A heart-healthy diet features whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean protein—an ingredient list that doesn’t quite read like the contents of a typical fast food menu. However, that doesn’t mean you’re lucky to find heart-healthy options at popular chains. In fact, many fast food companies have come to understand the fact that most Americans desire to eat better — and that many of them need to focus specifically on heart health. (Heck, about half of us –47 percentThey have high blood pressure, whether we know it or not.)
If you’re tired of staring at a list of cars scratching your head at what to pick, never fear. We’ve rounded up six takeaways that nutritionists say are really good for your heart.
He says “I love Blaze Pizza, where you can go down the line and build your own pizza” Julie Chudak, RDN, CPT, CLTFrom Lifetime Nutrition and Fitness. “There’s no limit to vegetable additions (and there are 14 toppings to choose from) and every month there’s a seasonal vegan option.” As you build your pie, consider leafy greens like fresh spinach, which are high in potassium and nitrates. Potassium helps Counter the effects of sodiumwhile nitrates may help regulating blood pressure.
If you’re not a fan of veggies on pizza, you can always enjoy them in a salad! “There’s also their ‘Take Two’ option where you can make half an order of pizza and a salad,” Chudak says. “Just use the sauce on the side, as some of the Blaze dressings are high in sugar and saturated fat.”
Chipotle may be known for burritos that are as big as your head, but the Mexican chain offers some less gut-busting options. Lifestyle Bowls, primarily keto, Whole 30, and Paleo options, are great choices for those looking to eat out but make heart-healthy choices. Sharon Boylow, MA, RD, CDN, CDCESFrom fresh nutrition. “These meals follow a whole foods approach to eating, which can help reduce systemic inflammation, a known cause of heart plaques.”
According to Boelu, lifestyle dishes are also a good source of heart-healthy fats. “An adequate intake of dietary fat while reducing highly processed carbohydrates is key to improving fat particle size, which is a measure of heart disease risk,” she says. And the benefits don’t stop there. “Products included in these meals (cooked onions, sauce, etc.) contribute heart-healthy nutrients, such as quercetin and lycopene.”
Need a heart-healthy breakfast on the go? Swing by McDonald’s for a maple fruit and oatmeal, says Patricia Colsa, MS, RDN. “Oatmeal contains fiber that helps lower cholesterol,” she explains. Fresh apple slices topping at breakfast add to their fiber content (4 grams total) and provide antioxidants that may help reduce overall inflammation. And with a total of 320 calories, this breakfast cup keeps the serving size moderate.
It’s DIY to win again! Making your own quick meal gives you control over the heart-healthy ingredients that make up the chops—and that you can leave behind the counter. At Qdoba, consider coordinating your taco bowl, he suggests Amanda Lynn, MS, RD, CDCESFrom healthy nutrition lin. “Choose lettuce, brown rice, beans, and avocado for heart-healthy fiber and unsaturated fats. Look for animal proteins and cheese sauce, as they’re high in sodium and less healthy saturated fats.”
With baby carrots, peas, falafel-style bites, and avocado spread, it’s hard to find fault with this Starbucks vegan protein box. “These boxes are so perfect!” Says Cardiac nutrition specialist Veronica Ross, RD, MANwho also recommends the Starbucks Cheese, Protein and Fruit Box and the PB&J Protein Box. “They all contain fruits and vegetables (packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), plus enough cheese, nuts, seeds, or legumes that they’re a good source of heart-healthy protein. They usually What they have are other good things to add fiber to to keep you full. Finally, they all contain a reasonable amount of sodium.”
I bet you weren’t expecting tacos on the menu again! In recent years, Taco Bell has made a name for itself as a healthier chain with smaller portions and “fresco style” menu options. Among their top heart-healthy options: juicy chicken tacos. according to Lisa Andrews, MEED, RD, LDFrom Proper nutritionEach one has only 160 calories, 12 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Add a side of black beans to boost the fiber content of the meal with an extra 140 milligrams of sodium.
Sarah Garon, NDTR
Sarah Garon, NDTR, is a registered nutrition and diet expert, and health, nutrition, and food writer. Read more about Sarah
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