Now we have been through the basics of healthy eating to help manage your cholesterol during lockdown, what could a day’s meals look like?
Breakfast really can be the most important meal of the day! It is an easy opportunity to boost your fruit, veg and fibre intake and consume some cholesterol-lowering ingredients such as plant sterols and oat beta-glucan. If you are a cereal lover, oats are a great choice to start the day as oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower blood cholesterol*. Choosing Flora ProActiv milk on your cereal and in your morning coffee or Flora ProActiv spread on your toast is an easy way to get one of your three daily servings of plant sterols, and all with the first meal of the day.**
As you may have some extra time on your hands at the moment, why not try making our homemade granola. Bought granola can often be high in sugar and making your own ensures you can keep the saturated fat and sugar content down and gives you the chance to jazz it up with all the things you like – our favourites include brazil nuts (a great source of selenium), mixed seeds (to provide healthy fats) and cinnamon for that lovely flavour. As an added bonus, your house will smell fantastic after baking this!
You can be well on your way to eating at least 5 fruit and vegetables a day with breakfast. Add a tablespoon of dried fruit to your cereal (or homemade granola), a sliced banana on top and you are already at 2! Or enjoying a small (150ml) glass of fruit juice with breakfast can help you on your way. If you prefer a savoury start to the day, having a portion of mushrooms on your toast or a tomato alongside your boiled egg will add an extra serving.
If you tend to stick to sandwiches at lunchtime, try to get creative with different breads. Switching from white sliced to wholemeal pittas, seeded wraps or wholemeal English muffins can keep things interesting as well as adding fibre and other nutrients. Try to choose lower saturated fat fillings where possible, so keep an eye on food labels.
Did you know that for most people eggs don’t actually raise cholesterol levels? Although they contain dietary cholesterol, it is the saturated fats in the foods that we eat that have much more impact on our blood cholesterol levels. Eggs are nutritional powerhouses which contain high quality protein and various vitamins and minerals and so are a great option for lunch. Boiled or poached are good choices as the cooking method won’t add any calories or fat, unlike scrambled or fried. Remember the importance of healthy fats, so choose vegetable oil or Flora Buttery instead of butter if you prefer scrambled eggs or omelettes.
If you are a houmous lover, it is another simple thing to make at home with a few store cupboard ingredients and making it yourself means you can control the fat content and vary the flavours. Simply blitz a drained can of chickpeas with the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of tahini, a clove of garlic, a few tablespoons of olive oil and 4-5 tablespoons of water. You can add cumin for some extra flavour or blitz some or all of your houmous with sundried tomatoes, olives or beetroot to ring the changes.
And for the simplest of lunches, you can’t go wrong with baked beans on granary toast with Flora ProActiv spread. Simple, quick and delicious!
Dinners don’t have to be complicated – try to include a healthy protein source such as fish, lean meat, beans, nuts or eggs; a carbohydrate food (wholegrain if possible) like rice, pasta, couscous, sweet or regular potatoes (keep the skins on for extra nutrients); and of course pile on the vegetables! Again it is easy to add an additional portion of vegetables to most meals – you can add some lentils in to your pasta sauce, add a different vegetable to your stir fry or simply have a portion of broccoli and another of frozen peas.
It is recommended to include two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily. You could try baking a salmon fillet with peppers and onion and serving it with fresh tasty in season new potatoes and asparagus, or make up a veg loaded pasta sauce with lightly fried courgettes, mushrooms, spinach and butter beans added to a tin of tomatoes with some black pepper and dried herbs – easy!
Salads are a great choice at this time of the year – these can be made more substantial and more exciting with nuts, cottage cheese, fruit (dried cranberries in salads are fantastic, as are strawberries) and mixed seeds. Go easy on the dressing, however did you know having a drizzle of olive or vegetable oil over your salad can actually help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins better than if the meal contained no fat at all? Serve with a carbohydrate source as above, e.g. new potatoes or a slice of sourdough toast for a simple summer feast.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated
It is important to keep your fluid levels up, particularly in warmer weather, and we should be aiming to drink about 2 litres per day. This doesn’t have to be only water – all non-alcoholic drinks count. However, it is easy to forget the calories and sugar that drinks can add to the diet (also true when it comes to alcohol), so do read food labels, stick to one small glass of fruit juice a day and look for diet versions of your favourite soft drinks to keep your sugar intake down. The good news is that coffee and tea can contribute to your fluid intake too, so put the kettle on!
* Oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. The beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 3g of oat beta-glucan.
** Each portion of Flora ProActiv milk and spread contains 0.7g of plant sterols. 3 portions of Flora ProActiv food daily contains the recommended daily amount of plant sterols that are proven to lower cholesterol. Cholesterol lowering can be obtained with a daily intake of 1.5-3g plant sterols.
Plant sterols have been shown to lower blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. Consuming 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols per day can lower cholesterol by 7-10% in 2-3 weeks when consumed as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle with sufficient fruit and vegetables.