetables (rinse them in room-temperature water to reduce sodium) – sun-dried tomato halves, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, mushrooms, sweet potatoes
  • Canned fruit – pineapple in juice, other canned fruits in water or light syrup, freeze-dried apple slices and mixed fruit (many have no fat or sodium)
  • 100% fruit juice – orange and apple
  • Raisins and other dried fruits (look for fruit without added sugar)

Starches

  • Raisin Bran, Cheerios, Honey-nut Cheerios, rolled oats oatmeal, grits
  • Dried beans such as great northern, pinto, lima, dried peas
  • Pasta, yolk-free egg noodles, long-grain white rice, yellow rice, (Look for whole wheat pasta or brown/wild rice if available)
  • Dried and canned beans – kidney beans, canned black beans, pinto beans, pink beans, green pigeon peas
  • Thin wheat crackers (like Wheat Thins 100% Whole Grain)
  • 100% whole wheat bread (Sara Lee, Arnold)
  • 100% whole wheat bagels (Thomas’)
  • Tortillas (wheat or corn)

Protein

  • StarKist chunk light tuna in water, BumbleBee albacore tuna in water
  • Sardines in tomato sauce
  • Canned chuck turkey and chicken
  • Frozen deli turkey and ham slices
  • Frozen cooked shrimp
  • MorningStar veggie burgers
  • Tyson grilled and ready chicken (rinse in cold water to reduce sodium)
  • Peanut butter (ideally, 100% peanuts without added salt and syrup. Tip: to avoid having to stir in the top layer of oil found in “natural” peanut butters for each use, stir once and put in the fridge!)

Dairy, Eggs, Margarine

  • Non-fat or 1% milk
  • Non-fat almond milk (look for an option that is unsweetened and without added flavors)
  • Dannon fat-free yogurt
  • Lite and Fit Greek yogurt crunch
  • Mozzarella, feta cheeses
  • Eggs (avoid eating more than 4 eggs per week to help limit cholesterol intake to <200 mg/day)
  • Imperial tub margarine (no trans-fat)

Snacks

  • Nuts – peanuts, pistachios, mixed nuts
  • Hot and spicy pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Trail mix, dried fruit and nuts (lightly salted)
  • Popcorn (to make your own, look for lightly salted and light butter options)
  • Animal crackers, graham crackers (choose the unfrosted kind when available)
  • Welch’s fruit snacks

Beverages

  • Coffee, tea, water, no-sugar Kool-Aid and Wyler’s light lemonade powder mixes, sports drinks

Miscellaneous

  • Healthy Choice soups
  • Wishbone dressings – balsamic vinegar, raspberry vinegar
  • Kraft zesty Italian dressing
  • Marinara pasta sauce (Little Italy Foods, no fat 300 mg sodium – lower than Hunt’s)
  • Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, olive oil and other liquid vegetable oils, mustard
  • Seasonings – pepper, salt, lemon pepper, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, minced onion, onion powder
  • Almond and vanilla flavoring

*Lori A. Alexander, MSHS, RD, CCRC, CLS, FNLA from the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research in Jacksonville, Florida and Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, FNLA from Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.

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