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Stroke Care Center at the Gates Vascular Institute
Healthy Eating After a Stroke

Patient and doctor

Why is nutrition therapy prescribed?

An eating plan that is low in sodium (which comes mostly from salt) is recommended. The plan requires the consumption of plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. These foods contain nutrients that can help keep blood pressure under control and includes heart-healthy kinds of fat to reduce the build up of plaque in blood vessels.

Following the plan can also help those needing to lose weight because it limits high fat foods and refined carbohydrates. These foods can be high in calories but don’t contain many healthy nutrients.

If weight loss is occurring without trying to lose, a physician or dietitian should be contacted for advice about maintaining a healthy weight. Everyone who has experienced a stroke should consult their physician to learn what their target weight should be and what the recommendations are for a regular exercise regime.

Tips to Control Blood Pressure

Fruits and vegetables

  • Limit sodium to the level recommended by the physician.
  • In general, foods with more than 300 mg sodium per serving may not be appropriate for a meal plan. (Sodium levels are listed on food label. Remember the amount listed is for one serving only. Eating more than one serving will increase the sodium content.)
  • Do not salt food at the table. Use very little salt, if any, when cooking.
  • Choose where you eat carefully. Restaurant foods can be very high in sodium. Request low-salt or no-salt choices. Many restaurants have special menus or will prepare food with less salt.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium. Good fruit choices include: bananas, apricots, oranges, cantaloupe and apples. High potassium vegetables include: potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, zucchini and tomatoes.
  • Eat fat-free and low-fat dairy products. These will provide the calcium and potassium that your body needs.
  • Limit alcohol. Women should drink no more than one drink per day. Men should drink no more than two drinks per day. (One drink is 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor).

Tips to Control Blood Cholesterol Levels

cereal

  • Eat very little saturated fat and trans fat. These fats can raise the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in blood.
  • Saturated fat is found in foods from animals, such as fatty meats, whole milk, butter, cream, and other dairy foods made with whole milk. It is also in tropical oils (palm, palm kernel, and coconut).
  • Trans fat is found in all foods made with hydrogenated oils, including fried foods, crackers, chips and foods made with shortening or stick margarine.
  • Choose unsaturated fats (heart-healthy fats), such as soybean, canola, olive, or sunflower oil. Liquid or soft tub margarines are also acceptable.
  • Fats should account for less than 25 percent to 35 percent of food and drink calories.
  • Limit the cholesterol from food to 200 mg of cholesterol per day. Foods high in cholesterol include egg yolks, fatty meats, shrimp and dairy foods.
  • Get 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
  • High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Aim for two cups of fruit, three cups of vegetables and three ounces of whole grains per day.
  • Soluble fiber is especially beneficial and is available in oatmeal, dried beans and peas.
  • Drink plenty of water. The more fiber consumed, the more water should be added. Water helps the body process the fiber without discomfort.
  • Eat cold-water, fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines) twice a week. These fish provide omega-3 fats, which are heart-healthy. Be aware, however, that canned fish can be high in sodium. Choose fresh or frozen fish, or buy low-sodium canned types.
  • Add ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil to food or eat walnuts. These plant foods are also high in omega-3 fats.

Remember: Most foods should have less than 300 mg sodium per serving and have little or no saturated fat or trans fat.  IF an individual has difficulty swallowing, some of the foods on the list above may not be appropriate; a physician or dietitian can assist in identifying replacement foods.

Food Group Recommended Foods

vegetables

  • Grains: breads and cereals, especially those made with whole grains such as oats, barley, rye or whole wheat
  • Pasta, especially whole grain pastas
  • Brown rice
  • Vegetables: fresh, frozen or canned vegetables without added fat or salt
  • Highly colored vegetables such as broccoli, greens, sweet potatoes and tomatoes
  • Fruits: fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit
  • Milk: nonfat (skim), ½ percent fat or 1 percent fat milk, buttermilk
  • Nonfat or low-fat yogurt
  • Nonfat, low-sodium cottage cheese
  • Fat-free and low-fat, low-sodium cheese
  • Fish: especially fatty fish, such as salmon, fresh tuna or mackerel
  • Lean cuts of beef and pork (loin, leg, round, extra lean hamburger)
  • Low-sodium cold cuts made with lean meat or soy protein
  • Skinless poultry
  • Venison and other wild game
  • Unsalted nuts and nut butters
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Meat alternatives made with soy or textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Egg whites or egg substitutes
  • Fats and unsaturated oils (soybean, olive, canola, sunflower, safflower)
  • Soft or liquid margarines and vegetable oil spreads
  • Salad dressings (nonfat or made with unsaturated oil)
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Herbs and spices to add flavor and to replace salt
  • Unsalted, low-fat snack foods, such as unsalted pretzels and crackers
  • Popcorn, plain

If swallowing is difficult

After a stroke, some patients have difficulty swallowing. The patient’s doctor will decide if a special eating plan that changes the texture of foods should be followed. This will prevent food from entering the windpipe.