A well-stocked kitchen is essential for a healthy heart. But you don’t have to run around and buy expensive gadgets and gourmet food to eat in a heart-healthy way. The best way to prepare your meals hassle-free is to make sure you have a refrigerator and pantry stocked with simple, healthy staples. This way, you can cook a delicious but good meal for your ticker even when it’s a busy weeknight and you are looking to cook a quick and easy dinner.
In the cupboards and pantry
Protein. Look for sources of protein around which you can compose a main course or salad: consider canned or dried beans, such as kidney beans, pinto, black or chickpeas (choose low or reduced sodium if you have high blood pressure). ); canned or bagged tuna, salmon and chicken, unsalted nuts and seeds, and nut butters, such as almonds or peanuts.
Canned vegetables. These are a good option for easy side dishes, and you can always add them to soups or sauces for extra heart-healthy fiber. Keep a variety of tomatoes on hand for almost any meal: reduced sodium canned diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.
Whole grains. Fill up on whole grains rather than refined grains. Whole grains are higher in fiber, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Consider brown rice, oats, couscous, bulgur and quinoa, as well as pasta, whole grain breads and tortillas and, of course, whole grain flour for baking.
Cooking oils. Use them in place of butter or margarine for cooking. The healthiest are all non-tropical vegetable oils, such as olive, canola, corn, safflower, soybean, or sunflower. Stay away from coconut oil: it might be trendy, but it’s high in saturated fat.
Broths. Low-sodium, fat-free chicken, vegetable and beef broths for making soups.
Herbs, seasonings and spices. They are a healthier alternative to salt. It’s a good idea to keep a strain on hand. Some of the best choices include:
- Basil for pasta sauces and stir-fries
- Curry powder to add to brown rice, quinoa or eggs
- Cumin for Mexican dishes or fish
- Rosemary for roasted meats like chicken, pork, lamb or salmon, or for vegetables like butternut squash
- Smoked paprika to add to egg dishes, rub spices for meats or tofu, fruit salsas and tomato sauce
- Thyme for bean dishes or roasted vegetables
- Cinnamon for muffins, waffles, pancakes or whole grain breads
Oatmeal and cold whole grains. Stick to those that contain at least 5 grams of dietary fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving.
In case. Load up on whole grain crackers and tortilla chips, brown rice cakes, whole grain pretzels and plain popcorn.
Assorted vinegars. Think rice, red wine, apple cider, or raspberry. They are ideal to mix with vegetable oil for a vinaigrette.
Dried fruits. Look for raisins, cranberries, dates, figs, berries, bananas, mangoes, papayas, apples, and apricots.
On the counters
The American Heart Association recommends four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables per day, so you should have plenty of options in your kitchen. But it’s also important to store them properly, so that they stay fresh as long as possible. Here’s where to put them:
In the pantry or the cellar
Onions, garlic, hard squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes and yams.
On your counter
Non-refrigerated fruits and vegetables. This includes bananas, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and stone fruits like avocado, apricots, and nectarines. Keep them away from the sun, heat and humidity. Keep bananas separate as they give off ethylene gas which can ripen and rot other produce faster.
In the refrigerator
Store most of the other fruits and vegetables here in plastic bags with holes. Keep fruits and vegetables separate from each other in different bins.
Your sources of fresh protein go here, including:
- Skinless and boneless chicken or turkey breasts and fillets
- Skinless ground chicken or turkey, breast breast
- Pork fillet
- Lean ground beef such as ground round or ground sirloin
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Egg substitutes and egg whites
- Soft margarine made from non-hydrogenated vegetable oil
In the freezer
- Frozen vegetables and fruits: Go for a wide variety – the more colors, the better. Buy them without any sauces, sauces, sweet syrups or added salt.
- Frozen soy beans (edamame)
- Frozen meatless burgers, minced meat, sausage patties or links
- Low-fat, low-sodium frozen entrees (The latter are highly processed, so use only in a pinch.)
- Whole grain breads, tortillas and pitas
- Fish, skinless chicken breasts and lean meats
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