Top 10 Heart Healthy Tips

February is heart health month, so I thought I would share some of my healthy heart tips. A few of my favorite heart healthy foods are salmon, nuts, oatmeal, dark chocolate, tomatoes, berries and even red wine (in moderation). Read on for some easy tips to better heart health.

1. Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol-If you reduce trans and saturated fats, you can reduce your cholesterol.

Choose: canola oil and olive oil

Avoid: butter, lard, bacon, fat

2. Choose Low Fat Protein Sources-Choose lean meats, eat less red meat and choose heart healthy fish (such as wild salmon and mackerel). These are filled with omega 3-fatty acids. Other good options include lean meats and poultry, low-fat daily products and egg whites. Avoid full fat milk and dairy products, egg yolks, bacon and fried foods.

3. Eat more vegetables and fruits-Eat raw fruits and veggies, and if you cook your vegetables, steam, grill or sauté them.

Avoid: frying vegetables, vegetables in cream sauces and fruit in heavy syrup.

4. Eat Whole Grains and Seeds-Choose whole grains and add seeds such as ground flaxseed and chia seeds to your diet. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your total blood cholesterol. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoon of them into yogurt, applesauce or hot cereal.

Avoid: white bread, cakes, and pies

5. Reduce sodium intake-Sodium can lead to high blood pressure. Choose fresh or dried herbs and spices instead of salt.

Avoid: table salt, full sodium canned soup, soy sauce, and tomato juice

6. Control portions-Watch your portions. A serving of pasta is ½ cup and the size of a hockey puck. 3 to 4 ounces of lean meat is the size of deck of cards.

7. Plan your daily meals ahead of time – Eat out less and cook healthy meals more.

8. Eat more Power-Foods-Power foods are those foods packed with antioxidants such as cherries, strawberries, berries, chia and flaxseeds, lentils, pomegranates, quinoa and more.

9. Exercise that heart-Try to exercise 5 to 6 times a week. Walk, run, dance, bike, swim or do what you love to get that heart pumping.

10. Replace junk food with fruits and vegetables– Start by replacing one junk food a week, and increase this every week  until you have a cleaner diet.

Photo above via pinterest  

photo above from Pinterest

Is The Mediterranean Diet the Healthiest Diet?

The Mediterranean diet has been called the “healthiest” diet of all, and my brother, Craig, a physician, sites research to his patients quite often as the most highly recommended diet. As a Nutritionist, I have studied a lot about it too, but when I was in Italy last month, I became a true believer. I traveled for seven full days in Italy eating six and eight course meals for lunch and dinner served with wine. I also didn’t exercise the entire week (very unlike me). When I came home and realized I actually lost weight, I was stumped. I thought about what ingredients comprised those extravagant meals, and I realized how pure all the food was. This shot was taken on my trip touring the beautiful land of the Le Marche Region of Italy.

Some Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet Include:

1. Plenty of exercise

2. Eating primarily plant based foods

3. Replacing butter with olive and canola oils

4. Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods

5. Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month. Eat more vegetables.

6. Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.

7. Drinking red wine in moderation.

8. Eat fruit for dessert

9. Eat small portions of high-quality foods.

10. Eat yogurt and cheese as your main dairy products.

11. This diet conveys the importance of enjoying meals with friends and family.

Top Foods on The Mediterranean Diet

-Fish and Seafood

-Olive oil or canola oil

-Fruits and Vegetables

-Nuts

-Beans

-Cereal

-Red wine

Rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, fish oil and even red wine, this diet is lower in saturated fat and has been said to reduce risks of cancers, heart disease and more.

Other Great Attributes about a Mediterranean diet:

1) A diet rich in fruits, grains, nuts, can reduce risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and alzheimers.

2) This diet is high in fiber which is great for decreased risk of diabetes and stomach issues.

3) This diet is filled with a good supply of mono-unsaturated fats found in fish, avocados, olive and canola oil which can help fight disease from the cellular level.

4) This is a diet people can stick to and actually enjoy.

My 10 Top Healthy Cooking Tips

I saw a friend at the ball park over the weekend, and she asked, “Alison, can you give me some tips for cooking healthier?” I said, sure. I’ll write a few down for you. So here goes… Some of these may come easy for some of you, but hopefully, I can lend some new ideas as well.

1. Use salt sparingly-You can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Most Americans consume more salt than they need. Salt can lead to higher blood pressure and bloating. Consuming foods high in salt becomes even much more noticeable as you get older. I can’t stand the feeling of waking up feeling puffy.

2. Grill more-Grilling is a great way to prepare healthy fish, chicken and meat as well as vegetables. What I really love about it is that my kids love to eat most anything grilled, and they are even more willing to try foods cooked on the grill.

3. Buy seasonal, buy local-Purchasing seasonal fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs and purchasing locally grown ingredients, will help you stay on track.

4. Simpler is always better-Starting with cooking with less ingredients, but fresh ones.

5. Choose Leaner and lower-fat ingredients-Choose leaner cuts of meats, lower fat milk, low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt and reduced-fat mayonnaise. Start with smaller steps to gain great strides. Also, don’t forget to trim fat from meats.

6. Broil, steam, roast and grill foods instead of frying– If you choose to fry foods, try oven frying instead.

7. Substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg when called for in recipes-This helps to to reduce fat content.

8. Read food labels-Be sure to choose foods with lower sodium, fat, sugar, carbohydrates and saturated fat.

9. Choose fresh-Use fresh juice from lemons, limes and oranges combined with fresh herbs and spice to season foods.

10. Cook with healthy oils such as Canola and olive oil-Also, try to cook with nonstick cookware more often to reduce the amount of oil needed.

Balsamic Glazed Collard Greens

Growing up and living in the south, I have always heard eating collard greens and black eyed peas brings good luck in the new year. This year, I had so much fun developing a new, easy recipe for collards for the January issue of Birmingham Magazine. What I really love about collard greens is that they are packed with nutrition and are known as a cancer-preventive vegetable. They offer an excellent source of  vitamins B6 and C, carotenes, chlorophyll, and manganese.  One cup of collard greens provides more than 70 percent of the RDA for vitamin C.  Collard greens are also a very good source of fiber, and several minerals, including iron, copper, and calcium. This 15 minute recipe for Balsamic Glazed Collard Greens has a salty and sweet combination from dried cranberries, toasted pecans and balsamic. Serve with pork, chicken, beef or fish for a tasty and healthy side dish.

Lightened Up Pumpkin Muffins

Who can’t resist pumpkins this time of year? Since the theme of “Fall Fest” this week is Pumpkin, I thought these Pumpkin Muffins would be a hit. “Fall Fest, as I mentioned in my post last week for Black-Eyed Pea Salad over Arugula, is a cross-blog recipe swap. I love this recipe for Pumpkin Muffins which is lighter than the average recipe made with a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose flour, canned pumpkin, nonfat buttermilk and Canola oil. Speaking of Canola, I was so excited to attend an event last night at the Viking Cooking School in Atlanta featuring the talented Chef and Cookbook Author, Virginia Willis and Nutrition Expert and Author, Carolyn O’Neil. Another busy week for me. Please leave a comment and let me know what type of pumpkin recipes you have been making lately. Happy Thursday!

Game Day and Labor Day Appetizer: Grilled Blue Corn Nachos

84314

Since we are headed into Labor Day weekend and the start of college football season, I thought I would share one of my all time top requested recipes. College football here in Alabama is huge.  As you may know, Auburn also won the National Championship last year. Alabama people are passionate about football, whether it’s Alabama, Auburn, or UAB, so parties, tailgating and food are super important. This recipe for Grilled Blue Corn Nachos is always a hit with friends during football season. I like to make these on the grill for that extra hint of grilled flavor. Feel free to bake them in the oven, and they still taste great!

Delicious and Healthy Easter or Passover Side Dish: Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini

IMG_3330

I made this recipe last year on NBC 13 “Daytime Alabama” for Passover and Easter, and it was a hit. This Stuffed Zucchini recipe was one of my kid’s favorites (believe it or not). This recipe for Stuffed Zucchini only has 150 calories per serving, 2.g grams of fat and only 13 carbs, and the cost per recipe is only $7.03 (for 4 people, very economical for fresh veggies).

My youngest son, Zachary said, “This tastes almost like a vegetable pizza.” I have to admit. He was right.  So, if you’re looking for a new healthy side dish for Passover, Easter or for anytime during the year, try these. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s really easy too. I promise!