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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.