Heart Smart Your Menu with Tasty Comfort Foods

Think “heart healthy eating” is bland and boring? Think again.  February is “Heart Health” awareness month. With heart disease being the leading cause of death for both men and women, eating well is one of the best ways you can protect your heart.  I know most people aren’t going to eat salads all the time, which is why I want to share my “heart smart” take on  some of my comfort favorites, chili and pizza. Using healthy swaps like veggies and spices in place of salt, choosing whole grains and cooking with heart healthy corn oil, people can still enjoy these delicious and easy favorites without compromising on flavor.

This past week I tried something new on my appearance on WBAL NBC TV 11 Let’s Talk Live – I actually cooked the food on set! Check out the full video below or keep reading to learn about my “heart smart” recipes.

Heart Smart Chili 

A well-stocked pantry – your “Cantry” – helps you make hearty, flavorful, nutritious meals you can feel good about, anytime. I used canned chickpeas, kidney beans, corn, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes in this dish to help make my meal prep easy, affordable and nutritious. Check out the recipe I made on air.

Some people associate canned foods as being lower quality than fresh, but that’s a myth. There are lots of nutritious foods available in cans. Many fruits and vegetables are actually picked at their peak freshness and sealed in the can within hours locking in freshness, flavor and nutrition naturally. Some canned foods have actually been shown to have more nutrients than their fresh or frozen counter parts (check out the video to learn a few examples). You can feel good about using canned foods in your recipes. Visit Cans Get You Cooking on Facebook and Pinterest for more meal ideas.

I cut back on the meat, but did not eliminate it entirely (although you could make this vegan if you wanted). I used ground turkey breast, but only a half pound for 8 people, compared to 1-2 pounds in other recipes, and my “secret weapon”, mushrooms, which are a superfood!  Using a 50/50 blend of finely chopped mushrooms and ground turkey breast, this simple technique called blendability adds a savory and hearty taste thanks to mushroom’s “umami” flavor. Adding mushrooms also adds vegetable servings to the dish, which helps increase the nutritional value of the dish. Learn more about blendability at MushroomInfo.com.

Wheat Foods for Whole Grains

A heart healthy meal is not complete without a serving of whole grains. Eating at least 3 servings of whole grains, such as whole grain foods, like wheat foods, can reduce your risk of heart disease by 25%! I love serving whole grain wheat rolls with my chili because they’re packed with nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, slow-burning carbs, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help to reduce chronic levels of inflammation that lead to disease, lower “bad” cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Get more recipes for wheat foods at the Wheat Foods Council website.

Chicken a la Pizza

chicken a la pizzaWhile traditional pizza is delicious, it is also one of the top sources of sodium in American’s diets (the top 3 are breads, pizza, and cold cuts according to the National Cancer Institute).

This delicious Mediterranean take on pizza was created by celebrity chef, Ingrid Hoffman and provides many of your favorite pizza flavors served on top of marinated and grilled chicken breasts. The marinade for the chicken contains Mazola corn oil – a heart smart choice. Many people don’t know that corn oil has more cholesterol blocking plant sterols than ANY other cooking oil. And a recent study showed that it lowers cholesterol MORE than Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Serve your Chicken a la Pizza with a fresh salad and enjoy!

What are some of your heart healthy favorites? Leave a comment below to share your favorite “heart smart” comfort food recipes.

Disclosure: I was compensated for my time to work with the Mushroom Council, Cans Get You Cooking, Wheat Foods Council, and Mazola for the TV segment, but I was not compensated for writing this blog post. 

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