You don’t have to sacrifice all your favorite foods – or delicious taste, texture and flavor - on a heart-healthy diet. Members of MyHeartDiseaseTeam share how they prepare recommended foods they’ve learned to love – and healthy makeovers of “old favorites.”
Favorite Recommended Foods
Chicken. Members have found creative ways to dress up this healthy protein for everyone to enjoy. “My favorite heart-healthy recipe is chicken breast in a crock pot with salt-free mushroom soup, onions, carrots, celery, and brown rice,” said one woman. Another member’s favorite food is chicken in tomato sauce. “I don’t add cheese, even the low-fat kind, because I’m told it’s inflammatory,” she said.
Vegetarian chili. To reduce saturated fat, some members create meatless versions of their favorite comfort foods. One vegetarian said, “For me, it was about making tofu and beans taste good. I developed a chili recipe with riced cauliflower which is quite good, and has the right texture. And I make mine hot! I found that if your mouth is burning, you don’t have a need for good taste, LOL!”
Fruits and veggies. A staple of heart-healthy diets, vegetables are no longer a boring side dish for several members. They add fiber, nutrients and even flavor to many dishes. “I put spinach and red peppers in everything now,” said one member. One woman enjoys making “zucchini boats. They’re so good, and healthy too.” Fruit is a popular healthy dessert, snack, and ingredient. “I love, love, love, fresh fruits, so I have them several times a day,” said one member.
Salads. A bowl of tossed greens topped with healthy protein and light dressing is many members’ go-to meal of the day. One member shared his favorite lunch: Tuna salad made with mixed lettuces, tomatoes, sliced black olives, and a dressing of Hellmann’s Canola Mayonnaise, light olive oil, white vinegar, and lemon juice.” One cucumber lover tosses hers with apple cider vinegar and some onions. “I make my own pickles, too!” she said.
Juice. To avoid the high-levels of sugar found in many bottled juices, some members make their own. One shares a favorite healthy beverage she found online: One green or red apple with skin on, five carrots washed, not peeled, and 1-1/2 cup parsley. “It [tastes] great and is good for controlling inflammation,” she explained.
Favorite Food Makeovers
Making healthy versions of favorite comfort foods is a popular topic on MyHeartDiseaseTeam.
Members request and share recipes for dishes that help them transition to – and stick with – a heart-healthy diet. “I just want a veggie that tastes exactly like mac-and-cheese!” joked one member. “Can we start a thread with good, healthy recipes that are filling, but not ridiculously fattening?”
“Pasta.” Packaged, planted-based pasta is one way to make this staple healthier, but several members take it a step further. One woman made lasagna for a dinner party using yellow and green zucchini instead of pasta. “I made a large batch and there was hardly any left over,” she explained. Another member makes zucchini noodles with a spiralizer kitchen tool - also known as “zoodles” - topped with ground veggie crumbles or turkey. Others prefer spaghetti squash as a pasta swap or low-carb, low-fat shirataki noodles (made from Japanese yams).
Baked goods. With the availability of gluten-free, low-carb, high-protein flours on the market, members have been able to replicate their favorite baked treats. One woman developed a cake made from coconut flour topped with sugar-free homemade fruit puree. Another created a “favorite muffin recipe made with almond meal, mashed bananas, chia seed, walnut oil, sea salt, baking soda, pure maple syrup, and stevia. It’s so good to me, and for me.”
Do healthier pastries actually taste good? One member, who enjoys a daily, store-bought almond-flour “muffin” explained, “The secret is not to think of it as a muffin, but a snack.”
There are times, however, when members of MyHeartDiseaseTeam “just need the real thing.”
Asked about her favorite “cheat” food, one member replied: “Well, it’s still pizza! But limited.” Agreed another: “Pizza in moderation is OK. I get it once in a while with veggies, some good cheese, and lots of herbs.”
“My weaknesses are chips, pretzels, and Ritz crackers with a slice of longhorn cheese dipped in mustard,” confessed one snacker. “They’re my ‘had-a-great-day-let’s-celebrate’ foods. But only a small bowlful, just enough to satisfy my urge. I also like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup once in a blue moon.”
“I cheat once a month on either a grilled chicken sub or piece of cake,” shared another member. One man reserves his cheats for special occasions. “We went to a buffet with the three grandkids,” he said. “Lobster, crab legs, stone crab claws, shrimp, fish, and steak. I expected to be blown up like a toad in the morning, but it was worth it,” he said.
Another member responded: “I will not go back to unhealthy foods. I’ve had healthy cheats at times and feel much better. No longer pre-diabetic, no more problems.”
On MyHeartDiseaseTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with heart disease, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles including their favorite heart-healthy foods.
Here are some conversations about favorite heart-healthy foods:
Can you relate? Have you found or created any favorite heart-healthy foods since being diagnosed with heart disease? Share your experiences in the comments below or on MyHeartDiseaseTeam.