It’s February. Also known as National Heart Health Month. In honor of Heart Health Month, let’s give our heart some extra love. You know, the kind of love that comes from eating good-for-you food.
Heart Health Month was first proclaimed back in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson in order to raise awareness of the number one killer of Americans at that time: Heart disease. And guess what? Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States. While it’s disappointing that we’re still battling these same demons, it’s important to understand that most forms of heart disease can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices and managing existing health conditions. In the spirit of lifestyle-as-powerful-medicine, here are some small recipe tweaks that deliver notable nutritional benefits.
Avocado for Dairy
Avocado works great as a replacement for butter in baked goods such as muffins and breads. Use the same amount of pureed avocado as you would butter, and you’ll save about 80 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Make the same one-to-one swap for mayo in dressing and sandwiches like tuna fish to eliminate about 70 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon.
Black Beans for Flour
Brownies aren’t often thought of as a health food, but swapping out the flour for a can of black bean puree can prevent the blood sugar spikes that are often associated with eating sweets. The beans don’t change the flavor, but they do change the nutritional profile. You’ll get more protein and fiber, more moisture and no gluten. When baking, swap out 1 cup flour for 1 cup black bean purée.
Quinoa for Rice, Couscous or Oatmeal
Quinoa is a whole-grain superfood with almost the same texture as couscous. It is naturally gluten-free and is packed with protein and nutrients. It’s easy to prepare, has a mild flavor and goes well with all recipes that call for couscous or rice.. Quinoa and brown rice have about the same number of carbohydrates but quinoa offers more fiber and protein than brown rice, making it a healthier, more filling choice. For a protein-packed breakfast, try replacing your morning oatmeal with quinoa. Cook it with your choice of milk, cinnamon and fruit and you may never go back to oatmeal.
Veggies to Thicken Soups & Sauces
You’ve heard about using cauliflower as a low-carb alternative to rice or mashed potatoes, right? The same theory applies to making vegan-friendly, gluten-free creamy soups. Just remove some of the cooked veggies from the soup you are making, puree them in a blender or food processor and return them to the pot, one cup at a time until the soup thickens. Cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, and white beans all work well. You can even use pureed veggies in place of cream. Just blend them with some broth or milk for an extra smooth consistency.
Greek Yogurt for Pre-Flavored Yogurts & Sour Cream
Pre-flavored yogurts often come packed with extra sugar. To skip the sugar rush without sacrificing flavor, opt for plain Greek yogurt, with some fresh fruit (and/or honey if you want more sweetness.) While Greek yogurt and sour cream have a similar nutritional profile and consistency, Greek yogurt contains more protein, less fat and sugar than sour cream. Plus it has those probiotics that fortify your gut health. Use Greek yogurt in recipes that call for sour cream or in any way you might use sour cream (ie. baked potatoes or tacos.)
Ground Oats for Wheat Flour
Instead of using white flour (zero nutrition) in your pancakes, quick breads, and cookies, grind oats in a blender until they are a fine powder. Replace half the flour with oat powder, and you won’t notice much change in the consistency and you’ll be adding more protein and four times the fiber.
Health-hacking your recipes for a bigger nutritional payoff is a great way to support your heart health, have some creative fun in the kitchen and build healthier habits that can live on past February.