Melissa's Response:

High cholesterol can be attributed to a number of different factors and diet is certainly high on the list. In particular, we think of dietary fat as being the culprit to increasing cholesterol numbers. But, it is the type of fat that is important. A diet higher in trans and saturated fat tends to increase cholesterol production in the body. In addition, a diet high in refined carbohydrate and lower in good, healthy fat and soluble fiber can also contribute to high cholesterol levels. Let’s break this down:

  • Trans-fat can be found in prepared baked goods, fried foods, solid or stick margarines and many processed foods. It is listed in the ingredients list as partially hydrogenated oil. It is best to limit the amount of these foods you eat.
  • Highly saturated fats are found in higher fat animal products such as bacon, sausage, highly marbled red meats, poultry skin and high fat cheeses/dairy products. Choose leaner cuts of beef and pork – the loin or round cuts, as well as poultry breast meat with no skin and seafood more often. Choose lower fat dairy products.
  • Replace some of that fat with heart-healthy plant-based oils such as natural peanut butter, olive oil, avocado and nuts. Many of these foods can be pricey so buy them when they are on sale. Use Meijer’s Weekly Circular as a resource.
  • Cut down on refined carbohydrate-containing foods including white bread, pasta, crackers and sugary snacks and replace with whole grain bread, pasta and crackers.
  • Think whole grains. Many are naturally high in soluble fiber, in particular oats and barley. These can be purchased on sale or in bulk to save money. Store in a cool, dark place and they will keep for quite some time.
  • Save money by cutting down on the amount of meat you buy and replace the protein using canned or dried beans/legumes. Beans are a wonderful protein source as well as a great soluble fiber, which can help lower bad cholesterol. Dried beans are very inexpensive and canned beans are frequently on sale. Drain and rinse canned beans to decrease the sodium content.
  • To increase volume and keep you feeling full, add more vegetables and fruits to your diet. They are naturally low in fat and high in fiber. Keep in mind, you don’t have to buy fresh all of the time. Think canned and frozen too! Buy these when they are on sale and keep on hand in your pantry and/or freezer. You can also look for dried or juice versions as well.

Greek Pasta with Tomatoes and White Beans

Makes 6 servings


8 ounces whole grain or multi grain penne pasta

2 (14.5 oz.) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

10 ounces baby spinach

1 cup crumbled feta cheese


  • Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente (do not overcook).
  • While pasta cooks, combine tomatoes and beans in a large non-stick skillet. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low.
  • Add spinach to the sauce; cook for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly.
  • Add cooked pasta to sauce and heat through (about 3-5 minutes)
  • Sprinkle with feta and serve.


Nutrition Facts per Serving (approximate): Calories 309, Fat 4g, Cholesterol 11mg, Sodium 470 mg, Carbohydrate 50g, Fiber 9g, Protein 23g. Exchanges: 2 ½ Carbohydrate, 1 Protein.

Demo Tip: Prepare pasta ahead of time and place in a plastic bag with a small amount of oil.

Recipe adapted from: Bush’s Beans Copyright © Bush Brothers & Company, 2008

Chicken Garden Casserole

Serves 4


1 (8.25 oz.) can sliced carrots, drained

1 (8 oz.) can cut green beans, no salt added, drained

1 cup long-grain brown rice, uncooked

1 cup shredded cooked chicken

1 low-fat, low sodium condensed cream of chicken soup

½ cup skim milk

1 tsp. dried tarragon

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1/3 cup bread crumbs


  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook rice according to package directions. Combine rice, chicken, soup, milk, carrots, green beans, tarragon and black pepper. Spoon into a 2 qt. casserole dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 350°F oven for 40 minutes until heated through.

Recipe adapted from

 Nutrition Information (per serving): 360 calories, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 780mg sodium, 58g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 21g protein

Melissa Hehmann, MS, RDN, CDE, ACE-CPT, RYT
Nutrition, Fitness, Diabetes, Health & Wellness Communication

Melissa is a nutrition and fitness communications professional with over 15 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a background in diabetes education, fitness and corporate wellness. Melissa doesn't just preach it, though. She walks the talk. Melissa lives a very active life as an avid runner and yoga junkie. Melissa believes a nutritious plate is a colorful one. If you need to find her, she'll likely be in the kitchen with her husband and toddler son whipping up simple, vibrant and tasty meals.

See more about >