What you eat plays a key role in your heart failure and how you feel. People living with heart failure can take many simple steps to help themselves feel better and control their condition.


Following a low-sodium diet will decrease water retention and extra weight from water.

Aim for under 2,000 mg of sodium/salt a day. Keep in mind ¼ teaspoon is about 600 mg of salt.

Avoid these foods because they have a lot of sodium:

  • Smoked or cured meat such as hot dog, bacon, sausage, bratwurst, ham, salt pork, lunchmeat, bologna and cheese
  • Buttermilk, cottage cheese
  • Frozen dinners, canned food, pot pies and food that says “instant” on the package
  • Biscuits and cornbread mixes
  • Fast foods
  • Chips, crackers, pretzels, pork rinds, popcorn, salted nuts
  • Salad dressing, ketchup, mustard, barbecue (BBQ) sauce, steak sauce
  • Salt, sea salt, seasoned salt, garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt, meat tenderizer, soy sauce
  • Pickled foods: pickles, olives, relish

Choose these low sodium foods:

  • Meats – fresh or frozen beef, chicken, turkey, or fish, prepared without added sodium
  • Vegetables – all unsalted fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice canned without salt
  • Fruits – fresh, frozen or canned fruits, fruit juice
  • Milk/dairy – low-fat milk such as 2% or 1% or skim milk. Hard cheese like cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella
  • Breads – sandwich bread, unsalted crackers, tortillas
  • Cereals and grains – cooked cereal (regular or quick), plain rice, plain pasta

What can you use to season your food?

  • Herbs and spices – onions, garlic, onion powder, garlic powder, salt-free seasonings like Mrs. Dash
  • Hot flavor– ground pepper, fresh peppers; just a drop of hot sauce
  • Tart flavor – lemon or lime juice, vinegar


Avoid these foods that raise your cholesterol:

  • Saturated fat – found in meats, skin of poultry, whole milk, cream, bakery goods, shortening, coconut oil and palm oil
  • Trans fat – found in shortening, baked goods, some fried foods and stick margarine

Add these foods to lower your cholesterol:

Unsaturated fat – found in vegetable oils, nuts, olives and avocado
Omega-3 fat – found in fatty fish such as salmon
Soluble fiber – found in oats and dried beans
Soy – found in soy milk, soy cheese (Veggie Slices), tofu and soy burgers
Plant stanol/sterol – avocados, Smart Balance, Promise margarine

Choose these low fat foods:

  • Skim, 1% or 2% milk
  • Low-fat cheese and dairy products
  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Peel the skin from poultry
  • Aim to eat fish twice a week

People with heart failure also need to maintain healthy potassium levels, which help balance fluids in the body and help the heart work properly. Some heart failure medicine can cause potassium levels to drop. Lack of potassium can lead to very rapid heart rhythms that could result in sudden death. Some potassium-rich foods include:

  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Spinach and broccoli
  • Bananas, dates, cantaloupes, dried fruits and orange juice
  • Lean meat, poultry and fish
  • Dry beans, peas and lentils
  • Low-fat or nonfat milk and yogurt

Vitamin K & Warfarin

If you are on anticoagulation medication, watch how much vitamin K you consume. Keep these 3 tips in mind:

  1. Keep the amount of high vitamin K foods consistent. For example, eat a ½ cup or 1 cup of these foods daily.
  2. Do not completely take out a vitamin K-containing food without replacing it. For example, do not eat coleslaw daily and then stop eating it completely.
  3. Watch out for dietary supplements. Check the label; do not take a supplement with more than 100 micrograms/day. Most multivitamins contain 25 micrograms of vitamin K.