The Mediterranean Diet brings home the food gold again

You’ll likely hear about a million diet plans as 2020 begins, its national weight-loss time after all. Diet plans come and go more frequently than new car models these days.

But as with cars, it’s a buyer beware situation with diet plans.

Before you try any, do some serious research on its impact on your body and your health. As it happens, U.S. News does that every year, ranking popular diet plans.

The Mediterranean Diet has topped the list again this year. If you’re not sure what that is, click here to see what U.S. News says about it.

Basically, it means don’t eat like any ugly American. Cut out fatty meats, eat more fruits and vegetables and make olive oil your lifetime friend.

Th DASH Diet, which is basically a type of Mediterranean diet, came in second.

How did some of the big, commercial diet companies do? Weight Watchers (WW now) came in fourth, Jenny Craig came in 12th, and Nutrisystem came in 20th.

Good eating in 2020, avoid salt, fat and sugar and it all will be very simple for you.

First salad of 2020…and so it begins

The start of any year is notorious for people resolving to lose some weight. Indeed, all the major weight-loss programs already are running ads to attract new clients this time of year.

Like millions of others, I’m resolving to drop some pounds this year too. But I don’t use any commercial diet plans. Rather, I merely need to return to what I was eating after having my first angioplasty in 2012.

Following that surgery, I dropped 25 pounds by cutting out everything I enjoyed — red meat, candy, cookies, doughnuts, cake, rich, creamy ethnic foods (think most things from Europe), high-salt ethnic foods (think anything from Asia).

Sadly, after three years of that, I began slipping back, mainly with M&Ms and cream-filled doughnuts, until, in 2017, I was forced to have a second angioplasty to open yet another blocked artery.

That second surgery really had me questioning whether changing my diet had any impact on my artery-health, since it seemed like the answer was a resounding no.

So for the past two years, I’ve been eating much more junk food than before and have gained back that 25 pounds I lost. That officially makes me a fat old man these days and I don’t like that image. So I’m starting all over again.

Here’s today’s lunch salad which I made at home. Restaurant salads are normally load with salt, fat and sugar, avoid them or strip them down to their basics if you must eat one.

I try to add as much as possible to the basic spring greens lettuce mix to give the salad some texture. Here’s a look at ingredients before I built the salad. The only thing missing in this photo is the turkey I put on. That’s leftover from our low-salt Christmas turkey.

The feta cheese is fat-free and the olives (in that black liquid) are low-salt. The beets are sold at Costco, they’re sealed and shelf-stable, not the jarred ones that are loaded with salt.

The mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers and even the lettuce mix were on sale at a local supermarket. Eating healthy is expensive, so always shop the sales each week to find deals.

I topped all this with olive oil (a so-called good fat) and balsamic vinegar.

Happy 2020 eating everyone!!!

A Tasty Holiday Special at Healthyheartmarket.com

Healthyheartmarket.com is a good online source for all things low- and no-salt. The one caveat is that shipping is usually expensive, especially for heavy liquid items. So I always look locally first for items I see here before buying online.

Recently though, I saw a special for an item I haven’t seen locally. The Market has an offer for $20 off cases of Francesco Rinaldi No Salt Added Pasta Sauce. That means 12 jars for $39.88

Baked mostaccoli, or do you call them ziti?
Baked mostaccoli, or do you call them ziti?

I make my own pasta sauce (and in my Italian-American family, we called it gravy). I use low-salt, imported Italian tomatoes. If you’re not accustomed to making your own, this Rinaldi brand could be a good alternative.

Trader Joe’s also sells its own brand of low-salt marinara sauce, another alternative if you have a TJs nearby. Hunt’s also has a pre-made low-salt sauce, although many main-stream supermarkets do not carry it or only carry small cans of it.

Opt for a whole wheat pasta, add gravy and you have a great crowd-pleasing meal for the holidays.

Last-minute low-salt Thanksgiving Dishes

Rushing around trying to figure out how to blend a traditional Thanksgiving meal with low-salt offerings? Check my recipe page first for a whole Thanksgiving menu.

Getting ready for holiday cooking? Check back here often for no-salt, no-sugar, no-fat recipes.

And if you want more options, this Low Sodium Thanksgiving list from Epicurious.com is just what you’re looking for. Among the options:

There’s also a slew of cranberry recipes. I don’t eat those, so didn’t pay much attention but if you love them, this is the list for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thanksgiving is a time to think about turkey (burgers)

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house, there’s likely a giant turkey somewhere nearby just awaiting its moment. But if you’re planning to eat out, or going to someone’s else’s home as I am this year (my son is cooking!!!), you might have an urge for turkey when you get home.

My Applegate turkey burgers with low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat bagel.

So Thanksgiving time could be the ideal time to try turkey burgers, which can be low in fat and salt and satisfy your craving without all the mess of making an entire turkey.

Turkey burgers generally are a good substitute for hamburgers as well since they are generally lower in salt and fat. One caveat, read the package label, some turkey burgers include dark meat and even skin which sends their fat content souring. Many add salt too, especially when they’re flavored somehow.

Applegate Natural & Organic Meats recently sent me some of its turkey burgers to sample. I like them. They pass the fat content (8 grams per burger) and salt content (105 mgs a burger) for a low-salt, low-fat diet. I broiled mine in the oven and was surprised to see them browning. Other turkey burgers I’ve tried usually remain a dull white color.

I think I left them in a bit long, so carefully monitor when you’re cooking them. I had two in a whole wheat bagel (the only whole wheat product in my local supermarket bakery the day I went). I added a slice of low-fat mozzarella cheese and used Localfolks low-salt, low-sugar ketchup to top them off. I also added a side of steamed asparagus.

Applegate turkey burgers are relatively low in fat and salt and have a very clean label in terms of ingredients.

It was a simple meal but delicious, sometimes simple is best, especially after elaborate Thanksgiving feasts. Thanks Applegate, I’d buy these burgers and serve them to company, especially when I do summer grilling.

Remember safe food-handling tips for July 4th

Lots of people will be touching lots of food this July 4th. So it;s a good time to review how to keep all the food you make and serve that day safe for people to eat, notes the Partnership for Food Safety Education. It’s created this flyer on using thermometers for grilling. It also has some general food handling tips, such as:

  • Not just the grill master, but everyone at the gathering should wash their hands with soap and water before and after handling food.
  • Always use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of grilled meat and poultry. Print the temperature chart (below) for your refrigerator.
  • Keep your cooler filled with ice, so picnic perishable foods stay chilled to 40 °F.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood. Be sure to have plenty of clean utensils and platters on hand.

Happy grilling and a happy 4th to all our readers!!!

13 food and beverage items not to keep in your frig

We’ve worked hard over the years to find condiments that aren’t overloaded with salt, sugar and fat. So we’ve found low-salt ketchup, low-salt salsa and even a low-salt teriyaki marinade. So I thought I’d be in good shape when I saw this post about the 13 Worst Foods in Your Fridge

I've found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.
I’ve found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.

Sure enough, regular ketchup is there, as are pickles (I’ve found low-salt pickles to substitute). I knew regular soda was loaded with sugar but tonic water surprised me, it made the list because of calories. Continue reading “13 food and beverage items not to keep in your frig”

Feel like a drink? Maybe you want to hold off on that idea

I try never to give medical advice on this blog because that advice changes so quickly and so frequently. I always have my doubts about any medical advice about which foods are healthy and which are not, or which are so-called superfoods and which are not.

I was reminded of why I’m a doubter by a recent story knocking down the idea that moderate drinking it ok, health-wise.

Put down that beer…at least until the next study comes out.

Headlined Study challenges health benefits of moderate drinking  this Associated Press reports that “A new study challenges the idea that a drink or two a day could actually be good for you. Continue reading “Feel like a drink? Maybe you want to hold off on that idea”

20 healthy Easter sides? Check the salt and fat content first

Holidays are always difficult when you’re trying to minimize your salt, sugar and bad fat intake. Easter — traditionally a ham or lamb day — is no exception. We’ve posted about trying seafood instead, something we plan. But what about the side dishes? The Food Network recently ran this piece on 20 Healthy Easter Side Dishes which, of course, got my attention.

I regularly use pepper on grilled veggies such as these asparagus and zucchini.

But how healthy are they, really? The first, Provencal Potato Gratin, isn’t if you’re worried about sugar level since it starts with potatoes and also includes cheese, which is salty and fatty.

The steamed artichoke is good, if you leave off the melted butter shown. Try some lemon juice instead. Continue reading “20 healthy Easter sides? Check the salt and fat content first”

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