Heart Healthy Diets: The Big Picture Approach

There are many diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet), Keto diet, Vegan diet, Vegetarian diet, Ornish diet, and many more. With so many diet options, deciding what diet to follow can be challenging. In fact, we reviewed eleven different diets in 2021.

For secondary cardiovascular disease prevention, the Mediterranean diet shines and for the 6th year, the Mediterranean diet was named the number one overall best diet by U.S. News & World Report.  The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating whole foods like seafood, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, beans, and olive oil.

The Mediterranean diet has been heavily researched and proven helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease. In addition to the positive impact of the Mediterranean diet on primary prevention, the diet is also beneficial for individuals with existing cardiovascular disease. In a trial published in The Lancet, researchers found that participants with coronary heart disease who were assigned to the Mediterranean diet experienced fewer cardiovascular events than those who were assigned to a low-fat diet. The researchers concluded that the Mediterranean diet should be used as a tool in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.  

Deciding to eat healthier comes with limiting or eliminating foods and beverages that can contribute to adverse health outcomes. Some foods and beverages to eat less of…

  • Sweets
  • Foods high in sodium
  • Foods or beverages with added sugar
  • Red meats
  • Refined grains
  • Alcohol
  • Foods with high amounts of saturated fats


Whether you decide to follow a diet or not, it is essential to incorporate healthy eating habits into your daily life. Some whole foods to incorporate more of…

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seafood
  • Lean-cut meats
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Beans


Meal Planning and Prepping

Although you may intend to eat healthier, your daily commitments and obligations may cause you to choose convenience eating, such as restaurant meals or ready-to-eat food. Planning and prepping meals may help you overcome this obstacle.

Meal planning consists of the steps you take before cooking your meals. First, decide what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks and what recipes you will use, if any. You can eat the same meals for the entire week or different meals throughout the week. When deciding what to eat, consider how well your chosen meals will last in the refrigerator and freezer and if the food heats up nicely. Next, check your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry for ingredients you already have. Lastly, list the ingredients you need and visit the grocery store.

After planning your meals, it is time to prep.  You can cook and store meals for the entire week at once or throughout the week. Additionally, you can cook components of meals (e.g., proteins, vegetables, and starches) and combine them when it is time to eat. If you like eating food right after cooking it, you can prepare the ingredients beforehand and cook meals when you are going to eat them.


Until Next Time!

Stephanie Coulter, MD

More on the diet from the US News & World Report

Thank you to Symone Taylor for her contributions to this issue of Straight Talk.


Additional Resources

Diet and Secondary Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (Download & Print)

Eat More Color (American Heart Association)


Meal Plans and Recipes

Eat More Color (American Heart Association)

Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Easy Mediterranean Diet Meals (Kitchn)

30-Day Mediterranean Diet Breakfast Plan (Eating Well)

30 Days of Mediterranean Diet Lunches (Eating Well)

60 Mediterranean Diet Dinner Recipes You Can Make in No Time (PureWow)

Low-Cost Farmers Market Recipes  (NYC Health)



The information in Diet and Secondary Cardiovascular Disease Prevention has been taken from many sources. It is meant to give you information about the impact of the Mediterranean diet on secondary prevention and healthy eating habits. Still, the article does not cover all the benefits and risks. This information should not be used as medical advice. Please talk to your provider for individualized diet recommendations and instructions.