Even small changes to your cooking can help you reduce your risk for heart disease. You can protect your heart and blood vessels by:
- Making food choices that include healthy fats and cutting back on those with less healthy fats.
- Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight; it’s hard work, but well worth it.
- Especially if you have high blood pressure, cutting down on foods that are high in sodium can make a difference.
Choose the right fats—in moderation
Foods like packaged (store bought) snacks, sweets, baked goods, fried foods, red meat and processed meats like bacon and sausage are high in saturated fat that raises your bad cholesterol.
Fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fruit are low in fat and high in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber that can reduce your risk of heart disease. Nuts, avocados, and plant-based oils (like olive, peanut and safflower oils to name a few) provide you with healthy fats. When cooking, pay attention to the amount of oils and butter you add to lower the total calories to help with weight management. Butter is high in saturated fat, so try to cut back on the amount you use.
Include those omega-3s
Foods high in omega-3 fats are especially beneficial for your heart health and include "fatty" fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, rainbow trout, mackerel and sardines.
Other foods that provide omega-3 fatty acids include soybean products, walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil. Try to include these in your eating plan on a regular basis, but do pay attention to your portions because a small amount goes a long way.
Choose a healthy cooking method
You can cut down on the calories and unhealthy fats in your meals by broiling, baking, roasting, steaming, or grilling foods. When you fry foods, it increases the unhealthy fat and overall calorie content.
It is okay to use some fat when cooking, but don’t overdo it.
Homemade and fresh is best
Preparing foods at home gives you more control over what you are eating. Restaurant foods are almost always larger portions with more fat, sugar, and salt added to them.
Use the Diabetes Food Hub to get some ideas for healthy foods you can cook at home. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can save time and cost less, too.
More flavor with less fat, sugar and salt
Try using herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt, butter, lard, or other unhealthy fats. Here are a few ideas to add flavor to your food:
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice or lime juice on steamed vegetables, broiled fish, rice, salads or pasta.
- Try a salt-free herbs and spices. Fresh herbs are also a great choice.
- Onion and garlic add lots of flavor without the bad stuff.
- Try marinades for meat with healthy plant based oils, herbs and spices.
Trim the fat
Cut away visible fat from meat and poultry. Roast food on a rack to let the fat drip off. Choose cuts of meat that are lean and peel the skin off poultry before you eat it.
Substitute healthier ingredients in your favorite recipes
Regular ground beef | Try 90% lean ground beef or better yet, try lean ground turkey breast.
Lean ground beef is fewer calories, less saturated fat and less cholesterol.
Sour cream on tacos or in dips | Try plain yogurt (regular or Greek).
Plain yogurt has fewer calories and less saturated fat.
Butter or margarine when cooking | Try oils like olive, safflower, and other plant-based oils or reduce how much butter you use.
These oils have less of the bad fats and more heart-healthy fats.
Snack foods like crackers, chips, candy or baked goods | Try fruit with plain yogurt, fresh vegetables and hummus, a slice of whole wheat toast and natural peanut butter, or nuts.
These options have less sodium, less saturated fat and zero trans fat.
Regular mayonnaise | Try mustard on sandwiches, or try yogurt or a combination of yogurt and less mayonnaise if used in dressing, sauces, and dips.
These options have fewer calories and more nutrients.
Bologna, salami or pastrami | Try sliced low-sodium turkey or roast beef. Or better yet, cook fresh chicken or turkey on the weekend and use throughout the week for meals.
These options have less total fat, less saturated fat and less sodium.