10 Food Substitutions to Take Care of Your Heart

10 Food Substitutions to Take Care of Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, the perfect time to learn some new heart healthy habits! Our food choices play a big role in our heart health…. both now and in the future. Knowing what the “healthy” choice is can be tricky. Here are some food substitutions that make your heart happy!

  1. Try swapping out the mayonnaise in your meal and swapping in hummus instead. Hummus can be used as a dip or a spread, and it is lower in fat and higher in protein than mayonnaise.
  2. Choose grilled instead of fried! Whether it is a protein or a vegetable, fried foods are loaded with high fat oils. Grilling is often a healthier way to prepare food. Use herbs and spices to amp up the flavor!
  3. Substitute either liquid vegetable oil or tub margarine for butter. Both of these options are lower in saturated fat when compared to butter. When attempting this swap, here is a general rule of thumb to follow: 1 tablespoon butter = 1 tablespoon soft margarine = 3/4 tablespoon liquid vegetable oil.  [1]
    olive oil pouring onto a frying pan
  4. Try plain non-fat yogurt in place of sour cream. Nonfat yogurt is lower in saturated fat than sour cream but tastes very similar making it any easy condiment swap. Either Greek or regular style yogurt works for this substitution.
  5. Low-fat cheese is a great alternative to full-fat versions. It has similar taste and melting properties and contains significantly less fat. Look for 2% reduced fat versions.
  6. You can practice being mindful of your salt intake in many ways… like reading nutrition facts labels more closely… or you can swap plain table salt out for other spices and herbs. Your meals will still be flavorful, and you will feel better knowing you made a good choice for your heart’s health. See our blog on Cooking with Dried Herbs and Spices to learn more about how to experiment with new flavors.
    jars of herbs and spices
  7. Choose whole wheat bread over white bread. Read the ingredient list to make sure the first ingredient says “whole wheat”. Diets high in whole grain products have been shown to help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke. [2] Other whole grain products to try would be whole grain pasta, farro, and quinoa.
  8. Spices aren’t just a good substitute for salt; they can also be used in place of sugar! Instead of granulated sugar, try adding ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice to your oatmeal the next time you make it.
  9. Speaking of sugar, did you know that many store-bought salad dressings contain added sugars? Try dressing up your next salad with a homemade vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Dijon mustard.
  10. Make the switch from white rice to brown rice. This is another way to meet your daily intake of whole grains and your heart will thank you for it!
    assortment of different rice


Written by Darci Bell, RDN, LD, Ph.D. Student | Edited by Laurel Sanville, MS, RDN, LD

[1] American Heart Association

[2] Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

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