Heart-Healthy Diet Plan for Fall

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Chicken Quinoa Sweet Potato Casserole

As the season changes to fall and the temperatures start to cool, we often find ourselves turning on the oven, pulling out the slow-cooker and simmering soups on the stovetop. In this heart-healthy diet plan, we take advantage of this comforting routine by incorporating seasonal autumn flavors into heart-healthy recipes. Soups, stews and slow-cooker recipes are the perfect base to add healthy ingredients, likes veggies (especially winter vegetables like butternut squash), whole grains, beans and lentils. These heart-friendly superfoods are high in fiber, which helps keep our cholesterol levels in a healthy range and arteries clear of buildup. If you're overweight, losing weight can play an important role in improving heart health. We set this plan at 1,200 calories per day to promote a healthy weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week, and added in modifications for bumping up the plan to 1,500- and 2,000-calorie days depending on your needs.

What Is a Heart-Healthy Diet?

The goal of a heart-healthy diet is to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure down, since you have increased risk of heart attack and stroke if either is uncontrolled. To encourage healthy cholesterol, we limit saturated fat to no more than 9 grams a day by reducing animal fats, like red meat and cheese in excess. For blood pressure, we max out the sodium at 1,500 milligrams per day by cooking meals at home and limiting processed foods. Fiber, a nutrient that most of us don't get enough of, plays an important role in keeping your heart healthy. Increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes to hit your fiber goal of at least 28 grams per day. The best heart-healthy diet is one you can stick to, so try cooking at home more often and experimenting with new flavors to keep your heart healthy and taste buds happy.

See More: Quick & Easy Heart-Healthy Dinners

Heart-Healthy Foods List

Scan this list to see the heart-healthy foods to eat more of—and the foods to cut back on—to help keep your heart in good shape.

Foods to Increase:

  • Healthy Fats: Salmon, fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil can raise our "good" HDL cholesterol, which helps protect our heart.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Packed with fiber and nutrients, fresh or frozen produce helps keep our heart happy.
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils are a great source of fiber, which reduces fat absorption and keeps our cholesterol down. Plus, they are a good source of protein: try using them in place of meat a few times a week. If using canned beans, look for low-sodium options and give them a rinse to reduce salt.
  • Whole Grains: Oats, quinoa, barley, brown rice and whole-wheat bread are higher in fiber and nutrients than refined grains, like white flour and white rice.
  • Fish: Salmon and tuna are particularly healthy because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, a good type of fat that helps keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range, setting you up for better heart health.

Read more: Our Top 15 Heart-Healthy Foods

Foods to Limit:

  • Saturated Fat: Found in animal fats, like butter, cheese, red meat and high-fat dairy, this type of fat raises cholesterol and causes more plaque to form in our arteries. Interestingly, foods high in cholesterol, like shrimp and eggs, don't seem to raise our body's cholesterol, so focus on decreasing saturated fat instead.
  • Trans Fat: You'll have to check the ingredient list for this unhealthy fat. The nutrition label can say 0 g trans fat, but a food could still contain up to 0.5 grams. When reading the ingredients, avoid foods (like baked goods and processed peanut butter) containing hydrogenated fats or partially hydrogenated fats. Thankfully, trans fats were recently removed from the FDA's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list after research confirmed they play a significant role in disease development, so you'll see that companies have started removing them from foods. Manufacturers are banned from adding them as of January 2020.
  • Salt: Skip processed foods, frozen dinners, fast food and processed meats, like hot dogs and lunch meat, to reduce sodium in your diet. Cooking at home and avoiding processed foods can help significantly reduce salt intake

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals

A little meal prep at the beginning of the week can go a long way to make the week ahead easier.

  1. Cook the Lemony Lentil Soup with Collards to have for lunch on Days 2 to 5.
  2. Prep two servings of Chai Chia Pudding to have for breakfast on Days 2 and 3.
  3. Mix up a batch of the Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette to have throughout the week.
  4. Make the Peanut Butter-Oat Energy Balls to have as snacks throughout the week.

Day 1

Breakfast (245 calories)

A.M. Snack (101 calories)

  • 1 medium pear

Lunch (370 calories)

P.M. Snack (105 calories)

  • 5 dried figs

Dinner (390 calories)

Total: 1,210 calories, 70 g protein, 164 g carbohydrates, 28 g fiber, 36 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 867 mg sodium


To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack and 1/2 cup cooked brown rice to dinner.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter and 1 small apple to breakfast, add 1 oz. whole-wheat pita chips and 3 Tbsp. hummus to lunch, add 20 unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack, and add 1/2 cup cooked brown rice to dinner.

Day 2

Breakfast (264 calories)

A.M. Snack (73 calories)

Lunch (296 calories)

P.M. Snack (155 calories)

  • 1 5-oz. container nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

Dinner (430 calories)

Total: 1,218 calories, 56 g protein, 151 g carbohydrates, 29 g fiber, 47 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 1,174 mg sodium


To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to breakfast and 1 small apple to lunch.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to breakfast, add 1 apple and a 1-oz. slice whole-wheat baguette to lunch, add 1 pear to P.M. snack, and add 2 cups mixed greens with 1 serving Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette and 1/2 an avocado to dinner.

Day 3

Breakfast (264 calories)

A.M. Snack (63 calories)

  • 3 dried figs

Lunch (296 calories)

P.M. Snack (147 calories)

Dinner (448 calories)

Total: 1,218 calories, 60 g protein, 155 g carbohydrates, 29 g fiber, 41 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1,223 mg sodium


To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to breakfast and 1 small apple to lunch.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to breakfast, add 1/4 cup walnuts to A.M. snack, add 1 apple and a 1-oz. slice of whole-wheat baguette to lunch, and add 1 pear and increase to 4 Peanut Butter-Oat Energy Balls at P.M. snack.

Day 4

Breakfast (295 calories)

  • 1 slice whole-wheat toast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 small apple

A.M. Snack (101 calories)

  • 1 medium pear

Lunch (296 calories)

P.M. Snack (77 calories)

  • 10 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Dinner (429 calories)

Total: 1,199 calories, 54 g protein, 138 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 54 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1,185 mg sodium


To make it 1,500 calories: Increase to 2 slices of whole-wheat toast and 3 Tbsp. almond butter at breakfast.

To make it 2,000 calories: Increase to 2 slices whole-wheat toast and 3 Tbsp. almond butter at breakfast, add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, add 1 apple and a 1-oz. slice of whole-wheat baguette to lunch, and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 5

Breakfast (245 calories)

A.M. Snack (77 calories)

  • 1 small apple

Lunch (296 calories)

P.M. Snack (164 calories)

  • 1/4 cup walnut halves

Dinner (430 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Set aside 2 servings of Chicken, Quinoa & Sweet Potato Casserole to have for lunch on Days 6 and 7.

Total: 1,211 calories, 53 g protein, 162 g carbohydrates, 28 g fiber, 44 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 986 mg sodium


To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/4 cup walnut halves to breakfast and 1 medium pear to lunch.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 2 slices whole-wheat toast with 3 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast, add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, and add 1 apple and a 1-oz. slice of whole-wheat baguette to lunch.

Day 6

Meal-Prep Tip: Start cooking the Slow-Cooker Vegan Chili in the morning (it cooks for 8 hours on Low) so it's ready for dinner when you get home.

Breakfast (295 calories)

  • 1 slice whole-wheat toast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 small apple

A.M. Snack (73 calories)

Lunch (349 calories)

P.M. Snack (84 calories)

  • 1 5-oz. container nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Dinner (394 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Prepare 1 serving of Chai Chia Pudding to have for breakfast tomorrow.

To make it 1,500 calories: Increase to 2 slices of whole-wheat toast and 3 Tbsp. almond butter at breakfast and add 1 apple to A.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Increase to 2 slices whole-wheat toast with 3 Tbsp. almond butter at breakfast, add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack, add 1 pear to lunch, and add 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts to P.M. snack.

Total: 1,196 calories, 61 g protein, 144 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 46 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1,259 mg sodium


Day 7

Breakfast (264 calories)

A.M. Snack (105 calories)

  • 5 dried figs

Lunch (349 calories)

P.M. Snack (16 calories)

  • 1 cup sliced cucumbers
  • Pinch of salt & pepper

Dinner (480 calories)

Daily Total: 1,214 calories, 60 g protein, 147 g carbohydrates, 28 g fiber, 45 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 1,132 mg sodium


To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to breakfast and 1 small apple to lunch.

To make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast, add 1/4 cup walnuts to A.M. snack, add 1 pear to lunch, and add 1/4 cup hummus and 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack.

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Enjoy a week full of heart-healthy recipes packed with delicious Fall flavors in this 7-day meal plan
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