Is it Okay to Cheat on a Cardiac Diet

overview of fried food like fries, burgers and shakes

Dear Jane:

My father is on a very restrictive cardiac diet. His doctor wants him to follow it to help better manage his coronary artery disease. After a lifetime of eating a very unhealthy diet, this abrupt change in lifestyle is very difficult for him to follow. I understand the diet is to be his guide for making healthier food choices, but it is okay for him to “cheat” on his diet sometimes?

Denise in Upper Arlington

Dear Denise:

I can sympathize with your situation. We regularly work with older adults who, like your father, are trying to make lifestyle changes. It isn’t easy.

Here are a few pieces of advice that might help him better adjust to this healthy approach to eating:

Modify Favorite Foods: Try modifying some of his favorite foods to make them healthy. It might take some trial and error but it is one way to help him feel satisfied. Substituting healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones can make all the difference in his daily diet. It might be as simple as substituting applesauce for oil in baked goods or using herbs instead of salt.

Portion Control: In many cases, it isn’t so much what we eat but how much of it that gets us into trouble. Read the label on packaged foods to determine what constitutes a portion. Cutting Calories from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is a good resource to help you learn more about portion control.

American Heart Association Nutrition Center: Another good source of information for you and your Dad to explore is the Nutrition Center. This online resource includes helpful hints on eating healthy while dining out, lowering sodium, simple but heart healthy meals, and more.

Rite for You Nutrition Center: If you need personalized advice and guidance to develop a food plan for your father, Rite for You may be able to help. Their team of dietitians can work with you to develop a meal plan that he will be happy with.

Finally, we move on to tackle the issue of “cheating” on his diet. I would encourage you to help him think of this healthy new approach to eating as a change in lifestyle and not a diet. Depending upon the severity of his condition, he may be able to indulge in a favorite food on occasion. But I would say it should be infrequently and in small portions.

I hope this information helps, Denise! I wish you the best of luck in assisting your dad with this transition.

Jane Solt