Tips for Family and Friends
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Helping with Diet Recommendations for Heart Failure

Food preparation and eating are social activities that often involve family and friends. So it is helpful for all members of the household to understand the diet recommendations for the patient with heart failure, even if you are not the one who prepares food. Diet changes are easier when the whole family follows them.

Because people with heart failure should eat a low-sodium diet, it is especially important to understand this diet and how to follow it.

Family and friends can help a person with heart failure follow a low-sodium diet by:

  • Finding out the amount of sodium allowed in their diet.

  • Talking about food likes and dislikes, and concerns about following a low- sodium diet.

  • Involving the patient with heart failure in meal planning and adapting meals to low-sodium versions.

  • Learning how to read labels, so you can calculate the sodium content when buying food or preparing meals.

  • Learning ways of preparing food that require less sodium.

  • Looking for low-sodium recipes.

  • Preparing some low-sodium foods and snacks, when planning parties, family events, or holiday gatherings.

  • Preparing extra servings of low-sodium foods that can be refrigerated or frozen, so the patient with heart failure can eat a healthy meal at a later time without cooking.

  • Paying particular attention to food selection when eating at a place outside of the normal environment. Remember that approximately 70 percent of the sodium we eat each day is "hidden" in food that might not taste salty.

    Be aware that most foods sold at concession stands are high in sodium. Bring healthy snacks to places such as movie theaters or sporting events where high-sodium foods are usually eaten. Or, eat a healthy meal at home or at a restaurant before going to the event.

    When choosing restaurants, avoid places that serve only fried or pre-prepared foods. Most fast-food restaurants fall in this category as well as some family or bistro type restaurants. Because these restaurants typically do not cook the meals from scratch themselves, it is difficult for these establishments to decrease the sodium level in the foods served.

    Make it a point to inform the waiter that the food should not be prepared with salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Refer to Module 2: How to Follow a Low-Sodium Diet for additional details on how to follow a low-sodium diet and why a low-sodium diet is an essential part of a treatment plan for a person with heart failure.

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