- Reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats consumed. Avoid processed foods containing hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Cook with canola oil and olive oil and cut back on the amount of butter and margarine you use on and in your food.
- Increasing your daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Not only are they loaded with healthy vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they’re also excellent sources of fiber which helps keep your cholesterol level in check.
- Eating more poultry and fish and sticking with lean cuts of red meat. Experiment with alternate sources of protein such as beans, low-fat ground turkey and soy.
- Switching to whole grains whenever possible – brown rice, whole wheat bread, bran cereals. Once again, that increased fiber helps reduce cholesterol.
Now, contrary to popular belief, embarking on a heart-healthy diet doesn’t necessarily mean you have to abandon flavorful dishes and your favorite comfort foods. Here are some classic “hearty” recipes updated for heart-smart cooks:
Mini Shepherd’s Pie (from www.eatingwell.com)
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup copped onion
12 oz 93%-lean ground beef
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
6 oz baby spinach, chopped
¼ tsp salt, divided
½ tsp garlic powder, divided
2 12-oz packages frozen winter squash puree, thawed
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in beef, flour and tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until the beef is mostly browned, about 3 minutes. Add broth, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth is the consistency of thick gravy, about 4 minutes. Stir in spinach, ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp garlic powder; cook until the spinach is just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Place squash in a fine-mesh sieve and gently press on it to extract excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp garlic powder. Divide the meat mixture among four 10 oz broiler-safe ramekins. Top each with about ½ cup of the squash. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Broil until heated through and bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until it is just melted, about 3 minutes more.
Yields 4 servings
Per Serving: 310 calories, 13 g fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 26 g carbohydrates, 29 g protein, 5 g fiber, 708 mg sodium
Low Cholesterol Scalloped Potatoes (from www.sparkpeople.com)
4 cups thinly sliced raw potatoes
1 Tbs chopped parsley (optional)
3 Tbs whole grain flour
1/8 tsp pepper
1 ½ tsp salt
3 Tbs low cholesterol margarine
1 ½ cups skim milk
Layer potatoes and onions in casserole, sprinkling flour between each layer. Heat milk and margarine and season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Pour sauce over all layers. Bake 1 hour covered at 350°. Remove cover and bake additional 30 minutes.
Yields 6 servings.
Per Serving: 111.3 calories, 5.9 g total fat, 1.2 mg cholesterol, 695.2 mg sodium, 11.2 carbohydrates, 2.2 g fiber, 4.2 g protein
Baja Fish Tacos (from www.health.com)
3/4 pound mahi mahi or other firm white fish fillets
2 tsp fajita seasoning
2 cups pre-sliced green cabbage (about 6 oz)
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
½ tsp salt
3 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 ½ Tbs reduced-fat sour cream, divided (optional)
½ avocado, pitted and diced
Lightly spray grill rack with nonstick cooking spray and preheat grill. Sprinkle both sides of fish with fajita seasoning, gently pressing into flesh. Grill fish 3-4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Flake into pieces with a fork; keep warm.
In a small bowl, mix together cabbage, lime juice, salt, and cilantro. Wrap the tortillas in paper towels, and microwave 1 minute on HIGH or until they’re warm.
Place taco ingredients on the table for assembly. Spread each tortilla with 1 tsp of sour cream, if desired, and top with fish, cabbage mixture, and avocado. Serve with salsa and lime wedges on the side.
Yields 4 servings
Per Serving: 235 calories, 6 g fat, 20 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 62 mg cholesterol
Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon (from www.myrecipes.com)
1 (9 oz) package refrigerated fresh fettuccine
2 slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
2/3 cup (about 2 ½ oz) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving ¼ cup cooking liquid.
While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in milk; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in salt and reserved ¼ cup cooking liquid. Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine. Sprinkle with bacon, parsley, and pepper.
Yields 4 servings
Per Serving: 339 calories, 11.7 g fat, 17.3 g protein, 38.4 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 22 mg cholesterol, 833 mg sodium
Chunky Minestrone (from www.bhg.com)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about ¾ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups reduced-sodium tomatoes, undrained and cut up
2 – 14.5 oz can low-sodium tomatoes, undrained and cut up
¾ cup water
½ cup long-grain rice
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning, crushed
4 cups shredded fresh spinach
1 – 15 oz can reduced sodium navy beans or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the onion, carrot, and garlic in hot oil about 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in the broth, undrained tomatoes, water, uncooked rice, and Italian seasoning.
Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in the spinach, beans, zucchini, and pepper. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes more. If desired, sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.
Yields 5 servings
Per Serving: 246 calories, 4 g fat, 11 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 462 mg sodium