Plan and Cook Heart-Healthy Meals 

You can protect your heart and blood vessels by making smart choices when you cook. Small changed can make a big difference in your health. See the sections below for tips on how to:

  • plan heart-healthy meals and snacks
  • cook heart-healthy meals

Choose heart-healthy foods to protect your heart and blood vessels.

For healthy recipes and food information, visit

Plan heart-healthy meals and snacks

Choose heart-healthy protein foods. 

  • Eat fish 2 or 3 times a week. Albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines, and salmon are great choices.
  • Include plant protein foods such as black beans and lentils, tofu and soy-based “burger.”
  • Buy poultry such as chicken, turkey, and Cornish hen without the skin (or remove the skin).
  • Choose lean cuts of beef such as round, sirloin, and flank steak; tenderloin; rib, and rump roast; T-bone, porterhouse, and cubed steak.
  • Pick lean types of pork: ham, Canadian bacon, tenderloin, and rib and loin chops.
  • Buy sandwich meats with 3 grams of fat or less in each ounce.
  • Other lean choices are leg of lamb, lamp chops, and roast lamb, and game, such as venison.

Have a meatless meal at least once a week. 

  • Cook a vegetable pizza or lasagna.
  • Try meatless chili with kidney beans.
  • Make black bean soup or vegetable soup.
  • Stir-fry vegetables with tofu.

Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy foods.

  • Choose fat-free (skim) milk, 1/2% milk, or 1% milk.
  • Use fat-free or low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese.
  • Buy reduced fat cheeses.

Choose whole-grain foods.

  • Buy whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Choose breads with whole wheat as the first ingredients.
  • Choose brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Eat whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta
  • Have whole corn tortilla instead of white flour tortilla
  • Try quinoa, barley, bulgur or faro for new flavors.
  • Have a snack like popcorn instead of chips or pretzels.

Eat more vegetables and fruits

  • Have a salad or vegetable soup at lunch and at dinner.
  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and salad.
  • Eat dark green and dark yellow vegetables every day, such as broccoli, spinach, collards, kale, carrots, squash, and peppers.
  • Snack on cut-up raw vegetables and fruit.
  • Choose fruit for dessert- or when you’re craving something sweet.

Cut back on salt. 

  • Check food labels and choose foods with less salt (sodium).

Cook heart-healthy meals 

Use these healthy cooking tips. 

  • Broil, microwave, bake,roast,poach,steam, or grill your food.
  • Use nonstick pans and cooking sprays.
  • Trim fat from meat and poultry.
  • Roast food on a rack to let the fat drip off.
  • Make soup a day ahead. Then refrigerate the soup. Before you reheat it, lift off the layer of the fat that has risen to the top and throw it away.

Use healthy fats for cooking. 

  • Cook with olive oil,canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, or safflower oil.
  • Avoid lard, bacon grease, butter and stick margarine.

Boost the flavor with seasonings and sauces instead of salt and fat. 

  • Look for recipes that use hers, spices, and lemon juice for flavor.
  • Cook without adding salt.
  • Try lemon juice, lemon pepper, or other salt-free seasoning on fish.
  • Marinate chicken in low-fat Italian dressing then back or grill it.
Smart food choices: What to try and why
Instead of … Try this… Why?
Whole milk or 2% milk Fat-free milk or 1% milk Less saturated fat, and less cholesterol
Regular cheese Reduced-fat cheese
Snack foods like chips and pretzels Trans fat-free, or low-fat snack foods, popcorn or fruit Less saturated fat and trans fat, fewer calories
Regular mayonnaise Reduced fat mayonnaise Less total fat, fewer calories
Sour cream Fat-free sour cream or plain Greek yogurt Less saturated fat
Regular stick margarine Trans fat-free soft tub margarine No trans fats, fewer calories
Friend chicken Baked chicken Less saturated fat, fewer calories
Bologna, salami, or pastrami Sliced turkey, lean ham, or low-fat sandwich meats Less saturated fat, fewer calories
Pork chop Pork loin Less saturated fat
Short ribs Grilled or baked salmon or tuna, grilled T-bone steak Less saturated fat