It’s very difficult to eat right for your heart when you’re eating out a lot, ordering in, or eating microwave dinners and other processed foods. The good news is that you can learn to make quick, heart healthy meals at home. It’s easier and less time-consuming than you may think.
Heart-healthy grocery shopping and stocking
Creating a heart-friendly diet starts with stocking your fridge with healthy and accessible foods. Prepare a list before you head to the store or farmer’s market, and leave a little time after your trip to set yourself up for success during the week.
Look at labels
While scanning the aisles of a grocery store in the U.S., look for foods displaying the American Heart Association’s heart-check mark to spot heart-healthy foods. This logo means that the food has been certified to meet the American Heart Association’s criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol. In Australia, look for the Heart Foundation Tick.
- Make healthy substitutions. Choose substitutions like 1% or skimmed milk instead of whole milk, soft margarine for butter, and lean meats like chicken and fish in place of ribs or ground meat. These substitutions can save you an entire day’s worth of saturated fat.
- Make foods ready-to-eat. When you make healthy food easy to grab during your busy week, you’re more likely to stay heart-healthy. When you come home from grocery shopping, cut up vegetables and fruits and store them in the fridge, ready for the next meal or when you are looking for a ready-to-eat snack.
- Use your freezer. Make healthy eating easier by freezing heart-healthy foods in individual portions. Freeze fruits such as bananas, grapes, and orange slices to make them more fun to eat for children. Be careful with portion sizes: the recommended serving of cooked meat is about the size of a deck of cards, while a serving of pasta should be about the size of a baseball.
Heart-healthy cooking tips
When you prepare and cook meals at home, you have better control over the nutritional content and the overall healthfulness of the foods you eat. An added bonus: you can also save money.
- Create a library of heart-healthy recipes. Stock up on heart-healthy cookbooks and recipes for cooking ideas. The internet is full of food blogs and websites devoted to healthy cooking methods and recipes, and a local library can be a great source for cookbooks as well.
- Use heart-healthy cooking methods. Just as important as picking healthy foods at the grocery store is how you cook those foods into healthy meals. Use low-fat methods: you can bake, broil, microwave, roast, steam, poach, lightly stir fry, or sauté—using a small amount of vegetable or olive oil, reduced sodium broth, and spices.
- Cook just twice a week and make food for the whole week. When you’re cooking healthful meals, make extra helpings. Store as meals in reusable containers—or directly on plates—for easy reheating and ready-to-eat food the rest of the week. Cooking healthy food ahead this way is perhaps the most time-saving, money-saving, and heart-saving strategy available.