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15 Heart-Healthy Meal Ideas That Are Super Easy to Chef Up

Pass the whole-wheat pasta, please!

rachaelsgoodeats  plantbasedrd
@rachaelsgoodeats | @plantbasedrd

Tired of cooking the same three lunch and dinner recipes on repeat? Join le club. But as you probably know, the world of food blogs and nutrition influencers can be very overwhelming. There are so. many. damn. options. that just thinking about scrolling through a few of them has me ready for a nap.

Then, there's the whole issue of finding "healthy" meal ideas. I've seen so many different guidelines and nutrition standards that I literally have no idea what makes a dish good for me anymore. Why? Is? It? Like? This? And who gets to define what "healthy" is, anyway? Sigh. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Luckily, there's a solution to both of those problems: using the nutrition guidelines on heart-healthy foods from the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to help inform what you eat. They're simple recommendations like eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and incorporating whole grains into your diet—nothing super restrictive or confusing. Plus, you probably want your heart to be healthy since it, ya know, keeps you alive, so this seems like a win-win situation.

Some other heart-healthy food recommendations? Low-fat dairy products, nuts, lean meat, skinless poultry, and fish. This isn't to say you can never eat foods that are high in fat or sugar, though. If you want a cookie, eat a cookie. It's more about incorporating these recommended foods into your rotation, rather than restriction.

Now that we've got specific foods in mind, it should be a little easier to sort through the millions of recipes out there, right? Spoiler alert: It is. I know because I already went through a bunch of them. Here, 15 heart-healthy meal ideas that are super easy to make.

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1 A yogurt bowl

Here's a quick way to get some low-fat dairy, fruit, and nuts in: swap your typical breakfast for a yogurt bowl. Start with a base of low-fat Greek yogurt, and top it with your fave fruits, nuts, and granola. In this case, the blogger used bluebs, natural PB, and a crushed-up protein bar to complete her bowl.

2 A veggie flatbread

Start with a piece of naan bread (whole wheat, if you can find it) and layer some vegan or low-fat mozzarella on top. Add thinly-sliced garlic, cherry tomatoes, olives, dried basil, dried oregano, red pepper flakes a sprinkle of garlic powder, and you're good to go. According to this RD, you'll want to bake it at 400°F for about 10 minutes—or until the edges brown a bit and the cheese melts.

3 Broccoli pasta

Pasta is one of my all-time favorite meals because 1) it's delicious, and 2) it's ridiculously easy to make. To ensure that it's heart-healthy, opt for chickpea pasta (like the Banza this blogger used) or a whole-wheat variety. Then, add 1.5 cups broccoli for some potassium and fiber. Peep the IG caption above for full instructions on how to recreate this yummy-looking pic.

4 Smoky chickpeas with greens over rice or quinoa

This recipe from dietitian Marisa Moore is ridiculously easy. All you need are some greens (spinach, baby kale, or broccoli), a can of chickpeas, olive oil, some spices (she uses garlic, paprika, and turmeric), and a bowl of rice or quinoa. Follow her instructions to cook the chickpeas and greens, then just add them to the top of a bowl of rice or quinoa. (Yup, you can totally just get the frozen kind and microwave it.) Stuffing the chickpeas and greens into a piece of pita or naan bread works too, Moore says.

5 Avocado egg salad toast

Behold, a twist on the avocado toast recipe you've seen a million times. Mix two diced hard-boiled eggs, half an avocado (smashed), a diced pickle, one tablespoon spicy ground mustard, red chili flakes, pink salt, and ground pepper to make the avo egg salad. Then spread the mixture over two pieces of whole-wheat toast et voilà!

6 A non-boring salad

Chicken caesar salad? Been there, eaten that a thousand times. This salad looks way more interesting. Start with a bowl of romaine lettuce, add grilled chicken, sliced up Honeycrisp apple, white onion, red pepper, cucumber, and feta cheese. Then drizzle on some white onion dressing and chow down. You'll be getting heart-healthy poultry, veggies, and fruit all at once.

7 A salmon bowl

The American Heart Association recommends incorporating more salmon into your diet since it's full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. The easiest way to make a meal out of it? Baking a salmon filet, and adding it to a bowl of mixed greens, sliced cucumbers, and rice, like blogger Carissa Stanton suggests here. The whole dish takes just 15 minutes to make.

8 Chicken tacos

Trust me, these look waaay more complicated than they actually are. Cook one pound of ground chicken in a skillet with one tablespoon of avocado oil and one tablespoon of taco seasoning until it's browned. Then, set up your whole-wheat tortillas with a layer of mixed greens. Put then chicken on top, and add a couple spoonfuls of guac (this recipe includes deets on how to make your own, but store-bought's fine). Finish it off with some chopped red bell pepper and chipotle beans, and you're ready to eat.

9 A smoothie bowl

There's something about putting a smoothie in a bowl that just makes it taste better. Blend half of a frozen banana, a handful of frozen berries, half a packet of frozen açaí berries, and a dash of almond milk. Pour the mixture into a bowl, top it with your favorite fruit, nuts, or granola, and there you have it: a yummy, heart-healthy breakfast.

10 Tomato pasta

Did you really think I was only going to include one pasta dish on this list? Yeah right. This spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and spinach looks too good to pass up. Follow this blogger's six simple steps, and you'll end up with an Insta Story-worthy dinner. *Drool*.

11 Almond butter, banana & jam sandwich

Trade your boring PB and J for this fun alternative. All you need are two slices of whole-wheat bread (or homemade paleo bread, if you're feeling ambitious like this blogger), almond butter, strawberry jam, and a banana. Proceed with ze peanut butter and jelly (but with almond butter, in this case) process, and place some banana slices in the middle before putting the two pieces of bread together. Delish! And you're also incorporating some nuts, fruit, and whole grains into your diet.

12 Smoked salmon toast

Not a fan of cooking fish? No worries, just pick up some smoked salmon the next time you're at the grocery store as a way to get those heart-healthy omega-3s. Toast some whole-wheat bread and top it with feta, avocado slices, chopped scallions, and a couple pieces of the smoked salmon. Finish it off with a sprinkle of Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel Seasoning and a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil.

13 Turkey and veggie wrap

First, spread some hummus on a whole-wheat or almond flour wrap. Put a couple pieces of deli turkey, plus some long, thin cucumber and carrot slices on top. Roll the wrap up carefully, cut it in half, and lunch is served!

14 Honey sesame chicken over rice

As long as you have 20 minutes to whip up dinner, you can't go wrong with this honey sesame chicken recipe. It might sound fancy, but you can literally make the whole dish in one skillet. Follow DeVaux's instruction to chef up your chicken, and serve it over rice with some steamed broccoli for a complete meal.

15 Pesto pizza

Want to make your frozen Banza cheese pizza or Trader Joe's cauliflower pizza a lil more interesting? Try spreading some store-bought pesto on top before you pop it in the oven This blogger used a kale cashew pesto. Sprinkle with some arugula once it's done cooking to really take things to the next level.

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