No salt, no fat foods: we’re here to write about them

No salt, no fat foods became must-haves for me in 2012 after having an angioplasty. The operation changed what’s left of my life from what I thought it would be.

I could no longer revel in wondrous high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods. If I wanted to continue living, I had to completely change everything I ate.

Cooking, and eating, trays of Italian favorites like this are out for me now but I've found ways to cope.
Cooking, and eating, trays of Italian favorites like this are out for me now but I’ve found ways to cope.

I’ve done that and I created this blog in December 2012 to help all of you who face similar challenges. The progress of this blog in being discovered has been heartening for me. Daily average visits have increased tenfold since I started it. Traffic has improved monthly. There’s still a long way to go in building this, but I’m starting to get good traction in searches for no salt, no fat foods and hope to build on that in 2014. Continue reading “No salt, no fat foods: we’re here to write about them”

No salt, no sugar, no fat: read our Top 5 posts of 2013

Top five lists always seem to get people’s attention, so here’s the first Top 5 list of posts from the No Salt, No Fat, No Sugar Journal. While we launched this blog in late 2012, 2013 was our first full year and hence our first list. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by.
John

Top 5 Posts of 2013

The driest chicken ever. At Universal studios.
The driest chicken ever. At Universal studios.

1. What Can You Eat on a No Salt, No Sugar, No Fat Diet?

This post has become the gateway to our blog, really, with more people clicking on it than any other. We’ve added updates to it throughout the year because of that, so it’s worth another read.

2. Can you eat healthy at Universal Studios? Not even Harry Potter could help

Everyone wants to know if they can eat healthy at Universal. My answer: no, at least not at the Florida location I was dragged to late last year. I lost four pounds in four days because of the lack of healthy alternatives.

3. INdustri Café – a Milwaukee gem for restricted eaters, and others

This Milwaukee eatery was such a pleasant surprise, the only restaurant I knew of at the time where the chef would make special dishes for people who asked for no salt, no fat and no sugar. I recently found another in Chicago and will be blogging about it shortly.

4. Salt-free teriyaki sauce — a taste test of three varieties

Teriyaki without salt sounds impossible, but it’s not, check this piece to find what’s out there.

5. What’s life like six months after angioplasty?

A look at the massive upheaval I’ve experienced in my food life since my heart surgery.

Our individual pages also got heavy viewership, the most popular being:

Recipes
Ingredients
Eating Away from Home

Exercising after angioplasty — yes you can

Exercising after an angioplasty may seem counter-intuitive. My first thought was to conserve as much energy as possible so as not to strain my heart and my circulatory system. My doctor had other ideas and I completed a six-week physical rehab program to get over the fear that exercising would kill me, literally.

At my one-year post-surgery checkup, my doctor encouraged me to continue exercising regularly, even saying it would help me feel less tired.

Me preparing for the Irishfest 5K in Milwaukee. I'm Italian-American by birth and Irish-American by education, having attended Irish-run Catholic schools in New York where I learned all the Irish songs and had St. Patrick's Day off as a holiday.
Me preparing for the Irishfest 5K in Milwaukee. I’m Italian-American by birth and Irish-American by education, having attended Irish-run Catholic schools in New York where I learned all the Irish songs and had St. Patrick’s Day off as a holiday.

So recently, I went ahead with plans to walk a 5K with my wife and friends in Milwaukee, the city where I went to undergrad school and so where I still feel most like a teenager, as silly as that might sound. In 2009, I had run the same 5K as part of my then fitness regime. It was my second of two 5K runs that year. Continue reading “Exercising after angioplasty — yes you can”

Angioplasty — one year later

My angioplasty took place Aug. 13, 2012, so I have now lived for one year with a stent holding open one of my major arteries.

To keep that artery open, I have completely changed my eating routines as well as going on a regimen of medicines that had me taking five and a half pills a day. The result has been a 25-pound weight loss and a positive checkup last week that resulted in me being taken off one of my medications.

Me at the farmers' market with a fig tree I bought.
Me at the farmers’ market with a fig tree I bought.

To say all this had been easy, or a great opportunity to try new foods, would be absurd. Indeed, I stopped talking to one long-time friend who suggested that last year on a blog we once did together. Unfortunately, he had no clue why I could no longer meet him at some of our old eating haunts to watch him eat dishes I could no longer consume.

As a better, longer-term friend who also went through an angioplasty before I did predicted to me, there wasn’t a day in this last year when I didn’t have some ache or pain, real or imagined, that caused to worry I might be having the heart attack I dodged last year. Hardly fun times.

I have tried to live this past year to the very fullest, writing a one-act play I had been talking about writing for years; working with my wife to produce two performance of the play, and subsequently to write the second act as well.

I agreed to a long-wished-for trip to Italy to find my family roots with a group of cousins and my wife even though every day leading up to and during that trip, I was sure the trip itself would kill me.

I even agreed to go to a family reunion on my wife’s side at Disneyworld roughly four months after my surgery, when just walking was still a shaky experience for me. I lost four pounds in four days on that jaunt because of the lack of healthy food options at Disney or Universal Studios.

But I survived, I survived it all and I’m doing well. My doctors are thrilled and I’m thankful.

Last weekend, my wife and I went to our suburb’s farmers’ market and I remembered walking around the same market not long after my surgery in 2012. That day, I felt so shaky that I convinced my wife to let me wander alone a bit (she was frightened about leaving me). I convinced her to leave, not because I was feeling fine, but because I was sure I was about to pass out or worse, and I didn’t want her seeing that.

I didn’t pass out, as woozy as I was from the higher doses of medication I was on then.

I have used this year to build this website to help any and all of you dealing with your own massive changes in diets and health.

I know how tough it is, but you can change how you eat to survive, to survive for the people around you, and to enjoy the non-food portion of life yourself. With my help, hopefully, you also can enjoy some parts of your new food life.

Keep reading and keep trying.
John

Feeling lucky — try that burger, cake, ice cream, prime rib

One of the most difficult challenges about the new food regimen I’ve been following in the 11 months since my angioplasty is that so many people keep telling me it’s ok to cheat once and while by going off the diet to eat some of the foods I once enjoyed.

You’ve likely heard it too. It happens on away-from-home eating occasions, on holidays or at family gatherings where food, and often bad food, is the unifying factor of the event. “Oh it’s ok you can cheat once in a while,” they say. Or “how long do you have to eat that way,” they ask, somehow not fathoming the changes you are making are life-long and permanent.

Feeling lucky?
Feeling lucky?
Continue reading “Feeling lucky — try that burger, cake, ice cream, prime rib”

Fourth of July: why I went hungry while the country celebrated

Fourth of July is a holiday everyone enjoys, isn’t it, a time for backyard barbeqcues and fireworks. But when you’re on a restricted diet, it becomes something different; it becomes a day when you can’t eat like other people.

We spent the day at a friend of my wife’s who traditionally makes all the usual Fourth favorites, none of which are on my low-salt, low-sugar, low-fat diet plan, unfortunately.

Let’s go through the list:
* Hamburgers – too much fat
* Hot dogs – too much salt and too much fat
* Corn – too much starch (i.e. sugar)
* Potato salad and cole slaw – too much fat and too much salt, depending on the variety made
* White bread buns – too much salt and too much starch
* barbecue sauce on anything – too much salt and too much sugar

And so I sat there watching everyone else eat and getting hungrier and hungrier. In the evening, rather than see our local fireworks display, I instead returned home and made myself some salmon and a green salad.album_pic.php

My advice if you know you may be in similar situation – bring a watermelon as your contribution to the party, you can eat plenty of that. Or bring along a chicken breast or low-fat burger you make at home and ask your host to cook it for you.

And if you want to celebrate at your house with a cookout, try these barbecue items I’m now making for myself:

• Salmon dressed with lemon or a low-salt marinade
• Chicken breasts in a low-salt marinade (Mrs. Dash or another brand)
• Hamburgers you make with the leanest possible beef; I have found 96% lean beef in my area.
• Low-fat hot dogs (Hebrew National makes them, look for those or similar brands).
• Grilled vegetables brushed with olive oil and Italian spices
• Tilapia made in aluminum foil to hold in the flavor, garnished with lemon slices and lemon juice.
• Whole wheat or Ezekiel bread and buns
• Home-made fruit salad for dessert or fat-free ices or sherbets

I thought my grilling days were over after my angioplasty, but I’ve found these adjustments allow me to continue cooking out and enjoying it.
John

Olive oil and restricted diets: which type is best for you?

You’ve been told olive oil has good fats not the bad fats in everything else you once loved to eat but no longer can. So are all olive oils created equal?

I recently visited an olive oil processing plant in southern Italy while on a 10-day vacation with family there. The owner, the fourth generation of her family to run the place, explained to us that extra virgin olive oil is best when watching your cholesterol and diet overall.

some of the amazing olive oil we brought back from Italy.
some of the amazing olive oil we brought back from Italy.

We sampled a wonderful array of oils there. I have always loved olive oil. Tasting it in my ancestral homeland was even more special.

While I can’t eat plain Italian bread any longer, I can always buy some type of whole wheat bread to dip in my wonderful olive oil. And putting it on vegetables and fish adds a wonderful flavor.

I also use it exclusively on salads now, having walked away from any type of prepared – read high-fat, high-salt – dressings. Interestingly, in Italy no restaurant offered any type of prepared dressing. Oil and vinegar were routinely placed on our tables instead. I wish American restaurants would copy that practice as well.
John

Did James Gandolfini Die of a Heart Attack?

I was shocked this evening to hear news of Soprano’s star James Gandolfini dying in Rome, apparently from a heart attack.

If the early reports prove to be true, his loss is just another indication of how deadly a silent killer heart disease can be. And it’s a reminder to people like me, who already survived one blocked artery or similar heart incidents, that we can’t stray from our new restricted diets for fear of having still more heart problems in the future.jg Continue reading “Did James Gandolfini Die of a Heart Attack?”

Worst Flight Ever – Do Not Fly Air France, Delta

While I normally blog about food, diet and job hunting, I have to dep­art from those topics today to warn you against flying on Air France, ever, under any circumstances. A recent Air France flight I took from Paris to Chicago was the worst, I repeat the worst, flight I have experienced in 42 years of commercial air travel.

My wife and I sat in row 29 of an Air France A 330 Airbus, across from an exit door but not next to it with the added leg room that would have provided. Instead, we were up against a wall which meant zero leg room and constant cramps in both my legs. But the discomfort only began with that. The temperature in our seats easily approached the freezing point and there was no way to control the airflow around us, no knobs to adjust the air conditioning.

A low-salt airline meal on Delta...cheese, salad dressing, white rice? Really?
A low-salt airline meal on Delta…cheese, salad dressing, white rice? Really?
Continue reading “Worst Flight Ever – Do Not Fly Air France, Delta”

Can you enjoy vacationing on a restricted diet?

I’m about to take the dream trip of my life — journeying to my ancestral homelands in Italy with my wife and six cousins. It’s exciting but all I can focus on right now is how will I be able to keep to my restricted diet while there? How much gelato, pasta, cheeses and other treats will I have to pas up while everyone around me eats to their heart’s content?

We'll be visiting Amalfi and Salerno, towns my grandmothers were born in, among other places on this trip.
We’ll be visiting Amalfi and Salerno, towns my grandmothers were born in, among other places on this trip.

In the 10 months since my angioplasty, I have rebuilt what I eat and become relatively adept at making meals at home, plus at searching out the usually one thing on any restaurant menu I can safely eat (like buckwheat pancakes without butter at a pancake house today). How do I transition to eating every meal out every day in a foreign country?

See how I do, or don’t do, here. I’ll be blogging whenever I can get Web access.
John

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