Shop and Cook Heart-Smart

When you're cooking at home, you are in control. Stick to these basic heart-healthy cooking techniques to keep sodium, calories, and unhealthy fats at a minimum.

• Always use the lowest-sodium products available. These may be labeled “sodium-free,” “salt-free,” “no-salt-added,” “very low sodium,” or “low-sodium.” The difference between these products and their “regular” counterparts can be significant, so be sure to compare nutrition facts panels.

• Check regularly for newly introduced products. Read nutrition facts labels often, since newer products may be low in sodium without advertising that benefit on the front of the packaging.

• Use a nonstick skillet so you can cook foods with a minimum of oil, or use cooking spray. (Check the warranty information from your cookware's manufacturer. Some caution against using cooking spray on nonstick surfaces.)

• Trim away and discard all visible fat before cooking meat. For poultry, remove the fat and skin except when roasting whole poultry; in that case, discard the cooked skin before eating the poultry. Raw skin will be easier to remove if you use paper towels or a clean cloth to take hold of it. To help prevent the spread of bacteria, scrub the cutting surface and utensils well with hot, sudsy water after preparing meat or poultry.

• Bump up your intake of vegetables and fruits by using them in unexpected ways. Add chopped spinach to lasagna, include shredded zucchini in meat loaf, put pumpkin purée in pancake batter, and toss some berries or peeled orange wedges into your salads. Be creative!

• Stretch the amount of ground poultry or meat you have by adding chopped vegetables to feed more people and incorporate more veggies.

For more ideas and delicious ways to shop and cook heart-smart, check out the more than 60 lower-sodium recipes found throughout Part III, “Sodium Sense by Food Type — with Recipes.”

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