It’s been on shelves since 1973, has sold more than 3 million copies and is currently in its eighth printing.
With those kind of statistics, it’s easy to assume the cookbook I’m referring to was penned by the likes of Julia Child or Jacques Pepin, or perhaps came from Betty Crocker.
But those accolades belong to none other than The New American Heart Association Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $19.99 softcover). With more than 600 heart-healthy recipes, it has remained relevant through four decades of food trends and developments in science and nutrition.
With February being American Heart Month, it’s a good time to take a look at the book, affectionately called “Big Red” by the team who puts it together.
The book originally started out as a guide for patients who found out they had a heart problem, but over the years has morphed into a cookbook for those who are looking for ways to eat to prevent heart disease, not just recover from it.
“It looks pretty good for its age,” said Deborah Renza, managing editor for consumer publications for the Heart Association, who oversaw the publication of the latest edition, which was released in 2010.
Renza said the book, in 1973, was mostly being purchased only after a doctor gave a bad diagnosis. Back then, the biggest sufferers of heart attacks were thought to be men in their 60s and 70s. When their doctors would tell them their blood pressure was up and they had to lose weight, it was the homemakers who cooked for them who were most likely to reach for the book.
“The good wife would go out and get all of this healthy stuff. That was the thinking back in the day and it has evolved,” she said.
Now, most of us who eat healthy do so because we want to prevent that bad news from the doctor. We also know that heart disease is far from just a man’s disease, ranking as the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S.
The changes in the book over 40 years and eight editions reflect changes in science, trends in food, and a readership that is more food-aware than ever before.
Renza noted that nutritional information back in 1973 was limited to calories per serving. Now it includes specific information on fat, trans fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, fiber and sodium.
Recipes have been revamped to include foods, like whole grains, that current science tells us are important to a healthy diet.
Editors have worked to keep the book up-to-date by including foods we’re eating now. That’s why the current edition uses ingredients like quinoa and whole-grain pasta, items that were unheard of or unavailable years ago, Renza noted.
Early editions had recipes for low-calorie substitutes, including “mock sour cream” made from cottage cheese, skim milk and lemon juice, because there was no light or fat-free sour cream available. But as new products were introduced, the book kept up.
“We go with the times and go with the availability of foods that come into the marketplace,” she said.
The book also has had to become more sophisticated to keep up with modern eaters. Society has a more open attitude toward experimenting with new and different foods, because we see it on television and the Internet.
“We really are catering to a more food-savvy audience,” Renza said.
That’s why the book includes recipes for hummus, fish tacos and lettuce wraps, as well the flavors of Thai, Korean and Vietnamese foods that are popular now. “We know people are looking for that,” she said.
Here are a couple of recipes from the book to sample, which are reprinted here with permission from the publisher:
SLOW COOKER WHITE CHILI
For the chili:
1 lb. dried navy or Great Northern beans, sorted for stones and shriveled beans, rinsed
1 lb. skinless chicken thighs, with bone, all visible fat discarded
6 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
2 (4-oz.) cans chopped green chiles, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 medium fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs discarded, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
¼ tsp. cayenne
⅛ to ¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. salsa (lowest sodium available)
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. fat-free sour cream
In the order listed, put the chili ingredients in a 4- or 4½-quart slow cooker. Don’t stir. Cook, covered, on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the beans and chicken are tender.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bones. Separate the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir the chicken into the chili. Serve topped with the salsa and sour cream.
Makes six servings.
Each serving has about 388 calories, 5.5 grams total fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, no trans fat, 1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams monounsaturated fat, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 279 milligrams sodium, 55 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams fiber, 7 grams sugars, 31 grams protein. Dietary exchanges: 3½ starch, 3 very lean meat.
Note: To stretch this recipe to serve more, ladle over brown rice.
GUILTLESS BANANA PUDDING
1 cup fat-free milk
1 (1-oz.) package fat-free, sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix
8 oz. fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed in refrigerator
⅔ cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice or to taste
20 low-fat vanilla wafers, whole or crushed
2 medium bananas, thinly sliced
In a large bowl, whisk or beat the fat-free milk and pudding mix until thickened.
Fold in the whipped topping, condensed milk and lemon juice. Layer half of the vanilla wafers, half of the bananas, and half of the pudding mixture in an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Repeat. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate until needed.
Makes 10 servings, ¾ cup each.
Each serving has about 176 calories, 1.5 grams total fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, no trans fat, 0.5 grams polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams monounsaturated fat, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 257 milligrams sodium, 37 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 23 grams sugars, 3 grams protein. Dietary exchanges: 2½ carbohydrate.