Making grocery shopping easier after stroke
What you eat has a big influence on your heart and brain health, but lots of people struggle to make healthy choices. It may be even harder if you’re a stroke survivor. Life may be more challenging — physically and mentally — so it’s easy to make convenient but unhealthy choices a habit.
But after a stroke, eating well can help reduce your risk of having another stroke. Simplifying shopping and meal prep can make life easier, and following a healthy diet more doable. Whether you’re a survivor or a busy caregiver, here are some tips to get started.
A few basics — and how the Heart-Check Mark can help
The American Heart Association recommends choosing a variety of foods from all the food groups. Aim for a healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, poultry, non-fried fish, legumes (peas and beans), low-fat dairy products, extra-lean protein, nontropical vegetable oils and nuts.
A healthy diet should also limit red meat, saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars...
It’s important to pay attention to labels. Food packaging can have marketing claims and icons or graphics to grab your attention, but how do you know if a product is really good for you? For example, processed foods such as frozen and boxed meals can simplify food prep, but they may have higher levels of sodium, added sugars and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).
The AHA's Heart-Check Mark Food Certification program can help you find foods that meet heart-healthy criteria. Certified products are screened for a variety of nutrients including fat, added sugar and sodium, to make choosing foods that are heart-healthy a snap.
The criteria for Heart-Check certified foods is backed by science and is consistent with the American Heart Association’s guidelines for preventing heart disease. Every Heart-Check certified food meets strict guidelines and is reviewed by a registered dietitian.
You can find the Heart-Check Mark on 13 categories of foods, including fruits and vegetables (fresh, canned and frozen), cooking oils, breads, cereals, nuts, meats and more. That includes more than 900 products and more than 200 recipes certified through the Heart-Check Mark Certification Program.
When considering a food without the Heart-Check Mark, be sure to look at the Nutrition Facts label and select products with the lowest sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.
Fresh is nice but not required
Fresh veggies, fruits and lean meats are great options, but post-stroke fatigue and other day-to-day issues may make it harder to use fresh food before it goes bad.
Frozen and canned vegetables, fruits and meats can be good options. If you don’t grab a Heart-Check certified food check the Nutrition Facts label for sodium, added sugars and saturated fats and look for:
- No-salt or low-sodium canned foods (and use salt free seasonings when preparing them). Read labels carefully on frozen fruits and vegetables that include sauces or seasoning packets.
- Fruit canned in water or its own juice, not syrup. Make sure frozen fruit has no added sugars, syrups or sweeteners.
- Meat and fish canned in water, not oil.
Smart shopping tips
Plan meals for the week. Then make your grocery list and stick to it.
Take advantage of your grocer’s online shopping list builder if one is available. This makes it easy to add repeat purchases week-to-week, take advantage of in-store coupons and stay in your budget.
Look for the word “whole-grain” (or “whole” followed By the grain name) as the first listed ingredient for breads, cereals and other grain products.
And remember that many grocery stores deliver for a nominal charge or offer free pick-up (where the groceries you ordered online are ready to go when you get there). These options can definitely make life easier — especially if you’re a stroke survivor, but even if you’re not.