While today you may be busy hoping cupid’s arrow flies straight to your loved one’s heart, don’t forget about your own ticker. February is American Heart Month, meaning it’s a perfect time to think about the foods you chose to for yourself, your family and your customers. Selecting the right foods is only half of the equation; careful consideration of your preparation methods and seasonings will also play a big role in how “heart-friendly” your cooking can be.
Here are some tips from the American Heart Association that could help you make your restaurant and home kitchen the go-to spot for heart healthy fare.
- Use “choice” or “select” grades of meat rather than “prime,” and cuts labeled “loin” and “round” usually have the least fat. Be sure to trim the remaining fat off the edges before cooking.
- With poultry, use the leaner light meat (breasts) instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs), and be sure to remove the skin.
- Make recipes or egg dishes with egg whites, instead of egg yolks. Substitute two egg whites for each egg yolk.
- Try low-fat or fat-free versions of milk, yogurt and cheese.
- Avoid using prepackaged seasoning mixes because they often contain a lot of salt. Use fresh herbs whenever possible. Grind dried herbs with a mortar and pestle for the freshest and fullest flavor.
- Use vinegar or citrus juice as wonderful flavor enhancers – but add them at the last moment. Vinegar is great on vegetables, such as greens; and citrus works well on fruits, such as melons.
- Use dry mustard for a zesty flavor when you’re cooking, or mix it with water to make a very sharp condiment.
- To add a little more “bite” to your dishes, add some fresh hot peppers.
- Use liquid vegetable oils or nonfat cooking sprays whenever possible. Canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil are the “healthiest” oil choices – but use them sparingly, because they contain 120 calories per tablespoon.
This list of heart-healthy foods from the Food Network offers some great suggestions for options that are full of nutrients and flavor. While some of these foods may not be a staple in your pantry they are all easily attainable from your food purveyor or in most grocery stores. Even if you start slowly by adding a few healthy side dishes to your menu, you will begin to position your establishment as a location where your customers can enjoy the dining out experience while maintaining their heart-healthy diet.
- Foods high in magnesium like spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, quinoa and cashews.
- Beans are a great source of fiber – so grabs some kidney, black, lima, navy, pinto or garbanzo beans and get cooking.
- Here’s a good one: wine! Actually a modest amount of any kind of alcohol can help decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Milk is great because it is high in calcium and vitamin D. Add it to smoothies, cereal and coffee to increase your intake.
- Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are packed with omega-3 fats, which help lower triglycerides (fat in your blood) and total cholesterol.
- Try snacking on some almonds. They help reduce the lousy LDL and total cholesterol, and can also help lower C-reactive protein, another risk factor for heart disease.
- Similar to beans, oats have soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol. Don't forget about less common forms of oats like oat bran, oat flour and steel cut oats.
Fennel Crusted Pork with Roasted Root Vegetables
Let’s put some of these heart-healthy cooking tips and foods into action. This recipe is loaded with flavor, and its hearty ingredients make it feel more like a comfort food than a health food. Whether you are cooking this dish for your restaurant or at home, diners may be surprised to learn it only has 400 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving. I think a spinach salad would pair quite nicely with this main course, but if you prefer to seek out other options you can find this recipe and 59 other heart-friendly choices here on Real Simple’s website. It serves 4 and requires only 25 minutes of hands-on time.
3/4 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch sticks
3/4 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 3-inch sticks
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, crushed
3/4 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons honey
Heat oven to 400° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots, parsnips, onion, 2 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and coat with the fennel seeds. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the pork to the baking sheet with the vegetables and roast until the pork is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 16 to 20 minutes more. Let the pork rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, wipe out the skillet, add the cider and honey, and whisk to combine. Boil until reduced by half, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve with the pork and vegetables.