This year, National Nutrition Month® explores how to “personalize your plate” to fit your own goals, and in this Fresh Focus podcast episode, we emphasize personalizing your plate to support a healthy heart.

Joining us on this episode is Lisa Conticello, cardiology dietitian at the Bay Pines VA. Conticello works specifically with Veterans who have had heart failure, enrolled in cardiac rehab, or those enrolled in general cardiology clinics. Since she also leads Healthy Teaching Kitchen classes at Bay Pines, she has a good eye for applying nutrition information to the actual plate and making healthy swaps realistic.

It’s common to hear that high sodium items should be avoided to promote heart health, but this episode dives into the “why” behind that recommendation. Here, she recommends seasoning your food with saltless options, like salt-free seasoning blends, spices and herbs.

Remember when choosing heart healthy fats, it’s helpful to focus on unsaturated fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil and canola oil.

When it comes to protein, don’t be afraid to add in some plant proteins here and there to switch things up. This is not only a good way to incorporate some lean protein, but also an easy way to up your fiber intake!

A simple, actionable way to incorporate some of the advice from this episode is to plan your plate using the MyPlate model. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate lean, heart healthy protein, and a quarter of your plate healthy carbs. As was mentioned in the “varying your diet” episode of this series, don’t shy away from switching up your veggies, trying out new plant-based proteins, and shaking it up with different heart healthy oils and spices.

Give the episode a listen and then try out some of the tips yourself – while keeping your heart healthy one bite at a time.


Megan Rivenburg is a dietetic intern with the Marion VA Healthcare system.

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