No matter how much time you have or don't have for cooking, you can make quick and easy heart-healthy meals by following these simple suggestions.
Heart-healthy cooking focuses on lowering your intake of fat, especially saturated and trans fats. It also includes limiting salt while upping fibre and making sure you eat four to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day.
What's on your plate?
Start by changing the proportions of your plate so that protein sources such as meat and fish are no longer the main attractions. Instead, fill about half of the plate with a colourful variety of vegetables, a quarter of the plate with whole grains such as brown rice and 100% whole-grain bread. Fish, poultry, lean meat or legumes (chickpeas, lentils, tofu) should make up the remaining one-quarter of the plate.
Slash the fat
Trim all visible fat from meat and take the skin off poultry and fish to reduce fat and calories. Instead of pan-frying or deep-frying, try baking, broiling, grilling or roasting (on a rack, so fat can drip away). Fish may be poached in water, sodium-reduced tomato juice or lower-fat milk. To sauté, use a non-stick pan or a small amount of heart-healthy olive or canola oil.
If you're sautéeing, steaming or boiling a vegetable, it's just as easy to cook two or more in the same pot or pan. If you're making brown rice, cook twice the amount you need so you'll have enough for another meal.
Substituting healthy ingredients for less healthy ones won't take any more time and may even save you money. Use plain, lower-fat yogurt instead of sour cream, lower-fat cheese instead of the full-fat type, and evaporated skim milk instead of cream. Cook whole-wheat pasta instead of white. Replace some of the white flour in a recipe with 100% whole-wheat flour.
Shake the salt habit
Instead of salt, spice things up with fresh or dried herbs. Try dill with fish, paprika with chicken or ginger with beef. Lightly sautéed garlic, onions and sweet red peppers add flavour as well as assorted nutrients that promote good health.
Last reviewed: April 2011