You love your family and friends, right? Show them how much by whipping up comfort food this winter that is as heart-healthy as it is delicious. You can start by trying our four fabulous entrées -- one for every week leading up to Valentine's Day. Extra bonus? They're easy to make and kid-friendly. Add a few healthy sides -- vegetables, a green salad, or whole grains -- and you've got an appetizing, nutritious dinner that will please the heart and soul of everyone you love. Be sure to check below for our guide to heart-healthy foods at the supermarket, too.
Winter Stew With Lean Beef, Beans, and Veggies
This beefy one-pot entrée is loaded with heart-friendly ingredients -- lean protein, veggies, and fiber --that fill you up and help maintain a healthy blood cholesterol level. Plus, simmering this stew on your stove will fill your house with heart-warming smells on a cold winter's night.
2 tsp canola oil, divided
1 cup frozen pearl onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb lean beef stew meat, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup red wine (can substitute low-sodium beef broth or water)
1 15 oz can low-sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium, low-fat beef broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Heat 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottom Dutch oven coated with cooking spray.
3. Sauté onions and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan.
4. Add 1 tsp oil to pan; cook stew meat in pan without crowding for 6 to 8 minutes until browned; set aside meat.
5. Add wine to pan and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits on bottom of pan.
6. Stir in remaining ingredients, including meat, and bring to a low boil. Cover and bake stew in the preheated oven for 1.5 hours or until beef is fork tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Makes: 8 servings
Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories: 255, 55 calories from fat; 6 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 23 mg cholesterol; 346 mg sodium; 25 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 20 g protein. Calories from fat: 21%.
Mediterranean Chicken With Artichokes, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Portabella
Mediterranean cuisine is one of the heart-healthiest in the world. That's because it's high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and monounsaturated fats (think olive oil), all of which help reduce LDL (or "bad") cholesterol -- and low in saturated fats, which help boost HDL (or "good") cholesterol levels. It's also a diet that celebrates love and connection: Mediterraneans often eat with friends and family, and social support may help protect against heart disease.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 10 oz package baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 10 oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
juice from ½ fresh lemon
1 tsp dried or 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat.
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place in skillet.
Sauté chicken breasts on each side until cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove chicken and cover to keep warm.
Add oil to the skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic, 3 to 4 minutes or until sun-dried tomatoes are tender.
Add mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes, and sauté for 3 minutes.
Add lemon juice and thyme; continue cooking for 3 minutes.
Serve chicken breasts topped with mushroom-artichoke mixture.
Makes: 4 servings
Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories: 194, 28 calories from fat; 3 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 68 mg cholesterol; 386 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrates; 4 g fiber; 31 g protein. Calories from fat: 14%.
Zucchini Spinach Vegetarian Lasagna
Can you have a cheesy, saucy lasagna and a heart-healthy meal, too? This low-fat vegetarian lasagna delivers on both. Boost its heart-health quotient by using whole-grain pasta; studies show that whole grains have nutrients that may reduce blood pressure and lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese (can substitute low-fat creamed cottage cheese)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh basil
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups fresh (chopped) or 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 cups marinara sauce, low-sodium
1 lb box lasagna noodles, (whole wheat or whole grain), cooked and drained
2 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1½ cups low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, ½ cup mozzarella cheese, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, and spinach.
- Spray bottom of 13 x 9-inch rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; spread bottom of dish with marinara sauce.
- Top with a single layer of noodles (about 3 strips per layer).
- Spread half of ricotta cheese mix and arrange half of zucchini on top.
- Add another layer of sauce.
- Top with noodles, second layer of ricotta cheese mix, then remaining zucchini.
- Add another layer of noodles, spread with marinara sauce, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
- Cover with nonstick foil and bake 30 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until browned.
- Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.
Makes: 10 servings
Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories: 322, 118 calories from fat; 13 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 61 mg cholesterol; 343 mg sodium; 31 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 20 g protein. Calories from fat: 36%.
Pecan-Crusted Roasted Salmon
Salmon is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids and that's good news for your heart. Studies show they decrease the risk of heart arrhythmias, lower triglycerides (a kind of fat linked to heart disease), and slow the development of plaque in blood vessels. Try to get two servings of fatty fish -- think salmon, tuna, and lake trout -- per week.
4 salmon filets (4–6 oz each)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp chopped pecans
1 tsp parsley
fresh lemon wedges
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Lightly sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon skin side down on baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
- Combine mustard and honey, and brush on top of salmon.
- Mix topping of bread crumbs, nuts, and parsley and sprinkle over salmon, pressing into honey mustard mixture.
- Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until flaky.
- Serve with fresh lemon wedges.
Makes: 4 servings
Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories: 265, 108 calories from fat; 12 g fat; 1.6 g saturated fat; 78 mg cholesterol; 282 mg sodium; 9 g carbohydrate; 0.4 g fiber; 29 g protein. Calories from fat: 42%.
Pantry Picks: A Guide to Heart-Healthy Foods at the Grocery Store
Heart-healthy eating starts in the grocery store. What to buy? WebMD’s director of nutrition, Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD, suggests looking for staples like these as you make your way through the aisles.
Plant sterol–enriched foods contain concentrated plant substances that can block cholesterol absorption and help lower blood cholesterol. Choices include Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice; Yoplait Healthy Heart yogurt; and Smart Balance, Benecol, or Promise Activ spreads.
Oats are famous for their cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Choose from oat-rich products like Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, General Mills Cheerios (made with whole grain oats), and Kashi Heart to Heart cereals.
Legumes are excellent heart-healthy substitutes for meat, so stack a few cans of beans (black, kidney, or pinto), lentils, or peas in your cart. Try Bush’s Best beans, Eden Organic, or Progresso brands, all available in no-sodium or no-salt-added varieties.
Salmon or other fatty fish are the best sources of cardio-protective omega-3 fatty acids, key for lowering triglycerides and improving blood vessel health. Keep items like Bumble Bee wild salmon pouches or cans of water-packed tuna in your pantry.
Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oils are the purest, made from olives that are crushed and pressed without heat or chemical treatment and have the highest levels of heart-healthy polyphenols. Check out brands like Alma Gourmet and Pompeian.
(WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.)