Diet Guidelines


If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, paying close attention to your diet is extremely important if you want to feel your best. You can help control symptoms related to heart failure by following a low sodium diet and limiting your fluid intake. Knowing which foods are okay to eat when on a low sodium (salt) diet is not easy at first, but reading food labels is a fast way to learn. The following section explains more about how to follow a low sodium diet and understand food labels. Be sure to check recommended websites for additional information (including delicious heart healthy recipes!).

Low Salt (Sodium) Diet

Most people with heart failure are advised to limit sodium intake to less than 2,000 mg a day in order to keep heart failure symptoms at a minimum. Learn more.

Is Reduced Sodium the Same as Low Sodium?

No, the “reduced salt” label identifies a food that has been reduced in sodium content by more than 25% but still might not be truly low in sodium. Learn more.

Recommended Salt Substitutes for Seasoning

Herbs and spices contain trace amounts of sodium, which is of little concern. Read more about herb and spice recommendations to infuse into your current recipes in place of salt.

How to Fix Your High Salt Diet (Example Diet)

Substituting low salt food items is an easy way to fix your high salt diet. See examples.

Fluid Restrictions

Heart failure (HF) medications and fluid restrictions often leave patients with HF feeling thirsty. Even if you are thirsty, do not drink more than the recommended allowance. Instead, you should suck on frozen lemon wedges or ice to quench your thirst. Also, small amounts of hard sugar-free candy may help with a dry mouth.

You may be restricted to no more than 2 quarts (64 ounces) of fluid per day (or less in some cases). Fluid restrictions apply to beverages, high-moisture fruits, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, ice cubes and any food that melts into a liquid. Chilled beverages may help you drink less. Try to drink only when you are thirsty.


If you take diuretics regularly, you will require blood tests several times a year to help monitor your potassium level. If your results are out of range, you may become predisposed to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Your medication regimen may be adjusted, and you should know which foods are rich in potassium so that you can alter your diet as necessary or as advised by your healthcare provider.

Bananas, orange juice, potatoes, avocados, lima beans, cantaloupes, peaches, tomatoes, flounder, salmon, and cod contain more than 300mg of potassium per serving. Other good sources include chicken, meat, and various other fruits, vegetables, and fish.


Because alcohol weakens your heart muscle, your doctor may advise you to reduce or stop drinking alcohol. If you have an enlarged heart due to excessive amounts of alcohol intake, your physician will explain to you the benefits of no alcohol consumption. Ask your healthcare provider if you should limit your alcohol intake or avoid it completely.