Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips By Jennifer Lintz, RD, LD

February 8th, 2013 · No Comments

As a supermarket dietitian, I get the warm fuzzies whenever someone tells me they made something from scratch. Whether it’s an entrée like chicken cacciatore, side of steamed green beans, or even a homemade apple pie, it makes me happy to know there are folks who aren’t afraid to put a little extra love into their meals. Because February is American Heart Month, I thought it would be fitting to discuss ways to cook with your heart in mind. Here are a few: 

Find ways to add fiber. Increasing your fiber intake can be helpful in reducing cholesterol. The top food sources of fiber are whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds. You can bump up fiber content by incorporating whole grains into baking, using fiber-rich veggies in stir-fries and sides, and adding beans and lentils to soups. I like to add whole wheat flour and flaxseed to my homemade banana bread and often replace a third of the bread flour in my pizza crust with the whole wheat kind. 

Skim back on fat. Limiting your consumption of saturated fat can help lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol. In the kitchen, this means using lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy in addition to low-fat cooking methods like baking, broiling, roasting and stir-frying. My husband and I almost always have swai, tilapia, or salmon on hand to help ensure that we eat fish at least once per week. We also regularly rely on lean ground chicken and turkey breast for burgers, meatloaf, and tacos. 

Ease up on sodium. Scaling back your salt intake can be helpful in the blood pressure department. While putting the salt shaker out of sight is one strategy, the best way to control your sodium consumption is to prepare your meals from scratch. Why? A majority of the sodium we consume is found in processed items such as frozen meals, canned goods, and packaged snacks. When cooking, use minimal amounts of salt and experiment with spices, herbs, garlic, peppers, and citrus fruits to add flavor to your dishes. Also, rinse your canned goods to remove some of the excess sodium or buy the “no salt added” kind.

This is not intended as medical advice. Please contact your physician for medical advice.

Jennifer Lintz, RD, LD, is a Registered Dietitian for Hy-Vee in Owatonna, MN, and a Group Fitness Instructor at the Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center in Rochester, MN.

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