Thursday, October 15, 2015

Eating Heart Healthy by Mary A. Berger

After dealing with a small stroke, a writer friend of mine posted a blog detailing his fondness for all the wrong foods, which he felt probably contributed to the stroke. His advice on making better food choices made a great deal of sense—cut out high cholesterol, pasta laden with creamy sauces, and sodas containing heavy amounts of sugar and caffeine.

Since my better half has endured a cardiac condition for many years, we long ago began watching what we ate and the quantities we ingested. This, along with my writer friend's words of advice, inspired me to share the following ideas that made made our journey into the world of "healthy eating" more palatable.

Meats - I rarely buy steak or beef products. Since we eat out now and then, we can get the red meat treat at those times. Skinless chicken is a must. I've also found that ground turkey, with a sprinkle of garlic or onion powder, is a good substitute for making hamburgers, and I serve non-battered, baked fish about twice a week.

Fruits and vegetables - There's no end to the variety, and most are good for heart healthy diets—with the exception of fried green beans which many restaurants now offer. An occasional sweet potato also makes its way onto my spouse's dinner plate. The key word is "occasional" since sweet potatoes contain lots of sugar. We even try to watch baked potatoes, or rather what we put on them. It's easy to overdo the added calories/cholesterol from too much butter. A cardiac dietician even recommended using liquid butter in place of tub butter.

Salads - Since many restaurant salads are served with creamy (and cholesterol-y) dressings already added, we try to avoid those and request dressing on the side or a lighter oil dressing. At home, I usually keep lite ranch dressing and seasoned rice vinegar on hand. One trick I've learned to extend ranch dressing is to pour a small amount into a container, then add some plain, fat-free yogurt. You still get the ranch taste, but the dressing is better for you. Or simply choose lo-fat dressing.

Side dishes - Plain, fat-free yogurt as a side dish can be made more palatable by sprinkling with a little sweetener or adding a spoonful of sugar-free jelly to it. Natural applesauce added to yogurt is also a tasty side. Yogurt added to potato salad in place of mayonnaise gives it a nice taste. I even add stirred plain yogurt to meat drippings for a delicious gravy/sauce.

BTW, Morton makes a Lite Salt product with half the sodium of regular salt, and LaChoy makes a lite sodium soy sauce with 55% less sodium. Even in low doses, both are tasty alternatives to their sodium-packed products.

I hope my suggestions will help anyone who's trying to watch their diet. And I wish the best to my writer pal and thank him for his willingness to "spread the word" about better eating habits.