Sunday, February 26, 2017

Watch the fat or watch the carbs?

How many times do you hear people say, “I am watching my carbs.”  Have you ever heard someone say, “I am watching the fat in my diet”?  Probably not.  So much focus on carbs but so little focus on fat in one’s diet.  Since February is heart health month, let’s look at what fats you should be “watching” in your diet.  We need fat in our diets but we also should cut back on saturated fats in our diets.  The Dietary Guidelines offer specific recommendations about saturated fat:

Limit calories from saturated fat by consuming an eating pattern low in saturated fats.  Specifically, by consuming less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. 

Why the focus on lowering our saturated fat intake?
The Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend lowering our saturated fat intake because:
The recommendation to limit intake of calories from saturated fats to less than 10 percent per day is a target based on evidence that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. 

What are some ways to cut back on saturated fat?
  • Dairy – whole fat dairy foods have saturated fat so switch to low-fat milk, or fat free milk.  Choose low fat yogurt and cheese lower in fat like mozzarella cheese.
  • Meat – choose leaner cuts of such as lean hamburger or chose ground turkey.  Cut back on bacon and sausage which are higher in saturated fats.
  • Oil – oils like olive oil, corn oil, safflower are good, heart healthy choices.  But avoid the tropical oils, palm and coconut oil, as these are high in saturated fat.
The Two Docs, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen offer some good ideas for cutting back on saturated fat in their article, “Get real with yourself about the sat-fat you’re ingesting” (Two Docs, FLS 2014).
  • Chicken – a healthy choice until you choose fried chicken with skin or Buffalo Wings.  Choose baked or grilled chicken.  Going out to eat?  Look for grilled chicken on the menu.
  • Pasta – pasta with a red spaghetti tomato-based sauce is a healthy choice, Alfredo sauce not so much.  Alfredo sauce tastes good but often packs in the calories and the saturated fat.
  • Mayonnaise, bleu cheese dressing – mayonnaise, a tasty choice for bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwich.  But mayo has saturated fat so limit the amount you use.    Bleu cheese dressing also tastes great on a salad but has saturated fat.  Enjoy occasionally on your salad or choose a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Going out to eat at a restaurant?  By choosing foods that are lower in saturated fat, you can lower your risk of heart disease.  Look for baked or grilled, choose the marinara spaghetti sauce over the Alfredo sauce.  Choose the balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.   There are many ways you can replace some of the saturated fats in your diet with healthier unsaturated fats.   Going out for Fast Food?  Look at the nutrition information online and choose options that are lower in saturated fat.  All of the major chains, McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell have the nutrition information for their menu choices posted online.

Sources:  Dietary Guidelines, Get real with yourself about the sat-fat you’re ingesting, Two Doc, Free Lance Star, 8- 2014.  Image source:  spaghetti

Sunday, February 19, 2017

How to eat for a healthy heart?

In honor of American Heart Month, this week we will look at heart health and what you can eat for a healthier heart.  The Centers for Disease Control notes even small changes in your diet and lifestyle can lead to healthier changes for your heart.  Why be concerned about heart health?  CDC states, “heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women”.  Another great source of information is The American Heart Association, the go to place for questions about heart health and how to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle.  What are some of their recommendations in terms of healthier eating and exercise? 

Eating for a healthy heart:  Small steps to take
  • Eat at home at least 3 times a week.   By skipping the fast food and restaurant meals you can prepare meals that are lower in fat, especially meals lower in saturated fat, and lower in sodium.
  • Use more herbs and spices when cooking – keep the flavor while cutting back on the amount of salt in a recipe.
  • Focus meals on foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Cut back on sugary drinks – those with added sugar like sodas
  • Focus on healthier fats – look for olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and healthier fats in avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish
According to the American Heart Association a heart healthy eating plan focuses on:
  •  Adding more fruits and vegetables to your day – aim for at least 5 A DAY
  • Whole grains for fiber, vitamins and a boost of minerals lacking or missing from white bread
  • Enjoy dairy – but choose low fat.   Milk – 1% or fat free, and low fat yogurt are good choices
  • Baked Not Fried – choosing chicken and fish are great choices but frying adds fat and extra calories
  • Nuts – have a handful a day – nuts are higher in fat but they have a heart healthy fat.  I sprinkle chopped walnuts on my oatmeal for a nutrition boost.  Try adding some chopped walnuts to a salad.  California walnuts has many American Heart Association certified heart healthy recipes on its website at  
What about exercise and your heart?

Walking -  The American Heart Association recommends walking as the easiest way to start improving your heart health.  They note it is easy, free, enjoyable and a great way to get some exercise every day. 

What about cardio and strength training?    How much exercise does the American Heart Association recommend for a healthy heart?
Exercising for Overall Heart Health
  • 5 Days a Week – do at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio/aerobic exercise for a total of 150 minutes a week OR
  • 3 Days a Week – do at least 25 minutes of more vigorous cardio/aerobic exercise to get a total of 75 minutes a week
  • Add Strengthening Exercise – at least 2 days a week
Exercise to lower blood pressure and your cholesterol
                3-4 Times a week, do about 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardio/aerobic exercise

The 30 minutes of exercise doesn’t have to be done all at one time.  Short on time? Then a 15-minute walk in the morning and a 15-minute walk at lunch or after work. 

To read more about the American Heart Association’s recommendations for heart healthy eating, go to The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. has recommendations for heart healthy eating, many heart healthy recipes and suggestions for dining out. To get whole grains, walnuts and fruits and vegetables into your day, try the Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula recipe.

Sources:  Centers for Disease Control, exercise, The American Heart Association's Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations, heart healthy recipes,  Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula  Image source:  Salad

Quinoa-Chicken Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Grapes and Arugula

Sunday, February 12, 2017

4 More Healthy Eating Habits from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition

Last week I shared 4 of the Healthy Eating Habits the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition recommends.  The Council has Eight Healthy Eating Goals, and this week we will look at the remaining 4 healthy eating habits you can adopt in 2017.  So many people think healthy eating means giving up food.  But for many people, healthy eating means adding food to your day – adding more fruits and vegetables, adding whole grains.  Yesterday, I was in a grocery store and the mother of a toddler was buying a carton of Juice Drink boxes.  She probably thought this was a healthy choice but she was really buying mostly sugar water for her young child.  Had she bought real juice she would have been offering her toddler something with nutritional value rather than a drink of empty calories.  Making some small changes in the foods we choose to eat and buy each day can have a major impact on our health.  Simply buying real juice instead of juice drinks made of sugar water would be a big improvement in one’s diet.   As noted last week, many people are interested in healthier eating but then seem confused by nutrition myths as to what is healthy.  This mother probably thought something labeled “Juice Drink” was a healthy juice and was fooled by the labeling.   Adopting good, healthy eating habits and making even small changes in daily habits can result in good things for your health.  Here are 4 more healthy eating goals adapted from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition,  Eight Healthy Eating Goals.  

Try one or more of these healthy eating goals this week for a healthier you. 

Goal 1:  Choose Lean protein:    Somehow this has been construed to thinking chicken is lean so fried chicken nuggets are healthy.  Not true.  Choosing baked or broiled chicken is healthy but frying adds fat, defeating the whole purpose of choosing leaner chicken.  Other choices can include seafood (not fried), dry beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.  When buying ground beef, choose the leaner cuts (the label will state 90% lean).  Or choose ground turkey. 

Goal 2:  Drink water instead of sugary drinks:  Another goal of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to reduce the “added sugars” in our diets.  When the mother in the grocery store chooses the juice drink, she was choosing a beverage for her daughter loaded with added sugars.  Most people think only sugared sodas are sources of added sugar and then buy Hi-C, Sunny D and other juice drinks that are loaded with added sugar.  Many energy drinks and sports drinks are also loaded with added sugar.  Choose water with a slice of lemon.  Choose real 100% juice and not juice drinks. 

Goal 3:   Eat some Seafood:    Seafood is a great way to add some “good” fats to your diet, the Omega-3 fats.  Choices of seafood include salmon, tuna, trout and shellfish such as crab and oysters.  Seafood is a good source for protein, many minerals and the Omega- 3 fats which are heart healthy fats.   

Goal 4:  Cut back on Solid Fats:  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we cut back on solid fats.  These would be foods containing shortening, stick margarine, or butter such as the cookies, cake and other desserts you buy.   Pizza is another source of solid fats as is sausage, hot dogs, bacon and ribs.  Ice cream is a source of solid fats but there are low fat varieties that taste pretty good.  The President’s Council and the Dietary Guidelines don’t say we have to eliminate foods with solid fats from our diet, but to cut back on them.  Choosing leaner protein foods and lower fat milk is a way to cut back on solid, saturated fats in our diets.
Some ideas adapted from the President’s Council  for cutting back on Salt, Sugar and Solid Fats:
  • Choose baked or grilled food – going out for some Fast Food?  Look at the menu and instead of a fried chicken sandwich, get the grilled chicken sandwich.
  • Choose water or low-fat milk or fat-free milk as your beverage and skip the sugar sweetened sodas and fruit drinks.
  • Serve more fruit – at breakfast make sure you have some real juice or a piece of fruit.  Always pack fruit in your lunch or your kid’s lunch.  Serve more fruit for dessert. 

What small changes can you make this week for healthier eating habits in 2017?   If you drink whole milk, try switching to 2% milk.  Pack your lunch more often and pack a piece of fruit with your lunch.  Pack a low-fat yogurt in your lunch.  Have more fresh fruit for your kids to snack on and make sure any juice boxes you buy are real juice and not sugared fruit drinks with little juice but lots of added sugar. 

Sources:  Eight Healthy Eating Goals   Image Source:  Water

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Healthy Eating Habits

Almost everyone is interested in healthy habits but then seem confused by nutrition myths as to what is healthy.  So many people are “watching their carbs” or avoiding starches, avoiding bread.  But none of these are really healthy habits.  Adopting good, healthy eating habits and making even small changes in daily habits can result in good things for your health.  The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition has Eight Healthy Eating Goals.   We will review 4 this week and 4 goals next week.  They recommend making small changes each week towards a healthier diet and a healthier you.
Goal 1:   Make half your plate fruits and vegetables:   Eating more fruits and vegetables is so very important to good health.  The easiest way to do this is 5 A Day – aiming for eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day.  Have a serving of fruit at breakfast, a fruit and vegetable serving at lunch and then 2 vegetables at dinner.  You want to vary the color for optimal nutrition as different colors offer different antioxidants, different vitamins and minerals.
Goal 2:  Make half your grains whole grains:    Rather than “watching your carbs” or avoiding bread, you should add carbs to your day.  But good carbs that are whole grain.  Enjoy a whole grain cereal for breakfast.  Buy English muffins or bagel thins that are whole grain.  Buy some whole grain crackers.  Enjoy some popcorn as a snack. The President’s Council recommends looking for things like: "whole wheat," "brown rice," "bulgur," "buckwheat," "oatmeal," "rolled oats," quinoa," or "wild rice."
Goal 3:  Choose low fat milk, yogurt and cheese.  Some people think low fat milk or fat free milk has less nutrients than whole milk. But that isn’t true.  The calcium, protein and other nutrients are the same.  Just the fat is less.   If you are used to drinking whole milk, try switching to 2%.  If you drink 2% milk, try switching to 1% milk.  Any reduction in fat is good for your health.  Yogurt is great for your health, but choose low fat yogurt.  Look for lower fat cheese, like mozzarella made with 2% milk.
Goal 4:  Lower the sodium in your diet.  I would also add increase the potassium.  Read the label to see how much sodium in in the food you are eating.  And be sure to add more fruits and vegetables to your day for extra potassium.  Potassium helps counter the bad effects of sodium in your diet. 

What small changes can you make this week?  Pack your lunch and include 2 fruits and vegetables.  Bring a fruit such as an apple or banana along for a snack.  Choose some whole grains like a bowl of Cheerios with a sliced banana and some 1% milk.

Sources:  Eight Healthy Eating Goals   Image Source:  Healthy Grains

Healthy Grains