10 Diet Tips for Better Health, Plus a Heart-Healthy Cioppino Recipe

February is American Heart Month. Time to take stock of your diet and fit in some new, lighter entrees.

In the past, I have developed healthy recipes for several cookbooks for the American Heart Association. The following are their basic guidelines. As you make daily food choices, base your eating pattern on these 10 recommendations:

1. Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.

2. Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.

3. Select fat-free, one-percent fat and low-fat dairy products.

4. Cut back or eliminate foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.

5. To lower cholesterol, reduce saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat.

6. Cut back or eliminate on beverages and foods with added sugars.

7. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium daily; 1,500 mg is even more desirable.

8. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.

9. Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out, and keep an eye on your portion sizes.

10. Don’t smoke tobacco—and avoid secondhand smoke.

My family enjoys fish and shellfish so I am sharing one of the recipes they love. The easily prepared cioppino has an exotic flavor due in part to the saffron threads. I like to buy them from my friend Patty Erd at her Spice House shop in Evanston. They are from Spain and labeled “Saffron Spanish Superior” on the jar. The price is very reasonable and the threads are always fresh.

Purchase the fish and seafood the same day you will make the cioppino. I ask for live mussels from the fish counter and ask they be put on ice in a plastic bag that I transfer to my refrigerator as soon as I get home. Just before adding them to the broth I rinse them in very cold water. Because most mussels are now farm raised, they do not have the “beards” that live mussels from the sea may have, so the rinsing is enough to clean them. If any mussels have opened in the bag of ice they will immediately close when rinsed with the cold water. Discard any mussels that do not open after cooking.

A simple mixed green salad with a light vinaigrette dressing makes a nice accompaniment. I like to serve the cioppino with diagonal slices of French bread baguette that have been brushed with olive oil and browned in a toaster oven. The bread is good for soaking up the flavorful broth left in the bowls. Raspberry or mango sorbet is a light but flavorful dessert to finish the meal.

Heart-Healthy Cioppino

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped sweet or yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14-1/2 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: dried basil, dried thyme, crushed saffron threads and crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound peeled and deveined large uncooked shrimp (thawed if frozen)
  • 1/2 pound firm white fish fillets (such as halibut, sea bass or tilapia, cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 3/4 pound of live fresh mussels, scrubbed


1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large deep sauté pan or skillet with cover. Add onion and garlic and sauté four to five minutes or just beginning to brown. Add tomatoes, broth, wine, basil, thyme, saffron and pepper flakes. Stir well and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer five minutes.

2. Stir in shrimp and fish fillets and simmer one minute. Arrange mussels, pointed ends down, in the broth mixture. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the mussels open and the shrimp and fish are opaque, six to eight minutes.

3. Use a large serving spoon to transfer the Cioppino to four large shallow bowls and serve immediately.

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