Keeping Your Cholesterol Under Control: Healthy Ingredient Substitutions

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro
  • September is National Cholesterol Education Month, so it's a great time to think about having your cholesterol checked, and to take steps to keep your heart healthy.


    We'll be focusing on cholesterol throughout the month, and so today I wanted to highlight some heart healthy recipe substitutions.


    Most of us don't like the idea of givivg up our favourite foods, I know I certainly don't! And, even if your doctor has told you to keep your fat levels under control, you may be feeling a bit resistant to the change.


    Ingredient substitutions

    Perhaps you've been thinking you don't even know where to begin to create meals that are tasty, yet still heart healthy. Well, cooking healthier versions of your favorite meals is great place to begin, rather than trying to make a bunch of "new" recipes.

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    Here are some tips and tricks to help you substitute healthier ingredients into your favorite old recipes:


    (Read like this: Instead of — Go for)


    Shortcrust pastry — Filo pastry. Line bottom or top only.

    Thickening — Use pureed, cooked vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes or cauliflower, rather than a traditional butter and flour roux.

    Gravies — Allow cooking liquid to cool, then remove the hardened fat before making gravy. 

    Cheese — Stronger flavored grated cheese, but use much less than             recipe calls for.

    Meats, poultry — Replace 1/4 to 1/2 with peas, beans or lentils.

    Bacon — Try smaller amounts of Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, or lean prosciutto.

    Butter,shortening — Applesauce or prune puree for half of what's called-for.

    Margarine — Trans fat-free butter spreads, or shortenings.

    Coconut milk — Canned evaporated skimmed milk, or low fat natural yoghurt   mixed with 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut.

    Flavored yogurt — Low fat natural yogurt with chopped fresh fruit.

    Heavy cream — Evaporated skim milk, or low fat natural yogurt. For dessert, use extra thick single cream, or ricotta cheese with one dessertspoon of sugar.

    Sour cream — Fat free sour cream, low fat yogurt, or ricotta cheese blended     with lemon juice.

    Ice cream — Sherbet, low fat frozen yogurt.


    As well as the above suggestions, grilling, baking, poaching, steaming, or boiling, rather than frying, or cooking with added fats, will help to keep your meals healthy, too.


    It's also a good idea to get yourself a good quality set of non-stick pans. This will help you to use less fat in cooking, and often, you can cook without adding any fat at all.


    If you're looking for something new to try out, here's a delicious heart healthy recipe.


    Chicken on Skewers with a Bulgar Salad

    Adapted from BBC Good Food 


    Serves 2

    Prep 15 minutes

    Cook 15 minutes



    100g bulgar wheat

    ½ tsp ground coriander

    ½ tsp ground cumin

    2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

    2 corn cobs

    ½ small red onion, cut into half moons

    6 cherry tomatoes, halved

    large handful coriander leaves, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

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    1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil




    • Cook the bulgar according to pack instructions. Then, mix the coriander, cumin and a little black pepper. Rub into the chicken and thread onto skewers.
    • Cook the corn in boiling water for 10 minutes, and then slice from the cob. Fluff up the bulgar and add the corn, onion and tomatoes. Mix the coriander, vinegar and oil in a small bowl along with some black pepper.
    • Cook the chicken under a hot grill for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until cooked. Serve with the salad and dressing drizzled over both.



    You could change this salad up by adding raisins and avocado, or even roasted vegetables to the bulgar wheat — basically whatever veg you have leftover in your fridge will work for this.



    The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers helpful resources to use during National Cholesterol Education Month, check out their website for more info.


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of Visit her website for more healthy eating tips.


Published On: September 13, 2010