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Enjoying a Heart Health Diet

When it comes to cooking, if the words “heart health diet” conjure up images of tasteless soups, bland casseroles and plain vegetables – think again. You can develop a heart health diet meal plan that is anything but boring. With just a little practice, you’ll soon be adding some zing to a lean cut of meat or dressing up a vegetable side dish.

Before heading out to the grocery store, invest in a few heart-healthy cookbooks and recipes for cooking ideas. Develop a shopping list that includes the following basic items:

  • Opt for “loin” or “round” cuts of meat and ground beef that is at least 93 percent lean.
  • For poultry, choose leaner light meat such as breasts rather than fattier dark meat from the legs and thighs. Remember to remove the skin.
  • Buy a variety of fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. Canned vegetables should be low in sodium, and frozen should not have added butter or sauces. Canned fruit should be in 100 percent juice, not syrup, and frozen berries need to be without added sugar. Dried fruits are good, too.
  • Look for milk and milk products that are fat-free or low-fat, such as one percent milk, or cheese that has three grams of fat or less per serving.
  • Select breads, cereals and grains that list whole grain as the first ingredient.
  • Select cooking oils that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, including canola, olive, peanut or sesame oils.

Cooking for a Heart Health Diet

Remember these tips to keep the fat low without sacrificing flavor:

  • Stir-fry, roast, grill, broil, bake, poach or steam instead of fry.
  • Use nonstick pans and cooking sprays.
  • Make enough of a recipe to freeze leftovers and have a meal ready to reheat.
  • Boost the flavor of meats and vegetables with herbs, spices, lemon juice or vinegar instead of fats like butter.
  • Add onion or garlic to meat and bake chicken with barbecue sauce, low-fat Italian dressing or lemon pepper on chicken.
  • Make recipes or egg dishes with two egg whites substituted for each egg yolk.

It may be tempting to go for seconds now that your meals are so heart healthy, but you still need to control portion size. For example, a serving of meat, chicken or fish (2 to 3 ounces) equates to the size and thickness of a deck of cards. And read the labels on package foods. Sometimes a package is one serving, sometimes two.

Watch the Salt

Finally, lowering how much sodium you consume can help lower blood pressure or prevent high blood pressure. Resist the urge to add salt to your food. Healthy adults should have less than about a teaspoon of salt per day (2,300 mg). And remember that packaged and processed foods often have way more sodium than you need. Read the labels first for canned goods, soup, tomato sauce and condiments.

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