Eating More While Cooking Less - Work Smarter Not Harder

I have been a heart failure patient for several years, and diet is one area that remains a challenge. Less of a challenge, but still a challenge.

The issue, for me, is that salt is in all pre-packaged foods. Whether it is take out, pre-made meals in a grocery store, ingredients that we use to cook with like bread, sauces, cheese, salad dressing, and so many others, still contain salt. The only things that do not have salt are fruits, vegetables, meat, grains, etc.; however, most of that requires cooking! You can eat raw fruit and vegetables, but you cannot sustain an appetite on that.

While some of us can be on a 2,300 per day sodium diet, there are others (like myself) that are more sensitive and must eat less salt to have a handle on the water weight. I have multiple stents in the most critical areas of my heart, so in addition to watching my sodium intake my interventional cardiologist has told me to limit the amount of saturated fat to the best of my abilities.

To add to it, there are others in my life as well! I have a partner who does not have low sodium restrictions. Additionally, he is a meat and potatoes kind of guy! So, I am on a low salt heart healthy diet and my partner is a sodium loving, meat gobbling, macaroni and cheese craving, pizza eating person.

All of this might not apply to you, but I think everyone can identify with a piece of this puzzle! I wanted to share a few things I have learned in case it helps others.

Things that have helped me

First of all, I have learned to embrace a thicker skin and set firm boundaries in our relationship in regards to what food he organizes for our meals and what food he brings in the house because there are certain foods that I miss so much it is too triggering to have around. This is not his ideal situation, and he loves me but grumbles. I try to be understanding and can empathize that it stinks, but it is hard for me too! And we are a team. It is what it is, and I no longer have guilt. That has freed up some mental space.

Next, I have found that the way to handle the increased burden of SO MUCH HOME COOKING is either big batch cooking OR versatile ingredients that can be used in different meals throughout the week. The latter is a good option if leftovers do not work as much for you or your family.

Some ingredients that help me work smarter, not harder

Here are just a few of my favorite ingredients that I have found are healthy, easy to make, and so versatile. Think about meals, but also bulking stuff up so you do not need to prepare as many ingredients, and consider the entire spectrum between proteins, beans, vegetables and whole grains.

Feel free to share yours as well because heart failure truly requires a village!

Cannellini beans

You can even buy a bag of dried beans and cook them yourself.

They can be used in green/pasta/farro salads, pastas, ragus, stews (watch your fluid restrictions), dips and so much more!

Black beans

They can be used on nachos (salt free chips), tacos (low salt corn based wraps and minimal cheese), taco salads, Mexican bowls, beans and rice, etc.


Can be used in green salads, apple and carrot salads, orzo pasta salads, couscous salads, stews and pilafs. It's a terrific item to bulk meals up.


Can be used in everything!

Grated carrots

These can bulk up salads, pasta sauce, stews, wraps, and stir fry. It does not have the protein that beans have, but it is lower carb and so good for you so you can eat a lot of it.

Red peppers

These are good eaten raw with humus or white bean dip, or in salads, pastas, wraps, bowls, stir - fries with brown rice (use coconut Aminos) etc.

Brown rice

You can add this to beans and rice, taco salad, or use it to bulk up nachos, Mexican bowls, etc.

Shredded chicken breast

You can put chicken breast in a slow cooker. Shredding it with a fork is SO easy. You can add shredded chicken into a salad, nachos, casseroles, stir fry, etc. If you google how to use shredded chicken SO many options pop up. Get creative.

How do you work smarter, not harder, when cooking with heart failure

Have you tried any meal prep strategies to help make sticking with a low sodium diet easier? Do you use any of the ingredients above in your meals? Feel free to share and maybe your comments can also help others!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.