Monday Medical: Fun, healthy cooking in a heartbeat |

Monday Medical: Fun, healthy cooking in a heartbeat

Lisa A. Bankard/For the Steamboat Today

— If you think adopting a heart-healthy diet means eating bland foods and tasteless meals, think again.

By learning a few simple cooking techniques, you can enjoy flavorful and satisfying meals packed with good nutrition. Cooking demo presenter and cookbook author Torie Christensen cooks for a heart-healthy diet on a regular basis because, as she explains, "It's delicious if done right and healthy for everyone, even if heart disease is not your concern."

Christensen uses ingredients that harmonize flavor and health in dishes such as chicken fajitas with fresh mango salsa, Mexican fiesta salad and blueberry bumps, recipes from her newly published book, "A Bite of Heaven."

One of her favorite techniques when baking is to reduce some of the fat by substituting applesauce.

"You can replace one-third to one-half of the oil or butter with applesauce, which adds great moisture and a healthy, subtle sweetness," Christensen said.

Try using canola oil in place of vegetable oil because it contains the healthier monosaturated fat and has less saturated fat. Canola oil can be used in baked goods in place of one-half of the butter to reduce cholesterol and saturated fat.

Recommended Stories For You

"Olive oil is the best to use for savory cooking because it's full of healthy fats which help raise the 'good' cholesterol, HDL," Christensen said. "It also helps to lower the harmful buildup for LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol."

Another tip for success when changing your eating and cooking habits for heart health is to work on gradually reducing saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugars. This requires finding other healthful ingredients to counteract any decrease in flavor.

For example, you simply can reduce the amount of cheese in your casserole and add more veggies to make each serving lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber and nutrients, thus lowering cholesterol.

"I can't say enough about fiber," Christensen said. "All of the hype is not overrated; the benefits are varied and numerous.

"Soluble fiber, like that found in oats, helps lower LDL cholesterol because it binds to the cholesterol circulating the system and aids in excreting the excess.

"Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber and packed with other great benefits, including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The more the merrier. Throw a variety (including fresh, frozen and dried fruit) into salads, muffins and cookies."

Changing your cooking methods also can help. For example, fully browning meat or poultry before adding it to a stew or soup can increase flavor without adding salt. Removing all the visible fat from meats and then grilling, broiling or baking on a rack can greatly reduce the amount of saturated fat in your meals.

Steaming, grilling or roasting veggies will retain more nutrients than boiling or deep-frying.

Remember: Nowhere is it written that a heart-healthy diet has to be a no-salt, no-fat, no-sugar and no-flavor diet. There are certain guidelines with these ingredients that we need to follow.

By gradually changing your cooking and eating habits, eating smaller portions of foods containing higher amounts of fat, salt or sugar, and increasing your daily activity, you have the power to improve your heart and overall health.

Lisa A. Bankard is director of wellness and community education at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

Go back to article