Whether you are in school, have kids in school, or not, September is often considered the second “New Year”. A time for fresh starts. A clean slate.

So forget all the bad choices you made food wise over the summer. The past is past. From now on you can do better!

Dr. Herman Movsowitz, Main Line Health cardiologist and co-director of the Women’s Heart Initiative, says that making small changes in menu choices can make a huge difference in your long-term heart health.

· Aim to eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 21/2 cups of vegetables daily. Produce is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other essential nutrients, and it’s virtually fat- and cholesterol-free.

· Pay attention to portion sizes and preparation methods; for example, grill instead of deep-fry.

· Try to eat fish at least twice a week. Research shows that eating fish such as salmon, trout and herring — all of which contain omega-3 fatty acids — may help lower your risk for coronary artery disease.

· When packing lunches, make sandwiches with whole-wheat bread. Chicken and turkey are good, lower-fat choices; as spreads, use mustard, veggie tapenades or raw avocado. Be sure to pack some baby carrots or grape tomatoes, as well as a piece of fruit. Drink water sometimes.

· Cut back on high-fat foods, especially anything with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans-fats or saturated fats. Use canola or olive oil for cooking and greasing purposes. Limit cakes, cookies, pastries, muffins, pies and doughnuts.

· Prepare foods with little or no added salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

· Don’t shop while hungry, bring a list, and stick to it.

· Shop for foods that are close to their natural state, like fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Canning these items requires heat, which destroys vitamins and incorporates too much salt.

· If you must order fast-food meals, do your homework by studying the nutritional guide available at most restaurants and make wiser choices. Try salads with nonfat or low-fat dressings — or better yet, none at all — and fruit-and-yogurt plates.

Avoid sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, punches, sports drinks and juices.

“Small, incremental food changes are much more likely to become a permanent part of your life — and have lasting benefits,” says Movsowitz.