Nutrition Paper on Congestive Heart Failure: Dietary Management

Congestive Heart Failure: Dietary Management


Poor dieting causes some of the most chronic diseases that human beings suffer. In the US, medical reports have indicated that a diet of junk foods is responsible for over 200,000 deaths a year (Hosenpud, Greenberg, & Ovid Technologies (2017). When discussing the topic of poor dieting in relation to diseases, for most individuals, only have obesity, as well as diabetes, come to mind. However, the two are not the only and most serious problems caused by poor dieting considering poor dieting has been reported to cause diseases that significantly affect the heart. The heart is a fragile organ, and its well-being is affected by a variety of factors most of which are derivatives in bad eating habits. Diets that are rich in sodium and potassium, in particular, are known to cause significant complications to the heart. One of the diseases that are aggravated by poor dieting is Congestive Heart Failure. Congestive Heart failure (CHF) is a progressive condition of the heart that affects the organ’s muscles; consequently, affecting its pumping power (Michaelson, (2003). The heart is made up of four chambers; specifically, two upper halves know as atria and two lower haves called ventricles. The atria receive blood as the ventricles pump blood throughout the body. CHF occurs when the ventricles fail to pump adequate volumes of blood to body organs as well as tissues. Systolic and Diastolic heart failures are the most common types of CHF known in the medical field.

The primary means of managing congestive heart failure is through altering a patient’s diet. According to Michaelson (2003), sodium acts like a sponge and retains water in the body. Water retention in the body makes the heart work harder. Roth & Wehrle (2017), state that sodium chloride popularly known as table salt is rich in sodium and is added in most ‘ready to eat’ or processed foods. Reducing the amount of sodium in a patient’s diet, therefore, is one of the principal means of managing the disease

Diet Therapy

CHF is primarily managed through the reduction of the heart’s workload, and as stated by Roth and Wehrle (2017), some changes in a patient’s diets offer significant results in offering positive results. Additionally, Hosenpud, and Greenberg (2004) state that a diet that includes too much salt, as well as increased fluid intake increase the body water content. The combination of excess water and salt in the body, therefore, makes the heart work overtime causing CHF.

The Role of Nutrition or Diet Therapy in the Treatment of CHF

The role of diet therapy is offering the body and heart significant calories to burn throughout an active day while maintaining low sodium and potassium levels. Individuals suffering from CHF have a variety of health issues brought about by their condition and are required to adhere to a therapeutic diet. Such diet restrictions may lead to increased mental frustration on the patient’s part, mostly when one food might be recommended for one condition while restricted for another.  For example, a patient suffering from CHF has a high chance of being diabetic; therefore, a delicacy such as canned mushrooms, which is a recommended low-calorie vegetable for diabetic patients, might not be ideal considering that it has approximately 700mg of sodium per can. However, when consuming fresh mushrooms, the sodium intake lowers to 8mg.  Such an example highlights the significance of seeking a dietarian’s advice on setting up a proper diet plan. The client outcome for using diet therapy as part of the treatment plan is the ability to manage a chronic illness without using synthetic drugs that have a number of side effects. For a fact, this is a positive considering the issues being highlighted by patients suffering from other illnesses such as cancer.


Table 1. Dietarians Role in patients with Congestive Heart Failure

1.      Reduce Myocardial Workloads

a)      Reduce sodium intake

b)      Maintain proper body weight

c)      Restrict fluid intake

2.      Dietary management of other related medical issues such as diabetes
3.      Improve an individual’s nutritional status for instance evaluation of nutritional supplements
4.      Food plus drug relational education
5.      Patient resource for example meals on wheels


Recommended Diet Plan

As aforementioned, the significance of a dietarian in managing the dietary needs of a patient suffering from CHF is highly augmented because such a condition is often accompanied by other medical complications such as diabetes. The best way to manage such a situation is by coming up with a diet plan that is based on watching sodium and calorie intake levels. A diet plan is, therefore, the best tool for managing the condition.  Michaelson (2003) defines a diet plan as a schedule that can be changed with regard to patients’ health needs while making sure the health obligations are met. A diet plan is made up of four primary meal menus namely Breakfast, lunch, dinner as well as snacks. The objective of diet therapy for CHF is to reduce a patient’s heart workload, fluid buildup as well as makes it simpler to breathe. The diet limits the patient’s sodium intake to 2,000 to 3,000 mg a day. This is best done by having a diet plan that is made up of unprocessed food.  Below is an example or part of a diet plan that is recommended for an individual suffering from CHF.     

The Eating Plan Essentials

As highlighted previously the role of dietary therapy in a CHF treatment plan is to allow the patients have a proper eating habit that is based on reducing a patient’s cardiac workout. The diet plan presented highlights the eating essential when managing CHF in particular the amount of Sodium intake. The client outcome of this part is a healthy presentation of how a patient managing CHF can reduce their sodium intake through a variety of options.


The first tip when preparing a meal that is low on sodium is to prepare meals that do not require the addition of salt either while cooking or on the table. It should be noted that a single teaspoon of sale contains up to 2,200 mg of sodium. A low sodium meal for a patient managing CHF may include ½ or a full cup of fresh orange juice, a single cup of well-cooked oatmeal served with a ¼-cup of raisins, half a cup of nonfat fresh milk, with a side of one boil egg. Such a breakfast might seem heavy but it contains less than 500 calories as well as no more than 150mg of sodium.


As aforementioned, the best way to reduce the sodium intake in a patient’s meals is by preparing the meal and not having processed meals; however, unlike breakfast meals, most lunchtime meals find individuals way from their homes. Lunch often finds people at their work places. This makes preparing meals hard to accomplish but not impossible. The best lunchtime meals for a patient managing CHF are salads, for instance, two slices of whole wheat bread with mayonnaise served on the side with mixed greens. Serve alongside olive oil topping and a cup of yogurt.  This meal is light though because it has approximately 650 calories as well as 700 mg of sodium.


Dieting experts believe among all meals; dinner is most likely to contain high amounts of sodium, therefore, should be monitored carefully. It is clear that having to prepare foods without salt will take a patient’s taste buds a while to adjust to. For dinner, healthy seasonings such garlic, basil, lemon, as well as vinegar can be used as substitutes. A simple dinner meal may include baked chicken served on the side with roasted potatoes topped and with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a cup of nonfat milk. This meal has approximately 580 calories as well as 360 mg of sodium.


A patient snaking on their diets is perceived as an unhealthy behavior when it comes to a patient managing CHF; however, this has never been the case. An individual managing a heart condition need only read the labels of the snacks to help watch their sodium intake. A healthy snack will include ¼ of a ½ a cup of unsalted almonds served with a medium apple. Such a snack is rich in calories, approximately 250 calories and only 15mg of sodium.

Change in Dieting Procedures 

The recommended diet plan presented is only but an example of a ‘one day’ diet. There is a consistent need for patients suffering from CHF to use such plans to manage their conditions. In order to do so, below are tips that are best used in a diet therapy to reduce a patient’s sodium intake.  The client out come in using this tips or recommendations is not only healthy dinning but also enjoyable. There is a consistent complain by individuals using diet therapy in their treatment plan that following a diet plan take away the sensation of ;fine dining’. The following part of the paper is based on improving the dining experience while taking into account the sodium intake.

Tips on Reducing Sodium in an Individual’s Diet

  1. Individuals suffering from CHF are advised to eat three meals in a day, each limited to 500mg or less of sodium. Dietary therapy as earlier highlighted is set to achieve a variety of goals and calorie intake, which helps in maintaining high energy, is necessary when managing a weak heart. Other than the three main meals, patients are advised to snack when sugar levels are low; however, the snacks should have 500mg or less of sodium.
  2. Individuals suffering from CHF are advised to keep the salt shaker tin far from the kitchen, or table at all times. As highlighted, a teaspoon of salt has approximately 2000mg of sodium. The best way to keep a proper diet as part of a treatment plan against CHF is by not having any salt in foods bought or cooked.
  3. Patients suffering from CHF are always asked to try new flavors such as spices, herbs as well because they are healthy ways of eliminating the need for salt in food. Having unsalted meals may be hard at first considering flavorless meals are not enjoyable. However, new tastes always improve the dining experience not just for patients but also any healthy eater.
  4. Individuals set to reduce their sodium intake levels should always eat fresh or frozen vegetables. These foods are known to be low in sodium and blend well with balsamic vinegar as well as lemon juice; therefore, they are excellent replacements for salt seasoning.
  5. Patients using diet therapy as part of their treatment plan are always advised to eat fresh vegetable salads in the place of bottled salad dressing. When making homemade salads, the patients are advised to make their dressing that is low in sodium. When eating out the best dressing is vinegar. Patients should at all times avoid potato as well as macaroni salads as they are high in sodium. Additionally, it is worthwhile to ask if salt or pickles are part of the salad before ordering.
  6. Canned, frozen, as well as fresh fruits, are always low on sodium than baked desserts. Therefore, they are more preferred than others as desserts for individuals suffering from CHF.
  7. Processed foods are rich in sodium and should be avoided at all costs. According to Roth and Wehrle (2017), canned noodle soups, vegetables, juices, baked or dried beans, and seasoning mixes are some of the canned foods that should be avoided in the instance diet therapy is used as a part of a treatment plan for CHF. Sodium is used as a preservative as well as to prevent the loss of taste in foods, and this should be avoided at all times for healthy eating.
  8. Individuals with CHF should limit their cheese intake. Some cheese products are known to have high levels of sodium; therefore, it is advised that patients suffering from CHF should always read the labels on foods to know what they are consuming and avoid any cheese product high in sodium.
  9. Patients should always consume fresh meats, fish, as well as chicken. Processed meats such as bologna ham, hot dogs, battered fish, and sausages are high in sodium to help increase their shelf life.
  10. When considering a snack, the preferred foods consist of fresh or frozen fruits as well as vegetables and unsalted nuts. These foods are preferred as they are well stacked with calories plus they are a good source of minerals, vitamins, and fiber, yet low in sodium.
  11. Individuals suffering from CHF are advised always to read the food labels and not assume. All shelved foods have a content table on them that highlights the sodium level.
  12. Patients are advised to avoid alcohol during their treatment period.
  13. Changing eating habits is not easy and takes time, patients are advised to be patients and find a low-sodium recipe book that will always help them have a variety of foods to enjoy and help with the recovery process.

Eating out is always convenient considering that the food is ready when needed. However, Hosenpud, Greenberg, and Ovid Technologies, Inc. (2017), state that most individuals who are on a diet plan always go wrong when it comes to ordering out. There is always the notion of having a high sodium intake just that once.  It is always advisable for patients suffering from CHF to always inform their servers that they are on a low sodium diet and ask for advice on what is served with reference to that fact. Additionally, Hosenpud and Greenberg (2004) state that if the option of asking is not comfortable to a patient who would like to keep their health issues private then ordering broiled meat, fish, as well as chicken without salt or seasoning is the best alternative.  In the instance the vegetables are not fresh or frozen, it is best to have a simple salad. Fast food restaurants serve unhealthy fatty foods rich in sodium and should be avoided. The best eateries to visit should have menus that are not packed with fast foods but well-cooked homemade recipe foods.


The topic of poor feeding habits is always presented when talking about diseases such as diabetes or obesity. However, poor eating habits are also known to cause CHF, a condition that affects the hearts power to pump blood through the body. A proper diet therapy program facilitates the treatment plan of CHF. Patients suffering from CHF are always advised to reduce their sodium and fluid intake to avoid overworking the heart. Additionally, people suffering from congestive heart failure are advised not to assume that it is okay to take foods high in sodium once in a while. While considering a dietary plan, it is essential for people suffering from congestive heart failure should consider other conditions they have, that may be aggravated by the special diet. It is, therefore important for them to seek expert help on how to manage their conditions through dieting.




Hosenpud, J. D., & Greenberg, B. H. (2004). Congestive Heart Failure: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Comprehensive Approach to Management. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Hosenpud, J. D., Greenberg, B. H., & Ovid Technologies, Inc. (2017). Congestive Heart Failure. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Michaelson, C. R. (2003). Congestive Heart failure. St. Louis u.a: Mosby.

Roth, R. A., & Wehrle, K. L. (2017). Nutrition & Diet Therapy. Australia: Cengage Learning.