If you’re a busy, time-starved professional, it’s easy to grab a bite to go from a fast-food drive-through or a convenience store. Sometimes allowing yourself to opt for the unhealthy option “just this once” turns into a daily habit, which can make it hard managing cholesterol or glucose levels or get the nutrients you need. Here are some tips and healthy recipes to help keep your diet on track while you’re charging ahead with your career.
Managing Cholesterol: The Basics
High cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease. It can be caused by a diet high in saturated fat (found in animal food products) and trans fats (found in packaged foods). If you’re a busy professional and need to be managing cholesterol strictly, keep these easy tips in mind:
- Opt for lean protein such as chicken, turkey, red-meat cuts with minimal fat or plant-based protein such as beans.
- Use liquid vegetable oils in place of animal-produced fats, such as butter or lard, when cooking.
- Swap high-fat dairy products for lower fat options. For example, if you’re managing your cholesterol, use 1 percent milk in place of whole milk in a recipe. It’s likely that you won’t even notice a change in taste and the reduction in overall fat will be worth it!
Mornings are often a rushed time for most people. To stay on schedule and eat a breakfast that helps with managing cholesterol, consider these healthy recipes for make-ahead breakfasts:
Yields 5 servings – 1 for every workday
- 2 ½ cups oatmeal
- 2 ½ cups soy milk
- 5 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla
Using 5 glass jars or plastic food-storage containers, put ½ cup of oatmeal, ½ cup of soy milk, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and ¼ teaspoon vanilla into each container. Stir all the ingredients together, cover the jar or container and refrigerate.
Egg White Muffins
Yields 12 servings – 1-2 per workday plus a few for snacks
- 3 cups egg whites
- 12 pieces cooked turkey bacon
- ½ cup frozen spinach
- ¾ cup shredded cheddar jack cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a muffin pan with the extra virgin olive oil. Mix egg whites, turkey bacon, spinach and cheese together in a bowl. Pour mixture into muffin pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Batch cooking early in the week means you can have heart-healthy lunches on hand to manage your cholesterol with ease. Try these easy and quick recipes you can cook, separate into containers and enjoy throughout the week.
American Heart Association’s No-Bake Veggie Lasagna Stacks
Yields 4 servings
- 4 dried whole-grain lasagna noodles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces broccoli florets (about 1 cup)
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (about 1 heaping cup)
- 4 ounces zucchini or yellow summer squash, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 4 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 cups)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded or grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
- Place cooked pasta in a single layer on a large piece of wax paper and pat dry. Cut each noodle crosswise into 3 pieces. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Cook the broccoli, mushrooms and zucchini for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the asparagus, spinach, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
- To assemble, place a piece of pasta on a microwaveable dinner plate. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the ricotta on top. Spoon ½ cup of the broccoli mixture over the ricotta. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons mozzarella. Repeat. Place a third piece of pasta on top.
- Sprinkle with 1½ teaspoons Parmesan. Repeat on separate plates with the remaining ingredients for the other 3 servings.
- Microwave 1 plate of lasagna for 1 minute on 100 percent power (high) or until the Parmesan is melted. Set aside. Repeat 1 at a time with the remaining servings.
Southwestern Bean Salad
Yields 1 serving. If preparing to eat several times, multiply the ingredients by the number of times you want to eat it as a meal. Keep dressing separate from lettuce and other ingredients to avoid a soggy salad.
- ½ ripe avocado
- ¾ cup packed fresh cilantro
- ½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, quartered
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups mixed greens
- ½ cup black beans, canned (rinsed) or cooked
- ½ cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen (thawed)
- ½ cup grape tomatoes
- For the dressing, blend avocado, cilantro, yogurt, scallions, garlic, lime juice, sugar and salt in a blender until smooth.
- For the salad, place greens in an individual salad bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Top the greens with black beans, corn and tomatoes.
- Serve cold during the hot summers or at room temperature.
When it’s dinner time and you’ve had a long day at work, you’ll thank yourself for getting up 10 minutes earlier to get the Crock-Pot dinner going. Try these healthy recipes if you’re frustrated by managing cholesterol or working toward weight loss:
Crock-Pot Chicken and Peppers
Yields 8 servings
- 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups frozen bell pepper and onion mix, thawed
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
Combine all ingredients in Crock-Pot and cook over low heat 8-10 hours. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken thighs and shred. Add shredded chicken back into Crock-Pot. To serve, ladle pepper and onion mixture over each chicken thigh.
Yields 4 servings
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup frozen corn
- ⅔ cup reduced sodium chickpeas
- ½ cup black beans
- 1 cup red pepper, chopped, about 1 large pepper
- 1 cup roma tomatoes, chopped, about 2 tomatoes
- ½ cup onion, roughly chopped, about ½ large onion
- ½ tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- pinch of black pepper
- 1-1 ½ tablespoons sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
- shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
- fresh cilantro, for garnish
Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray and place the uncooked quinoa, corn, chickpeas, black beans, red pepper, tomato, onion, cumin powder, garlic, salt, pepper and adobe sauce inside, stirring until well combined. Pour in the vegetable broth, stir well and cover the pot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Once cooked, season to taste with additional salt and pepper and garnish with cheese and cilantro.
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