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Eating plans

Healthy eating is not about a ‘diet’ but rather long term eating habits. There is not a single eating plan that works for everybody. Different eating patterns can be healthy if they are based on healthy eating principles. Choose a healthy eating pattern that is practical, affordable, and includes foods that you like to eat. Let’s have a look at some popular and healthy eating patterns to choose from:


Based on the historic way people around the Mediterranean ocean eat, this eating pattern is high in whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish. It contains less dairy than other healthy patterns, more healthy fats, is moderate in animal meat and limits red meat to a few times per month.


The DASH diet was developed specifically for people with high blood pressure but can be followed as a general healthy eating pattern. This diet is particularly high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils and low-fat dairy. It is low in salt and sugar and recommends only lean and unprocessed meat choices.

Low fat

Eating less total fat and saturated fat helps to reduce high cholesterol levels. A low-fat diet should still emphasise whole grains, plant oils rather than animal fats, and limit added sugar. Aim for plenty of fruit, vegetables, beans and lentils, and choose lean meats and low fat dairy.


Avoiding meat will reduce the intake of saturated fat and increase healthy plant oils. But a vegetarian eating pattern is not automatically healthier as there are also many unhealthy foods that don’t contain meat. A healthy vegetarian diet focuses on whole grain foods, a variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Dairy and eggs can be included as good sources of protein and micronutrients.

Vegan or plant-based

An eating pattern without any animal products can be very healthy and environmentally friendly. 
Make sure you eat a variety of protein sources like beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains and seeds. It can be more difficult to get enough calcium, iron, Vitamin B12 and omega-3 fats. We recommend a visit to a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

Lower carbohydrate

Eating fewer carbohydrates can help to control blood sugar, especially if you are insulin resistant. Choose whole grains in moderation and use beans, lentils, or starchy vegetables as alternatives to grains. Spread fruits, grains and starchy vegetables evenly throughout the day and eat plenty of non-starchy and leafy vegetables. Use plant fats like olive, canola, avocado, nuts and seeds instead of hard fats. Choose poultry or fish, and limit red and processed meats.

More information

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or have suffered from heart disease or a stroke, consult a healthcare professional before starting a new eating plan. If you need help to plan your healthy eating pattern, we recommend that you see a registered dietitian or a nutritionist.

To find a dietitian near you click here: http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/FindARegisteredDietitian.aspx

Contact our in-house dietitians at heart@heartfoundation.co.za or call the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (43278).