Why Can’t Heart-Healthy Foods Taste Good?

If your heart-healthy diet doesn’t taste good, the missing ingredient is imagination.

When we think of a heart-healthy diet, certain words come to mind: bland, tasteless and boring. Some think healthy eating means giving up everything that tastes good and replacing it with food that tastes like cardboard or styrofoam. 

But the truth is that if your heart-healthy diet doesn’t taste good, the missing ingredient is imagination. By experimenting a little, you can add tons of great flavor to foods and still be good to your heart. For example, if you are cutting down on salt to lower your blood pressure, and you find that everything tastes flat, try this easy recipe for a burst of flavor:

8 T onion powder
4 T celery seed
4 T paprika
3 T ground basil
4 T chili powder
4 T ground mustard

Just mix it up and sprinkle it on any foods you would normally salt—even corn on the cob, baked potatoes and other things you can’t imaging eating salt free. You’ll probably find that you don’t miss the salt at all. 

Even plain steamed vegetables become delicious when you add a splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and tossing with fresh chopped chives or a bit of minced garlic. Learn more about using spices to kick up the flavor of foods.

Eating heart-healthy doesn’t have to mean giving up yummy baked goods, either. You can actually modify any recipe to be better for you—without sacrificing taste. In recipes for muffins, coffeecakes and sweet breads, for instance, you can replace vegetable oil or butter with an equal amount of unsweetened apple sauce or pureed fruit. In most recipes, you can cut the suggested amount of sugar and salt by half or use egg whites instead of whole eggs without a noticeable difference.

In general, cooking at home instead of eating out or using packaged foods is a great way to make a meal more heart healthy. That’s because you control the ingredients and the cooking methods. Even something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich can be made more healthful by using a light cooking spray instead of buttering the bread, choosing whole grain bread instead of white, using 2% instead of whole-fat cheese and adding thinly sliced tomato or apple slices. The American Heart Association offers others suggestions for healthier food preparation.

It’s easy to get bored with heart-healthy eating if you always reach for the same recipes, even if they have become family favorites. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You can find endless choices by searching "heart healthy recipes" online. Get started by going to the Mayo Clinic Web site or browse the healthy selections at AllRecipes.com

Remember to use your imagination and enjoy! Read these tips on heart-healthy food shopping—or, for you visual learners, watch the video below.

The best chance of surviving a heart attack is to act quickly. Do not wait for symptoms to go away. Call 9-1-1 immediately, and chew an aspirin while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.