I was speaking to a client recently who wanted to make some food shifts to support her cardiovascular health. I shared these with her and wanted to share them out here as well in case you're looking for some good swaps, too.
1. Walnuts for Croutons
Love a good crunch factor on your salad? To take those super healthy leafy greens up yet another notch, try swapping out your croutons and throwing in some walnuts instead. Croutons, while delicious, don’t really provide as many nutritional benefits. Walnuts, on the other hand, are a great superfood. They will give you that crunchiness while also providing you with plant-based omega-3s, magnesium, protein, and fiber. The research is so strong that the American Heart Association has made walnuts a certified heart-healthy food.
2. Avocado for Mayo
Maybe it’s no surprise to hear that I love avocados (is there a cuter fruit? Maybe only the pineapple can compete with that title). Avocados are considered heart-healthy because of their monounsaturated fat content. Since 75% of its fat content come from these healthier fats, it’s a great swap for other creamy spreads that may be higher in saturated fat like mayonnaise. In addition to boosting those healthy fats, avocados also supply 20 different vitamins and minerals. I’ve even seen some stores carry diced avocado in the frozen section! This is an easier way to keep ripe avocados on hand more regularly.
Bonus use: Frozen avocado can also be used in smoothies to make them extra creamy
3. Spices for Salt
You’ve probably heard that excess sodium in the diet may contribute to blood pressure issues. Salt - no matter what form – all contains sodium whereas herbs and spices do not. Go through your spice cabinet or drawer and familiarize yourself with the uses for those spices you have on hand. New to cooking? Get started with garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper, and Italian seasoning. I love using blends in my recipes to really punch them up. This can make the complete difference, especially with vegetables. Go from bland to fantastic with a few shakes of the spice blend.
4. Baked for Fried
This is a common suggestion, but an important one nonetheless. When you hear this swap, what comes to mind? Most likely fried chicken or french fries – a common answer is something with breading or fast food. While these answers are correct, it’s equally important to remember other fried items like chips, frozen foods, or donuts. Read the labels to identify products that have been baked or ‘popped with air’ instead of fried to support a heart-healthier choice. If you really enjoy the crispy taste of fried foods, then you may want to explore the air fryer. Its convection heat methods get food nice and crispy without the oil. We use ours nearly every day! It’s great for everything from green beans and broccoli to potatoes and sweet potatoes.
5. Beans or Fish for Meat
Do you eat the recommended two servings of seafood per week? What about beans … are you eating those regularly? If not, this could be a great goal to set. Why? Research supports that saturated fat contributes to elevated LDL cholesterol values. One way to reduce saturated fat intake is through your protein choices. Choosing beans and seafood more often, and naturally swapping out other animal-based proteins like poultry, beef, or pork, should promote lower saturated fat content in your diet. Next time you’re meal prepping aim to include beans and fish in at least one meal per week.
The Bottom Line
While these swaps may seem like small changes, they add up to support a healthier heart. Let me know what healthy swaps you’re committing to this year in the comments below!