A simple yet very tasty tomato salad recipe using heirloom tomatoes

I’ve always been a giant tomato fan, perhaps because we always had them handy in the Italian-American household of my youth. I’m always on the lookout for fun tomato dishes, and this one, Tomato Salad with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette, fits the bill.

I like its use of heirloom tomatoes. If you’ve never had those, find some and enjoy. Their flavor is so much more intense than most store-bought tomatoes. And, as this recipe notes, you can find them in different colors and combine them for a colorful salad.

This salad uses heirloom tomatoes and English cucumber. It also has a simple recipe for a lemon-basil vinaigrette. I’d leave out the salt and use low- or no-fat feta instead of regular feta to get the salt content down even more than the 213 mgs of sodium per serving noted in the recipe.


The ingredient list is:

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (eliminate this)
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 large firm multicolor heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 medium English cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • ⅔ cup crumbled feta cheese (look for low- or no-fat feta)

You can watch this video for assembly instructions.

Grilled tuna steak, with a little extra — mango salsa and pineapple

Tuna steak is a great lean alternative to beef steaks. I regularly grill them in the summer months. Here’s a basic recipe for grilling tuna from the Food Network. Leave out the salt, of course.

And here’s how I recently went beyond the basic recipe to add even more flavor to our tuna steaks. I added some low-salt mango salsa I bought at Trader Joe’s. You can see on the TJ nutrition information page the salsa has only 35 mgs of sodium per serving, much less than most pre-made salsas. It also has no fat and only 3 grams of sugar per two tablespoons, enough to coat the tuna.

My mango, pineapple tuna on the grill, and the finished product.

To go even more tropical, I added slices of fresh pineapple. Pineapple sales has been plentiful this summer in the Chicago area. A whole pineapple is going for 88 cents, so I’m using it in more recipes than ever before.

With food prices rising because of the “Pandemic, look for every deal you can find and adjust your no-salt, no-fat, no-sugar recipes accordingly.

Americans aren’t managing their diabetes very well, new study finds

Roughly 10% of Americans ahve diabetes and how they’re managing that condition is deteriorating, according to a new study. While this blog is about healthy eating and doesn’t pretend to give medical advice, this topic is important enough to discuss. Sugar is one of the three evils Americans eat too much of and too much sugar is the issue for diabetics.

The new study, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found thatover the last decade, people with diabetes in the U.S. have become significantly less successful at controlling their blood sugar,” reports Medical News Today.

“These are concerning findings. There has been a real decline in glycemic control from a decade ago, and overall, only a small proportion of people with diabetes are simultaneously meeting the key goals of glycemic control, blood pressure control, and control of high cholesterol,” said study senior author, Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, of the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology.

If you;ve developed diabetes later in life, remember it’s not jst sugar you need to watch your consumption of, it’s also breadstuffs, potatoes, any food that converts to sugar in your bloodstream. American eat way too much bread, not to mention French Fries, both fo which contribute to this problem.

Can your cookouts be healthy? Yes, if you plan ahead and shop wisely

When I was a much younger man, I would routinely have a start-of-summer cookout at my house with a menu that included Italian sausage and peppers, ribs, chicken legs, fatty hamburgers, hot dogs — in other words all the things I can’t eat now that I’m dealing with heart issues. So I stopped having those cookouts, not wanting to serve people foods I can’t eat and assuming they would not be happy with what I could eat.

But that was then, this is now, some nine years after my first stent went in and I changed my eating habits.

I haven’t had a large cookout party in some time, especially not last year when we were all isolating, but I have developed healthy cookout menus for us.

A recent article I saw, Nutrition: Making summer barbecues healthier from the Duluth News Tribune, can help you make your cookouts healthier as well.

The article covers the basics — grill lean proteins like fish and chicken, use whole wheat breadstuffs when you must have a bun, grill fruits. It even touches on how high in salt most condiments are and suggests finding substitutes for those as well.

A good place to start grilling healthier is my recipe page. The Memorial Day special meals (under special occasion meals) all deal with grilling, for example. And check my smart shopping page for tips on low- and no-salt condiments.

Roasted Garlic Lemon Broccoli, one healthy recipe out of nine ‘amazing’ ones

When I see a headline like “9 Amazing Broccoli Recipes Everyone Will Love” I have to stop and read it. AS I suspected, however, most of these ‘amazing’ recipes were high in salt, or fat, or both. I did find one, however, that would fit our low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar criteria, roasted garlic lemon broccoli.

The recipe is simple to make as well:

  • Preheat the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a bowl, toss the broccoli pieces with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and pepper. [LEAVE OUT THE SALT, IT’S NOT NEEDED WITH GARLIC]
  • Spread the broccoli on a baking sheet and bake for at least 15 minutes until the broccoli is tender.
  • After 20 minutes, transfer roasted broccoli into a serving platter.
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the preparation and serve with a tangy twist.

An alternative for getting the salt out of your taco seasoning mix

I’m a big fan of all the Mrs. Dash salt-free products and have written before about the Mrs. Dash salt-free taco seasoning packets I buy. These are the best way to get salt out of your tacos, along with buying no-salt, or low-salt tortillas and using lean ground turkey or extra-lean ground beef to eliminate fat as well.

But Mrs. Dash products ahve become much harder to find during the pandemic as major food stores cut down on their variety of products to concentrate filling their shelves with their biggest sellers. So if you can’t find Mrs. Dash locally, what can you do? Buying online is a more expensive alternative. But you also can search for store brand offerings that are lower in salt.

Always check salt content, even for a product labeled reduced sodium.

I found this Signature Select store brand (sold by Jewel in the Chicago area, an Albertson’s supermarket). The package says it has 30% less salt than comparable products. The nutritional panel lists 250 mgs of sodium for two teaspoons, noting there are six servings in the packet, which means a total of 1,500 mgs of sodium in one package (a day’s supply of sodium, basically).

That is a ton more than Mrs. Dash but it is lower than some mainstream brands. Old El Paso, for example, lists 300 mgs times six servings or 1,800 mgs. A third off that would be 1,200 mgs, so the Signature Select 30% less doesn’t hold up here.

McCormick Taco seasoning has 380 mgs of salt times six servings so 2,280 mgs. A third off that would be 1,520, so maybe that was the brand used to make that 30% off comparison.

The bottom line here — there is a lot of hidden salt in taco seasoning. Use salt-free whenever you can, but if you must pick an alternative, read the nutrition labels and look for ones labeled reduced sodium.

A taco primer: tacos can be low-salt, low-fat, if you watch the ingredients you use

Taco Tuesday has become a regular thing, especially during the pandemic, when members of various online food groups were all posting pictures of their latest taco creations. But like most ethnic foods, tacos also can be quite unhealthy for you — high in salt (in the shells) and fat (in the meats used).

But you can control all that in tacos you make at home. This piece, Are Tacos Healthy? Ingredients, Calories, and Serving Sizes, provides a great overview of tacos and the ingredients you should be using. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include salt content for some of the options it provides, but it does warn against high salt, high-fat shells.

I’ve written about how you should seek out low-salt and no-salt corn soft tortillas for your tacos. I’ve also highlighted using Mrs. Dash salt-free taco spice mix, a fixture in my kitchen.

I normally make tacos with ground turkey to get a lean protein option. Recently, though, I used shrimp for a change pf pace. The shrimp I bought were precooked, so they jsut needed some warm in a frying pan with Mrs Dash taco spices mixed with water. I had first made some peppers and onions in the same pan to flavor it, eventually cooking everything together.

We did splurge that night with some hard taco shells I found which were low in salt. They remain relatively high in fat (7 grams each), so most of the time, I’d opt for the soft ones instead.

The ‘Cookbook of Healthy Living & No Regrets’ — handy for those cutting sugar

Jayne J. Jones went through a harrowing health crisis before being diagnosed with diabetes. It prompted her to change how she eats and to create the Cookbook of Healthy Living & No Regrets and to dub herself the No Sugar Baker.

If you can’t eat sugar but crave baked goods of all sorts, this book will interest you. The baking section is extensive. Actually, you could say two sections are devoted to baking — one for brunch baking and another just to baked goods.

As someone who doesn’t bake, I was most interested in the sections entitles Salads, Sides & Soups and Family Dinner Time Treats.

Those sections are a reminder of how difficult it is to cut, salt, fat and sugar from recipes you love and still have something you love. The recipes in those sections cut the sugar, but include butter, bacon, pork rinds and other ingredients that are high in salt and fat (specifically bad fat).

So if you need to cut sugar, this could be a cooking guide for you (I’m actually sending my copy to a friend who was recently diagnosed with diabetes and is scrambling to change how he eats). If you want to cut sugar, fat and salt, check my recipe page as a start, and also look at some of the other recipe sites I have here.

Sugar — good or bad? A debate actually exists

After I had my first angioplasty, I consulted with three nutritionists about what I could eat going foreword. Their recommendations differed a great deal, but all seemed to agree I should cut salt, fat and sugar out of my diet.

Of those, I have found sugar the hardest to give up. There’s no question that when I do give it up, I lose large amounts of weight. But I also become severely depressed and listless.

One of my favorite sugar carriers.

So I’d love someone to come along and say it’s ok to eat as much candy, cake and other sugary treats as I want. That’s not happening just now, but there is some debate going on about sugar, as this piece I found on stack.com outlines.

The piece is aimed at athletes and summarizes a study  published in the Journal of Progressive Cardiovascular Disease on the topic. Sadly though the link given for the article is a dead-end.

“Lack of physical activity, more so than sugar, is a greater threat to our health. Given that so many people are overfat and underfit, a diet low in sugars and starches is likely a good idea for them. But for sports-active, fit people—who are at lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity—sugar and carbs are not toxic but rather a helpful way to enhance athletic performance. The one-size diet does not fit all,” the piece states.

I doubt that at my age I could ever be active enough to balance out all the sugar I’d like to consume, so I’ll just keep trying to limit it.

A quick primer on low-sodium, reduced-sodium, et. al.

This blog is all about eating less sodium (and less fat and sugar). Cutting back on salt helped lower my blood pressure over the years and can do the same for you. We write about low-salt foods and recipes so much, we assume everyone knows how much salt they should be eating every day. But of course that’s not true, so here’s a quick primer we found recently on tylerpaper.com.

“The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. On average, Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day,” writes Claudann Jones Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Looks promising, lots of protein too.
Read every label for salt content!

The author talks about where to find salt content on food labels and also includes this handy primer of all the terms food processors use about salt, most designed to make you think the products have less sodium than they actually do:

• Sodium-free – Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving and contains no sodium chloride

• Very low sodium – 35 milligrams or less per serving

• Low sodium – 140 milligrams or less per serving

• Reduced (or less) sodium – At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level

• Light (for sodium-reduced products) – If the food is “low calorie” and “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving

• Light in sodium – If sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving

She also reminds readers to think about how many servings of a given product they would normally eat. The label lists salt for one serving but who really eats only one serving of anything?

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