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Eating healthfully can help prevent heart disease, but not everyone’s sure how to get started. What could be better than getting advice from a preventive cardiologist? Here, Dr. Matthew DeVane, author of Heart Smart and co-medical director for Cardiovascular Wellness at John Muir Health, shares some savvy tidbits.

Keep Your Portions Petite

It’s not your imagination—in recent years, food portions have grown from two to eight times their original size. “Even when we’re eating the right foods, we just eat too much,” says Dr. DeVane. Check food labels for portion sizes.

Prepare for Snack Attacks

“When snacking, try to change from potato chips or Cheetos to healthy nuts or edamame,” Dr. DeVane suggests. “The proteins will fill you up faster and you won’t need as much.”

Make the Switch Slowly

“Add healthier foods to each meal and slowly cut back on the rich foods,” Dr. DeVane says. “Instead of splurging five nights a week, set your goal for three nights a week, and then two. Once you make these changes, you’ll have more energy, and you won’t want to go back.”

Dine Out the Smart Way

“When my wife and I eat out, we always split an entree, and we’re never hungry when we leave,” Dr. DeVane says. “Not only is it healthier, but it’s cheaper. Order an entree that’s grilled or baked rather than fried. Also, think before going through your normal routine. If you nibble on some bread, have a cocktail or two, and then have a dessert, those calories really add up.”

Linger Over Food Labels

“Avoid any foods that have the words ‘trans,’ ‘hydrogenated,’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ on the label [indicating bad fats], often found in commercially fried foods, donuts, cookies and potato chips,” advises Dr. DeVane. “Also, be aware of how many calories are coming from sugar. If you’re trying to control your weight or blood sugar, it’s often the sugar that ends up getting you.”

Go with Heart Healthy Foods

Try to devote most of your plate to healthful foods. “Stick to baked things like chicken or deep-sea fish like salmon and tuna, and avoid rich cream sauces,” Dr. DeVane says. “Think about the Mediterranean style of eating—minimal red meat, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and olive oil and nuts [which contain the good fats], plus a glass of wine, if you enjoy that.”

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