February is American Heart Month. It is a gentle reminder for all of us to take care of our hearts!

What are some ways to promote heart health? From a nutrition perspective, eating a healthy diet and regular exercise tops the list. One of the most important things to realize when creating an eating plan that promotes heart health is to include variety in your diet. Despite what some may claim, there are no super foods. No food has all the nutrients and other substances that your heart (and the rest of your body) needs.

One nutrient that is necessary for the body to function is fat. However, too much fat can create problems for the heart, and the entire body.

To prepare foods lower in fat, begin by looking at the way you cook foods. Frying in fats such as oils, butter or margarine adds fat to foods. Baking and streaming don’t require fat. Low-fat cooking methods are only low-fat if you don’t add fat to the food while you are preparing or eating it.

High-fat cooking methods include: baking, steaming, broiling, roasting, microwaving, boiling, grilling, braising, simmering ad stir frying.

Some condiments can be high in fat. If you are looking for condiments as fat replacements, consider using these:

• barbeque sauce

• catsup

• chili sauce

• Dijon mustard

• Fat-free salad dressing

• flavored vinegars

• jelly

• pickle relish

• salsa

• soy sauce

• spaghetti sauce

• teriyaki sauce

• Worcestershire sauce

However, when using these condiments, check the label for the sodium content, as it can be quite high. It is not necessary to throw away your favorite recipes once you’ve changed to a low-fat lifestyle. You can make baked goods, meats, pies and casseroles lower in fat.

Reduce fat. Cut butter and oils by 1/3 to ½ in most recipes. Experiment when modifying the fat content of baked goods, since fat affects the texture.

Use some of the following suggestions to lower the fat in your recipes

Use just a spritz of oil or non-stick cooking spray when sautéing food.

• Select skim milk, part-skim and low-fat cheeses over whole-milk cheeses.

• Replace fatty meats with lean or trimmed meats.

• Remove skin from poultry.

• Bake, broil, roast or stew meat instead of frying it.

• Substitute low-fat yogurt in place of sour cream or mayonnaise.

• Substitute low-fat cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, cream cheese or tofu in place of mayonnaise or cream cheese.

• Use nonfat or 1 percent milk in place of whole or 2 percent milk.

• Try to keep the number of egg yolks consumed to four or less per week.

• Use all the egg whites or egg substitutes you want!

Reduce saturated fat, trans fat, and/or cholesterol.

• Select olive, canola, corn, soybean, safflower or sunflower oil instead of palm or coconut oils.

• Substitute two egg whites for one whole egg.

• Select less often desserts high in trans-fat and hydrogenated fat.

• Use evaporated, powdered, or liquid skim milk instead of regular evaporated milk, cream, half and half and nondairy creamers.

Increase intake of foods rich in fiber.

• Use up to half whole-wheat flour for white flour in recipes.

• Substitute long-grain rice for white rice.

• Eat whole grain pasta more often than white pasta.

• Choose whole grain breads and cereals instead of white breads.

Reduce salt.

• Use half the salt, or omit it completely.

• Flavor with herbs and spices instead of salt.

• Limit the use of high-sodium ingredients such as canned or dried soups, some frozen foods, soy sauce and packaged mixes.

Reduce sugar.

• Use one half the amount of sugar specified.

• Use fresh, frozen, or canned fruits without added sugar instead of sweetened fruits.

With a few minor changes, you can become more “heart healthy” during American Heart Month and all year long!


Rita Hodges is the Ellis County Extension Agent-Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit Rita at the Extension Office located at 701 S. I-35 E, Waxahachie, TX 75165; phone at 972-825-5175; or email at rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu. Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension