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.

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).

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.

Some good advice for a truly heart-healthy diet

The term heart-healthy diet has been co-opted by all sorts of people to push their favorite products. Many processed foods call themselves heart-healthy when they are still loaded with salt, fat and sugar. So it’s refreshing to see some tips for a truly heart-healthy diet in this piece, Ask A Dietitian: What Makes a Diet Heart-Healthy?

One of my favorite here is to develop a collection of seafood recipes you can’t wait to eat. A good place to start is on our recipe page, where we have a seafood section all ready for you. Supermarket fish counters often give away seafood recipe cards too. You may have to modify them to take out butter and salt, but they’re a starting point for you.

Use some spray-on canola oil to cook your tilapia
Tilapia such as these would work for fish tacos.

Another good tip is to use more spices instead of salt in your cooking. When you do, be sure to buy salt-free spice mixtures. Many pre-mixed spice offerings are loaded with salt. If you see salt listed as the first ingredient on such a mix, you know it is primarily salt, avoid it.

Check the article for other tips, just click here.

A supermarket recipe that might actually be healthy

Supermarkets often supply recipes to encourage people to shop for the items they’ll need to make a given dish. These days, they will call a recipe “healthy” even if it’s still loaded with salt, fat and sugar. But one I received recently from my local Jewel store (owned by Albertson’s) actually might be healthy and tasty as well

Your salmon feast awaits.
I love making salmon in a variety of ways.

It’s called one pan salmon. The ingredients list and my modifications and comments:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
20 cherry tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth [I’d use the lowest sodium broth you can find here to cut salt]
1 lemon (sliced)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt [cut this, not really needed with all the other flavors here]
12 ounces linguine [go for whole wheat to address sugar concerns you may have]
4 (4 oz) Waterfront BISTRO® Salmon Fillets [note the branding here, as I said, they want you to buy this but any salmon will do]

Here’s more on preparation:

Cooking Instructions

Step 1

Preheat a 12-inch sauté pan to medium high heat. Add olive oil and onion, sautéing until onion is translucent.

Step 2

Add tomatoes, stirring occasionally, giving tomatoes time to get slightly charred and then burst.

Step 3

Add garlic and cook one minute.

Step 4

Pour in wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to pick up the brown bits. Add broth, lemon & seasonings.

Step 5

Add pasta and bring to a boil.

Step 6

Place salmon filets in and cover pan.

Step 7

Cook 7-9 minutes, until pasta is al dente, and salmon is pink. Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and basil.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out.

Pandemic Snacking: Crispy Broccoli at Trader Joe’s

Any list about healthy snacks always gets my attention because normally those words — healthy and snack — are a conflict in terms. Anything you want to snack, i.e. binge, on generally is not healthy because it contains high amounts of salt, fat or sugar, or perhaps all three.

That’s why a recent list of so-called healthy snacks at Trader Joe’s caught my attention with one list, crispy broccoli florets. I eat a lot of broccoli, but had never thought of it as a snack, or as crispy for that matter. So I bought a bag and gave them a try.

The result was mixed. Salt-wise, they’re ok with only 15 mg a bag. Fat content seems high at 20 grams, about half what I’m supposed to have every day on my heart-healthy diet. And there’s 5 grams of transfat, again about half what I can have.

Taste-wise, they taste like broccoli, but having that cold and crisped up somehow just didn’t seem right. The taste of them actually became less palatable the more I had. So I guess that would preclude binging on them.

So my search for healthy snacks goes on, sans broccoli.

Eating more fried foods during the pandemic? Stop, please

If you’ve taken some comfort in this pandemic by eating more fried foods, it’s time to stop now before you do some real damage to yourself. Even a small portion of fried foods can increase risk of heart disease, study says, is the headline on a recent CNN report.

“People who ate the most fried food per week had a 28% higher risk of major cardiovascular events, a 22% greater risk of coronary heart disease and a 37% heightened risk of heart failure, according to the study published Monday in the journal Heart,” CNN reports.

The news gets grimmer:

Splurge on the garlic fries at Safeco Field. They were a garlic-lover's dream.
Walk away from those fries, says a new study on heart health

“Each additional weekly serving of 114 grams or 4 ounces (½ cup) of fried foods increased the risk for heart attack and stroke by 3%, heart disease by 2% and heart failure by 12%,” according to results of the study. AS a point of reference, there are 117 grams in a medium McDonald’s french fry order. So eating that every week adds a 3% chance of heart attack or stroke.

As good as they are, put down the french fries. You want to live to see the end of this pandemic don’t you?

Smart Sugar Swaps? Not for me

I’m approaching the end of one month without any sugary snacks, cakes, candy — in short I’m eating nothing that I enjoy. This was a challenge from my wife as she realized we’d been going a bit overboard with such treats during our Covid quarantine.

I’m now four days from the end of the challenge. I’ve lost six pounds and am constantly hungry. So I was intrigued by this headline, 5 Smart Swaps to Make the Next Time You’re Craving Sugar.

Counting the hours until I can have one of these again.

Sadly, the swaps left me disappointed, and still craving sugar. Here they are (or you can click on this link to read the full story).

  • Sugar sweetened beverages: Instead of soda or sports drinks, make unsweetened fruit teas (hot or iced), sip sparkling water, or add fresh fruit or herbs to still or bubbly H20 for flavor.
  • Desserts and sweet snacks: Make fruit dessert, whether that’s combining dates with cocoa powder to make a truffle; dipping fresh berries in dark chocolate; making DIY ice cream with frozen bananas; grilling up fresh peaches or plums in summer; or enjoying cooked apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Sweetened coffee and tea: Add flavor by stirring in vanilla, cinnamon, coconut collagen, or cocoa powder.
  • Candy and sugary toppings (like syrup or jam): Use mashed fruit for syrup, DIY your own chia jam, or rely on unsweetened dried fruit like mango to satisfy your need for sweet.
  • Cereals and breakfast bars: Whip up a batch of overnight oats, make your own no-sugar granola, or prep grab-and-go options like protein pancakes so you always have something on hand.

That’s the best they have? I think I’ll wait for my sugar binge day February 1.

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