Preventing Recurrent Stroke: Eating Healthy

Eating healthy foods helps lower cholesterol and reduce plaque buildup in arteries. It can also help you lose weight and keep high blood pressure under control. Eating better doesn’t necessarily mean going on a special diet, unless you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Instead, the idea is to make healthier choices by limiting foods and ingredients that contribute to risk factors for stroke.


Instead of:

  • Beef and other red meats

  • Hamburger

  • Processed lunch meats


  • Fish, skinless chicken, or tofu

  • Ground turkey

  • Chicken or turkey breast slices

Sweets and snacks

Instead of:

  • Soda pop

  • Chips and other salty snacks

  • Donuts and croissants


  • Water

  • Nuts, seeds, air-popped popcorn

  • Fresh fruit, whole-grain raisin bread


Instead of:

  • White bread

  • White rice

  • Regular pasta or noodles

  • White potatoes


  • Whole-grain bread

  • Brown rice

  • Whole-grain pasta or noodles

  • Sweet potatoes


Instead of:

  • Whole milk

  • Regular cheese and mayonnaise

  • Ice cream

  • Butter


  • 1% or skim milk

  • Low-fat cheese and mayonnaise

  • Low-fat yogurt

  • Olive or canola oil

Plate with one-quarter holding piece of salmon, one-quarter holding whole-grain rice, half holding vegetables and salad. Glass of water next to plate.

Choose the right mix of foods

The key to good eating is having a variety of healthy foods. Try to plan meals around vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and whole grains. Limit fatty meats and high-fat dairy products. The chart below can show you the best way to fill up your plate.

  1. Drink water or low-fat (1% of fat-free skim) milk with meals. Avoid sugary sodas and salty vegetable juices.

  2. At least half the plate should be vegetables and fruits. Limit fatty toppings, such as butter, salad dressing, and sour cream.

  3. No more than one-quarter of the plate should be meat or other protein. Fish, beans, tofu, and lean cuts of poultry are best. Bake or broil meat instead of frying.

  4. About one-quarter of the plate can be starchy foods, such as rice and potatoes. Whole-grains, such as brown rice or whole-wheat bread, are best.

Try healthier options

Giving up old food habits doesn’t have to be hard. Encouragement makes it easier to stick with a healthy eating plan. Here are some easy ways to choose healthier options:

Choose fats wisely

Reducing “bad” fats in your diet helps keep your arteries healthier. Use this guide:

  • Choose unsaturated fats. These are found in foods such as fish, nuts, olive oil, canola oil, and avocados. In moderation, these fats can be good for you.

  • Limit saturated fats. These are found in meat and dairy foods, such as burgers, poultry skin, milk, cheese, and butter.

  • Avoid trans fats. These are often found in processed foods. Avoid any food that has the word “hydrogenated” in its ingredients.

Reduce sodium (salt)

You may be asked to eat less sodium (mainly found in salt). If you have high blood pressure, your healthcare provider will probably recommend that you limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg to 2,400 mg per day. Use these tips:

  • Look for food labels that say “salt free” or “very low sodium.” Always check for the number of servings per container on the food label, as a container of food may have more than 1 serving. 

  • Avoid canned and packaged foods such as canned soup, instant noodles, TV dinners, and premade sauces.

  • Don’t add salt or soy sauce to meals. Use fresh herbs or lemon juice for seasoning. Your taste buds will adjust.

  • Avoid fast food. Look for “heart healthy” items on restaurant menus. These are often lower in fat and salt.


For family and friends

Good eating habits are easier when everyone joins in.

  • Help shop for healthy foods. Choose lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • It’s most helpful if everyone in the family eats healthy foods.