The average American eats out 4 to 5 times a week, according to a 2014 study. Eating out approximately 18 times a month is not only expensive, it can also be unhealthy compared to heart-healthy cooking at home.

Eating at restaurants may be convenient and fun, but it is much harder to control the ingredients in your food and how it is prepared. High sodium content is one of the most common health concerns from eating out too often since it can lead to high blood pressure and further issues such as heart disease or stroke.

Heart Healthy Cooking

Reduce Sodium

When you cook at home, you have control of how much salt you add to your meal. Believe it or not, you can cut many recipes’ suggested amount of salt by about half and not lose out on flavor.

Recommended Reading: Lower Sodium for Better Heart Health

Another trick is to not add any additional salt to the meal once you’re eating at the table. Since you’re in charge of the food, you can taste it before it’s set out to make sure it doesn’t require additional salt.

Using herbs, like rosemary, instead of additional salt can create a new flavor to a meal and “spice” up your favorite dish.

Secret Sauce

That’s right, we’ve got the secret sauce for your heart healthy cooking: applesauce. Unsweetened applesauce can be substituted for oil, eggs, butter, and even sugar for baking recipes.

Substituting unsweetened applesauce for any of those ingredients will reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in a recipe. Cookies and muffins don’t have to be your guilty pleasure anymore–you can simply enjoy them.

Meal Prepping

heart healthy cooking

One way many people are sticking to heart-healthy cooking is through meal prepping. This means that you pick one day, usually a Sunday, to plan and cook your whole week’s worth of meals.

It may sound like a lot of work, but when you’ve got meals already prepared for you each day, the temptation to eat out is less. Having healthy meals each day can help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

It also makes mealtime less stressful because you don’t have to stare inside your fridge thinking, “What is there to eat?”

Go Greek

Nonfat greek yogurt can be substituted for ingredients like sour cream and mayonnaise, cutting down fat, cholesterol, and calories.

You’ll downsize on the bad stuff but gain protein, calcium, and probiotics–all of which help your heart stay healthy. The texture and taste of the change won’t be noticeable since greek yogurt is so similar to mayo and sour cream.

Bye Bye Butter

Though it may taste wonderful, if you truly want to get into heart-healthy cooking, then you have to start substituting butter where you can. Butter is high in fat (the bad kind) and cholesterol which can lead to heart problems if consumed too regularly.

Using canola oil or olive oil when cooking food in a pan is easy and more healthy. Spray oil, like PAM, can be perfect for using a small amount. It doesn’t take much when sauteing veggies or cooking meat.

Heart healthy cooking doesn’t mean that you need to give up the flavor. You should always enjoy the food that you are eating and these tips can help give you health and flavor!

Making these small changes will make a big difference in the long run to protect your heart health. Cutting unhealthy fats, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium is the way to go to increase longevity and overall health.