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Recs for heart-healthy cooking gadgets for gifting? $150 or less (ideally)

My Dad recently had a heart attack scare (VERY scary, but I'm very thankful it wasn't worse) and he's pretty fit (goes for a jog daily) but his eating habits could use some improvement... he's a big fan of excessive snacking, and could use healthier food habits (i.e. tends to buy high-sodium frozen vegetables, packaged cookies that are fairly high in saturated fat, etc) so for Christmas I'm looking to get him some cooking gadgets to make heart-healthy eating more fun/tasty and convenient. I'm thinking maybe a steamer? But that's not too exciting, so any ideas are welcome!

For reference: He does some cooking himself, but ideally it should be relatively simple & low maintenance to clean. He generally eats fish & some red meat, but doesn't like pork or chicken much.

As a side note, if anyone has healthy recipe ideas or even heart-healthy pre-bought snacks they'd recommend, I'd be grateful for those, too. Thanks!

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  1. I am in the cookware business. I cannot think of any appliance or cookware that is specifically heart healthy, It is more like what you cook with it. Some might say a Geo. Foreman grill,but not necessarily, If you are grilling something fatty it is still going to be fatty. Yes, it drains off fat but so does a broiler pan or a grill (charcoal or gas). Maybe a subscription to Cooking Light or Eating Well? From my own experience with my father, if he wants to eat healthily he will, if not there is nothing you can do about it. It is totally up to him. By now and with the Dieticians and Cardiologist he has to know what is good and what he should avoid by now. It is an issue you cannot force. Maybe one of the super induction Zojirushi rice and steam cookers might intrigue him. They are not inexpensive.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Candy

      Thanks, I totally understand your point re: the both cookware (vs. what you're cooking) & it being up to the person to make the commitment to eating healthfully or not... just thought there may be suggestions like steamers/grills/etc that would lend themselves towards healthier cooking. With my Dad thus far (it's only been 4-6 weeks) it seems more of a cluelessness (I'm frequently saying "read the nutrition labels" when I'm home) than a love of unhealthy food-- i.e. if I replace a better snack and toss a worse one he has, as long as he likes the better one he'll stick with it & buy it again, it's just that he won't make the effort/ initiate reading the nutrition labels at the store & seeking out the better one on his own :-/

      I like the Cooking Light/ Eating Well idea. Thanks again!

    2. When I read the title to your thread my first thought was a steamer. But you're already on that one.

      My next suggestion would be herbs or a window herb garden. He will likely be on salt restrictions and herbs (I think) are the best way to combat "bland food" when you can't have salt.

      Maybe even a kit for growing your own sprouts. I know not super exciting but I love sprouts and they are so easy to grow at home with all different kinds of vegetable seeds. I think there are kits out there.

      I wish him well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: thimes

        Thanks! I like the idea of a window herb garden in the spring :) Also could be good bc he likes flavored drinks (again that sodium!) but fresh mint tea would be a tasty alternative.

      2. I agree with Candy and thimes. Cookware at the end are tools. It is the foods which count. That being said, there are health-ier way to prepare foods like the steamer you have thought of. Thimes' suggestion of a herb garden is wonderful as it will encourage him to use more herb and therefore less salt.

        What type of cookware do your dad use? I am going to suggest something strange on the surface. Get him a few Teflon/nonstick cookware. Yes, I know a lot of people view Teflon in suspicion, but the fact is that you can cook with less oil with a nonstick pan than any other cookware. Less oil is a good thing. He needs to cut down the beef though.

        Does your dad have high blood pressure? Soy bean is known to have ability to lower blood pressure for chronic dosing:


        Do you think he would like soy milk? If so, how about a soy milk machine for freshly made soy milk -- although it may be easier just to buy soy milk.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Your posts are always very helpful and thought out, so please don't take this as trolling but you suggest he trade lowering his blood pressure for a daily estrogen boost?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I think a good non stick skillet is an excellent gift for someone who has to cook lowfat.

            If I understand this, soy is no longer favored for health as it once was.

          2. I'm married to a man that has had multiple heart attacks and bypass surgery and honestly I can't suggest anything useful. A steamer is useless unless he actually likes steamed food and will use it. Same as any other item.

            I agree with the post suggesting one of the Zojirushi rice cookers that have a gaba rice function but only if your dad will eat brown rice. It's also not in the 150 range.

            1. You mentioned he tends to buy high-sodium frozen vegetables. My first thought is to get him some half size jelly roll pans, parchment paper and some spices. I thought half-size, assuming he is cooking for himself or perhaps two people.

              He could buy fresh vegetables, already washed and cut up to start. All he'd need to do is roast them with a small amount of olive oil and spices. The parchment paper makes clean up a lot easier. You could include some printed from the web recipes of difference spice combinations, or write up your own instructions.

              From there it's also pretty easy to move to roasted vegetable soups, so a stick blender could be another gift down the road.

              1. Hi, Jennlax27iga0:

                Sorry to hear about your dad's scare.

                How about a good, readable book on food-as-medicine, aka nutrition therapy? Or some really good salmon a couple times a week? CoQ10 in his stocking?

                I would be cautious about trying to force him toward a no-fat intake. He would be far more compliant, and you better served, if you concentrated your efforts on allowing him flavorful *better* fats to the exclusion of the worse and worst. Planning meals (and even spontaneous food choices) so that simple, low-glycemic carbs and fat aren't consumed in the same meal is a huge step forward (F+P and C+P are OK).

                I also caution you about soy, which is a phytoestrogen. Before and after going the soy route, I would recommend he have his testosterone levels checked; low T correlates with many mens' health problems, including heart problems and cancers, as well as shortened lifespan and dementia.

                Good on you for taking such good care of your dad.


                1. I agree with other posters that a gadget is not what determines the heart-healthiness of a dish. However, a new gadget may be just the thing to make it easier to create healthier eating options. I'll echo the stick blender suggestion, especially one that comes with a mini processor combo. Braun makes a decent one that is inexpensive. This has many applications for heart-healthy foods: smoothies; pureed soups and veggies; hummous and other spreads; pesto sauce; tomato sauce/salsa; chopped herbs (to add extra flavour in lieu of more unhealthy alternatives like salt and butter). Many of the condiment type things you can prepare with the food processor component can go a long way in adding richness to food without extra saturated fat and cholesterol.

                  1. My MIL had a heart attack this past spring. I sent her these two steamers (both of which I have and use):

                    Countertop electronic:


                    I adore both of them, but neither are necessary for steaming.

                    He does sound like he needs some info. Maybe you could consider a signing him up for a few sessions with a Registered Dietitian or Certified Clinical Nutritionist? Or the local continuing education program might have a Nutrition/Dietary choices class.

                    1. Some good advice so far. I would recommend that you meet first with a dietician or nutritionist to insure compatibility with your father. There are quite a few who know what they are talking about but have a poor bedside manner. A bad first experience could cause him not to go again.

                      Jacques Pepin did some work with doctors a while back in regards to healthy eating and heart disease. I have the first book and enjoy it but haven't picked up the second one yet.



                      1. My father didn't have a heart attack, but he did buy a Ninja. It cuts down on time spent chopping vegetables, so he is more likely to use them. He makes fruit smoothies. It's relatively simple as it has only one speed, so it is better than a more complicated food processor. Plus, it's called a Ninja, and ninjas are cool.

                        1. Sorry about your dad's attack - but glad that, overall, he's okay.

                          Don't know where you are, so you may have to do mail order, but I really recommend Penzey's salt free spice blends. They are so tasty and flavorful - my uncle, a life-long big eater was put on a fat free, salt free diet and with the penzey's blends, for the first time since the change, he said his food tasted REAL. That's big!

                          I highly rec microphone zesters - used for cheese or citrus, they add such extra flavor to food.

                          Non-stick saute pans are a huge help, as are silpat mats for baking. And smart balance margarine is excellent to bake or cook with, while still being healthy.

                          1. How about a cookbook or cooking classes? I'm thinking the local hospital or health authority should offer them if he's recently had heart health issues.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: pdxgastro

                              I think a cooking class is a great idea!

                            2. Jennlax27iga0, we'd recommend you post new queries to ask about your non-Cookware questions. Recipes are discussed on our Home Cooking board, at http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/31. Pre-packaged snacks are discussed on our General Chowhounding Topics board, at http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/27

                              1. Note: I have NOT tried this device before. But immediately upon reading the title of this thread, this appliance came to mind. supposed to make french fries and other fried goods with the use of very little added oil! your dad could enjoy some of his favorite fried snacks with much less guilt


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mattstolz

                                  It gets good reviews, Matt -- and I was thinking the same thing...it might be a good "gateway" appliance to lead him toward less salt and fat in his diet, without giving up the junky flavors he likes.

                                  Then you could nudge him toward sweet potato fries...or perhaps fried broccoli and cauliflower....

                                  And I love the idea of a cooking class and/or a few sessions with a dietician.

                                2. Sorry to hear about your dad. I'm not sure how adept a cook he is, but a lot of people find prepping vegetables time-consuming and/or annoying. Tools that encourage him to prepare more veggies could go a long way towards encouraging him to experiment more with veg-oriented dishes and snacks. That can be as simple as a new knife and cutting board (neither has to be the "ultimate" -- a Victorinox chef's knife and Epicurean or bamboo cutting board will set you back $50 total) or you can go the more gadgety route, like a slap-chop, an egg separator, one of those avocado slicer/pitter/scooper tools, a garlic press. A Microplane can make food prep easier and maybe even more fun. Most of that stuff is pretty easy to clean and dishwasher safe. Don't worry about what experienced cooks like or use--whatever helps inspire your dad to make a steak salad for dinner instead of just a steak is a great gift.

                                  1. I know you were looking for tools/gadgets but I thought this may be of some help. After getting the link open, check the heart healthy box and see what you think. The recipes are for Vitamix, but may be adaptable to other blenders. In any event, like some of the posters started, it is more the food than the pan or gadget. I hope this helps:


                                    1. Steamers! Microwaves kill most or all of the nutrients in food. Their use should become very limited for the food that he cooks. I own several. Depending on what and how he will be cooking he may want merely a simple folding basket type that goes into a pot. Or he may want an electric steamer. Or both. The Oster is decent at $40. The Sakura is more money at about $70, but is stainless and offers more flexibility to cook really large items or multiple things across different separate levels.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: jkling17

                                        Please post citations, from peer-reviewed journals, please.

                                        Here's a link from the Harvard Family Medical Health Guide that states otherwise:

                                        And one from the New York Times (not peer-reviewed, but an awful lot of requests for citations return popular press, so here it is): http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/hea... (Read the bottom line


                                        And one more pop blog that agrees: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek... -- the very first sentence

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Hi Sunshine,

                                          Glad to. Here are a few links with a counterview. Decide what you will. As to "peer reviewed", I think that all of us should consider carefully the source of information that could impact our lives (not just health but also finances, etc), whether these sources are credible, seem to have earnest motives, and how likely might it be for their view to be influenced by "big money", etc.

                                          I find it VERY interesting that microwaved water will kill a plant. Consider - most food weight is water, right? So ... if that would kill a plant ... then surely there is something about the process of radiating food that is less than savory for our optimal health - over time.

                                          Full disclosure - yes we do own a microwave but make a real effort to minimize it's use and limit it to "foods without much nutrition" like microwave popcorn.


                                          Enjoy and be healthy! I hope that you find some of this interesting.

                                          1. re: jkling17

                                            we went down this road a few weeks ago:


                                            and particularly here:

                                            I found it rather interesting that not a single one of the links you posted is peer-reviewed,or even gives the education or qualifications of any of the authors. Okay - one of them has a B.Sc. - so? Millions of people have a B.Sc.

                                            And I wouldn't believe Gary Null if he told me the sky was blue - -he's been disproven too many times to even waste my energy clicking on the link.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Folks, please let this sub-thread go. This thread isn't about this, and you're derailing their question down a line that has been discussed many times before.

                                              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                i do agree that steamers would be a good present though! theyre very versatile and fun to use (especially bamboo steamers) ive seen them used as steamers, smokers, etc