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Making your home cooked meals more heart healthy

BY: Lara De Santana (Qualified dietitian at Futurelife)   

Health professionals worldwide agree that the cessation of smoking, promotion of exercise, losing weight and eating healthfully is the mantra for cardiovascular health. That’s because diet and lifestyle changes can not only help prevent heart disease, improve your cardiovascular function, but also help you live a longer life. So how should you be preparing your meals for optimal heart health?


some simple meal adjustments from the American Heart Association that can make a difference

Healthier methods of food preparation

  • Stock up on heart-healthy cookbooks and recipes for cooking ideas.
  • Use “choice” or “select” grades of beef rather than “prime,” and be sure to trim the fat off the fat before cooking.
  • Use cuts of red meat and pork labeled “loin” and “round,” as they usually have the least fat.
  • With poultry, use the leaner light meat (breasts) instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs), and be sure to remove the skin.
  • For recipes that require dairy products, try low-fat or fat-free versions of milk, yoghurt and cheese.
  • Use reduced-fat, fat-free or lite dressings on salads, for dips or as marinades.
  • Use and prepare foods that contain little or no salt.


Choose healthier seasonings

  • Avoid using prepackaged seasoning mixes because they often contain a lot of salt.  Use fresh herbs whenever possible.
  • Add dried herbs such as thyme and rosemary to dishes for a more pungent flavour.
  • Use vinegar or citrus juice as wonderful flavour enhancers, remember to add them at the last moment.
  • Use dry mustard for a zesty flavour when you’re cooking, or mix it with water to make a very sharp condiment.
  • To add a little more “bite” to your dishes, add some fresh hot peppers.  Remove the membrane and seeds first, then finely chop them up.  A small amount goes a long way.
  • Some vegetables and fruits, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, chilli peppers, cherries, cranberries and raisins have a more intense flavour when dried than when fresh.  Add them when you want a burst of flavour.


Preparing and cooking foods with oils

  • Use liquid vegetable oils or nonfat cooking sprays whenever possible.
  • Whether cooking or making dressings, use the oils that are lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol – such as canola oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil – but use them sparingly.
  • Stay away from coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.  Even though they are vegetable oils, they are high in saturated fats.


Alternative cooking methods to frying

Instead of frying foods, which adds unnecessary fats and calories, use cooking methods that add little or no fat, like these:

  • Stir-frying. Use a wok to cook vegetables, poultry or seafood in vegetable stock, wine or a small amount of oil.  Avoid high-sodium (salt) seasonings like teriyaki and soy sauce.
  • Use a rack in the pan so the meat or poultry doesn’t sit in its own fat drippings.  Instead of basting with pan drippings, use fat-free liquids like wine, tomato juice or lemon juice.  When making gravy from the drippings, chill first then use a ladle to remove the fat.
  • Grilling and broiling. Use a rack so the fat drips away from the food.
  • Bake foods in covered cookware with a little extra liquid.
  • Cook chicken or fish by immersing it in simmering liquid.
  • Sautéing. Use a pan made with nonstick metal or a coated, nonstick surface, so you will need to use little or no oil when cooking.  Use a nonstick vegetable spray to brown or sauté foods; or, as an alternative, use a small amount of broth or wine, or a tiny bit of vegetable oil rubbed onto the pan with a paper towel.
  • Steam vegetables in a basket over simmering water.  They’ll retain more flavours and won’t need any salt.


FUTURELIFE® products can be used as part of a heart healthy diet. Try mixing it with low-fat or fat-free milk, or low-fat non-sweetened yoghurt, to keep your calories down and to limit the intake of saturated fat.


There are a number of little things that you can change, that when added up can make a big difference. Be it the choice of cut of meat, or the way in which you cook the meat, it all matters.





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