By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Looking for healthy holiday recipes that are also heart healthy? These healthy family recipes are sure to be winners on the dinner table!
Here’s how to get your fix of good-for-your-heart EPA and DHA omega-3s at upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah meals—and beyond (ahem, leftovers)!
These comfort food recipes also happen to be delicious kid-friendly picks for your holiday dinner. You'll find holiday sides, pasta recipes, and more. Add these healthy-heart recipes to your family dinners, pronto!
How to Cook Heart-Healthy Recipes
This is my favorite time of year, when the air turns crisp and the holidays are around the corner–which means it's time to start thinking about healthy holiday recipes for Christmas and all the other fall holidays!
While Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, I really love any excuse to get friends and family together for a meal. And I always want to bring the best heart-healthy recipes to the table.
It seems that a lot of us (me included!) give ample attention to creating lower-calorie versions of holiday favorites. But what about adding nutrients to the table? Go ahead and say "yes" to holiday meal recipes that are easy and healthy.
Two of my favorite nutrients to focus on are EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids that are super important for your health. Want a primer on these? Check out my overview in my post on the top vegetarian sources of omega-3s.
If you're looking to improve heart health, you'll want to listen up. EPA and DHA have many health benefits, but I’m going to focus on one in particular, heart health.
A study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that higher EPA and DHA levels are connected with lower risk of heart disease. That’s a huge deal and shows the importance of getting a consistent intake of these nutrients. Both EPA and DHA play an active role in heart health.
When it comes to how much EPA and DHA you need for heart health, this varies. To help lower risk of coronary heart disease in healthy adults, 500 milligrams has been found to be beneficial.
For prevention of coronary heart disease, though, you may want to consider a little more: 1,000 milligrams daily. And a higher amount, upward of 1,000 milligrams daily, is connected with helping to lower blood pressure and benefitting triglyceride levels.
You can get EPA and DHA from food sources, as well as supplements. In just a second, I’ll go over some main sources now, plus some recipes to inspire your holiday eating. These ideas are great for leftovers, too.
Oily Fish Heart-Healthy Meals
Fish such as salmon, arctic char, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies offer EPA and DHA—and a good amount, too. And you can easily add these to your heart-healthy recipes for dinner.
Aim for at least two 3.5-ounce servings of cooked fatty fish each week. If you’re looking for a higher omega-3 intake for heart-health benefits, you may want to increase that weekly amount and consider taking a supplement, as well. Want to eat more fish? Here's why eating seafood is helpful for your health.
Now, go ahead and give these mouth-watering heart-healthy meal prep recipes a try:
1. Tangy Tuna Salad from Jennifer Hunt, RD, at Jennifer Hunt Nutrition
2. Casserole with Salmon from my own kitchen
5. Homemade Salmon Bacon from my own kitchen
Heart-Healthy Recipes with Eggs
Some foods are fortified with omega-3s. Often, however, the amount found in the final product is on the lower side—which is why you shouldn’t rely on such foods to deliver all your omega-3 needs. These foods can be fantastic inclusions in your diet to help you add a little more EPA and DHA to your day.
One food to consider: Certain eggs that offer EPA and DHA, thanks to special diets the chickens are fed. Sub in an omega-3-containing egg such as Eggland’s Best into an egg-containing recipe you love.
These appetizer, side dish, and dessert ideas are all delicious. They make the best heart-healthy dinner recipes!
11. Healthier Eggplant Parmesan from All Recipes
12. Wild Blueberry Mini Cakes with Vanilla Icing from my own kitchen
14. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread from Stacey Mattinson, RD, at Stacey Mattinson Nutrition
Heart-Healthy Recipes with Olive Oil
This extra-virgin olive oil is blended with fish oil and provides an impressive 1,480 milligrams EPA and DHA per Tablespoon. You shouldn’t cook with it, though, so try it in a salad dressing or to drizzle on hummus.
Only a small amount of omega-3-containing olive oils can be use in cooking, and they typically offer fewer omega-3s for that reason.
You can substitute an omega-3-containing olive oil into any of these heart-healthy recipes that are easy:
16. Basic Vinaigrette with 3 Variations from Dixya Bhattari, RD, at Food, Pleasure & Health
17. Kale Italia Salad from Jenna Braddock
18. Broccoli Slaw Salad from my own kitchen
This blog post was updated in November 2020. This content was originally part of a partnership with the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED).
- A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials and Prospective Cohort Studies of Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Coronary Heart Disease Risk, Mayo Clinic Proceedings
- Jennifer Hunt, RD, at Jennifer Hunt Nutrition
- Liz Weiss, RD, co-author of No Whine with Dinner
- Lauren Harris-Pincus, RD, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club
- Tracee Yablon Brenner, RD, co-author of Great Expectations
- Kelli Shallal, RD, author of Meal Prep for Weight Loss
- Abbie Gelman, RD, author of The Mediterranean DASH Diet Cookbook
- Jenna Braddock, RD, author of 200 Surefire Ways to Eat Well and Feel Better
- Julie Harrington, RD, co-author of The Healing Soup Cookbook
- Judy Barbe, RD, author of Your 6-Week Guide to Live Best
- Stacey Mattinson, RD, at Stacey Mattinson Nutrition
- Dara Gurau, RD, at How to Eat
- Dixya Bhattari, RD, at Food, Pleasure & Health
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What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you get your fill of omega-3s? What are your tips for staying heart healthy, especially during the holidays?
What are your go-to healthy holiday recipes? Would you add any of these ideas to your recipes for heart patients list?
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