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Make Your Favorite Meals Cholesterol-Friendly

Take a Healthy Spin on Your Favorite Meals

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Updated January 25, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Is your favorite weekday family meal spaghetti and meatballs? Is pepperoni pizza standard weekend fare? Do you think that these foods are out of the question now that you are on a low-cholesterol diet? Well, worry no longer: You can still enjoy your family classics with a few modifications. Your favorites can become healthy favorites with just a few simple changes.

Classic American meals use non-lean meats, cheeses, butter, and eggs as main ingredients. Unfortunately, these old standards are high in cholesterol, fat and calories. Simple substitutions can cut the cholesterol and add fantastic flavor. Don't be afraid to get creative -- you may make a delicious cholesterol-friendly discovery!

Old Favorite: Cheeseburger

A 4 oz cheeseburger averages 300 calories, 12 grams of total fat, 6 grams saturated fat, and 40 to 60 milligrams of cholesterol per patty, making it a poor choice for a heart-healthy diet.

New Favorite: Vegetable Burger

Since dietary cholesterol is only found in animal product, a vegetarian substitution is always a wise choice to lower the cholesterol content of a dish. A 2.5 oz vegetarian patty has 0 mg of cholesterol. Skip the cheese and add a vegetarian "cheese" or extra vegetables to lower the cholesterol in your meal further.

Per Serving: Calories 153, Total Fat 8.1 g (1.1 g sat), Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrate 17.5 g, Fiber 2.4 g, Protein 4.1 g.

Tip: Adding a whole grain hamburger bun (1.9 oz) adds an additional 110 calories, 0 mg cholesterol, and 4 grams of filling fiber.

Old Favorite: French Fries

Standard French fries are made with white potatoes and deep fried in oil. The fries absorb the oil grease, which accounts for their high calorie count. Even worse, certain cooking oils can contain harmful trans fats, which can contribute to heart disease.

New Favorite: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baking reduces the amount of oil you need to prepare this dish. As an added bonus, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, producing a slow, controlled blood glucose response after ingested and keeping you feeling fuller longer.

Per Serving: Calories 122, Total Fat 5 g (0 g sat), Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrate 19g, Fiber 3g, Protein 2g.

Old Favorite: Macaroni and Cheese

The high fat and cholesterol content of butter, whole milk, and full-fat cheese makes traditional mac and cheese a forbidden food for a heart-healthy diet.

New Favorite: Healthier Macaroni and Cheese

Using low-fat dairy products, and mustard and pepper to add flavor, takes the saturated fat out of this dish.

Per 1 Cup Serving: Calories 314, Calories from Fat 51, Total Fat 5.7g (sat 3.1g), Cholesterol 18mg, Sodium 258mg, Carbohydrate 49.6, Fiber 1.5g, Protein 16.2g

Tip: Using whole grain elbow macaroni makes this recipe even more nutritious, and adding a sprinkle (1 tsp) of flax seed is a great way to add cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber to you meal.

Old Favorite: Pepperoni Pizza

Although it may be your go-to weekend meal, traditional pepperoni pizza is not part of a heart healthy diet. A traditional pepperoni pizza slice averages 300 calories, and is loaded with saturated fat (25% of your daily requirement or more). It's also an added source of cholesterol (usually 35 to 45 milligrams per slice).

New Favorite: Low-Fat Sausage, Mushroom and Red Pepper Pizza

This fulfills your hankering for meat without all the excess worry. Caramelized onions (go light on the oil and butter), roasted peppers, and seasoned mushrooms add some zing. To cut cholesterol further, use half the links.

Per Serving: Calories 275, Calories from Fat 57, Total Fat 6.5g (sat 2.3g), Cholesterol 25mg, Sodium 875mg, Carbohydrate 38.3g, Fiber 4.9g, Protein 16g.

Old Favorite: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Traditional recipes call for frying meatballs and adding extra oil. You can lower the fat, cholesterol, and calorie content with a few simple alterations.

New Favorite: Healthier Spaghetti and Meatballs

You can make this dish even more nutritious by using whole grain pasta, and lower the cholesterol content even further by halving the meatballs and replacing them with sautéed or roasted red peppers.

Per Serving: Calories 404, Calories from Fat 60, total Fat 6.9g (sat 2.4g), Cholesterol 52mg, Sodium 242mg, Carbohydrate 58.4g, Fiber 3.4g, Protein 27.7g

Tip: A touch of cayenne pepper can add some unexpected spice to your tomato sauce, and it may have cholesterol-lowering properties.

Old Favorite: Pork Chops

Standard pork chops can be breaded or fried, requiring eggs, butter or breadcrumbs as ingredients.

New Favorite:Orange and Thyme Pork Chops

Broiling these pork chops, and adding delicious herbs and spices allows you to bypass oil, butter, and eggs in traditional pork chop preparation, cutting down on calories, cholesterol and fat.

Per serving: Serves 4 Per Serving: Calories 160, Calories from Fat 54, Total Fat 6g (sat 2.1g), Cholesterol 62mg, Sodium 51mg, Carbohydrate 1.7g, Fiber 0.1g, Protein 24.8g

Tip: Garlic is an herb that pairs well with pork. Although research in the area is mixed, it may have cholesterol-lowering benefits.

Sources:

Ahuja KD, Robertson IK, Geraghty DP, Ball MJ. "The effect of 4-week chilli supplementation on metabolic and arterial function in humans." Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar.

Reinhart KM, Talati R, White CM, Coleman CI. "The impact of garlic on lipid parameters: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Nutr Res Rev. 2009 Jun;22(1):39-48.

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