6 Ways to Create Heart-Smart Meals Every Day

6 Ways to Create Heart-Smart Meals Every Day

Healthline |
25 March 2017

  • 6 Ways to Create Heart-Smart Meals Every Day

    You don’t have to sacrifice flavor to enjoy heart-healthy meals. With our simple swaps and tips, you can prepare tasty food to satisfy even the pickiest eater. Whether you’re feeding little ones or elderly relatives, it’s easy to make nutritious and delicious dishes. Heart health matters at every age. So let’s explore six simple ways to create healthier, heart-friendly meals today.

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies

    To help lower the risk of heart disease, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal, advises the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. And they are high in heart-healthy fiber.

    Make this fun for kids by inviting them to choose a new fruit or vegetable to try each week, suggests the American Heart Association (AHA). 

  • Opt for whole grains

    Dietary fiber is essential for good health. It can help reduce blood cholesterol and may lower the risk of heart disease, according to the AHA. It can also leave you feeling fuller with fewer calories.

    Along with fruits and veggies, whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber. So consider swapping whole grain products for refined grain alternatives. For example, look for breads, pastas, crackers, and other items that list whole grains as the first ingredient. Some common whole grains include:

    • Whole wheat
    • Whole oats or oatmeal
    • Brown rice
    • Wild rice
  • Eat fish twice a week

    Aim for two servings of fish each week, suggests the AHA. Salmon, albacore tuna, lake trout, and other fatty fish are especially good choices. These are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help keep your heart and blood vessels healthy.

    When you’re not chowing down on fish, choose lean sources of protein—and avoiding eating a lot of red meat, advises the AHA. For example, try swapping lean ground chicken or canned lentils for ground beef in tacos, chili, or lasagna. With this simple swap, you can enjoy full-flavored foods with less saturated fat and cholesterol.

  • Choose low-fat dairy

    When it comes to comfort foods, cheese is a common crowd-pleaser. But it can also be loaded with saturated fats. Eating saturated fats can boost the level of LDL cholesterol (also known as the “bad” cholesterol) in your blood and raise the risk of heart disease, warns the AHA.  For heart-healthier versions of your favorite dishes, use low-fat cheese instead of full-fat alternatives. It’s also smart to swap:

    • Fat-free milk for full-fat milk
    • Fat-free sour cream for full-fat sour cream
    • Evaporated skim milk for heavy cream
    • Fat-free frozen yogurt for ice cream
  • Steam, grill, or sauté

    Don’t add unnecessary calories to fresh veggies, whole grains, or fish by deep-frying them. Instead, choose low-fat cooking methods. For example:

    • Steam veggies in a basket over simmering water
    • Poach chicken or fish in simmering stock
    • Grill, broil, or roast fish or meats over a rack to let fat to drip away
    • Sauté or stir-fry foods in a non-stick pan with a little bit of canola or olive oil

    If you are new to cooking, considering visiting your local library to find heart-smart cookbooks for beginners.

  • Stock up on low-sodium products

    Prepackaged products and fast-food meals can be very convenient. Unfortunately, many of them are also chock-full of added salt or “sodium”. Even foods that taste sweet may have extra sodium because salt is a natural flavor enhancer.

    Eating too much sodium may increase blood pressure in some people, warns the AHA. It’s smart to limit your sodium intake and keep it under 1500mg each day. Prepare for busy moments by keeping a stock of low-sodium convenience foods on hand. Look for products marked “sodium-free” or “low-sodium”. If they taste bland, add a squirt of lemon juice, a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or a shake of your favorite sodium-free seasoning blend.

  • Challenge Yourself: Plan Ahead

    When it comes to making nutritious and tasty meals, a little planning goes a long way. Take some time each week to plan your menu, make a grocery list, and stock your fridge and pantry with heart-smart foods. Consider setting a goal to follow the AHA and USDA guidelines for healthy eating, by learning to enjoy fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.