Open Accessibility Menu

Cholesterol-Conscious Cooking

woman cookingAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as one in eight Americans has high cholesterol. This isn't a group you want to join; high cholesterol increases the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or dying of heart disease.

While there are some cholesterol-impacting factors that can’t be controlled, there are plenty that can be. For example, food; not only what you put on your plate, but also how that food is prepared. September is National Cholesterol Education Month, and ATRIO Health Plans is taking this opportunity to increase awareness about the importance of cholesterol-conscious cooking.

The Meat of the Matter

Nutritionists recommend reducing the consumption of red meat and opting—more often than not—for poultry and fish. When red meat is on the menu, select lean cuts, such as round, chuck, and sirloin. Also, always trim any visible fat, and remember that broiling meat is preferred over pan-frying. If you're cooking ground beef, reach for lean or extra lean. Better yet, ditch the ground beef entirely and replace it with ground turkey.

Although tasty, processed meats—such as sausage, salami, bologna, and hot dogs—are not cholesterol-friendly, and should be avoided. In contrast, fish is cholesterol-friendly. Nutritionists especially recommend salmon, trout and herring—all of which are high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. To maximize fish's benefits, don't bread and fry it; instead, bake, broil, or grill.

Fats and Fiber

Say goodbye to cooking with butter, lard and shortening, and hello to vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and olive. Vegetable oils are ideal for pan-frying fish and poultry, as well as for sautéing vegetables.

Another simple fat-fighter is replacing the whole milk or half-and-half called for in recipes with low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk (skim milk). In recipes requiring cheese, always opt for low-fat, low-sodium versions.

Increasing consumption of fiber and whole grains additionally are winning cholesterol-curbing strategies. For example, get in the habit of: toasting whole-grain bread to make breadcrumbs, stuffing, or crotons; replacing breadcrumbs in meatloaf with uncooked oatmeal; replacing juice at breakfast with whole fruits; using brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice; selecting whole-grain pasta over traditional pasta; snacking on almonds, edamame, and air-popped popcorn rather than saturated-fat-laden crackers and cheese; and, adding walnuts (which can lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol) along with fiber-rich veggies—such as broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower—to salads, which should then be sprinkled with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice instead of dressing.

Get Cooking

Now that you know the ins and outs of cholesterol-conscious cooking, put your skills and taste buds to the test with this Chicken Pizza Sauté recipe.

Serves: Four; 3/4 cup chicken mixture and 1/2 cup pasta per serving.


In one dish, you'll be treated to the yummy flavor of pizza without the guilt, as this recipe serves up less cholesterol, fats, sodium, and calories—enjoy!


3 ounces medium-sized whole-grain pasta shells (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces ground, skinless chicken breast
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 medium clove of garlic, minced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 medium bell pepper (any color), thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded or grated low-fat mozzarella cheese

Cooking Instructions:

Cook the pasta using the package directions, omitting the salt. Drain well in a colander. Cover to keep warm. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Add the chicken, fennel seeds, oregano, and garlic, stirring to combine. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through.

Stir in the mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the bell pepper and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the tomatoes with liquid, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon the pasta onto each plate. Ladle the cacciatore on top. Sprinkle with the mozzarella.