Beware false claims, like this story promising 20 healthy Easter side dishes

Always beware of any claims that a meal, or a dish, is healthy. Healthy is a relative term. A high-salt dish isn’t healthy to me, yet main cooking sites routinely include them in lists of healthy meals, for example. I was wary when I saw this piece, 20 Healthy Easter Side Dishes, and rightly so as it turned out.

As I scrolled through the list, I saw many with potatoes (to be avoided if you’re worried about glucose levels, salt and creams/fat. Several also ahve nuts, which I can’t eat, so those are also out for me, though they may be ok for you.

Simple grilled veggies work as a side dish.

What did that leave for me? Maybe Asparagus and Tomato Skewers with Honey Mustard-Horseradish Sauce but a quarter of a cup of honey seems like a lot of sugar. The recipe did not include nutrition information, so I’m not sure.

The basic and always tasty steamed artichoke works, if you omit the melted butter to dip it in. The sautéed wild mushrooms with spinach will work if I substitute Mrs. Dash salt-free teriyaki for the soy sauce in the original recipe.

Eating truly healthy is always a challenge, try your best and don’t fall for healthy claims. And for truly low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar sides, check my recipe page.

A different idea for Easter dinner — roasted salmon with thyme and honey-mustard glaze

Easter is almost upon us again and, in the age of Covid, Easter dinners are likely to be smaller affairs with far fewer guests than in times past. So maybe put aside any ideas of a giant leg of lamb or turkey, and try something different, like this honey-mustard-glazed salmon recipe.

Place salmon on the lemon and coat with lemon-infused olive oil and spices.
Another way to prepare salmon — in foil with lemons.

Salmon is a great main course for people worried about salt, fat and sugar in their diets, given it falls into what is these days perceived as the “Good Fat” category. This recipe does include some salt, I’d leave it out. The honey might be an issue if you;re ona low-sugar diet, a mustard crust is a tasty alternative.

Here’s the information you need for the hoey-mustard recipe:

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 1 (3-pound) skin-on salmon fillet (preferably sustainable), pin bones removed
  • ¼ cup country Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I’d leave this out)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions

  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Step 2 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange thyme sprigs in a long row on parchment. Place salmon, skin side down, on top of thyme.
  • Step 3 Combine mustard, honey, and vinegar in a bowl. Brush mixture evenly over top of salmon. Sprinkle salmon with 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Arrange lemon slices over salmon.
  • Step 4 Bake salmon at 450° in center of oven 26 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Cooking Light includes nutrition information for this recipe, which is great for those of us watching our salt, fat and sugar intake.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 387 calories; fat 17.4g; saturated fat 4.1g; mono fat 7.6g; poly fat 4.2g; protein 48g; carbohydrates 6g; cholesterol 116mg; iron 1mg; sodium 527mg; calcium 29mg; sugars 4g; added sugar 4g.

American Heart Association offers healthy cooking help

The American Heart Association currently is offering what it calls a Healthy Cooking Starter Kit to those who donate. The kit includes the association’s newest heart-healthy cooking book and a kitchen conversion chart (I assume that’s for weights and measures).

The association has sometimes lent it’s endorsements to foods I consider too high in salt. But, that said, it’s cookbooks often have some tasty recipes and you can adjust salt down with the ingredients you use.

If you were planning to support the association this year, this offer gives an added incentive.

If you love the Mediterranean Diet, this post will make your day

While I never get overly excited about claims for eating and how it impacts our bodies, I do try to follow the current favorite when it comes to so-called healthy eating plans, namely the Mediterranean Diet. I’ve written about it before and likely will again.

Veggie plates are common in Italy, why can’t U.S. places offer the same?

So when I came across this post, 23 Mediterranean Diet Recipes That Support Healthy Aging, I thought I’d share it with all of you.

The post includes a slide show, which I tend to find tedious especially when many of the slide recipes, like Mediterranean Lentil and Kale Salad, don’t appeal to me.

But take a look, with 23 to choose from I’m guessing some, like one-pot garlicy shrimp and spinach, might strike your fancy.

Always hungry? Me too. Here’s a surprising possible reason why

It’s not an exaggeration to say I’m always hungry. It takes mountains of food to fill me up, mountains of foods that I can’t eat on my heart-healthy diet. So I’ve written before about possible causes of being hungry.

It takes a mountain of food to fill me up, so to eat healthy, I remain hungry most days.

Now I’ve come across a new one. My old nemisis salt can cause sensations of hunger, according to a piece I saw on CookingL:ight.com. I’ve cut my salt intake dramatically since my first angioplasty in 2012, so I don’t think salt is causing my problems with hunger.

But it may be for you if you’re still eating processed foods and restaurant foods that are high in salt.

“Experts say this counterintuitive discovery—that dietary salt boosts appetite but decreases thirst—upends more than 100 years of conventional scientific wisdom. The findings are published this week as a set of two papers in the Journal of Clinical Investigation,’ according to the Cooking Light article.

It’s a reminder that we don;t know as much as we think we do about eating and our health and how the two intersect.

Pandemic Cooking: Slow-cooker chicken recipes

Here’s some help if you’ve become stuck in a recipe rut while cooking at home so much during the pandemic, 12 Slow Cooker Chicken Dinners Under 370 Calories. But beware, low-calorie doesn;t necessarily mean low-salt, low-fat and low-sugar. As always, look at the details before trying these and substittue when necessary.

Low sodium broths are not created equal, always read the nutrition panels.
Low sodium broths are not created equal, always read the nutrition panels.

For Slow-Cooker Lemon Greek Chicken, for example, substitute chicken breasts for the fatty thighs in the recipe. You also can use fat-free feta. The cheese is likely where a lot of the salt is as well, leave it off to cut salt considerably.

The Slow Cooker Chicken and Barley Soup does recommend low-sodium broth. Compare packages to see which low-sodium broth really is low-sodium. Read my post on that here.

Consumer Reports finds the best low-sodium soup is…homemade!

Processed soups, whether in cans or at deli counters or in restaurants, traditionally are overloaded with salt. Even soups labeled low-sodium have a ton of salt, as I’ve written about the many low-sodium broths on supermakret shelves, for example.

So I was intrigued by a headline I saw about Consumer Reports rating low-sodium soups. Had the venerable journal found a low-sodium soup I’d missed? Not exactly.

Imagine low-sodium soups: I applaud the effort, but taste is lacking, big time.

Consumer Reports’ top choice in the blind test is a homemade minestrone made by its trained chef. It had less sodium and the best flavor of all of them. So if you have a little more time, consider making your own soup. It just might taste better and be better for you,” according to a report on the magazine’s findings by news4jax.com.

Here’s the recipe for that homemade soup:

Consumer Reports’ easy minestrone recipe

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ tsp dried thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (28 ounce) can no salt added crushed tomatoes

3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 (15 ounce) can no salt added chickpeas, drained

1 (15 ounce) can no salt added kidney beans, drained

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces ditalini pasta, cooked according to package directions

4 cups fresh spinach

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

1. Add the oil, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to a multi-cooker on Sauté mode or a traditional large pot on the stovetop. Stir and sauté the ingredients for 5 minutes. Stir in oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes, broth, water, chickpeas, kidney beans, zucchini, and green beans. For multi-cooker: Close the lid with the vent in the sealing position. Change the setting to Pressure mode. Set the timer for 5 minutes. When the multi-cooker beeps, do a quick pressure release according to the manufacturer’s directions. For stovetop: bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Stir in the spinach until wilted, about 1 minute; add cooked pasta. Serve topped with the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Makes about 10 servings

Nutritional information per 1 cup serving: 210 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 33 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 10 g protein, 190 mg sodium

The low-salt message is being heard, even in South Africa

It’s always nice to see articles touting the low-salt message. I get regular Google alerts every day with stories that do just that and I was excited to see one recently from South Africa.

If the message has reached there, perhaps it’s really beginning to sink in with people, that eating less salt can help their overall health.

Salt is salt, I avoid it to help control my blood pressure.

The piece by a South African dietitian, is consistent with stories from other parts of the world in its recommendations that we strive for less than 2,000 mgs of sodium a day. Someone with heart issues such as I have should aim even lower, perhaps 1,500 mgs, depending on their weight.

One fun comment in the story, ““Lemon is the new salt. Lemon juice enhances the flavour [British spelling here] of the food. Adding a squeeze of lemon to a meal can give you flavour without the risk.”

Another fun fact, March 11-17 is World Salt Awareness Week!

The author’s tips for cutting salt ocnsumption:

1. Choose less salty food.
2. Cook with less salt, adding natural flavurs like a squeeze of lemon.
3. Do not add more salt to your meal at the table.
4. Remove the salt shaker from the table.
5. Taste your food before adding salt (it might be a habit).

Pandemic Shopping: Food Prices Will Continue Climbing in 2021

It’s no secret that food prices shot up as the pandemic took hold last year. The bad news is you can expect those prices to continue to rise this year. Grocery store prices will climb 1-2%, predicts the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Restaurant/take-out food prices will increase 2-3 percent after climbing 3.9% last year, the USDA says.

The actual impact of the pandemic on your food bills has likely been much more severe than a percent or two. Pandemic shopping has meant shortages of items and an inability to shop for deals from store to store.

Shopping at Trader Joe's
The line I encountered waiting to get into a Chicago-area Trader Joe’s. These were all seniors waiting for the 8 a.m. opening of the store for senior shopping.

How many stores have you gone to in the average pandemic week? Pre-pandemic, I would normally go to three or four different stores, searching for the best deals on low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar products. During the pandemic, I’ve limited myself to one store a week, sometimes two.

The first change I plan in my life now that I’ve had both my vaccine shots is a return to more normal food shopping to combat rising prices.

Picturing 1,500 calories a day; it’s not much

Picturing how much you can eat on any given diet plan is always difficult. Diets talk about calories, a concept that people really don’t relate to when looking at a juicy steak or big plate of pasta.

So I always find it helpful to be reminded. Nurtritionists talk about an average man eating 2,000 calroeis a day and an average woman eating 1,500 calories, but what doies that mean in practice?

This piece, What 1,500 Calories Looks Like (DASH Diet), illustrates the 1,500 calories a day. While breakfast may look generous with French toast, meals get smaller and end with a sparse chicken dish for dinner (photo below).\

That’s what 300 calories looks like.

The article is a reminder that many of us eat a lot more than our bodies actually need.

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