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5 Heart-Friendly Dinners You Can Cook in a Half Hour

Medically reviewed by Lisa Booth, RDN
Written by Emily Brown
Posted on May 6, 2024

Want a nutritious, heart-healthy meal but short on time? Being mindful when choosing foods and planning menus that promote heart health is important for people who have any type of heart disease, including those living with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This genetic heart condition causes the heart muscle to thicken, often in the left ventricle, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood.

By cooking at home, you have more control over what you eat and can choose heart-healthy ingredients. Though healthy eating does require some thought, the good news is that delicious, heart-healthy dinners can be simple and quick.

Below are five heart-friendly dinner recipes you can whip up in half an hour, perfect for weeknight dinners or when you just want a healthy meal without a lot of fuss.

1. Tasty Tostadas

This turkey and bean tostada recipe from the American Heart Association packs lean protein and fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk. By using tortillas that are baked instead of deep-fried, you get a crispy shell without the harmful fats that may come from frying oil. Avocado-tomato salsa serves as a fresh, delicious, and nutritious heart-healthy topping. You can get these tasty tostadas on the table in under 30 minutes on busy nights. Kids also enjoy assembling them.

Turkey and Bean Tostadas With Avocado-Tomato Salsa

Servings: 5

Salsa

  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, and diced or mashed
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • 1 to 2 medium fresh jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Tostadas

  • 5 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 8 ounces ground skinless turkey breast
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons water

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray.
  2. Make the salsa: In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, avocado, corn, jalapenos, onion, and lime juice. Set aside.
  3. Make the tostadas: Place the tortillas on the prepared baking sheet and lightly spritz with cooking spray. Pierce the tortillas a few times with a fork to keep them from bubbling up with air. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high, add the turkey, chili powder, cumin, and coriander. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the turkey, until the turkey is no longer pink.
  5. Add the beans and water. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the beans are heated through. Mash the beans with a potato masher or wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.
  6. Spread each tortilla with an equal amount of the turkey mixture. Top with salsa.

Recipe Note

For a vegetarian version, leave out the ground turkey. You can add more black beans or a different type of bean, like pinto beans, instead.

2. Risotto With a Twist

This under 30-minute quinoa risotto recipe from Mayo Clinic is a creative take on traditional Italian risotto, replacing short-grain rice with protein-rich quinoa. As a whole grain, quinoa boosts the meal with a good source of fiber, which can improve blood cholesterol, and provides important vitamins and minerals for overall health. Arugula, carrots, and mushrooms not only add color but also lend a dose of heart-healthy veggies.

Quinoa Risotto With Arugula and Parmesan

Servings: 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 1/4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock or broth
  • 2 cups stemmed and chopped arugula
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large saucepan over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent and soft, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the quinoa and garlic. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, being careful not to let the garlic brown.
  3. Add the stock or broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the quinoa is tender but still a bit hard in the center, about 12 minutes. The mixture will be soupy.
  4. Stir in the arugula, carrot, and mushrooms. Simmer until the quinoa grains are translucent, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the Parmesan, and season with the salt and pepper.

Recipe Note

You can opt for different veggies, like spinach or peas, to match your personal preference or use up what you have in your refrigerator.

3. Veggie-Forward Stir-Fry

Stir-fries can be high in salt and fat, but this sweet, peanutty stir-fry from the American Heart Association cuts back on sodium (no salt or oil is added to the pasta) and piles on the vegetables for heart-healthy results. By reducing sodium in your meals, you can help lower your risk of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Inspired by Asian cuisine, this stir-fry packs flavor and texture with sweet-and-sour sauce, peanuts, and plenty of veggies for a satisfying crunch. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients — it takes just 30 minutes to complete the simple steps that bring all the flavors together.

Sweet and Nutty Stir-Fry

Servings: 4

Pasta

  • 4 ounces dried vermicelli or spaghetti (preferably whole grain), broken in half
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder

Sauce

  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Stir-Fry

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil or corn oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 cups bite-size broccoli florets (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced (not shredded) cabbage
  • 1 cup matchstick-size carrot strips
  • 1 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

  1. Make the pasta: Prepare the vermicelli or spaghetti according to package directions, leaving out any added salt or oil and adding the curry powder. Drain in a colander.
  2. Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes, stirring until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Add the orange zest. Set aside.
  3. Make the stir-fry: In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccoli, cabbage, and carrots and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. The veggies are ready when they are tender but still crisp.
  4. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl or serving platter. Top with the broccoli mixture, pour on the sauce, and sprinkle with the peanuts.

Recipe Note

Opting for whole-grain vermicelli or spaghetti reduces refined carbohydrates and ups your fiber intake. You can also switch up the vegetables to use your family’s favorites.

4. Tuna Salad in a Flash

This white bean and tuna salad from Mayo Clinic isn’t your average tuna salad — it’s packed with whole grains and extra protein from the baguette and cannellini. Fish, including tuna, is a good source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You can throw together this light, fresh dinner in well under 30 minutes.

Quick Bean and Tuna Salad

Servings: 4

  • 1/2 whole-grain baguette, cut or torn into 2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can (16 ounces) cannellini beans (no salt added), rinsed and drained
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 small dill pickles, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 can (7 ounces) water-packed tuna (no salt added), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

  1. Heat the broiler.
  2. Place the baguette pieces on a baking sheet, brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and place under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden. Turn the baguette pieces over and broil for 1 to 2 minutes more.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the beans, onion, pickles, vinegar, pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the broiled baguette pieces and stir to combine.
  4. Divide the mixture among 4 bowls and top with equal amounts of the tuna and parsley.

Recipe Notes

You can mix the tuna and parsley with the rest of the ingredients to spread on bread or, if you’re watching your carb intake, add to a green salad. If you’re using it in a sandwich, consider replacing your usual mayo with mashed avocado for healthy fats and a more filling meal. You can also swap black pepper for lemon pepper.

5. Easy Red Beans and Rice

Heart-healthy red beans and rice hit the table in under 30 minutes with this recipe from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This Cajun classic features red beans as a plant-powered protein source and brown rice for healthy whole grains. The combo of beans and rice provides a complete protein — it contains all nine essential amino acids (protein building blocks) the body needs.

Red Beans and Rice

Servings: 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced or pressed (2 to 3 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans low-sodium red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

  1. In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until soft but not browned.
  2. Add the bell pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.
  4. Add the broth and rice. Stir well, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes more.
  5. Add the beans. Stir well, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes more.

Recipe Note

Serve steamed broccoli or your favorite vegetable on the side for an extra boost of veggies.

Tips for Heart-Healthy, Stress-Free Cooking

Many MyHeartDiseaseTeam members offer tips for heart-healthy recipes, including ways to make meal prep quick. Here’s a sample of their suggestions:

  • “For dinner I make soups in a large quantity then freeze in containers. … I use various vegetables, potatoes for variations. We always have a delicious, nutritious dinner!”
  • “I gave up packaged processed and canned goods. I also read all the labels on everything for the lowest sodium content. … Sounds hard, but you get used to it.”
  • “When you get home from the grocery store, cut up any fresh veggies that you bought so making a salad is easy.”
  • “Try to eat a more plant-based diet. No sodas. No salt. No frozen dinners.”
  • “My daughter and I enjoy roasting various veggies with olive oil. Broccoli, carrots and onions are good — lots of garlic and spices.”

Living with heart disease and following a heart-healthy diet for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, does mean being mindful of what you eat. You may need to limit or even avoid certain foods, like those high in salt or saturated fat. However, heart-healthy cooking doesn’t need to be complicated. With these five healthy recipes in your back pocket, you can make heart-friendly meals without spending hours in the kitchen. You can also use these healthy dinner recipes to inspire nutritious twists on your favorite comfort foods and other everyday dishes.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyHeartDiseaseTeam is the social network for people with heart disease and their loved ones. On MyHeartDiseaseTeam, more than 60,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with heart disease.

What’s your favorite heart-friendly dinner recipe? Do you have tips for cooking healthy and simple meals? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on May 6, 2024
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Lisa Booth, RDN studied foods and nutrition at San Diego State University, in California and obtained a registered dietitian nutritionist license in 2008. Learn more about her here.
Emily Brown is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in health communication and public health. Learn more about her here.

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