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.

image of american heart association

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.


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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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