Heart-Healthy Cooking Shortcuts

Heart-Healthy Living's test kitchen expert offers the top 15 ways to lighten up your favorite recipes.

By Elizabeth Burt, R.D., L.D.


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Healthy Cooking Shortcuts
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Healthy Cooking Shortcuts

    Use less of more flavorful cheeses. Cooking with small amounts of smoked gouda, blue cheese, or Parmigiano-Reggiano will allow you to get lots of cheese flavor in your dishes but use half as much.

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Cut the Fat in Beef

    Instead of adding cooked ground beef to recipes, add a combination of ground beef, ground chicken breast, ground turkey breast, or even cooked lentils to decrease the calories and fat while keeping the beef flavor.

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Fake the Fried Taste

    Instead of frying chicken and vegetables, try dipping them in flour and herbs, a beaten egg, and crushed cornflakes. Instead of frying, cook them under the broiler until done. This gives them a golden, crisp coating without all the fat.

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Spray Before You Grill

    Skip the butter or oil on your grilled meat; instead, use nonstick cooking spray to keep it from sticking. For a charcoal grill, coat the grill rack before you put it over the coals. For a gas grill, coat the grill rack before turning on the gas to preheat the grill. This ensures that the cooking spray won't cause flare-ups.

    Great grill recipes:

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Season without Salt or Fat

    In place of butter, oil, and salt, use fresh herbs, spices, and flavored vinegars to give foods flavor.

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Rinse Beans to Cut Sodium

    Canned beans are an instant healthful addition to soups, stews, and pasta dishes, but they can bring a lot of extra sodium. Make sure to rinse canned beans under water, which reduces the sodium by 30-40 percent.

    Recipes with green beans:

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Shake Together Oil and Vinegar

    Rather than using store-bought salad dressing with trans fats and high sodium, toss your salad greens with extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. You get the healthy fatty acids from the oil and no added salt.

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Use Nonstick Cookware

    Invest in nonstick skillets and cookware to reduce the amount of butter and oil you need for cooking.

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Don't Boil, Steam Instead

    Steam vegetables instead of boiling to retain flavor and vital nutrients. Long cooking time and high temperatures can destroy nutrients.

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Chop Up Less-Healthy Ingredients

    When adding nuts or chocolate to recipes, finely chop them and add a spoonful or two less than the recipe calls for. Even though there will be fewer pieces, the finely chopped bits will distribute evenly, so you will still get their flavor and crunch in every bite.

    Put your chopping skills to use on these heart-healthy recipes:

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Substitute Flax for Fat

    If a baking recipe calls for butter, oil, or shortening, substitute flaxseed meal for up to 1/4 of the ingredient that's called for. Flax seed meal can also add a nutty crunch of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids when sprinkled over salads.

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Grill with Foil Instead

    Grill or bake foods on nonstick foil rather than using butter or oil to keep them from sticking. Bonus: Your grill is easier to clean later!

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Go with Whole Grains

    When baking cakes, cookies, breads, and desserts, replace up to half of the flour with white whole wheat flour. The texture and flavor barely changes, and you get extra whole grain and fiber

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Cut the Milk Fat in Baking

    This one is simple (and you may be doing it already without trying): Replace whole milk in baking recipes with fat-free or low-fat milk.

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Replace Butter with Cream Cheese

    In cookies that call for butter, replace half of the butter with equal amounts regular cream cheese. This saves more than half of the calories and a great deal of fat, and the cream cheese will not change the flavor.

    Try these heart-healthy cookie recipes:

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