Fix Your Fats: Your Meal-by-Meal Plan
Now that you’ve fixed the carbs and the proteins in your meals, it’s time to tackle the last-but not least important-macronutrient: fat.
The goal is not to achieve a low-fat diet but to replace saturated fat and trans fat with “good” fat. Remember, you’re looking to get 25 to 30 per cent of the calories you consume from good fats. So subtract- ing isn’t the name of the game; swapping is. Within a week, you’ll find that your breakfasts will be more filling, your lunches more satisfying, and your dinners a miracle mix of flavor and health.
For many people the morning meal means one of two things, fat- wise, and neither is positive. At one extreme, maybe you grab a carb-heavy bagel and eat it plain, skipping the cream cheese to avoid the extra calories. That’s bad news for your blood sugar and can trigger hunger spikes later in the day, not to mention foster insulin resistance. As you learned in the last chapter, it’s better to incorporate some protein to keep you full. If you add some good fat to the equation, your carbs will digest more slowly, balancing out any blood-sugar swings. At the other extreme, you can easily devour a day’s worth of saturated fat at breakfast if you eat at a fast-food joint (think sausage patties with cheese) or serve yourself a plateful of bacon.
The truth is, many of the foods we associate with good fats-olive oil, fish, avocados-are more commonly included as part of lunch and dinner. But it is possible to add good fats to breakfast. Think nuts. If your cereal doesn’t contain nuts, add some chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans yourself. If you’re enjoying a piece of toast or a whole-wheat English muffin, peanut butter is the per- fect spread. You can also add chopped nuts to waffle, pancake, and muffin batter. Use a smart margarine. Vegetable oils contain PUFAs, one of the good types of fat. And margarine is made from vegetable oil. So if you’re careful to choose a brand that doesn’t contain any trans fats (remember, don’t trust the front of the label on this issue; scan the ingredients list looking for the words “partially hydrogenated”), margarine is a fine addition to your morning meal. Look for a brand that contains 2 grams or less of saturated fat per tablespoon. (All fatty foods include some of each major type of fat, and vegetable oils are no exception: All contain some saturated fat, but some use oils with more than others). Don’t bother with high-priced products that contain added omega-3 fatty acids. A tablespoon of one such marga- rine has only traces of DHA and EPA, the healthful omega-3s in fish oil-which is 20 times less than you’d get from a 3-ounce serving of salmon.
Get the flax. Flaxseeds are loaded with ALA, a form of PUFA that resembles omega-3 fatty acids. And they have a pleasant, slightly nutty taste. Buy whole flaxseeds, store them in the fridge, and grind them as needed. Don’t eat whole flaxseeds or they’ll come out the way they went in. Don’t forget eggs. They’re nature’s best source of protein, and here’s a little-known fact: One large egg contains 2 grams of MUFAs, the good fats also found in nuts and olive oil.
If you’ve quit getting takeout burgers and mayonnaise-smothered deli sandwiches for lunch, then pat yourself on the back. But if you switched to green salads and find your stomach groaning by 2:00 p.m., then your midday meal needs some help, especially if you’re raiding the pantry or vending machine for high-calorie, tide-you- over snacks. Adding good fats to your lunch-either on the side or right on top of that salad-will give your midday meal a first-class upgrade. Give yourself an A for avocados. Replace the cheese in your sand- wich or salad with avocado slices. Or mash some avocado and use it as a spread in place of mayonnaise. Avocado slices are also great additions to black bean soup.
Fall in love with peanut butter again. Talk about an easy lunch: Start with a slice of whole-grain bread (and, here again, choosing a brand with lots of visible nuts and seeds boosts your intake of good fats even further), slather on a few tablespoons of peanut butter, and you’ve got a belly-filling companion for that lonely green salad.
Other ideas for peanut butter and nuts at lunch:
• Slather peanut butter on a banana or some apple slices.
• Top whole-wheat noodles with spicy Asian peanut sauce (which you can whip up fast with peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, and a few other ingredients).
• For a change of pace, try almond butter. (But skip Nutella; it contains more sugar than nuts.)
Give tahini a try. Like nuts, seeds are full of good fats. Try seed spreads, such as tahini, an essential food in Middle-Eastern cuisine that’s made from sesame paste. Tahini is delicious on its own-you can spread it on bread like peanut butter-but it’s also the key ingre- dient in easy-to-make healthy dishes such as hummus (prepared with mashed chickpeas, lemon juice, and garlic) and baba ghanoush (made with pureed eggplant, lemon juice, garlic, and oil).
Soup up your salad. There are two ways to go wrong with a lunch salad. If your ingredients list starts with lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes-and pretty much ends there-then it’s no wonder your stomach starts sounding the hunger alarm long before dinner. While these salad favorites all have nutritional merits, satisfying appetite isn’t one of them. On the other hand, piling grated cheese or fatty deli meats on a salad may make it a rib-sticking meal, but also heaps on many grams of saturated fat. Adding good fats instead will make a salad more satisfying and heart healthy. Choosing an oil-based (preferably olive, canola, or flaxseed) salad dressing is a good start. But don’t stop there. Try these nutritious, heart-friendly additions.
• 1/4 avocado
• A palmful of chopped walnuts or pecans
• 8 chopped olives
For most people with busy schedules, dinner is the meal where you are most likely to strap on the apron and do some real cooking. That makes the evening meal a prime window of opportunity for fitting in more good fats, since some of the best sources are cooking oils (tops for MUFAs) and seafood (unparalleled for omega-3 fatty acids). If you don’t think of yourself as much of a cook, don’t worry: The Healthy Heart Miracle Diet includes simple, easy-prep meals that provide all the good fats you need.
Don’t fear olive oil. In fact, feel free to drizzle it over cooked veg- etables to make them more appealing. And if you’re serving a crusty whole-grain or sourdough bread with dinner, put out a small bowl of olive oil for dipping. Other cooking oils are good for you, too, in moderation. Choose one from the chart on page 118 to complement your meal. Cook fish-it’s easy. One of the main reasons people offer for avoid- ing fish is the cooking difficulty factor: It’s just too hard to make a great-tasting fish dinner, they claim. Count that as another myth. Try these simple ideas.
• Steam it. For an easy, healthy fish dinner, try steaming just about any fish. Using hot, moist air to prepare fish is practically foolproof, since it’s almost impossible to overcook the fish this way. If you don’t own a steamer, you can pick up a bamboo steamer basket at an Asian market or online for about $10. Use stock or broth instead of water for more flavor and top the steamed fish with fresh herbs, a spritz of lemon, and dash or two of salt.
• Bake it in foil. Baking fish in foil packets makes a perfect fish meal surprisingly easy to pull off. Just coat a couple of fish fillets with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, a fresh herb of your choice, and bake in a 400°F (200°C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes. For a complete meal, throw cut-up vegetables, such as zucchini, red peppers, and scallions, into the foil packet, too.
• Turn to the tins. For many people, preparing a fish dinner begins with digging through the kitchen drawers for a can opener. Great idea, since canned tuna and sardines are both good sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. For a quick dinner, try alba- core tuna with cannellini beans, sliced red peppers, cucumbers, and onions, tossed with an olive-oil-based dressing.
• Give it a grilling. Thick, firm-textured varieties of fish such as salmon or fresh tuna are perfect for an outdoor barbecue. Just be sure to brush the grill with oil (or use cooking spray) to prevent sticking. White-fleshed filets such as sole or tilapia are too tender and will break up, though you can grill them using a wire fish basket.
Use nuts in place of meat. Nuts, especially peanuts and cashews, are tasty, filling stand-ins for meat in veggie-heavy stir-fry dishes. (Remember to serve the stir-fry over brown rice and use low-sodium soy sauce.)
Add some sesame seeds. They liven up broccoli, and they’re another great addition to Asian-inspired stir-fries and beef and chicken dishes.
Aside from giving you a moment to pause and relax in the middle of a busy day, having a snack serves an important purpose: It staves off hunger between meals and helps keep your blood sugar from spiral- ing downward-but only if you choose the right snacks. Choosing a snack with protein is job one. But snack time is also an opportunity to fit in some good fats.
One snack fits both bills nicely: nuts. In fact, if you plan to snack on a handful of nuts every day, your snack decision making is done. Almonds are a particularly good choice. If you prefer peanuts, buy them in the shell to keep your hands busy. And don’t forget about peanut butter; enjoy it on whole-wheat crackers or smeared on apple slices or celery sticks.
If you need a hit of sugar at snack time, enjoy nuts paired with a small amount of raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried apricots. Seeds are also a good choice, so think unsalted pumpkin or sun- flower seeds.
They’re not as portable, but avocado slices are another healthy option. And remember that if you choose a hard-cooked egg as your snack, you’ll get a healthy dose of protein along with about 2 grams of good fat.