Heart Healthy Food Swaps

Heart Healthy Food Swaps

Publish Date January 29, 2024 4 Minute Read
Author Kroger Health Registered Dietitians

When it comes to heart health, we know that a diet including plenty of plant-based foods may help prevent heart disease. While all fruits and vegetables are heart health winners, plant-based protein like lentils, beans, quinoa, soy, seeds and nuts are also nutritional powerhouses, packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Replacing saturated fat with similar amounts of unsaturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. To achieve this benefit, total daily calories should not increase. Unsaturated fats are found in some plant-based foods and plants are typically lower in saturated fat than animal-based foods. Integrate heart healthy foods that are as nutritious as they are delicious with some simple swaps from our team of registered dietitians.

Aside from the delicious tips below, compare OptUP™ scores to find more nutritious swaps. OptUP™ is Kroger’s industry leading digital nutrition rating system found on the Kroger app or website, next to a product’s nutrition facts. Individual foods are scored 1-100 with a higher score being more nutritious. OptUP™’s ‘Better For You’ options are listed below a product and make it easy to find healthier versions of similar products. Check the example OptUP™ scores below so you can begin comparing like a pro.

Mushrooms for Ground Meat

Swapping about half of the ground meat in a recipe for chopped, sautéed mushrooms reduces saturated fat and overall calories. Another bonus: mushrooms are packed with deep, savory flavors that actually enhance the dish. Try this swap with burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, or taco meat. Finely chop the mushrooms with a food processor for best results!

  • Mushrooms OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 97
  • 80% Lean Ground Beef OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 63

Nonfat Greek Yogurt for Full-Fat Sour Cream

Switching from full-fat sour cream to a plain Greek yogurt means more protein, more calcium, and live and active cultures that support your gut health. And depending on which type you select, you’ll consume less saturated fat than you would from sour cream. Try this swap in homemade dips and to top Tex-Mex favorites, baked potatoes, and other foods typically topped with sour cream.

  • Kroger Brand Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 83
  • Sour Cream OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 39

Mayonnaise Made with Olive Oil for Regular Mayonnaise

Mayo is often thought of negatively given its calorie and fat content, but innovative products that leverage heart-healthy oils, like olive oil, turn this condiment into an opportunity to work in monounsaturated fats – a type of unsaturated fat that may be most beneficial to heart health when included in a balanced diet. An easy recipe to try is combining olive oil mayonnaise with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon and salt and pepper. Toss with shredded cabbage and carrots and a chopped granny smith apple for a delicious green apple coleslaw!

  • Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil Reduced Fat Mayonnaise OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 60
  • Classic Mayonnaise OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 47

Neufchatel Cheese for Cream Cheese

This swap is so simple! Using Neufchatel Cheese in place of cream cheese reduces the fat by about 30% and is not noticeable in most recipes, especially items like dips, spreads and casseroles. For a quick snack, blend Neufchatel cream cheese with plain Greek yogurt, maple syrup and cinnamon. Top with chopped nuts and serve with apple slices.

Quinoa or Brown Rice for White Rice

Rice is one of the most versatile options around. Making a simple swap from a refined grain, like white rice, to a whole grain, like brown rice or quinoa, can help provide a good source of many vitamins and minerals, such as copper, magnesium, niacin, vitamin B6 and more. Learn more about the nutrients you can find in your whole grains!

  • Quinoa OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 82
  • Long Grain Brown Rice OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 72
  • Long Grain White Rice OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 68

Avocado Slices for Cheese

Cheese makes a rich, creamy addition to so many foods, especially items like salads and sandwiches. Avocado is a creamy addition to meals in place of cheese, while reducing saturated fat and boosting your intake of heart healthy fats (as well as a whole host of other nutrients!). Try it on your next breakfast sandwich pile a bagel high with scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, spinach leaves and avocado slices for a delicious start to your day.

  • Avocado OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 97
  • Cheddar Cheese OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 46

Salt-free Seasonings and Spices for Salt

No one likes to eat bland foods, and there’s no reason to! Embrace heavier use of herbs and spices in cooking to ensure your food is still flavorful without the need for copious amounts of salt, since some people see increased blood pressures with heavy sodium intake over time. Herbs and spices themselves contain little to no sodium, and several salt-free blends are available to make it even easier.

  • Kroger® Salt Free Zesty Blend Original Seasoning OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 73
  • Salt OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 38

Walnuts for Croutons

When it comes to croutons and breading, it’s all about the exciting textures like crispness and crunch that make these foods so appealing. Swap the typical crouton topping or bread-based coating for walnuts to significantly change the nutrition profile in terms of unsaturated fats to support a healthy heart.

  • Walnuts OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 89
  • Seasoned Herb Croutons OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 49

Popcorn for Chips

Craving a crunchy snack? Swap potato chips for plain or reduced fat popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain, so it’s a good source of fiber and can be low in saturated fat and sodium, depending on preparation. Consider preparing it yourself with heart-healthy oils or an air-popper, and use light salt alongside dried herbs and spices such as rosemary or cracked pepper. If purchasing buttered or seasoned popcorn, be sure to compare OptUP™ scores.

  • Kroger® Yellow Popcorn Kernels OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 83
  • Butter Microwave Popcorn OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 44
  • Classic Potato Chips OptUP™ Nutrition Rating: 41

For more healthier options, check out Better-for-You options by browsing our favorite OptUP™ products, or meet with a registered dietitian to discuss a heart-healthy diet.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Shop Heart-healthy Swaps