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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Final Post For 2009 - Health Care Reform

This will be my final post for 2009 as we are going on a trip for the remainder of the school break.  I want to end the year with a post on healthcare reform, a topic that concerns us all.  You may be surprised to learn that my husband and I favor healthcare reform, especially in areas such as insurance, tort reform and rising medical costs. 

There are few topics that can make my blood pressure rise faster than health insurance.  While I have been fortunate to have had good coverage, I know that is not so for everyone.  Some of my friends and aquaintances have said their health insurance is just fine and that they are against reform.  Those same people have been lucky enough so far not to have had major medical problems.  They also don't see that lack of insurance coverage for everyone contributes to higher medical costs for all.  A friend's grandson was born prematurely and needed to be flown emergently to a children's hospital with specialized care.  The bill for the flight was $10,000 but the young couple's insurance policy only paid $500.  Another friend has to have a separate policy for her child who was born with a small hole in her heart.  Though she is now 12 and doctors long ago said the hole has closed and she is fine, the insurance companies probably have labeled her for life.  I could go on and on but the truth is we are all a medical disaster away from financial ruin.  Our own insurance cost has gone up but the coverage for wellness visits has gone down. 

When people without health insurance can't afford to visit a doctor, they often wait until their problem is much more serious and then go to the emergency room.  This makes health care costs much higher than they need be because someone, the doctors and hospitals, eats the cost of treating those who can't pay.

Then there is tort reform.  Our legislators don't want to touch this hot topic at all.  Fear of being sued often causes doctors to perform needless tests or procedures, raising medical costs again.  Medical malpractice insurance costs contribute to the overall healthcare cost as well. 

The general public is unaware of the influence that legislatures, lobby groups, insurance companies and hospitals have in dictating medical costs and reimbursements.  There is a push right now to do away with outpatient imaging centers and move them back to the hospitals.  Hospitals get paid more insurance money for imaging than outpatient centers.  It makes no sense get rid of outpatient centers as far as controlling costs and better patient access is concerned.  You also may not be aware that health insurance companies are exempt from federal anti-trust laws.  This means that they can and do fix prices and allocate customers.  You also can't buy insurance across state lines.  This limits competition and insures that the consumer pays artificially higher prices.  The House version of the healthcare bill eliminates the exemption for insurance companies.

My husband and I certainly have no perfect answers for healthcare reform.  The problem is very complex and has evolved over decades.  I only hope any legislation passed is a step in the right direction and not promoted as a final solution. 

In the meantime, have a happy, safe New Year.  If you have any questions or issues you'd like to see addressed in a future blog, please ask in the comment section.         

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is here and I hope the weather is nicer wherever you are.  Santa will be coming in a row boat to our house I'm afraid, and his red suit will be replaced with galoshes and a yellow slicker.  My husband is working this holiday weekend but hopefully it won't be too bad.  My daughter is at swim team practice - no slacker there - and my son is still asleep. 

I have already completed my exercise routine this morning.  I am frequently asked what I do to stay in shape and I usually reply that I do alot of different things.  I used to ride horses several times a week but I don't have a horse I can ride at this time.  As you read on Tuesday, we used to have yoga lessons every week but had to quit.  So what do the cardiologist and his wife do for exercise?  We both took up swimming this summer and really enjoyed it.  My daughter has even taught me to do a rudimentary butterfly stroke.  Swimming is out now for the winter and we have moved on to other types of exercise.  Barry joined a gym and a trainer set up a weight routine for him and our son.  They go as many times a week as their schedules permit.   I decided to work on my own for awhile and I have stuck to my schedule pretty well.  Three days a week, I do weight work and yoga stretching, using exercises I've learned from past trainers.  Two more days I do yoga stretching and something aerobic, like walking, dancing or stair climbing.  I try to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes five days a week and in addition, I spend at least 30 minutes most days cleaning the barn.  Barn cleaning means lots of shoveling and lifting so even if I don't have time to "exercise", I've already had quite a workout.  Three days a week I do 100 situps as good abs protect your back.

This type of workout is not for everyone.  Most people aren't fond of exercise (my husband) and need an outside influence (paid trainer).  Some people, my daughter being one of them, thrive on being active.  So if you are planning on starting an exercise program for 2010, you should look into some sort of group activity or working with an instructor.  Don't try to do too much at first - this could lead to an injury or burnout.  Perhaps just adding a walk around the block is enough for now - just get moving. 

Here's wishing you a Happy, Healthy Christmas shared with your friends and family.    

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Consider Yoga For Fitness

As we all think about New Year's Resolutions in the coming weeks, I plan to share some exercise routines or diets that might work well for you.  Yoga is a wonderful way to exercise as it increases your flexibility, reduces stress, tones your muscles and can be done by any age group.  Even young children or older adults can benefit from and enjoy yoga. 

Originating in India, yoga is a traditional physical and mental discipline incorporating different poses or asanas, with importance placed on breathing, relaxing or meditating.  There are several different types of yoga taught in the U. S. but some of the more common are: Hatha which is more gentle and flowing, Bikram or hot yoga, Iyengar which concentrates on correct position and lengthy poses, Vinyasa which is more vigorous, and Ashtanga which is very intense.  No matter which type you try, the poses are basically the same.  If you decide to give yoga a try, look for a Yoga I or a beginner's class taught by a certified teacher.  A certified, attentive teacher will help you safely correct your poses and get the most from your workout. 

Barry and I had private yoga lessons for several years but time constrictions forced us to give up our class time.  I still practice yoga at home nearly every day to prevent the lower back pain I sometimes suffer.  Barry saw similar benefits from his various aches and pains but doesn't incorporate yoga into his schedule nearly enough now.  If you men think yoga is a workout for women and sissies, think again.  Many of the poses require quite a bit of strength and tone every muscle you have.  Also, many sports are now recognizing the benefits of having a flexible and strong body.  Barry will certainly agree that our yoga classes were some of the hardest workouts he's ever had. 

My daughter liked going to yoga with us but our son found the poses difficult due to his inflexibility.  One of the best benefits we all got from our class was learning to conciously relax our whole body and be calm.  Even young children need to learn to handle stress and yoga is an excellent tool to use. 

Yoga classes are taught just about everywhere so you shouldn't have trouble finding one you like.  I hope yoga works for you.  Namaste.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Video Makes A Graphic Point

The following video from New York City's Health Department makes a vivid point for limiting soft drinks and other sugary drinks in our diet in a very graphic way.  If nothing else makes you think about what you and your children are drinking, I hope this video does.  Watch it more than once and share it with someone who needs to see it.  Too much sugar will leave you strung out and tired during the holiday rush anyway.     

Thanks to my son for helping me add it to my blog.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Breakfast IS Important - Breakfast Tips For The Time Challenged

No one at my house ever misses a meal, especially not breakfast. I can't imagine anyone going off to school or work with an empty, growling stomach. How can you concentrate or get anything done? Then, the other problem is that you are much more likely to overeat when you do stop for food. Studies show that people who eat breakfast are much more likely to maintain a healthy weight.

So what does the cardiologist's family eat for breakfast? On school/work days, we have something that is quick such as cereal, oatmeal, scrambled or sunny side-up eggs. Barry drinks coffee while the rest of us have orange juice or milk. The kids like shredded wheat, and I like multigrain Cheerios. Sometimes the kids make cheese toast, or have a sausage biscuit. One product I've tried are Jimmy Dean's D-Light breakfast sandwiches found in the freezer section. They have much less fat than a sausage biscuit and are made with egg whites and canadian bacon on an English muffin. They microwave in about two minutes. The kids eat toaster pastries once a week and fruit is always available.

The weekends usually mean a bigger, nicer breakfast. I make pancakes, muffins (Fiber One), coffe cake or biscuits. Now that Grace is an accomplished biscuit maker, she often takes over breakfast. We don't eat bacon or sausage often but we do eat it, maybe once a week. Eggs are perfectly fine to eat. I think they got a bad rap a few years ago but eat the egg whites if you'd rather. At 70 calories for one large egg, only 4 1/2 grams of fat plus protein, vitamin A, calcium and iron, they are perfectly nutritious.

A couple of years ago, there were several complaints about the quantity of food served in our local school's lunches. One woman wrote in a letter to the editor of the local paper that her son was often left hungry after eating lunch at school. However, she confessed in the letter that she and her son slept as late as possible and skipped breakfast or grabbed a granola (candy) bar. I was greatly offended that this woman blamed the school for not feeding her son, yet she made no effort to feed him before school herself! It really doesn't take much time to eat cereal and a bananna or to have boiled eggs on hand ready to eat in the morning.

Please don't start your morning with a soda or something sugary like donuts every day. The sugar load just leaves you hungry sooner and tired. Speaking of sodas, I hope my son can help me load a video soon that everyone needs to watch. It makes the point of not drinking excess sodas and sugary drinks very well so check back.

I hope that one of your New Year's resolutions will be to make breakfast a part of your regular routine if it isn't already. I think you'll realize the benefits right away.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Red Meat, Do We Eat It?

My husband gave a talk to a high school pre-Ap biology class a couple of weeks ago and one of the questions from the teacher was, "Do you eat red meat?". The answer is somewhat complicated. Barry likes red meat and often orders a steak when we go out to eat. My children like beef too. I do not care for red meat as much and no one can beat me when it comes to turning a piece of beef into shoe leather. Since I do most of the cooking and shopping, that means we seldom eat beef. I almost always use ground turkey instead of hamburger in any recipe such as meatloaf, spaghetti or sloppy joes.

Since we eat so little red meat, I don't worry about whether it's healthy or not. However, I learned early on that a lean piece of meat will not make a good pot roast. That's the problem with beef. It can be tough and have less flavor without the fat or marbeling. Often, we make gravy or rich sauces when we cook beef, further adding to the fat content. Portions served of beef such as steak, tend to be much larger than chicken or fish portions. My conclusion is that beef can be a part of a healthy diet when portions are reasonable and it is eaten occasionally.

If you have never tried ground turkey in your cooking, I challenge you to try it soon. I'm sharing my favorite version of sloppy joes which can be whipped up quickly or even made ahead and warmed up on busy days. I served them last night with cole slaw for added taste and fiber. A side of fruit salad finished the meal.

Sloppy Joes
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 chopped green pepper
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tsp. prepared mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Comine beef, onion, green pepper and celery in a skillet and cook till meat is no longer pink. Drain excess fat. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook until heated through. Serve with slaw if desired, on buns.

I'll share a tip to reduce fat content after you have browned ground turkey or beef. Pour meat into a colander in the sink and rinse with water. Let drain well and return to pan to finish cooking.

Cilantro Slaw
1/4 cup fresh finely chopped cilantro or 1 to 2 tsp. dried
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tbsp. reduced fat mayonaise
1 tbsp. white wine or rice wine vinegar
1 12 ounce package slaw mix
Whisk together first ingredients in a large bowl. Add slaw mix and toss to coat well.

This slaw has less fatty mayonaise than most slaw recipes. It gave our sandwiches a nice crunch and more fiber. I threw this dinner together quickly last night and put it in the fridge. Then I went to a Christmas concert at my daughter's school. My son, who stayed home to study, warmed up the sloppy joes when we were on the way home and we had a nice dinner.

The end of the year fast approaches and we all make New Year's resolutions. In some of my next blogs, we'll talk about exercise. It's so important to find an activity you really enjoy because you are more likely to stick with it. I hope your Christmas shopping is almost wrapped up!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bits and Pieces of a Pre-holiday Week

It has been an interesting and busy week. My post is late due to cookie baking and a Christmas band concert. I've been cramming in something every minute of the day and I know you are too.

While eating lunch Wednesday, I read an article in Time magazine about chefs finding ways to get skinny. Alton Brown of Food Network fame suddenly realized that he and his fans were seriously overweight and has questioned his role in America's obesity epidemic. He and other chefs are finding ways to eat better and lose the weight. Alton Brown gave up junk food such as french fries. Many of the chefs in the article cut back on portions and concentrated on lean meats and vegetables. If people surrounded by wonderful food all day can find the will power, so can you.

Then yesterday I heard a startling confession from an aquaintance who is a normal size. She says she eats half a can of frosting every night for dinner! We were at a holiday lunch and dessert had been served. She went on to say that she just couldn't leave sweets alone. You can imagine how horrified I was. When I told her she would wreck her health, she replied that her check ups were always great. I asked when she last had one, she did confess it was years ago. My friend commented that the frosting didn't do anything for her energy level, indeed she felt tired later. If this sounds familiar, I sincerely hope you will get a check up right away. Eating sugar in such quantities will wear your body out trying to manage the overload. Compare that to a potted plant that is overwatered every day. It can only handle the excess water so long before it rots and dies. I'd be surprised if she isn't diabetic. And what kind of example is she setting for her children? She is condeming them to a life of poor eating habits. She went on to say that when her son asks about dinner, she doesn't want to fix anything because she's eaten frosting and is full and too tired!

On Monday night I gave a joint talk with my husband to a group of women in a weight loss program. I commend their efforts to regain their health and wish them well. My talk was brief but I shared some of my strategies for healthy eating while my husband talked about health consequences. Joining a group such as this can give you support and friends to share the journey. Maybe such a program is right for you.

Even though we've been extra busy with the holiday rush, I've still made health eating a priority for my family. I've missed some days of exercise due to shopping but I won't quit and neither should you.

An update on my friend with the aneurysm: he is finally out of intensive care and has started physical therapy. However, their 26 year old daughter who suffers from Crohns disease had to have surgery on Monday. She is recovering nicely but it was another blow to the family. Please keep them in your thoughts this holiday season. Think about what a gift a healthy body is.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Confession of the Year

If you have been reading my blog, you know I sometimes confess our weaknesses. We are not perfect in our quest for good health and I wouldn't want you to think we are.
So here it is: we host an annual Christmas cookie party! There, the truth is out. It is quite a decadent affair as everyone is offered a dazzling array of homemade treats, hot cider or the newest addition, mocha punch. No calories are spared, butter and sugar are used freely and any fiber content is accidental. The only exercise we encourage is the lifting of cookies and a good jaw workout.
It sounds as bad as a dentist handing out candy on the playground, doesn't it? However, I'm a big believer in the health benefits of good times spent with friends and family and one of the best gifts you can give is the gift of laughter.
So starting tomorrow, I will be busy as an elf baking cookies. Fortunately, my sister helps as well. I'm not sure what she is making but my line up includes The World's Best Cookies, Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies, Oreo Truffles and a new one, Praline Cookies. I will also be making mocha punch which we tried last year and it was a big hit. It also couldn't be worse for you as it is basically a milkshake on steroids. I will share this recipe and you can try it if you are having a large get together. Though you'd be tempted, don't drink it all yourself as it will cause a diabetic coma.

Mocha Punch
1 quart chocolate milk
1 quart chocolate ice cream
1 quart coffee ice cream
1 cup strong coffee, chilled
Dash of salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Mix all ingredients in a large punch bowl as you would a milkshake. Serve immediately. Makes about 12 or so small servings.

To offset this potential health disaster, I will be exercising and eating light this week. This is one of my strategies when I know I have a "bad" event coming up where I am sure to over indulge. That is also one of my points to this blog: you can indulge once in awhile if you eat right and exercise most of the time. Another small confession: one of my husband's biggest weaknesses is cookies. He can't pass one up unless its store bought.

I hope you are taking the time to enjoy the holiday season and not letting the stress wear you down. Also, take time for your health.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Portion Control and Christmas Shopping

Right away you are wondering what Christmas shopping has to do with portion control. Maybe nothing for most people but if I had stayed home this morning to write as usual, I could have avoided alot of frustration. Two and a half hours of shopping yielded zero presents. However, some people tend to overeat when frustrated, anxious, bored or unhappy. (There's your connection!) It is important to recognize your triggers for overeating and to avoid them or find other ways of coping.

I eat when I'm bored so I try to keep busy to take my mind away from food, or I remind myself that I'm eating from boredom, not hunger. I overeat when I get too hungry and haven't eaten soon enough. Therefore I eat regular meals and small snacks. We all overeat at parties and holidays so we need to plan ahead to compensate. You get the picture. Think about what prompts you to eat more than necessary and how you can change that bad habit.

Another problem is that Americans have become accustomed to larger servings of food than we truly need. All you can eat buffets, Big Gulps and McDonald's super size it have led the way to obesity. This can be a difficult habit to break. One way to eat less is to use salad plates instead of dinner plates since they are smaller and hold less food. You can also buy "portion" plates where an appropriate serving size is marked on the plate. Skip seconds unless it's the steamed broccoli or water. Avoid buffets like the plague and remember, you shouldn't have to peer around your food to see your spouse sitting across the table. It's also desirable to actually see your plate instead covering every inch with food. My mother-in-law only eats half her food at restaurants and has the waiter put the other half in a doggie bag to take home. Two meals for the price of one!

I hope today's blog makes you think about how much food you eat and how you can cut back. Remember that skipping meals won't help you cut calories in the long run. Regular, sensible meals provide what your body needs in a steady flow, maintaining better health.

Have a happy weekend and may your Christmas shopping go well!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brain Aneurysms

Sometimes, despite our best efforts at taking care of ourselves, something really traumatic occurs. This is the case with one of our friends, who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm just before Thanksgiving. Phillip didn't smoke, exercised every day and ate a healthy diet. So, through no fault of his own, he is now in intensive care and we are praying for his complete recovery. He underwent surgery to drain the blood and has made progress so far.

A brain aneurysm is a bulging, weak area of an artery supplying blood to the brain. There are often no symptoms but if it ruptures, blood is released into the skull causing a stroke. This can lead to brain damage or death but a good recovery is possible.

The tendency to develop aneurysms can be inherited or can occur due to hardening of the arteries (heart disease) as we age. The following risk factors can increase the chances of developing an aneurysm or rupturing it if you already have one:
1. family history - if a close relative had one, you are more likely to have them
2. having had a previous aneurysm makes you more likey to have another
3. gender - women are more likely to have them
4. race - blacks are more likely to develop brain aneurysms
5. high blood pressure
6. smoking

You can see that even though sometimes bad things happen to people who take care of their health, it is still worthwhile to take care of your own. Our friend has a much better chance for recovery because his overall health is good. He has low cholesterol and good blood pressure, plus he is in good physical shape. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts.

Speaking of your health, I hope you've been exercising and didn't eat too much this Thanksgiving. I missed a couple of days of exercise but I got right back to my routine yesterday, as did my husband. I really cut back on my portions this year. I will be writing about portion control on Thursday, so check back in. Till then, have a health, happy day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wishing You All A Happy Thanksgiving

My only post this week will be brief. I'm hoping everyone takes the time to relax and truly enjoy the holiday. Laugh with your friends and family, sleep late, get some fresh air and put aside your troubles for a day or two. Taking the time to truly connect with others is just as important to your good health as anything else. Put down the phones, the camera, get off the computer and be in the moment. Volunteer at a community dinner if you are alone and bring happiness and comfort to someone else.

I'm offering a quick soup recipe that can be ready in 30 minutes and is a good change of pace for all the big meals you'll eat in the next few days. We ate it last night as we are eating light before the big day.

Tortellini Soup
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
1 carrot, sliced thin
3 cans chicken broth, low sodium and reduced fat
sliced fresh mushrooms, preferably Portabello
1 9 oz. package tortellini
1 diced zucchini
1/2 cup broccoli florets

Saute onion and carrot in hot oil till lightly brown. Add mushrooms, broth, broccoli and tortellini. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add zucchini and simmer 3 to 4 more minutes. Pepper to taste.

Because I have two growing children, I add a larger package of tortellini, more broth and extra vegetables. Neither one complains about eating the zucchini in this soup!

Happy Thanksgiving to all and I'll see you next week!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving meals require plenty of advance planning. First you have to plan the menu based on the number of people coming and whether others are bringing food. Then you have to make a shopping list from all the recipes and worse, do the shopping. Hopefully, someone is helping and you are not alone in this endeavor.

Our menu as it stands today is: roasted turkey that has been brined, cornbread dressing and gravy, cranberry salad, sweet potato casserole, rolls, some sort of green vegetable and of course, pumpkin pie. I haven't decided on the green vegetable as there are several recipes I'm considering, each of which has different fans.

I want to remind everyone that you will feel less guilty about indulging a bit on Thanksgiving if you make healthy choices before (and after) the big day. We've been eating black bean soup recently and last night, we had a stir fry from several leftovers. I had lots of leftover rice from the black bean soup, half a cabbage and a few green onions. I also had about half a smoked pork tenderloin from Sunday. Remember I'm a big fan of using leftovers. I added carrots and sauteed the cabbage and onions in one pot with about 3 Tbsp. of canola oil. When the mixture was lightly browned, I added the chopped pork, seasoned it with pepper to taste and a few dashes of soy sauce. Be careful with soy sauce as it is extremely high in salt. In a separate skillet sprayed with cooking spray, I sauteed the rice with 3 Tbsp. of butter, pepper and a few dashes of soy sauce. I added three beaten eggs and stirred till the egg was cooked. I served the vegetable/meat mixture over the rice and egg mixture. Everyone loved it, it was fast and easy and I used up several leftover items, saving money.

I also hope you are keeping up with your exercise. Holiday time is hectic but this is not the time to quit exercising all together. Today is nice and sunny so I'll take the dog on a long walk. We both benefit. Plan an outdoor activity on Thanksgiving if weather permits. A walk in the park, football or even dodgeball will be fun for everyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday Pie Primer

Just a quick post today on our favorite holiday pies to give you something to think about and one recipe solution.

My favorite Thanksgiving pie is pumpkin and my kids wouldn't consider it Thanksgiving without it. They particularly think one of my sisters has to make it to be good. That may be due to the pumpkin pie I made a few years ago at my mother-in-law's house one Thanksgiving. My husband's family doesn't make pumpkin pies and one Thanksgiving I was horrified to be served lemon meringue pie (!?). Not even that other holiday favorite, pecan pie but a lemon pie! The next time I was in Natchez I decided to take matters into my own hands and bake a pumpkin pie. I whipped up the pie in no time and it was served with the other desserts. However, it left alot to be desired. Something was wrong. I reread the recipe, this time with my glasses on, and discovered I had added only 1/4 cup of sugar instead of 3/4 cup! Now I cut back on sugar intentionally in recipes but never by that much. Lesson learned: wear the reading glasses.

Something to think about this holiday season: pecan pie is one of the worst pies you can eat for calories, sugar and fat. A 1/8 slice of pecan pie has about 450 calories and 21 grams of fat. It's even worse if you top it with ice cream. A 1/8 slice of pumpkin has 230 calories and 15 grams of fat, making it a better choice. If you top your pie at all, try a golf ball size dollop of whip cream instead of ice cream and save more calories.

Since a good bit of fat and calories in any pie comes from the crust, I'm offering this pumpkin creme brulee recipe. My family was surprised to find it just as good, especially since I didn't screw up the ingredients. Give it a try this holiday season and prove you can have your pie and eat it too.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

Beat the eggs and 3/4 cup of sugar till well blended. Stir in the pumpkin, then the salt and spices and finally the half and half.
Pour into a shallow baking dish that holds 4 cups, such as a straight sided pie pan.
Bake at 325 for 60 minutes or until set and a knife comes out clean. Cool in the refrigerator several hours.
Just before serving, preheat oven on broil. Mix the brown sugar and 2 Tbsp. sugar and sprinkle evenly over custard. Place under broiler, about 6 inches away from the elements and heat until the sugar bubbles and is caramelized. Watch closely as this only takes a few minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Feast

Yesterday I woke up to the fact that NEXT week is Thanksgiving. Sometimes I think an upcoming event is still weeks away because I've been thinking about it so long and our life is so busy. This week I will post some of our favorite holiday recipes and most of them do not qualify as low calorie or low fat. Remember to eat super healthy meals leading up to a holiday and exercise regularly. Then try to limit the indulgences to one day and not go overboard.

I bought a turkey yesterday and plan to brine it the night before in a mixture of equal parts brown sugar and salt (Oh my!)in water with fresh orange halves and rosemary sprigs. I'll roast it stuffed with onion, celery and carrots for extra flavor. I tried brining last year and found it not too difficult. I bought a large bucket just for this purpose and put the whole thing in an ice chest in the garage overnight. It stayed plenty cold in the ice chest but it was also pretty cold outside that year. Google brining for further recipes or tips.

Sometimes we have a more traditional sweet potato casserole but often we have this healthier version. It is surprisingly good and has less fat and sugar plus uses an often neglected vegetable. Give it a try if you are tired of the same old thing.

Mashed Sweets and Turnips
3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 1/2 lbs. turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
2 tart red cooking apples such as Rome or Jonathan, cored and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
In a large Dutch oven combine sweet potatoes and turnips with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until tender. Drain and return to Dutch oven. Add the butter and salt. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. (You can do this part the day before and reheat before serving.)
For the topping, melt the 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet and add the apples, dates and brown sugar. Cook and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the apples tender. Stir in the lemon juice.
Top hot potato/turnip mixture with the apple relish and serve.

My family wouldn't consider it Thanksgiving without one of our two favorite cranberry salads. My mother made this recipe at holiday time for years so it's a sentimental favorite as well. It has lots of fruit and nuts but does contain quite a bit of sugar as well. This can also be made a day or two in advance.

Cranberry Salad
1 small box strawberry jello
1 small box cherry jello
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups chopped red apples
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 package cranberries, washed and chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped
Make jello using 3 1/2 cups water instead of usual 4. Put in refrigerator to jell. Add sugar to cranberries, stirring well. Add pineapple, apples and nuts. Add to jello when it has just started to set, mixing well. This looks pretty in a clear glass bowl.

Check back for more recipes this week!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Food Confessions

Sometimes, even the cardiologist's family makes poor food choices. Sometimes we indulge in too many sweets or fatty foods. This weekend I attended Christmas open houses at local stores. It is one of my favorite events because they all serve delectable treats and have new merchandise out to start the Christmas shopping frenzy. I managed not to eat too many tasty treats while out shopping. BUT THEN, I came home and made manicotti stuffed with about 50 kinds of cheese and sausage. Good but not the healthiest choice. I didn't deny myself a slim piece of buttermilk pie for dessert either, another bad move considering I'd had plenty of treats earlier.

THEN, on Monday I made a really bad lunch choice because I was in a hurry and there was almost no food in the house. I had purchased an individual sized DiGiorno frozen pizza because I couldn't find the South Beach pizza I like. I made the mistake of not reading the nutrition label or I never would have purchased it. I made the further mistake of not reading the nutrition label before I heated it up. Just before I sat down to eat, I thought to look at the label. I was horrified to see that the pizza weighed in at 790 calories, almost half my daily needs. I didn't read any further as there would be no better news. I ate most of the pizza, feeling guilty about my poor food choices over the last two days.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Read labels before you buy and think about what you are putting into your body before you eat.

From Halloween until January 1, beware and be careful! We are in the season of holidays, parties and family get-togethers which all include foods guaranteed to pack on the pounds and clog your arteries. To help avoid gaining weight, make sure you stick to your exercise routine and make healthy food choices MOST of the time. The following recipe is quick, nutritious and rates high on taste. Serve it after Thanksgiving when everyone has eaten too much and is tired of turkey.

Lemon Dill Salmon
4 salmon steaks or fillets
4 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
1 each zucchini and yellow squash, sliced thin (I add at least one more)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. lemon pepper
Preheat oven to 450. Spray a 9 x 13 or larger cooking dish with Pam. Place salmon in dish, arrange carrots around fish. Top with squash. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over fish and vegetables. Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake 17 to 20 minutes until fish flakes easily.
This dish takes about 10 minutes to prepare so you can be eating in about 30 minutes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Guilty or Innocent?

I'm continuing my discussion of sugar today with the bad boy of sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup. Several early studies linked America's rapidly increasing obesity problem to our equally rapid rise in the consumption of high fructose corn syrup since the 1970's. But does it deserve this bad reputation? The question isn't easily answered as research has shown mixed results.

While high fructose corn syrup is made from corn, it has none of the nutritional value of eating an ear of corn. The industries' claims that it has no artificial ingredients may or may not be true depending on where it is manufactured. Another industry claim is that it is fine to eat in moderation but because high fructose corn syrup appears in so many foods, it can be hard to watch how much you consume.

High fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar and extends the shelf life of processed foods leading to the rise in its use. Many foods containing high fructose corn syrup are high in calories but low in nutrition, making them poor food choices. It is found in breads, soups, sodas, yogurt, snack food and fruit drinks to name a few.

Once again, I recommend cutting back on sugar and processed foods like snack cakes and sodas in general. Your daily diet should consist of whole fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. Reading food labels and understanding what you are reading is key to better nutrition and better health. I like to distinguish between "treats" like snack cakes or cookies and "snacks" like fruit or cheese. A snack is part of a healthy diet while treats are to be eaten once in awhile.

Do some research online and read some food labels. Then make better choices. I hope the weather is nice where you live and you can get some fresh air and exercise this weekend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sugar, Not So Sweet?

Ah, sugar, the ultimate seducer, wrecker of diets, destroyer of teeth. What would we do without you? Fortunately, I've never been a sugarholic but my husband's family is adicted. His parents used to bring their own sweets to my house because I didn't serve enough desserts. His mother has cut back on sweets at the recommendation of her doctor and I admire her self control. My side of the family has their share of problems when it comes to sugar with at least one person fighting diabetes.

My husband brought home a brief article about sugar last night from Cardiology News, thus prompting today's topic. "The American Heart Association recommends that Americans drastically cut their intake of sugar to ward off obesity and related conditions." Not surprisingly, a 2004 survey found that Americans eat about 22 teaspoons (or 355 extra calories) of added sugar a day! That's rather disgusting when you think about it. Measure out those 22 teaspoons and take a good look. Would you want to sit down with a spoon and eat that much sugar straight up? The article says that most of that sugar is in drinks with about 8 teaspoons in the average 12 ounce soda. (Remember I addressed drinks in an earlier blog.)
There is plenty of added sugar in other foods that you might not even think of having sugar. Read the labels. The ketchup, salad dressing, tomato soup and a package of spicy Kung Pao asian noodles found in my kitchen right now all have added sugar.

What to do? Give up sodas. Just give them up all together or at least cut back to one a day per person. It will help on your food budget as well. I was adicted to Mountain Dew but now I couldn't even begin to drink one. They are simply too sweet for me. I don't think switching to diet sodas is the answer. I heard a blurb on TV yesterday that people who drink too many artificially sweetened drinks have a higher risk of developing kidney problems. Cut back on all sugary drinks like lemonade, orange juice, coffees and watch those flavored bottled waters. Many have sugar in them.

Cut back on the sugar you add to food when cooking. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I cut back on sugar when baking and no one notices. In some recipes, I omit the sugar. Keep candy and store bought cakes, pies, and cookies out of the house. Remember that granola bars are mostly glorified candy bars.

Now at this point, I should mention that our house is not a sugar free zone. My husband's nurse was surprised that I made doughnuts recently. I do have a bit of an undeserved reputation as a total health nut. I LIMIT the bad stuff and I bake it myself mostly. We have dessert about 2 or 3 times a week. The kids eat a sweet breakfast on Wednesdays and I make pancakes or muffins on Saturday or Sunday. There are healthier alternatives that still take care of your sweet tooth. Earlier I mentioned Fiber One pancake and muffin mix for example.

It would be lovely to eat what we want all the time but to be healthy, we have to eat healthy most of the time. I choose health for my family. I hope you do too.

My next post will talk about high fructose corn syrup.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Heart Disease Awareness

Have you noticed all the pink lately? Have you been swamped with breast cancer awareness on TV, the newspaper, even T-shirts? I've been thinking that the American Heart Association should have hired the same advertising agency. It seems we just aren't getting the message out about heart disease nearly as well as the breast cancer people and heart disease kills more people. Way more people. Lung cancer kills more Americans than breast cancer. That's not to say that breast cancer is unimportant. Thanks to the efforts of countless people, breast cancer deaths are on the decline due to early detection and treatment.

Let's take a moment to review some of the warning signs of a heart attack while remembering that for some, there will be no warning signs, only sudden death.
1. Chest pain or tightness, especially during exercise or exertion.
2. Shortness of breath
3. Pain in the shoulder, radiating down the arm or in the neck.
4. Nausea or sweatiness
Women often experience different symptoms than men. In fact, many report having no pain at all. Symptoms for women in addtion to those above are:
1. Unusual fatigue
2. Sleep disturbances
3. Anxiety
4. Weakness or dizziness

Let's also review some factors that can lead to heart disease.
1. Smoking
2. Excessive weight, especially around the waist
3. Diabetes
4. Family history
5. High blood pressure
6. High cholesterol

I hope I have given you some food for thought as we head into the weekend. I hope you will share this information with your loved ones. Let's raise awareness of heart disease and prevention.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Busy Days Ahead

The fall is always a busy time around here with school and extra curricular activities taking up our free time. As you know if you've been reading my blog, that's no excuse to slack off on healthy eating and exercise. You just have to be creative and plan ahead. Yesterday I was unable to make my usual post due to being out of town during the day and then having a band parent meeting that night. I had planned ahead though and we ate leftover minestrone soup I had made a couple of days before.

Yes, there are going to be days when you just can't fit in your regular exercise but don't let that disrupt your whole routine. Maybe you can fit in a walk at lunch or just do some simple stretches or yoga moves that night while you relax with the TV. If not, don't give up, just exercise another time. The cardiologist who really hates to exercise has just joined a fitness club since it's too cold to swim. Our son likes to go with him so it's a great father/son time.

Today I'm going to share my favorite minestrone soup recipe from the Formica's Italian cooking class. It's easy, makes alot (sometimes I freeze the extra portion for another day) and has plenty of vegetables in it.

3 ripe tomatoes chopped coarse or 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 large onion sliced thin
2 carrots sliced thin
1/2 cup parsley chopped coarse
1 cup celery sliced
1 lb. fresh spinach
1 cup dryed beans, washed
4 cloves garlic minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. red pepper or to taste
5 quarts chicken broth
1/2 lb. of your favorite pasta
1/3 cup olive oil

In a heavy soup pot, brown onions in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients except pasta. Bring to a boil, adjust seasoning, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Add pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 20 large servings.

We enjoy this soup on cold evenings with our favorite bread. I hope you will make a pot soon!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roasted Chicken Dish

One thing I like to promote with my blog is healthy eating and I believe the best way to eat better is to eat food prepared at home. This week, Good Morning America has been talking about different areas around the world where people live the longest. Their longevity is attributed to their diet. You can learn more information on these diets by going to Good Morning America. We really are what we eat.

I would like to share another recipe that is fast, simple and a good way to get your vegetables. I hope you can find the garlic onion jam in a specialty store near you or online. I found it locally at Full Sun.

Roasted Chicken with Garlic Onion Jam
Several pieces of chicken, no skin (I used legs)
Several root vegetables, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
I used white and sweet potatoes, onion and parsnips.
1/2 cup Garlic Onion Jam from Stonewall Kitchens

Place chicken and vegetables in a lightly greased baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil over chicken and vegetables. Microwave jam so it can be poured over chicken mixture as well. Toss everything to coat well. Bake at 375 for one hour or until vegetables are tender and chicken is done, stirring occasionally.

Look for this jam or others like it as it is a nice accompaniment to many meats such as pork.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Apple A Day

My husband gave me an article yesterday in USA Today, Parents Can Help Their Children Grow To Love Vegetables, because it is just what I wrote about last week. You can read it online by googling USA Today and looking under health. There were plenty of alarming statistics in this piece. A new study shows that nearly 1/3 of children under 4 eat NO vegetables every day. The best time to introduce vegetables and all foods is in infancy till age 2. After age 2, it may take up to 90 tries to learn to like a new food but 94% of parents give up after only 5 tries. I wonder how many parents give up on teaching their children to talk or to brush their teeth? Why should healthy eating habits be any different? Why are so many parents short changing their children's health? At puberty, many kids may be more open to try new things so this is another chance to introduce better eathing habits.

Picky eaters develop life long poor eating habits. Parents should take notice and work to prevent problems from happening. Our health is largely in our hands and prevention is better and cheaper than a cure. Even if you no longer have young children at home, I hope you will share this blog with people who do.

Parents should also pay attention to what is served to our children at school. Our paper publishes the lunch menu for several area schools and none of the lunches I've seen qualify as an overall healthy way to eat. There are too many of the wrong carbs, too much fat, processed foods and sweets. The fruits and vegetables that are served are usually limp and unappetizing. If you go to school during lunch and watch, you will see that children eat very little and throw away most of the food. There must be a better way to feed our children.

I send my kids lunch with them almost every day. Here are some suggestions for lunches. My kids eat peanut butter sandwiches on wheat bread at least twice a week. I also send turkey, chicken, roast beef or ham sandwiches with a slice of cheese and maybe lettuce or tomato. For sides, I send yogurt, cottage cheese, apples, bananas, oranges or grapes. My daughter likes carrots and cucumbers. I pack water or G-2 for drinks and once in a great while, a small soft drink as a treat. These are all easy fast lunches that take about 5 to 10 minutes to prepare. Sometimes I make a simple chicken salad or send leftover homemade chicken nuggets. I have also made wraps or pita sandwiches for something different. I also send chips occasionally as a treat. I also find that kids don't need much at lunch as they have little time to eat. I know some parents say they don't have time to make their kids lunch but that is just saying I don't care enough. We make time for the things that are important to us. Besides, children are capable of making their lunch or at least helping plus, much of the lunch can be assembled the night before.

Adults need to think about their own lunch. Too many of us eat out every day and not only does this cost quite a bit but we generally eat too much of the wrong foods. The old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." really did have merit to it. Think about it and make some changes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Most Requested Recipe (by the kids anyway)

Confession: Yesterday I had onion rings for lunch along with a smoked chicken sandwich on grilled sourdough, with tomato, red onions, jalapenos and cheddar cheese. Delicious! Healthy? Probably not the best choice. The point is that it is ok to eat your favorite foods once in awhile even if they aren't the best choice nutritionally. I must add that because I seldom eat fried foods, they usually sit heavy on my stomach and yesterday was no exception. You will find the same thing will happen to you if you become accustomed to eating less salt and less fatty foods. It is possible to change your taste buds. After all, I gave up Mountain Dew and no one would have thought that possible. Now I don't even like the taste of Mountain Dew and I once couldn't function without it!

Now on to my most requested recipe as promised. Years ago I took an Italian cooking class taught by a wonderful couple, the Formicas. He was from Italy, she was from Arkansas and good food was their passion. Over the years, I have used those recipes many times. I decided to go out on a limb one day and serve pesto sauce over pasta for dinner. My children were still quite young and I wasn't sure this meal would go over very well. My kids loved it! They liked it so much that my husband and I became burned out with pesto sauce. They even order it in restaurants and request it for every birthday dinner. The good thing is that pesto is incredibly easy to make and can be used in a variety of ways. If you grow your own herbs, its a great way to use basil. Here is Santo Formica's recipe for pesto.

Pesto Sauce
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup fresh basil leaves tightly packed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. pine nuts (or English walnuts)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (imported is preferred)
In a blender, add all ingredients except basil and cheese and blend at medium speed for one minute. Slowly add basil and blend for 2 minutes. Slowly add cheese and blend an additional minute.
Cook one pound of your favorite pasta al dente. Toss pesto sauce and cooked, drained pasta and serve immediately.
Variations: Substitute 2/3 cup fresh spinach leaves for the basil. I use spinach as it gives a milder flavor. I use the rest of the spinach to make a salad to serve with dinner. Pasta shells or twists work well to hold the sauce.
You can add grilled chicken or shrimp to the sauce as well for a heartier dinner.

I hope you will give this dinner a try. You can see that it couldn't be any faster to make and has many healthy ingredients. Also you can use pesto as a spread for sandwiches or appetizers. Try spreading pesto on small rounds of bread, topping with a bit of extra cheese and broiling for a few minutes till lightly toasted.
Happy Eating over the weekend. I will be at a swim meet with my daughter and transporting my son to football and a band competition.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kid Friendly Recipes Everyone Will Like

Last week I gave my tips for raising kids who like good food. This week I'm going to post some recipes to try. It can be challenging to please adults and kids at dinner time. These are some of the recipes that have been favorites with everyone at my house.

I believe there is a chili for everyone. Some like it hot and spicy, others like vegetarian chili. Here is a good one for kids as it is very mild.
Kid Chili
1 lb ground beef (I use ground turkey)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 chopped green pepper
2 cans tomatoes, chopped
1 can tomato soup
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pork and beans
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste
Brown ground meat, onion and green pepper. Drain and rinse meat to get rid of excess fat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer as long as desired, at least 30 minutes. Add a small can of tomato sauce if you like thinner chili.

This meat loaf recipe is a real winner. My kids loved it from the start and I like that it is an easy way to get extra vegetables. Serve it with rolls, green beans or a salad.
Meat Loaf With Shredded Vegetables
4 cups firmly packed shredded cabbage
1 medium chopped onion
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup shredded potatoes (I use frozen hash brown potatoes)
1 lb ground meat
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. oil
1 clove garlic minced
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Saute cabbage, onion, and carrots in oil till just beginning to brown. Thaw potatoes if necessary and add to vegetable mixture. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Place in loaf pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes; uncover and bake and additional 30 minutes. Serve with a squirt of ketchup if desired.

Thursday I will share my most requested recipe - pesto pasta. This dish couldn't be any easier or faster to make. It is a versatile recipe that can be used many ways as well.

Note: The rainy weather has been wrecking havoc with my exercise plans. I never get a chance to walk the poor dog. I hope you have been finding ways to exercise indoors as I have. Let Dancing With The Stars inspire you to try out a few dance moves. There are video exercise tapes from the show and they are pretty good. It helps if you already have some knowledge of dance; otherwise, you might be lost for awhile till you get the hang of it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More Tips on Raising Healthy Eaters

Today I am continuing with tips to raise healthy eaters. One thing I've noticed about young children is that they like things simple. They usually aren't wild about casseroles where everything is mixed together in an unrecognizable goop. Some children even get upset if one thing on their plate touches another. Don't fight these battles as they will go away with time. Instead, try to have something at each meal that is plain and that you know your children like. That way, there is at least one thing safe and familiar to the child and meal time will be less stressful.

What do you do with older children? If you are going to change the way the family eats and you have children who are around 7 or older, you will meet with resistence. Call a family meeting and discuss your plan. Explain to your children the health consequences of a poor diet in simple terms and get them involved. Don't make drastic changes but try one thing at a time such as having more fresh fruit available or getting rid of chips. Make sure to praise your children for making healthy choices and set a good example yourself.

What if your child expresses a desire for a different diet, such as becoming a vegetarian? Many children today are becoming vegetarians for various reasons. Don't discourage your child but talk with them about their concerns. Find a book on vegetarian recipes and emphasize to your child that good nutrition is still important for a growing body. Don't let them miss out on vital nutrients such as protein. I have noticed some vegetarians eat too many of the wrong carbs and skip vegetables, fruits and sources of protein such as beans. It is possible to prepare meals that incorporate different dietary needs without driving yourself crazy.

If your child expresses a desire to loose weight, you may want to talk with a nutritionist or the family doctor to find a safe diet for your child. Do not let them try fad or crash diets. They are still developing and missing important nutrients can have lasting harmful effects.

What if you have a rebellious teen on your hands like mine who wants more junk food? I do feel there is room for compromise here. Yes, my son has called me a food nazi but even he will admit that I make desserts at least once a week, and keep the car stocked with junk food since I frequently transport extra children with little notice and allow occasional soft drinks. Sometimes I even put chips in their lunches, gasp! I feel as long as a child eats healthy meals and snacks most of the time and gets enough exercise, treats are perfectly ok. Just make sure your child understands that junk food like chips, cookies, sodas and candy are TREATS, not nutritious snacks. We always have raw carrots, fresh fruit, cheese and yogurt on hand for snacking.

I hope these tips help. Just remember, it takes time to teach your child anything (like brushing their teeth regularly), so don't expect them to prefer brussel sprouts over chocolate right away or ever!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to Avoid Raising Picky Eaters

I have another blog and a reader asked for some tips on how to get her granddaughter to eat better, especially since her parents feed her a steady diet of mac n cheese and chicken nuggets. This is a subject dear to my heart and important to the hearts of American children. I have raised two kids who eat well, aren't picky and have a decent understanding of nutrition for their ages. They also maintain a normal weight for their age. That's not to say that they don't eat or like junk food, especially the teenager. It's just kept to a minimum at our house as much as possible. Could we do better? Certainly, but we do try. That being said, I'll share some tips and my approach to raising healthy eaters.

Good nutrition starts with the parents. If you don't eat well, your children won't and everyone will suffer health consequences. One of my rules is that the adults in the family never express a dislike of any food in front of young children who are very impressionable. If Dad doesn't like vegetables, son won't either. That doesn't mean you have to rave about how wonderful the food is, just keep negative thoughts to yourself.

Second, toddlers are all about control. Don't make an issue of meals. Serve the child a small portion at meal times and don't force him to eat. If junior doesn't eat but comes in a hour later hungry, DON'T give him sweets or junk food. Offer raw vegetables, yogurt or fruit. Try to avoid loading your child with carbs like cereal and crackers. If a child eats 4 green beans and three bites of chicken, that may be enough.

Avoid sugary fruit drinks and never give young children soda. Offer lots of water and milk. If your child fills up on sugar, he or she won't be hungry at meal time.

Make meals colorful and fun. This doesn't mean that you need a clown at mealtimes but try arranging raw vegetables in a face or pretty pattern on the plate instead of heaping salad on the side. Serve a handful of blueberries or strawberries. Use a fun plate, cup or colorful napkins. Have a cowboy dinner with cornbread, beans, bandannas for napkins and drink milk out of a jar or tin cup. Sometimes we have themed dinners such as African or German cooking. Everyone can dress up and children can learn about different cultures. Make an all green dinner on St. Patricks Day, just use food coloring. My kids liked it when we ate by candlelight. Food should be an adventure and fun to try.

Ask your children what they would like you to cook once in awhile. My kids most requested dinner is pesto pasta. Allow them to choose a vegetable or fruit at the store or pick the shape pasta they want.

As children get older, around 4 or 5, insist that they try a bite of everything on their plate. I call it the courtesy bite. After all, they need to understand someone worked to buy and prepare the food. If they don't like it, fine. With time, they probably will learn to like more food. My daughter wouldn't eat pie crust and my son didn't like cantalope for awhile but they eat both just fine now. Also, NEVER fix your child something different just because they won't eat what everyone else is having. Unless your child has a food allergy or is sick, this is a control issue. Just calmly tell them to eat what's on the plate or go hungry. Remember not to let them snack on junk later.

I'll continue this theme on Thursday. I recommend visiting for recipe ideas. It's a great site, easy to navigate and I have found many good recipes. I also have a blog there, thecardiologistswife.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Follow up on Salt

After researching and writing about the effects of salt in a healthy diet, I've really been reading my labels and cutting back on salt. It is amazing how much salt there is in packaged foods. I realize now that I don't have to add salt to some of my cooking such as when boiling pasta or rice (the sauce will have enough salt), or browning meat. I won't need to add salt to the pot roast I'm making today as the onion soup mix has more than enough. It's really not that hard to make a few changes.
While I've used no salt added canned vegetables for a long time, I now plan to look for other lower sodium products. I hope you have been similarly inspired.
Confession: I don't plan to give up my salted peanuts at this time but perhaps I'll skip the salt on the margaritas.
Good luck!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Real Deal on Salt

For several years, salt was the bad guy and always in health news. I don't see much about salt lately, but I'm here to tell you, salt is not always your friend. Confession: I love salty chips and peanuts, salt on the rim of my margarita and I do buy some processed foods. Let's learn more about salt.

Salt or sodium is necessary for several body functions: it helps to maintain the balance of fluids in your body, transmit nerve impulses and influences the contraction and relaxation of your muscles.

The kidneys regulate the amount of salt in the body and any excess is carried in the blood. Because salt attracts water, blood volume is increased and the heart has to work harder when we have too much sodium in our blood. Fluid retention can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease.

We only need about 1500 to 2400 milligrams (mg) of salt a day. The main sources of salt in the typical U.S. diet come from: processed foods like soup, lunch meat and canned vegetables, sodium containing condiments like soy sauce and ketchup, and natural sources like dairy products and fresh meat.

You can see that it is really important to watch your sodium intake, especially if you already have high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease. I try to use low or no salt added canned products, cook with fresh produce and avoid certain foods as much as possible, like chips. It is possible to learn to like having less salt on your food.

I found a great website that is easy to understand for more information and tips on sodium and other health questions - Search for articles on sodium.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Veggie Tales

As promised, today's blog will contain two more favorite vegetable recipes as I think most of us need help in this area. Confession: I, too, find it hard to get all the servings of fruits and vegetables in every day. One thing that helps is to have an open mind and try new things, even if you think you won't like them or you've never had that vegetable.
Here's a recipe for one of my favorite vegetables that most people avoid - cabbage. This really gives it a different flavor twist and my kids like it best prepared this way. Bonus: cabbage is cheap!

Braised Cabbage
1 head of cabbage
1/4 cup butter

Pull off any brown or wilted outer leaves and cut cabbage into six wedges, removing the core as you go. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook wedges until brown on one side then carefully turn. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until brown on other side and tender when pierced with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This time of year, roasted vegetables seem to taste better and the meat can cook at the same time. Try different veggies in this recipe such as a sweet potato.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese
2 medium russet or other potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. each basil and oregano
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of your favorite grated cheese
Place potatoes and carrots in a greased 13 by 9 inch pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings. Toss to coat well. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and add remaining ingredients; stir well. Continue baking 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Update! The fair proved disappointing this year. Not only was it raining but the kettle corn people weren't there and there were no Little Orbits. I did have a bite of a deep fried Snickers and thought it was a violation of my favorite candy bar. I had to settle for a roasted ear of corn until I got home to eat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Calcium Scores, A Simple Screening Test for Heart Disease

Today we will have a brief interview with cardiologist Dr. Barry Tedder about calcium scores. Heart disease is the number one cause of death with 1,655,767 deaths in the United States since Jan. 1, 2008. A calcium score is a screening test for heart disease much like the ones for cancer. Many people will die with their first heart attack but have no warning signs.

What exactly is a calcium score? A calcium score is a CT scan that measures the amount of calcium in the heart arteries. It is a useful screening test to help doctors determine if a person has any coronary disease or blockage. This test can predict a patient's future risk of having a heart attack. Heart blockage consists of hard (calcium) and soft plaque build up.

Who should have a calcium score? Anyone who already has at least 2 other risk factors for heart disease which are: high blood pressure, smoking, family history, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Based on SHAPE guidelines, any man over 45 and women over 55 should have a calcium score. Shape stands for the National Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education Program.

What is the purpose of this test? Calcium scores are a useful tool to determine whether your doctor should prescribe medication for prevention of future heart disease or perform other tests.

What is a normal score? Abnormal? A normal score is O, which means the patient has a low risk of having a heart attack in the next 5 years. A score over 400 means the patient has a substantial risk for having a heart attack in the next five years. A stress test is recommended for scores over 400.

What does this test involve? This is a simple test which only takes a few minutes. The patient lays on a CT scan table, wearing clothes and no medication is necessary.

What is the cost? Depending on where you live, it can cost from $75 to $200 and is not covered by insurance at this time. In Texas, insurance does cover the cost due to recent legislation.

How can I schedule one? You can call your local cardiologist's office or speak to your family physician.

For more information, you can go to the This website is pretty technical but they also have video information that is easier to understand on Please discuss any concerns you have with your family physician as they will be happy to refer you to a cardiologist if your symptoms warrant further investigation. Please don't ignore your heart health!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Fall is here and fairs are cropping up everywhere. Since fairs are known to be well stocked with horrible junk food, beware. Make a plan before going and stick to it at the fair or just don't go at all. Eat a healthy meal before going and avoid eating "dinner" at the fair and pick just one treat. If you must eat at the fair, get a small, plain hamburger and an ear of roasted corn.
Confession: I love kettle corn and since I have to take a pack of 6th graders, I'm hoping the Little Orbits people won't be there. Little Orbits are tiny donuts made right before your eyes with your choice of topping. It's fun to watch the dough squirt out into the fat, float along, flip over and be skimmed out. It's even better to eat them, warm and fresh. Yes, we all have weaknesses. I'll choose donuts over the kettle corn and share the bag with a friend.
Here's hoping you have a good time at the fair and you miss the heartburn!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life is too short to eat bad food!

Life is too short to eat bad food. That is my motto and it should be your's too. That is why when we travel, we search out some place decent to eat. Fast food is last on the list. That is why we make food choices very carefully. Why waste calories on something substandard when you can have something much better? Why would you grab those chicken strips and tater logs from the gas station when you can make a better choice with a little effort? It takes a little thinking to break bad habits but isn't your health worth it?
Speaking of health, my next post will talk about calcium scores. What is it and who needs it? If you have concerns about your heart health, be sure to read my post on Thursday.
Today is the first day of fall and I am waiting to see if it will be warm enough to swim and whether the rain will hold off. It is time to start thinking about an alternative exercise plan now that the weather will be getting cooler. I plan to add long walks to my routine so I can enjoy the fresh air. I hope you will take advantage of this free exercise too. Just make sure you wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
I tried a new recipe last night and it was a hit. Quick and delicious. I found it in last week's newspaper.

Rosemary Baked Chicken with Potatoes
6 chicken thighs, skin removed, preferably boneless
1 1/2 lbs. small potatoes, do not peel
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp. garlic powder
Heat oven to 425. Mix oil and seasonings in a large bowl. Wash and halve potatoes.
Add chicken and potatoes to oil mixture and toss to coat well. Add potatoes to a 15 x 10 baking dish sprayed with no stick cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes. Push potatoes to one side and add chicken. Return to oven and bake for at least 30 to 35 minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through.
Nutrition information per serving: 264 calories, 12 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 64 mg. of cholesterol, 334 mg. of salt and 3 grams of fiber.
You could use chicken breasts and reduce the fat content.
Happy First Day of Fall!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Veggie Tales

If you have children of the right age, I'm sure you've heard of Veggie Tales, the cartoons with a moral twist. My veggie tales are a little different but hopefully, you and your kids will appreciate them.
Of course you know you should eat your vegetables; Mom always said so. She was right. So many important nutrients and our friend, fiber, are found in vegetables. Eating vegetables helps control weight and fights many diseases like cancer. I'm always amazed when I'm checking out and the checker has to ask me, "What is this?", holding up a turnip or squash. Sometimes I serve vegetable meals because they are fast and I love them so.
The problem with vegetables is that they are seldom well prepared so no wonder no one likes them. Take the time to try different recipes to find ones you really like. I have even been known to serve raw vegetables for snacks and dinner. What could be easier? Add a few raw carrots or grape tomatoes to your plate. You don't even have to have ranch dip.
Here are a few of my favorite, easy vegetable recipes.

Carrots Moore
1 lb carrots peeled and sliced thin (I use baby carrots because they are already peeled)
1 small onion, chopped
4 TBsp. butter
Place carrots and onion in an oven proof dish. Add 1/2 TBsp. parsley, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. thyme and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Stir to mix well. Dot with butter. Bake at 375 for one hour or until carrots are tender.

Asparagus with Feta Cheese
1 package fresh asparagus
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper
Boil asparagus till just tender. Drain well. Sprinkle with feta and pepper.

Yellow Squash
Slice several small yellow squash and place in a microwavable bowl. Add 1 TBsp. water and microwave 3 to 5 minutes until just tender. Drain well. Add 1 TBsp. Brummel and Brown yogurt spread or your favorite butter substitute, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste.

I will post more vegetable recipes later but do look for others. Vegetables can be a fast and tasty addition to your meals.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two For One

Don't we all love two for one sales? Your life will be easier if you learn to love two for one meals. I've already talked about eating leftovers to save time in the kitchen and money when food isn't wasted. Now let's talk about planning extra meat and using it in another recipe.
This weekend we smoked a large chicken for Sunday dinner. (You could just as easily bake or grill one or even your favorite chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken.) We enjoyed our Sunday dinner with potato salad and purple hull peas. Monday was very busy with swim practice, band, and a 7 p.m. meeting. So I pulled out the leftover chicken that I had already removed from the bone on Sunday and made a quick barbeque sauce for sandwiches and added some baked fries for a quick side. Of course, I had already planned and shopped for these meals because I knew Monday would be hectic. A little planning made my life easier and we ate a healthier meal too.
The leftover chicken could just as easily be made into tasty chicken tacos, chicken salad, the pasta dish I mentioned earlier or another kind of chicken sandwich. It doesn't take long to make any of these dishes and they taste good! Best of all, nearly anyone could prepare these meals.

Here is my recipe for the barbeque chicken sandwich but in a pinch, just use bottled sauce.

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 minced clove of garlic
3/4 cup of ketchup
2 TBsp. brown sugar
2 TBsp. cidar vinegar
1 TBsp. Worchestershire
1 tsp. chili powder
pepper to taste
3 cups chicken, shredded or cut in bite sized pieces
Saute onion, celery and garlic in 1 TBsp. olive or canola oil till lightly browned. Add other ingredients through chicken and simmer 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite side.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Convenience Foods Worth Mentioning

From time to time, I will mention convenience foods I use because of their nutritional value, cost and ease of use. I have two new products to recommend this week. I recently picked up two bags of Contessa Sesame Chicken at $8.59 each to try and was very pleased. Dinner was ready in about 15 minutes - great for those hurried nights and everyone agreed it was good. The meal is complete with rice and several vegetables in addition to the chicken. Best of all, there are 260 calories in a 1 1/2 cup serving, 4 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein. My only criticism is that is has almost 1/3 of your daily requirement of sodium but you could cut back on the sauce and reduce the sodium. One bag is enough for two. I thought the cost was comparable to taking the four of us to a fast food restaurant but a much more healthy choice.

My sister is lactose intolerant so when I read about an ice cream made with coconut milk, my ears pricked up. Turtle Mountain offers Purely Decadent, a non-dairy frozen dessert that is also soy free. It is made with coconut milk and while not fat free by any means, it does have 6 grams of fiber and 10% of your daily requirement of iron. Regular ice cream has neither fiber nor iron. I bought some to test and my family agreed it was very good. Similar to ice cream in consistency and taste, it does have a coconut aftertaste. Give it a try if you are lactose intolerant and missing your ice cream.

Yes, I did just recommend a fat filled treat. As long as we exercise and eat right most of the time, treats are fine.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fast Dinners Good Dinners

The last hurrah of summer is over and the grind is on till Thanksgiving break. There will be many hurried meals as we rush to the next meeting, practice or rehearsal. Don't be tempted to go through the drive-thru on those nights, be prepared for them. Refer back to earlier posts on grocery shopping and restock your pantry now.
To give you some help, my next several posts will have some of my favorite fast dinner recipes that rank high in nutrition and are definite crowd pleasers. Keep frozen grilled chicken breast strips or pieces on hand. You can grill and freeze your own or purchase 20 oz. bags at the grocery. These are a great start for any fast dinner, including the following original recipe I created out of need.

Pantry Pasta

8 ounces of your favorite pasta shape
1 to 2 cups grilled chicken, no need to thaw if frozen
1 can black or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, or one large fresh tomato diced
1/2 medium onion sliced thin
1 can whole corn drained, or 1 cup frozen
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Boil pasta. While pasta cooks, saute onion in 1 tbsp. olive oil till lightly brown. Add chicken, beans, tomatoes and corn. Let heat through but do not boil while draining pasta. Add pasta to meat mixture. Season to taste with salt, pepper and chili powder, if desired. Sprinkle cheese on top and stir to mix well. Done!

This recipe is easily expanded for a larger crowd. It serves 4 as made above. Experiment with different seasonings. If you have a well stocked pantry and keep frozen grilled chicken on hand, this can be made at a moments notice. As usual, add a fruit or green salad and maybe some bread.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day

Labor Day weekend is here but that shouldn't mean laboring in the kitchen. It shouldn't mean eating hot dogs, chips and dip and cheap store bought cookies all weekend either.
I tried a new recipe last weekend that gets high ratings in simplicity, speed of preparation and taste. Even my children gave it a 6 to 8 out of 10. Did I mention healthy? The leftovers were also good for lunch the next day. Give this a try this weekend.

Tuna and White Bean Salad
2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped orange or yellow sweet pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 TBSP. white wine vinegar
2 TBSP. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 6 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steak
salad greens, your favorite

Combine beans, tomatoes, onion, sweet pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a screw top jar. Shake well. Pour over bean mixture and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Thaw frozen tuna. Rinse and pat tuna dry. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes, turning once. Do not over cook. Tuna tastes best when still pink in the middle. Break into pieces and add to bean mixture. Toss gently to combine. Serve over salad greens. Add some hearty bread and your meal is complete.

My family is hiking this weekend. A little time spent outdoors in the fresh air will revive everyone. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alarming Trends

When my husband first started practicing cardiology here in Jonesboro 17 years ago, his patients were mostly in their 60's, 70's and 80's. Exactly the patient population cardiologists expected to see. But over those 17 years two alarming trends have occurred, one I know you read about (or maybe ignore?) and see on TV.

First, the age of his patients has gone steadily down. It has not been unusual lately for him to treat patients with their first heart attacks who are younger than he is - in their 40's, 30's and even 20's! No, these patients don't have some unusual problem. They smoke, don't exercise and are over weight. It's sad to think that middle age for a growing segment of America's population could mean 14 or 20. Think about it - if you have your first heart attack at 28, your life will be cut severely short unless you take steps to correct the problems.

Another alarming trend is that weight gain has gone steadily up. Make no mistake, these trends are closely related. Weight gain, especially around the waist, leads to heart disease as well as other diseases like diabetes. My husband sees patients every day who are overweight by 50 to 100 pounds or more.

We can talk about health care reform all we want but your good health is largely in your own hands. Please take your health and that of your children seriously. Don't wait until you have serious health problems. Start eating better today and get off the couch and get moving! Ditch the cigarettes and do something else with that money. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm Back!

After the summer break, I'm finally back to writing. I didn't intend to stop but I was swamped with my children's summer sports schedule. While I stopped writing, I didn't give up on healthy eating or exercising and I hope you didn't either. I swam, lifted light weights, walked or did dance aerobics at least five days a week. We ate fresh vegetables and lighter meals.
Buying the farmer's weekly fresh produce was an adventure because I never knew exactly what I'd be getting. It forced me to try some things I might not have and to be creative with the things I received an excess of, like watermelon and peaches.
I'm including two recipes my family has particularly enjoyed and believe me, the watermelon salad is wonderful despite how odd it sounds.

Banana Peach Buttermilk Smoothie
2 large ripe bananas, sliced and frozen
2 cups frozen sliced peaches
1 cup fat free buttermilk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 TBsp. honey
Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes about 4 cups.
Cultured dairy products such as buttermilk and yogurt help maintain a healthy digestive system. We often eat this as a dessert.

Tomato and Watermelon Salad
5 cups seeded watermelon cubes
1 1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cubed
3 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Pepper to taste
Put watermelon and tomatoes in a large bowl, sprinkle with sugar and salt, tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.
Stir in onion, vinegar, and oil. Cover and chill 2 or more hours. Sprinkle with pepper before serving.
Trust me, this is good and I have never served it to anyone who didn't love it. The key is good watermelon and tomatoes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the Run? Swim!

The last couple of weeks have been hectic around here. The end of school always is for those of us with school age children. I haven't had time to write and (here's a confession) not much time to exercise. For the most part I have eaten well balanced meals and not totally fallen off the wagon of good health. Though I know people think my husband and I always eat healthy and exercise consistently, it's just not possible to be that perfect. Your good health should be at the top of your priorities but don't give up and allow yourself to fail because a week went by without going to the gym or you pigged out at the Memorial Day barbeque.

What are the Tedders looking forward to next month? Swimming! Summer is almost here and pools are opening up. Swimming is possibly the best exercise there is. My husband's 82 year old mother still swims 5 days a week in the summer. It has kept her fit and contributed to her good health and energy. My husband loves to swim and my daughter is on the local swim team. I plan to swim laps this summer to battle the winter holiday bulge. Why should kids have all the fun? Jump in and join the fun.

Here's a new recipe for after that swim that goes together in no time. My whole family loved it.
Chicken with Lemony Egg Noodles and Peas
8 oz. egg noodles
4 oz. sugar snap peas
1 c. frozen green peas
1 c. shredded carrots
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. heavy cream (I used 2% milk)
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
salt & pepper to taste
2 c. leftover chicken (I keep Tyson's frozen roasted chicken chunks on hand)

Cook noodles as usual but add sugar snap peas the noodles for last minute of cooking. Place carrots and frozen peas in a colander in sink. Drain noodles and sugar snap peas over carrots and peas.
While noodles are draining, heat broth, cream, lemon peel in same sauce pan to boiling. Add chicken and noodle mixture into sauce. Heat through, stirring constantly.

Add a fruit salad or some bread & you are done.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Salad Days

We use the fun expression "salad days" as a reference to our better days when we were younger, slimmer, at the top of our game. Through healthy living, I intend to keep my salad days around for awhile. That's why I exercise and try to eat right. I don't intend to sit around and let the younger folks have all the fun and look good doing it.

Speaking of salads, they are such an easy way to eat better but beware, they can be loaded with fat, calories and sugar. So don't be too quick to pat yourself on the back because you had only the salad bar for lunch. Did you eat pasta, chicken or tuna salad? They are usually loaded with fats. Did you eat a fruit salad filled with marshmallows and a sweet dressing? More fat and sugar. Load up on crackers or rolls? Didn't do yourself any favors there.

I often add salads as a quick and easy side dish for meals or eat a large salad for lunch. Here are some tips for keeping the lid on the calories and getting the good stuff.

For a simple fruit salad, just cut up any combination of fresh fruit and you are done, no dressing needed. If you use canned fruit, make sure you get fruit in it's own juice or at least light syrup. Drain well. Young children will prefer fruit without dressing. Try strawberries, bananas, oranges and blueberries. This combination is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, potassium and fiber. The following recipe is one of my favorite green salads. I eat it for lunch and dinner.

Salad Greens with Avocado and Pears
Your favorite salad greens mix
1 avocado, peeled and sliced thin
1 pear, sliced thin (use canned if fresh not available)
1/4 cup craisins
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup blue cheese or feta cheese crumbles
Combine all ingredients and drizzle with your favorite dressing. Brianna's Blush Wine dressing is particularly good with this salad. Serves six.

Tip: Adding the salad dressing is the crucial part. Two Tbsp. of Brianna's contains 120 calories with half being fat calories. There are about 4 tbsp. in 1/4 cup so the calories add up in a hurry. Measure the dressing and add it to the salad before serving so no one is tempted to drown their salad in calories. The dressing should enhance your salad, not be the main flavor.

This salad would be nice for Mother's Day dinner.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Diet Discussion

While I prefer to think of the word "diet" as a lifestyle that promotes healthy eating over a lifetime, most people probably view "diet" as a way to lose weight. And some of us seriously need to lose weight to improve our health! Most diets don't lead to long term weight loss but encourage a pattern of losing and gaining weight over time. If you are serious about taking control of your health, it's best to consult a physician or dietitian for help. The best diet plans help you lose weight and learn to eat a healthy diet for the rest of your life.

One plan that I have experience with is the South Beach Diet. I attended a talk given by Dr. Agatston, creator of the South Beach Diet. He is a cardiologist by profession and his diet plan was designed to help his patients. Even though I don't need to lose weight, I decided to try his plan for two weeks as an experiment because I have a serious addiction to carbs. I'm the person who thinks mashed potatoes and gravy make a fine dessert, never met a bread I didn't like and who regularly eats cereal after dinner. My carb cravings were getting out of control.

Here are my conclusions after trying South Beach. The diet did help me reduce my carb cravings. Eating too much of the wrong carbs like I did can easily lead to weight gain, especially in the abdomen. The diet is not difficult to follow and the book has helpful recipes and menu suggestions. The book does give a plan for eating for the rest of your life, not just the weight loss phase. It also explains the relationship between diabetes and heart disease and the importance of exercise.

The downside is that people who don't like to cook will be frustrated right away. There are several South Beach foods on the market but these are not designed to be your whole diet. It also requires a great deal of self control and motivation. Overall, I think it is a good plan and would be helpful if done with a friend or spouse for support. It helps you get back on track if you give up on your diet or can help with cravings like mine. I still incorporate the breakfast and lunch ideas to keep my carb addiction at bay.

The next time you are in a bookstore, check out Dr. Agatston's books. This plan may work for you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Garden Delights

Spring is here and fresh produce is just around the corner! Our local farmers' market opens the first weekend of May and I can hardly wait. This year I have purchased a share of a local farmer's produce each week so I will let you know how that turns out. Buying fresh, locally grown, fruits and vegetables or growing them yourself is the best way to enjoy them. No offense to anyone, but often fruits and vegetables sold in the supermarkets were bred for shelf life, not taste. I can't blame anyone for not liking tomatoes for instance, if they have never had one picked at the peak of ripeness from a backyard garden.

I was lucky enough to eat homegrown vegetables growing up as my father was an excellent gardener. We also picked peaches, strawberries and muscadines and my parents made jelly and preserves. I never ate store bought jelly until I was older. Consequently, I learned to love most vegetables and we eat them every night for dinner.
Confession: I didn't inherit my father's green thumb but I keep trying every summer. I love heirloom tomatoes but last year's crop was a bountiful seven or eight. I'm plagued with too much shade and pesty raccoons.

This summer, head out to your local farmers' market and enjoy some really good vegetables. There is nothing like a dinner of simple vegetables, with sliced tomatoes and cornbread. Finish it off with cold watermelon for dessert. You'll be supporting the local economy as well and doing the "green thing".

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Little Fiber Eases Things Along

Most Americans don't come anywhere near getting enough fiber in their diet. Take it from someone who knows, not getting enough fiber can have unpleasant consequences. We simply don't eat plain fruits, vegetables and whole grains like we did when our grandparents all had gardens. Lack of fiber shows up as constipation and contributes to various cancers. Makes you want to reach for that stalk of broccoli or eat a can of beans, doesn't it?

I always try to include plenty of fibrous foods in our weekly menu. Yes, my kids do eat cabbage, broccoli, beans and brussel sprouts. They may not rave or ask for second helpings but they understand the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

I also look for convenience foods that contain extra fiber and I am happy to recommend Fiber One products. They not only taste good but some contain as much as 35% of your daily value of fiber. Fiber One has yogurt, cottage cheese, several cereals, pancake and muffin mix and granola bars. I have tried most of them and my whole family likes them. I particularly like Fiber One granola bars as I consider most granola bars to be no better than candy bars. I can feel good about my kids snacking on them. I also really like the apple cinnamon muffin mix and the pancake mix. Check on for coupons for Fiber One products.

In the mean time, try harder to add fruits and vegetables to your daily life and don't rely just on convenience products. Eat an apple or try the broccoli recipe that follows. It's my husband's favorite way to eat broccoli.

Broccoli with Bread Crumbs and Garlic
One package broccoli florets
One garlic clove, minced or one tsp. of the jarred minced garlic.
1/3 to 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Steam broccoli till tender & drain. Heat olive oil in a skillet & add broccoli. Saute till broccoli begins to brown. Add garlic the last 3 or 4 minutes of cooking & sprinkle with bread crumbs, tossing to coat. Salt & pepper, then serve. Delicious!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tips and Tidbits

Whoops! Spring break took a little too long! I have also been working in the yard and garden and neglected my blog. Gardening is excellent exercise by the way, just don't strain anything. Stretching before and after all that shoveling, planting and mowing is a good way to loosen those muscles.

Easter weekend just passed and like every holiday at our house, it's an excuse to overeat. This holiday, I really made an effort to keep things light. One way I cut calories is to use less of certain ingredients than the recipe calls for or to substitute ingredients. I usually cut back on sugar in things like muffins, drinks, etc. I use 1/4 to 1/2 less sugar with no complaints from the family. We love cheese but I use less of it in cooking too and also use the lower fat cheese. I never use no fat cheese as it tastes awful and does not melt the same. I use no fat plain yogurt in recipes that use sour cream as I like the taste better than the no fat sour cream. My hash brown potato casserole contained 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup, no fat plain yogurt, 2% milk cheese and 1/3 the butter and still tasted rich and delicious.

Who would have thought that Paula Deen ever made anything light but I tried one of her salmon recipes and it received favorable reviews from the family. This is also a very pretty dish. Here it is:

Baked Salmon with Strawberry Salsa
4 to 6 salmon fillets, one orange
Sprinkle fillets with salt and red pepper flakes to taste and place in a greased baking dish. Place a thin slice of orange on top of each fillet.
Wash and slice a pint of strawberries. Mix strawberries with 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup sliced green onions, one clove minced garlic and spoon over fish. Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Y'all, it doesn't get much easier or healthier than this!
Tip: I always use the jarred, minced garlic. Use about 1 tsp. for each clove called for.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

True Confessions of a Foodie

Right now a bag of corn chips or cheetos would be great. I love chips and salty food. I also love cookies, cake and pie. Actually, there are very few foods that I don't like but no one realizes that I fight a desire to overeat. No, I don't binge or try extreme diets either. I simply control my eating for the most part and exercise at least five times a week.
Self control and common sense are your most useful tools in maintaining or achieving a healthier lifestyle. We use self control and common sense every day at work, with our children and in public. If you didn't have a screaming hissy fit when your boss asked you to work late, then you have the will power not to eat a pint of ice cream and a dozen cookies for dinner. There really is no excuse and its not your genes.

Here are my methods for self control and getting through weak spells.
1. Brush your teeth immediately after eating. You won't be so tempted to snack with a minty frest breathe.
2. Don't buy chips, cookies, granola bars, candy or other things you know have no nutritional value. These things should be TREATS, not a staple of your daily diet. No, your kids don't need them either.
3. If you are going to have a treat, make it worth the calories. Make a special dessert for Sunday dinner instead of eating oreos from the vending machine at work.
4. Check an online site that tells you how many calories you burn in an hour of exercise. Then decide if that food you are craving is worth it. For example, I'd burn 230 calories in an hour of light swimming but that regular sized Snickers bar has 280 calories. Makes you think instead of mindlessly eating.