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Six Tasty Heart-Healthy Recipes

Last updated: 8/16/21
13 readers recommend
By Constance Brown-Riggs

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RDN, CDCES, CDN, is a national speaker and author of several nutrition books for people with diabetes.

Check out these six curated recipes low in carbohydrates, saturated fats, and salt that are sure to be a hit not just with your taste buds but for your heart as well!

If I say “heart-healthy,” are "bland and boring" your first thoughts? The good news is heart-healthy recipes that are good for people with diabetes can be tasty and delicious! Following a heart-healthy eating plan doesn't mean you need to sacrifice good taste or flavor, or give up your traditional family recipes.

These “tasty” recipes are from Diabetes & Heart-Healthy Recipes, published by the American Diabetes Association. And because tasty is in the taste buds of the beholder, go ahead and tweak these recipes with your favorite spices and seasonings. Many spices don't add extra fat, calories, or carbohydrates, but remember to watch the salt – including seasoned salt and spice blends that contain salt.

For tips and strategies to make your traditional family recipes heart-healthy, read Three Strategies for Heart-Healthy Eating. This helpful article touches on three tips to keep in mind when you try to make dishes that will benefit your heart health and your diabetes, namely:

  • Choose the fats and oils you use wisely by focusing on using monosaturated or polyunsaturated fats (these can be found vegetable oils like canola, olive, corn, or safflower, walnuts, and fish like salmon, mackeral, or herring)

  • Opt for heart healthy sources of carbohydrates. Limit sources of added sugar and starch and instead choose sources packed with nutrients and fibers like those found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, peas, lentils, and whole grains.

  • Slash the amount of salt in your food. Excess salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.

Click to jump down to a recipe:

 

Fresh Vegetable Summer Rolls

Fresh summer rolls are easy to make. Here, heart-healthy tofu replaces animal protein (which can be high in unhealthy saturated fats) for a delightful vegetarian spring roll. Tofu is a rich source of isoflavones – an estrogen-like substance made by soy plants. Studies show that eating one serving of tofu weekly could lower your chances of heart disease.

Serves: 12

Serving Size: 1 roll

Prep Time: 25 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Boston or oak leaf lettuce, ribs discarded (12 leaves)

  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks. You can drain your tofu by covering it in a paper towel and placing something heavy on it for several minutes.

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded

  • 1/2 English or hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks

  • 2 cups mung bean or clover sprouts, blanched. Blanching is a cooking technique where you place the sprouts into a pot of boiling water for a couple minutes. Then remove them from the boiling water and place them in a small bowl of ice water until cooled.

  • 24 medium to large mint leaves

  • 12 round rice papers (8-inch rounds)

Directions:

  1. Fill a flat round cake pan with water. Place a clean, smooth (not fuzzy) kitchen towel on your work surface. Arrange the lettuce, tofu, carrots, cucumber, sprouts, and mint into individual piles on a plate.

  2. Put 1 rice paper in the water. Soak until pliable and soft. Place the rice paper on top of the kitchen towel. Blot dry. The paper should be sticky but not slippery. Stack the ingredients as follows, one on top of the other on the side of the paper closest to you: 1 lettuce leaf, 1 piece of tofu, some carrot, cucumber, sprouts, and 2 mint leaves, one beside the other.

  3. Fold the side of the paper that is farthest from you over the filling tightly. Be careful not to tear it. Fold the sides inward and then roll the cylinder all the way to the end. Repeat this step with the remaining ingredients to keep making individual summer rolls.

Per serving: Calories: 85; Total Fat: 2g; Saturated Fat: 0.5g; Cholesterol: 0g; Sodium: 55mg; Carbohydrates: 13g; Fiber: 1g; Protein: 5g

 

Seared Chicken with Strawberry Salsa

This sweet and spicy strawberry salsa is the perfect complement to seared chicken breast and a heart-healthy eating plan. Strawberries are packed with a disease-fighting polyphenol called ellagic acid. Polyphenols are a type of very small nutrient that may help reduce inflammation which is a risk factor for heart disease. Eating one cup, or about eight strawberries a day, can help keep weight off and keep blood sugar in your target range – both are important for heart health. To learn more about the best fruits to keep your glucose in range, check out “Eating Fruit with Diabetes”.

Serves: 4

Serving Size: 3 ounces chicken and 1/2 cup salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons canola or corn oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each), all visible fat discarded

Salsa:

  • 1 cup diced hulled strawberries, mango, or peeled peaches

  • 1 medium poblano pepper, seeds and ribs discarded, diced, or 3/4 medium green bell pepper, diced

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or cilantro

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, allspice, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle over the smooth side of the chicken. Using your fingertips, gently press the mixture, so it adheres to the chicken. Let stand for 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the salsa ingredients.

  3. In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the chicken with the smooth side down for 4 minutes. Turn over. Cook for 2–4 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center.

  4. Serve the salsa with the chicken.

Per serving: Calories: 200; Total Fat: 6g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 70g; Sodium: 230mg; Carbohydrates: 11g; Fiber: 1g; Protein: 25g

 

Fanned Avocado Salad

Beyond taste, there are many good reasons to include avocado in your heart-healthy eating plan. Avocados are the richest known fruit source of plant sterols – also known as phytosterols. Plant sterols may help lower cholesterol by blocking the absorption of dietary cholesterol into your body. Avocados are also loaded with monosaturated fat. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats like avocados can reduce “bad” cholesterol (or LDL-cholesterol) and lower your chance of heart disease. It’s important to reduce “bad” cholesterol because this type of cholesterol can build up on the walls of blood vessels making it harder for blood to be pumped throughout the body.

Serves: 6

Serving Size: 1/2 cup

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon red hot-pepper sauce

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Salad:

  • 18 medium spinach leaves

  • 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced

  • 1 medium tomato, sliced crosswise and halved

  • 1 medium avocado, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 ounce fat-free feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

  2. On a platter, decoratively arrange the spinach, cucumber, tomato, and avocado like a fan or an accordion. Pour the dressing overall. Sprinkle with the cilantro and feta. Serve immediately for peak flavor (plus, the spinach won’t wilt).

Per serving: Calories:70; Total Fat: 3.5g; Saturated Fat: 0.5g; Cholesterol: <5mg; Sodium: 160 mg; Carbohydrate: 5g; Fiber: 3g; Protein: 3g.

 

Boneless Barbecue “Wings”

Your heart will love these boneless barbecue “wings.” Boneless chicken breast meat is a healthy heart stand-in for traditional chicken wings. A 3oz serving of chicken breast meat has only 3 grams of total fat, and just 1 gram of saturated fat compared to 14 grams of total fat and 4 grams saturated fat in 3 oz of chicken wings with skin. Reducing the amount of particularly saturated and trans fats can help keep your cholesterol levels in a healthy range.

Serves: 14

Serving Size: 2 pieces chicken and 1½ teaspoon sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt-free seasoned pepper blend

  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon red hot-pepper sauce

  • 1 cup crushed corn flake cereal (about 2 1/2 cups flakes)

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, all visible fat discarded, cut into 28 strips

  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce (lowest sodium available)

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

  2. In a medium shallow dish, stir together the flour and seasoned pepper blend. In a second shallow dish, whisk together the buttermilk and hot-pepper sauce. Put the corn flake crumbs in a third shallow dish. Set the dishes and the baking sheet in a row like an assembly-line. Working in batches, dip the chicken in the flour mixture, then in the buttermilk mixture, and finally in the corn flake mixture, turning to coat at each step and gently shaking off any excess crumbs. Using your fingertips, gently press the coating mixture so it adheres to the chicken.

  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the baking sheet. Lightly spray the top of the chicken with cooking spray.

  4. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the coating is crisp.

  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce, vinegar, and honey.

  6. You can add the chicken to the sauce, stirring gently to coat, or serve the sauce on the side.

Per serving: Calories: 75; Total Fat: 1g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 20mg; Sodium: 90mg; Carbohydrate: 8g; Fiber: <1g; Protein: 8g.

 

Grilled Sirloin with Tapenade

You might think red meat is off-limits when trying to maintain a heart-healthy diet. But beef tenderloin is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and meets the American Heart Association criteria for a heart-healthy food. So go ahead and add this grilled sirloin with tapenade to your recipe rotation.

Serves: 6

Serving Size: 3oz beef and 1 heaping Tbsp tapenade

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 1/2 lb boneless top sirloin steak, about 1-inch thick, all visible fat discarded

  • 4 1/2 medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled

  • 1/2 tsp pepper

  • 1/8 tsp salt

Tapenade

  • 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

  • 3 Tbsp chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives

  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (lowest sodium available)

  • 1 Tbsp capers, drained, and chopped (if large)

  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled

  • 1/2 medium garlic clove, minced

Directions

  1. Lightly spray the grill rack with cooking spray. Preheat the grill on medium high.

  2. Lightly spray the beef with cooking spray.

  3. In a small bowl, stir together the garlic cloves, thyme, pepper, and salt. Sprinkle over the beef. Using your fingertips, gently press the mixture so it adheres to the beef.

  4. Grill the beef, covered, for 10 minutes on each side for medium rare, or until the desired doneness. Transfer to a cutting board. Lightly cover with aluminum foil. Let stand for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the beef diagonally across the grain.

  5. Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, stir together the tapenade ingredients.

  6. Serve the beef topped with the tapenade.

Per serving: Calories: 180 Total Fat:7g; Saturated Fat: 2.5g; Cholesterol: 60mg; Sodium: 300mg; Carbohydrate: 2g; Fiber: 1g; Protein: 26g

 

Tex-Mex Shrimp Tacos

If you're a fan of shrimp, you'll love these Tex-Mex shrimp tacos. Shrimp are virtually fat-free, low in calories, and high in protein. Each 3-ounce serving provides 99 calories and 24 grams of protein. Years ago, shrimp was considered off-limits when trying to maintain a heart-healthy diet because of its high cholesterol content. But today, we know it is saturated fat that raises cholesterol and not necessarily the amount of dietary cholesterol you eat.

Serves: 8

Serving Size: 1 taco

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 6 minutes

Ingredients:

Mexican White Sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons light mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Tex-Mex Shrimp:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Juice from 1 lime

  • 1 tablespoon salt-free Creole seasoning blend

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 32 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

  • 2 cups chopped mixed greens

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Preheat the broiler. Set the broiler rack 3-4 inches from the heat.

  2. In a small bowl, stir together the Mexican white sauce ingredients. Set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, Creole seasoning, garlic, and salt. Add the shrimp to the mixture, tossing gently until well coated.

  4. Spread the shrimp in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Broil the shrimp for 2-3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the shrimp over. Broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink on the outside.

  5. Divide the shrimp equally among the tortillas. Top each with the greens and cilantro. Drizzle with the white sauce.

Per serving: Calories: 150; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 50mg; Sodium: 180mg; Carbohydrate: 15g; Fiber: 2g; Protein: 9g.

These recipes are from Diabetes & Heart-Healthy Recipes published by the American Diabetes Association. ©2019 American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association. All rights reserved. Available at ShopDiabetes and ShopHeart.

 

This article is part of a series to help people with diabetes learn how to support heart health, made possible in part by the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association’s Know Diabetes by Heart initiative

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RDN, CDCES, CDN, is a national speaker and author of Living Well with Diabetes 14 Day Devotional: A Faith Based Approach to Diabetes Self-Management, which received a Gold Hermes Award in the 2021 competition of books, Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World, a convenient guide to help people with diabetes enjoy all the flavors of the world while still following a healthy meal plan, and The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes. Learn more about Constance and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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