THURSDAY, Oct. 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Health care providers need to consider people's ethnic, cultural and personal preferences when offering healthy eating advice, a new American Heart Association scientific statement says.

Health care providers also need to use easy-to-understand language and food examples.

"It's one thing for professionals to summarize the data and develop guidelines. An entirely different strategy is required to translate those guidelines into daily behaviors embraced in real life, by real people," said Linda Van Horn, the statement writing group chair. She is a professor of preventive medicine (nutrition) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

"To consumers, it's an apple, an orange, a pizza. It's not saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and potassium. That's nutrition jargon familiar among professionals, but not normal conversation for the average American," Van Horn said in an AHA news release.

Advice about healthy eating can be adapted to different cultural and personal preferences, as well as affordability.

Van Horn noted that some ethnic groups have higher rates of heart disease and stroke, so addressing certain eating habits in those groups may help lower those risks.

Some examples: Blacks report consuming more sugar-sweetened beverages and fewer fruits and vegetables than whites; and people of Chinese, Korean and Japanese heritage tend to have diets lower in saturated fats, but higher in salt content, the AHA said.

"Identifying optimal nutrition for preserving good health is an ongoing, dynamic science. But there are fundamental principles we know now about how some foods decrease risk of heart disease, while other foods increase risk. For example, I've yet to see a study reporting that fruits and vegetables are bad for you," Van Horn said.

The statement, published Oct. 27 in the journal Circulation, provides health care providers with practical ways to help patients make healthier food choices. For example, there are portion sizes for different types of vegetables, whole grains, meat, poultry, eggs and many other products.

"We translate the recommendations into real-life, buy-it-at-the-grocery store, order-it-on-the-menu type choices," Van Horn said.

"Counseling people about healthy eating is a process, but when someone becomes motivated to actually make dietary changes such as eating more fruits and vegetables, amazing things happen. In as little as three weeks, they develop a preference for those foods and even begin to miss them if they're not on the plate," she said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers healthy eating tips.