Think your favorite comfort foods are off-limits when trying to lower cholesterol? Think again. These heart-healthy recipes prove that you can have the best of both worlds!

Advertisement
White Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Gnocchi
Credit: Jacob Fox

Thankfully, the days of eating bland, fat-free and flavorless foods for heart health are behind us. We know better now and understand that all foods can fit in a heart healthy diet—comfort foods included—with a few healthy tweaks here and there to keep sodium and saturated fat levels in check, which in turn keep things like our cholesterol levels in a healthy range.

In this meal plan, you'll find a week of warm stews, hearty breakfasts, pasta dinners and flavor-packed soups to delight your taste buds and warm your soul. These meals deliver on flavor while also featuring heart-healthy foods to lower cholesterol like beans, lentils, whole grains, fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

We set this plan at 1,500 calories a day and included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories a day, depending on your calorie needs.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

Genetics, lifestyle factors, diet and other health conditions, like diabetes, all play a role in determining our cholesterol levels. People with a family history of heart disease are more likely to have higher cholesterol levels, even if they are the picture of health otherwise. If you have diabetes, managing your blood sugars also helps normalize your cholesterol levels. And of course, several lifestyle factors also impact your heart health. Not exercising enough can play a role and when it comes to diet, it's actually excess sodium and saturated fat that can cause high cholesterol levels—not cholesterol-containing foods, like science previously thought. (Read more on that here.)

Foods to Focus on to Lower Your Cholesterol:

Heart-healthy foods packed with fiber and nutritious unsaturated fats help lower your bad LDL cholesterol and raise your good HDL cholesterol:

  • Legumes (beans, lentils)
  • Nuts and natural nut butters (tip: look for nut butters with just two ingredients—nuts or peanuts and salt)
  • Seeds (chia, flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
  • Fruit (high-fiber fruits like berries, pomegranate, apples and pears)
  • Vegetables (particularly leafy greens, tomatoes and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower)
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil and avocado oil
  • Whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa, freekeh, bulgur, wheat bread and pasta)
  • Herbs and spices
  • Fish, especially salmon and tuna
  • Yogurt and kefir

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Make Mediterranean Slow-Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.

Day 1

Sheet pan of the Rosemary Roasted Salmon with Asparagus & Potatoes recipe

Breakfast (349 calories)

A.M. Snack (231 calories)

  • 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (387 calories)

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Dinner (400 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,498 calories, 71g protein, 62g fat, 9g saturated fat, 180g carbohydrate, 37g fiber, 1,383mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the kefir at breakfast and change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 20 dried walnut halves to the P.M. snack and 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 2

White Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Gnocchi
Credit: Jacob Fox

Breakfast (264 calories)

A.M. Snack (305 calories)

  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter

Lunch (382 calories)

P.M. Snack (105 calories)

  • 1 medium banana

Dinner (437 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,492 calories, 64g protein, 43g fat, 12g saturated fat, 224g carbohydrate, 31g fiber, 1,583mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the yogurt at breakfast and the peanut butter at the A.M. snack.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 32 dry-roasted almonds to the P.M. snack and 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 3

Lemon-Garlic Dump Dinner with Chicken, Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts
Credit: Caitlin Bensel

Breakfast (264 calories)

A.M. Snack (221 calories)

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 12 dried walnut halves

Lunch (382 calories)

P.M. Snack (231 calories)

  • 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Dinner (395 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,493 calories, 82g protein, 73g fat, 13g saturated fat, 144g carbohydrate, 31g fiber, 1,467mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the yogurt at breakfast and change the P.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie to breakfast and increase to 30 dried walnuts at the A.M. snack.

Day 4

Slow-Cooker Vegan Chili

Breakfast (349 calories)

A.M. Snack (231 calories)

  • 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds

Lunch (382 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (463 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,486 calories, 63g protein, 63g fat, 9g saturated fat, 185g carbohydrate, 42g fiber, 1,568mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the kefir at breakfast and change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 28 dried walnut halves to the P.M. snack plus 1/2 an avocado, sliced, to dinner.

Day 5

Baked Blueberry & Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups
Credit: Jamie Vespa

Breakfast (264 calories)

A.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (382 calories)

P.M. Snack (192 calories)

  • 1 medium orange
  • 10 dried walnut halves

Dinner (570 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,503 calories, 64g protein, 52g fat, 10g saturated fat, 210g carbohydrate, 37g fiber, 1,755mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the yogurt at breakfast and omit the walnut at the P.M. snack.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to the A.M. snack, increase to 20 dried walnut halves at the P.M. snack plus add 1/2 an avocado, sliced, to dinner.

Day 6

Sicilian-Style Chicken Thighs

Breakfast (349 calories)

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Lunch (347 calories)

P.M. Snack (157 calories)

  • 12 dried walnut halves

Dinner (511 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,495 calories, 63g protein, 67g fat, 13g saturated fat, 170g carbohydrate, 33g fiber, 1,109mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the kefir at breakfast, change the A.M. snack to 1/4 cup cucumber and change the P.M. snack to 1 medium orange.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds to the A.M. snack, increase to 15 dried walnut halves at the P.M. snack plus add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 7

Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Carbonara

Breakfast (264 calories)

A.M. Snack (182 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup raspberries

Lunch (347 calories)

P.M. Snack (293 calories)

  • 30 dry-roasted unsalted almonds
  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (436 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,521 calories, 74g protein, 65g fat, 13g saturated fat, 172g carbohydrate, 33g fiber, 936mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the yogurt at breakfast and omit the almonds at the P.M. snack.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie to breakfast, 1 Tbsp. chopped walnuts to the A.M. snack and 1/2 an avocado, sliced, to dinner.