National Heart Month is coming to a close, but we believe being heart-healthy is a lifestyle worth living year round. To keep the meal-planning inspiration rolling, we partnered with a trio of contributing bloggers from Heathy Aperture—a hunger-inducing web destination founded and hosted by registered dietitians.
The following menus star heart-healthy and cholesterol-fighting ingredients such as spinach and barley, along with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. We asked each of the bloggers (all of which are registered dietitians) to tell us exactly what makes each of their picks so especially heart-smart!
This menu is great for heart-healthy eating for many reasons. The salad course contains dark, leafy greens loaded with nutrients including fiber, which has been shown to help decrease cholesterol (LDL). It also contains avocados, which are loaded with healthy fats and fiber. The second course, Moroccan Quinoa Stuffed Red Peppers, is a vegetarian-friendly meal low in fat but high in fiber and protein—and contains quinoa, which is a great fiber-rich, gluten-free grain. Studies have shown plant-based lifestyles such as vegan and vegetarian come with lower risks of heart disease, lower cholesterol, lower risk of diabetes and lower BMI.
—McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN
Busy weeknights call for easy make-ahead meals, and for us, that often means a hearty soup with salad. In this menu, every dish is full of color, flavor and healthy ingredients.
The brightly-colored kale and sectioned oranges featured in the blood orange salad are full of antioxidants, while the nuts and olive oil are a good source for heart-healthy fat. The hearty soup can be made ahead of time and features two of my favorite cholesterol-lowering foods—beans and barley—as well as lots of vegetables and fragrant herbs. To finish things off, sorbet is a fat-free treat. This one features lots of antioxidant-rich berries, along with a touch of red wine and dark chocolate—two more foods known for their heart benefits.
—Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN
Here’s a heart-healthy vegan meal that still manages to qualify as comfort food. For a main dish, this dairy-free macaroni and “cheese” is made with a rich, creamy sauce of pureed winter squash and cashews, rather than heavily processed soy cheese. A refreshing salad of spicy arugula topped with vitamin-C-rich oranges and heart-healthy olives is the perfect counterpoint to the pasta casserole. For dessert, enjoy a warm mug of Mexican hot chocolate. Made with dark cocoa powder and lightly sweetened with honey, it’s packed with flavanols, a phytonutrient that can improve blood flow, without the sugar found in instant hot cocoa.
—Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
More heart-healthy options from Relish…