Treatments & Procedures

Eating Well to Prevent & Recover After A Stroke

Preventing stroke or recovering from stroke and staying healthy can be achieved when you take appropriate steps to control your weight and blood pressure. Making healthy food choices is a major step in the right direction, and a registered dietitian can help you choose the right foods. A dietitian can teach you how to prepare and plan meals and snacks to enhance your health.

This educational tool is provided to get you started on the road to prevention and recovery. No two people have the same results; therefore, incorporate these healthy eating strategies with frequent check-ups with your physician and dietitian and taking your medications as prescribed.

Food groups within my plate

  • Grains: Make sure at least half of your choices from this group come from whole grains.
  • Vegetables: Choose often nutrient-rich dark green and orange vegetables and remember to regularly eat dried beans and peas.
  • Fruits: Eat a variety of fresh, frozen or dried fruits each day.
  • Dairy: Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods or a variety of non-dairy calcium-rich foods each day.
  • Protein: Choose low-fat or lean meats, poultry; and remember to vary your choices with more beans, peas, and nuts, seeds and fish sources. In terms of fats, make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Limit fat sources from butter, margarine, shortening or lard.

For more information about MyPlate, please visit the USA's interactive website at

Eight strategies to reduce your risk of another stroke

1) Eat a variety of foods each day. 

Because no single food can provide our bodies with all of the nutrients we need for good health, choose a variety of foods each day. Incorporating a variety of foods from all the food groups as suggested by the graphic is a great way to get started.

2) Eat a rainbow of colorful foods at each meal. 

In order to obtain the health-protective nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, it's important to choose a variety of colorful foods at each meal. Go for a rainbow approach by choosing an array of fruits, vegetables and legumes dark reds, oranges, vibrant yellows, deep greens, blues and purples. By choosing a rainbow of colors, you'll be sure to take in a wide range of nutrients.

3) Choose five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. 

Research shows that the best way to obtain the benefits of a healthy diet is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. So, in addition to steps 1 and 2, make sure you eat a minimum of five servings each day. 

One serving of vegetables is equal to:

  • 1 cup raw or leafy vegetable
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables
  • 6 ounces vegetable juice

One serving of fruit is equal to:

  • 1 medium-sized (tennis ball size) piece of fruit
  • 10cm banana
  • ½ cup (120ml) fruit cocktail, in own juice
  • ½ grapefruit
  • 1 cup (240ml) diced melon or berries
  • 2tbsp (30g) dried fruit
  • 4oz (120ml) 100% fruit juice. 

4) Read food labels

Reading food labels is a great way to learn more about the foods you are eating. By law, most foods must have nutritional information listed in a standard way. When selecting foods for reducing your risk of stroke, focus on the following information on the food label for each serving:

  • Calories
  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Dietary fiber

Once you get used to reading food labels, you'll become a healthier shopper.

5)Limit your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance made by your body and found in foods of animal origin. Your body needs cholesterol to maintain the health of your body's cells. Too much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease.

Diets high in saturated fats are linked to high cholesterol and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like meat, cheese, egg yolks, butter, and ice cream, and some vegetable oils (palm, palm kernel and coconut). Limiting the amount of saturated fat you eat from these foods is key to stroke prevention.

To cut the saturated fat in your diet, make the following substitutions:

Instead of... Choose...
Butter Light or diet margarine
Regular cheese Low-fat or nonfat cheese
Creamer or half & half Nonfat creamer or nonfat half & half
Whole or 2% milk 1% or nonfat (skim) milk
Cream cheese Reduced fat or nonfat cream cheese
Regular ice cream Nonfat or low-fat frozen yogurt or sorbet
2-4% milk fat cottage cheese 1% or nonfat cottage cheese
Alfredo or other cream sauces Marinara, primavera or olive-oil based sauce
Mayonnaise Light or nonfat mayonnaise
Kebabs Lean cuts of meat (meat portions with fat removed)
Spareribs Tenderloin
Chicken with skin on Chicken without skin
Whole egg Egg whites or egg substitutes

Limiting cholesterol in foods is another important step to cholesterol control and stroke management, and can be achieved by:

  • Trimming visible fat from meats and the skin of poultry
  • Cutting back on how frequently you eat meats, poultry, and other animal-derived foods
  • Limiting your portion size of meat to no more than 3oz (90ml) at a sitting (size of a deck of cards)
  • Limiting butter
  • Eliminating lard
  • Choosing non-fat or low-fat dairy foods

6) Trim the sodium in your diet

Eating too much sodium may cause you to retain fluids and increase your blood pressure. Not adding salt to foods at the table is one way to cut down on your sodium, but it isn't enough.

Cut down on sodium (salt) by following these tips:

  • Substitute herbs and spices for table salt.
  • Use fewer processed and canned foods.
  • Think fresh. Use fresh ingredients when possible and foods with no salt added.
  • Choose snack foods wisely. Most snack foods like potato chips, peanuts, pretzels and crackers are high in sodium. Choose low or reduced-sodium versions of snack foods or eat more natural snacks like plain popcorn, vegetables or fruit.
  • Read medication labels. Although not a significant source of sodium in your diet, read cold, headache, and stomach medication labels. Many of them contain sodium.

Understanding the sodium content in foods

Definitions of sodium content in foods are as follows:

  • Low-sodium: The food contains 140mg or less sodium per serving.
  • Very low sodium: the food contains 35mg or less of sodium per serving.
  • Reduced sodium: the food has 25% less sodium than the comparable food product.
  • Light or Lite in sodium: the food has at least 50% less sodium than the comparable food product.
  • No salt added: no salt was added in the processing of the food product. However, naturally occurring sodium may be present in the ingredients.

How much sodium should you consume each day?

Most health professionals limit persons with a history of heart disease or stroke to 2,000mg each day. However, if you have high blood pressure, it is strongly recommended that you limit your sodium to 1,500mg daily. Talk with your doctor to determine what your sodium level should be.

Choose foods high in fiber

As part of a heart-healthy diet, fiber can reduce cholesterol and your overall risk for cardiovascular disease.

How to get more fiber in your diet

  • Start the day off right with whole grain cereal or whole grain toast (if your cholesterol is high, choose oatmeal or oat bran cereal or toast).
  • Instead of fruit juice, have a whole piece of fruit.
  • For a fiber-packed lunch, toss ½ cup (120ml) beans or chickpeas into a dark leafy green salad.
  • Choose whole grain bread.
  • Purchase whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.
  • Top yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh fruit or nuts.
  • Substitute brown rice for white.
  • Grab fruit, veggies, a granola bar or trail mix for a change-of-pace healthy snack.

Maintain or achieve a healthy body weight

Another important strategy to reducing your risk of a stroke is to achieve a healthy body weight. Watching your portion sizes, eating foods high in fiber and low in fat, avoiding fad diets, increasing your activity, and keeping track of your eating habits are all ways to achieve a healthy body weight. Keep in mind that weight loss does not happen overnight, so establish realistic short and long-term goals from the start. For further assistance in making these significant lifestyle changes toward healthier eating do not hesitate to ask your physician to refer you to a registered clinical dietitian.

© Copyright 2017 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala Healthcare, and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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