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Herbs and Spice and Everything Nice

Herbs and spices add flavor to foods, and are often a great way to reduce the salt you use in cooking. However, some spices may also provide additional benefits to your health. Many contain “phytochemicals” and have health benefits.

Last year, General Mills sent me some samples of their new cereals that use natural ingredients and spices to provide color (in place of artificial colors). Turmeric is one of those ingredients used to provide an orange color to foods, naturally. They sent me a jar of the spice and I’ve been looking for new ways to use it ever since. I’ve added it to chicken dishes, and soups and stews. But today I thought I’d add some to a smoothie!

Turmeric comes from the turmeric plant, and is often used in Asian cooking (curry). It has a bright orange color and may have beneficial properties that can help ease an irritable bowel, reduce inflammation, or tame a headache. It seems to be trending, and since I had a jar in my pantry, I figured I’d add some to a smoothie.

Inulin, which is sourced from chicory root, is a functional prebiotic fiber, that may also help support gut health. It’s sometimes used as a fat replacer, in foods such as yogurt or pudding. This allows for a lower calorie product (great for middle aged women and men), that also has the benefit of additional fiber.

This smoothie recipe includes both turmeric, and Dannon Triple Zero® yogurt (which contains chicory root fiber). And of course, I wouldn’t share it if is wasn’t delicious! Not to mention that it’s filling, and only 160 calories!

STRAWBERRY SALTED CARAMEL SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

5-6 ripe strawberries

5.3 ounce container of Dannon® Triple Zero Salted Caramel Yogurt

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2-3 ice cubes

3 TB water

Method:

Whirl all ingredients in a blender or juicer until completely smooth. Makes one 160 calorie serving (with 15 grams protein).

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Add More Flavor and Variety to Meatless Meals

I’ll probably make a beef filet with lobster tails for cozy Valentine’s day dinner at home. But I also like to include a meatless meal once a week. Whether it’s pasta with beans or a vegetable rice dish, vegetarian meals aren’t just for vegetarians. You don’t have to “go vegan” to enjoy them as part of your weekly meal planning. Even meat-eaters can incorporate a vegetarian dish once a week. You can also modify vegan recipes (for instance, use dairy cheese in place of the vegan cheese) to suit your taste. The goal here is to add more vegetables to your diet, and incorporate more complex flavors, so they really satisfy.

I made this easy recipe one weeknight, and it was delicious. To me, this type of casserole is the ultimate comfort food: Warm, soft, flavorful, and cheesy! My version was inspired by this one.  A traditional Moussaka dish includes both eggplant and ground meat, and topped with a Bechamel sauce (white cream sauce). But this recipe is an easy way to enjoy my favorite flavors in the dish. It eliminates the meat and adds whole grain, high protein quinoa, and a high protein, creamy custard topping. And of course, it’s DASH Diet friendly.

Vegetarian Moussaka [serves 4]

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup finely chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup water

1/2 cup uncooked Bulgar and red quinoa mixture (I used Full Circle brand – but you could use 1/4 cup quinoa and 1/4 cup bulgar wheat)

1 small can tomato paste (plus 4 cans of water)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Cooking spray

1 cup Light Sour Cream or plain fat-free Greek yogurt

2 TB feta cheese, crumbled 

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

2 large eggs

3 TB Parmesan cheese, grated 

METHOD

Preheat broiler to high. Line a baking sheet pan with foil. Spray with olive oil cooking spray. Place eggplant slices on the baking sheet and lightly drizzle olive oil over the eggplant, or spray with olive oil spray. Broil for 5 minutes on each side or until browned. If needed, cook in batches (being sure you only have one single layer of eggplant). Set eggplant aside.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add onion, stir to coat with oil and cook about 5-10 minutes or until onion is tender. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add 1 cup water, quinoa, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and additional water (measured in tomato paste can). Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and gently stir in basil.

Set oven temperature to 350°.

Combine sour cream (or greek yogurt), feta cheese, goat cheese, and eggs in a bowl or large glass measuring cup, stirring well with a fork until smooth. Set aside.

Spread half of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a 9×11-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange half of eggplant slices over sauce, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

  1. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over eggplant and top with remaining eggplant slices. Spoon or pour yogurt mixture evenly over eggplant, spreading to cover.
  2. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until topping is lightly browned. Garnish with extra basil if desired.Cut into 4 large squares and enjoy!Other additions: You can always use up other vegetables you may have in this dish. Sliced zucchini, bell peppers, or sliced mushrooms could be used an additional layer in this dish. Alternate the layering – eggplant, vegetable, then eggplant layer.

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Go Red for Heart Health

Today is Go Red for Women® day. What’s that all about?

It’s an awareness campaign sponsored by the American Heart Association that encourages women to monitor their health, eat well and exercise. Cardiovascular deaths in women hit about 500,000 per year. The campaign aims to dispel the myths about heart disease and women, and help women understand how to recognize risk and care for themselves. 

The campaign encourages women to:

Of course my coauthors and I wrote DASH Diet For Dummies® because we are all passionate about heart health. As women, we are also passionate about women’s health, and hope that our books help you better understand your own heart health and overall risk for heart disease.

I asked my coauthor, Dr. Sarah Samaana board certified cardiologist and a Physician Partner at the Baylor Heart Hospital in the Dallas Metroplex city of Plano, Texas. She cares for a wide range of patients, including those whose focus is prevention as well as people with advanced heart disease. She co-authored The DASH Diet for Dummies and is the author of Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to stop heart disease before or after it starts.

Here’s some of her best advice for you:

Q: What should women be asking their doctors when they go in for a well visit?

A: Women should know their blood pressure, lipid profile (including LDL,HDL, and triglycerides) and blood glucose, as well as their BMI. These simple numbers are key in identifying your cardiovascular risk, and in helping to formulate a plan for prevention.

Q: What do you recommend for an overweight women who is not participating in exercise? How can she start?

A: Exercise is critical to preventing  heart disease and other chronic illness. For older adults, simply walking 30 min 5 days per week will lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia by 30%. Just put on your sneakers and walk out the door! Or if the weather is not cooperative, consider an exercise bike or treadmill.

Q: What dietary suggestions do you offer to women, that may differ from men?

A: For most women, it’s especially important to get plenty of calcium. Calcium helps strengthen our bones, but is also important for heart health. The body uses calcium from the diet much more efficiently that it does when taken in the form of supplements, and there is some concern that supplements could even pose harm. I especially like Greek yogurt. It’s a protein powerhouse and a great source of calcium as well. Fortified milk (including my favorite, soy milk) is another good source of calcium. So is canned salmon, since the little bones in the fish get softened and pulverized during the canning process.

I advocate a Mediterranean diet, with a good balance of healthy fats, healthy carbs, and lean protein. The DASH diet, designed to lower blood pressure, includes many elements of the Mediterranean diet, and both are adaptable to suit just about anyone’s dietary needs and restrictions.

Q: How might stress be handled?

A: Stress is not all bad. It is the stress that we cannot control that is so dangerous. That includes unhappy relationships at home and at work. A demanding spouse or a job in which you feel underappreciated or overworked can be sources of this unwanted stress. While we can’t always escape stress, nurturing healthy habits like regular exercise, meditative activities, and adequate sleep can really help to counteract the harmful effects.

Don’t waste any more time. Take care of yourself. See your doctor. Check your numbers. Eat right. Be heart happy.

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Enjoying a Safe Food Supply – in Moderation

I recently attended a food conference where a session about animal welfare was sponsored by the USFRA (however I was not paid to write this post). One of the speakers, Brad Greenway, is a pig farmer from South Dakota, and I’ve used some of the content from his lecture to create this post.

According to US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) surveys, animal welfare is a top consumer concern, in addition to use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and how food is processed. Yet despite the facts that the vast majority of farmers treat their animals humanely on the farm, hormones are not used in pork or poultry, and antibiotic use to promote growth is now banned, people continue to falsely report these issues on social media or in conversation.

Whether you’re a carnivore or an omnivore, it’s likely you care about where your food comes from.

I enjoy listening to real people talk about the real things they do. So often in our 24/7 news and media storm, we hear soundbites, or see memes, short videos, and other sorts of media out of context. The food perspectives you’ll hear from someone who is vegetarian or vegan will differ from someone who includes meat in the diet, and those who prefer to purchase certified organic over conventional produce, will also vary in opinion.

I encourage everyone to choose their own version of a healthy diet and then work toward choosing foods they enjoy within that dietary framework, and their food budgets.

I personally eat according to the DASH diet guidelines, and also incorporate many Italian and Mediterranean ingredients. As the author of DASH Diet For Dummies®, I recommend that you reduce the amount of meat you eat, choosing smaller portions of leaner cuts.

However my personal eating style is not important. Neither is telling every consumer, “you should eat this”. What is important to me, is getting the facts to the consumer. Since people do indeed eat bacon, it’s important to dispel any myths about it’s food production. In that vein, this post is for meat-eaters. It is not intended to claim that one diet is better than another, nor whether or not you should consume bacon. It is about food safety.

Food Marketing VS What’s Healthy

Since food marketing is driven by consumer demand, the latest conversations seem to revolve over whether a food is “clean” or organic or “free” of something. I’ve heard consumers say things like “All of the hormones in our food are making us sick!” when in reality, hormones are not even allowed in pork or poultry, and are only used sparingly in beef cattle.

In the case of the meat industry, terms such as antibiotic-free, organic, or cage-free, are viewed as more important now, than say, the dietary fat content, or any other nutritional quality of the food.

Real Farmer. Real Food.

Brad Greenway isn’t just a pig farmer, he’s the 2016 American Pig Farmer of the Year. Every farmer I’ve met over the years has several thing in common: a dedication to family, the land, and the care of their animals. Brad was no different.

For those living in urban areas and big cities like New York, LA, Boston, or Chicago, the opportunity to speak with a real farmer, and see photos of their family, farm, and animals, can help connect the farm to the the people at the market. The USFRA supports this idea, and tries to bring the farmer to you, via the videos and stories on their website, and also in sponsoring farmers to speak to groups (as the one I attended).

A few things that Brad spoke about that are important:

  • Farming is a science-based business that utilizes technology to create the most productive and humane system possible
  • Animal care is a top priority. For instance, Brad built a barn to protect his pigs from harsh winter conditions of South Dakota. He uses technology to monitor their well being (movement, feeding, etc).
  • While many have different definitions of sustainability, on Brad’s farm the smart use of resources are part of his definition. He puts animal manure back into the soil as fertilizer to grow crops, which then are cycled back to the animals.
  • Top of mind: The products that Brad produces go onto consumer plates.

Antibiotics

Top of mind is the use of antibiotics. We generally think of antibiotics as medicines used to treat illness. Yes, antibiotics are used to treat infection, but in the past they were indeed used in low doses to promote growth in farm animals as well.

The sub-therapeutic dose of antibiotics added to animal feed in the past supported animals that grew more quickly and stayed healthy, but farmers have slowly pulled back on this use of antibiotics, and as of December 2016, the FDA ruled that they can no longer be used to promote growth in food animals. Like it or not, consumer demand often trumps science when it comes to changes made at the market.

Hormones

Hormones are not used in pigs. They are used is small doses to enhance the growth of beef cattle (they are not legal for poultry, pigs, veal, or dairy cows). These hormones are placed into the cow’s ear, and are slowly released over time.  In general, they allow for faster growth, resulting in enhanced production, using less resources.

Food Pricing

Farmers work hard to be as productive as possible, both for their own welfare, the welfare of their animals, and to keep food prices reasonable at the market for the consumer. A diet lower in meat is healthier (if it is also balanced with plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes), but despite the effort of myself, and many of my colleagues, to encourage people to reduce their consumption of meat, data shows that Americans are demanding more of it.

Facts Not Fear

Regardless of the supermarket where you choose to shop, or the food brands that you put in your cart, I’m confident that your food is safe to eat. Farmers like Brad are feeding their families the same food you are eating. They have your best interest in mind. The next time you hear someone making a scary statement about “what’s in your food”, think about the source, ask yourself if there’s any fact behind the statement, look into it yourself, and help others see the farmer’s perspective too.

 

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Kiwifruit: Big Nutrition, Small Package

Variety is key to a healthy diet, so if you’ve found yourself in a rut, eating the same fruits or veggies every day, it’s time to shake it up a little. We are so fortunate to have all sorts of fruit available through every season, no matter where in the US you live. We’ve been loving Mighties™ kiwifruit at our house lately. They are often on sale at our local market, so it’s cost-friendly to purchase a two pound box (about 8-10 kiwi). 

As they claim on their nutrition facts label, one kiwi contains:

  • 90 calories
  • 460 milligrams of potassium
  • 230 % you daily value for Vitamin C
  • 70 % of your daily Vitamin K
  • 10 % of your daily Vitamin E
  • 10 % of your daily Vitamin A
  • 4 grams fiber

Any fruit can be considered a DASH Diet fruit, but kiwifruit is higher in potassium than some other choices. You can’t go wrong adding some kiwifruit to your diet. You can either peel several, and slice or cube, then keep in the refrigerator to eat as you like. Or you can simply cut one in the morning to enjoy with breakfast. Children and adults alike enjoy eating them with a spoon – just slice in half, and scoop out of the skin.

Including some whole fruit for breakfast or at snack time also adds fiber to your diet. Fiber is an important part of the healthy diet, and helps with weight control by keeping you full. Fiber also helps those with diabetes manage blood sugar levels (and kiwifruit has a low glycemic index).

Adding more variety and color to your diet guarantees a variety of antioxidants, and makes eating more enjoyable. Scout the produce sections for sales at your local grocer, and enjoy a variety of fruit all year round.

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The Best Diet is the Healthiest One that You Can Swallow

I just arrived home from a conference about some of the hottest topics in nutrition right now: Food safety/allergy, dietary fat and heart health (omega-3 fatty acids, dairy fat), food intolerance (gluten, wheat, sugars, dairy protein), plant-based proteins, diet and irritable bowel disease, gut health and the microbiome, and how to handle fake nutrition news (a favorite topic, as that’s where Chew the Facts was born).

Slide from Timothy Caulfield

In the coming weeks, I’ll continue to cover these topics and will cite the research as well. Most of these topics are indeed emerging, and I’m excited that many of them support the DASH Diet eating style. I’m also excited about the research supporting proper infant feeding from birth, through the first 1000 days. Such an important topic, and near to my heart. Personally, I think the only solution to pediatric obesity is prevention via healthy pregnancies and proper infant feeding.

Is Dairy Fat Different?

I was quite interested in learning how dairy fat may be of benefit to heart health. Teaser: As a self-proclaimed cheese-lover, news about the potentially functional quality of dairy, via peptide action as well as how some dairy fat may behave differently than other saturated fats, interests me. Dairy fat has been demonized at times, and limited, with standard recommendations to “use low fat or non fat dairy”. While I’ve made those recommendations myself, I’ve also always worked with clients individually – creating meal plans that work for them. Some research is showing that dairy fat may behave differently than other sources of saturated fat. Of course high fat dairy products still provide more calories than lower fat options, and calories are still an important issue. Total calorie load may be more important for those who are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight, but in most cases, a variety of dairy may be workable (perhaps cream in your coffee, regular cheese or yogurt, and low fat milk – or some combination of that).

You’ll also be interested to learn more about allergy – and how offering peanut butter in the first year of life actually reduces risk of food allergy.

Stay tuned over the next months for more details, more research, and more information on trending food and nutrition topics.

 

 

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Stop Eating Plain, Boring Vegetables

By now, you’ve heard that DASH Diet is voted one of the best diet plan to follow. I’m talking lifestyle here. For life.

Just about any sensible diet plan, that’s supported by science, will be recommending you add more vegetables to your diet.

You know you are supposed to be eating more vegetables, but you don’t think you like them. Consider this: Many people have never had a vegetable dish they really like because they’ve never had a delicious vegetable dish to try! It has a lot to do with both the cooking method, and the prep. How are the vegetables cut? How are they combined? What sort of flavors are added to them? How are they cooked?

If you are used to eating bland, steamed or boiled vegetables, set a goal to try cooking some on your own, and try a wider variety this year. They can really taste great with the right prep and cooking method. Even an inexperienced cook can excel.

Asparagus is an easy vegetable to prepare. Try these three easy ways to cook them:

  1. Heat grill. Rinse asparagus, and using your hand, break off the end (where it breaks naturally). Place asparagus on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and add a pinch of salt. Place onto grill pan on hot grill, and cook for about 5 minutes. You’ll want them to be “crisp-tender” meaning they will be tender, but still have firmness to them.
  2. Steam. Put a large pan on the stove, add about 2/3 cup water and heat to boil. Add cleaned asparagus to pan, cover and simmer for 6-7 minutes. Remove to platter immediately, add 2-3 teaspoons olive oil, and squeeze half a lemon over.
  3. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Clean asparagus and place onto cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil. Drizzle with1 tablespoon olive oil, add 2 garlic cloves to pan, and toss all in oil. Roast for 20 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender.

Swiss Chard and Spinach (and yes, Kale) are both full of Vitamin C and folic acid. These greens are so easy to cook. Simply prep by chopping off stems and rinsing well in a colander to remove dirt or grit (or you can purchase the pre-washed bags of greens). Five to six cups of raw greens will cook down quickly to about 2 cups.

  1. Heat 1 TB olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 clove minced garlic and chopped greens, and stir quickly until greens are wilted, reducing heat if needed. Enjoy as a side dish or add to an omelet.
  2. Try my roasted cauliflower and kale.
  3. Saute the greens as above in #1, transfer to plate, quickly add chopped nuts (walnuts or pine nuts) to hot pan over medium-low heat, saute for a minute, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and toss to coat, stir 1 minute. Add nuts to greens and serve.

Finally, a simple tossed salad can be eaten daily, upping your veggie intake.

  1. Using pre-packaged greens can be a big time save but don’t stop at the greens. Add yellow tomatoes, chopped cucumber, sliced grapes, sliced strawberries, orange sections, chopped nuts (or the toasted nuts as above), slices of avocado, olives, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, or canned (rinsed) beans.
  2. Make your own simple dressing – try 1/4 olive oil, 2 TB raspberry vinegar (or balsamic), 2 teaspoons honey (or mustard, or both), pinch of salt and pepper. Mix until combined, drizzle over salad.

 

If one of your 2017 goals is to use the DASH Diet plan, then you’ll need to increase your vegetable and fruit intake. By all means, make them tasty! Try our DASH Diet recipes and tips found in our cookbook and cheat sheets.

 

Note: Adding vegetables to your diet is important, so while these examples use fresh produce, it’s still okay to eat canned or frozen vegetables! Canned beans, tomatoes, even corn, can really come in handy when you’re short on time. Look for water-packed, and low sodium canned vegetables. Rinse beans to remove some of the sodium (black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, kidney beans – all great inexpensive sources of fiber and protein).

 

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When Alternative Turns Mainstream

How much farther can we go with the “Detox” craze?

What once was a hollywood fad, has become mainstream, and January is the month to market the hell out of it. Just search the word “detox” and you’ll get 11,700,000 hits (yes, that’s over 11 million!) with many articles and website purporting the idea of “cleansing” your body, “aiding in the natural detox process” or “jump starting” your body’s systems.

Yeah, it’s all pretty much bunk. What makes this worse, is when physicians (who are supposed to be trained in physiology, biology, and medicine) support this stuff. Dr. Oz offers a “48-hour weekend cleanse”, and Dr. Mark Hyman supports a “10-day detox”. Both of these guys are (celebrity) physicians, and the public tends to trusts them. But perhaps that public trust has changed, and unfortunately, these questionable public figures bring other physicians and qualified allied health professionals down with them.

The recent news story about the physician at Cleveland Clinic (where Dr Hyman is also affiliated with) who blatantly wrote an editorial about his anti-vaccination opinion (including that he thinks it causes autism) is another example of how alternative “medicine” deserves to be scrutinized.

There is absolutely zero science to support his claim, but there is lots of science that supports how beneficial childhood vaccines are (remember polio?) for the greater population. You can read his letter and cast your own judgement (he’s a family practice physician). It’s since been edited from the original post on January 6. Cleveland.com had to follow it up with an explanation, which doesn’t seem to address anything about the idea that the public should expect evidence-based medicine from such a medical institution as the Cleveland Clinic.

So while Dr. Neides is worried about pronouncing food ingredient lists, I am more worried about the alternative movement in medicine. For one thing, there seems to be a trend to push this type of treatment using fear-mongering and tried and true fad marketing (e.g. using the word “detox”). Yet they want to be trusted?

Cleveland Clinic’s Alt Med staff includes a “Culinary Medicine” and “Energy Medicine” specialist. I’m not sure what those are. It’s not just doctors who are going alternative routes. Plenty of dietitians use alternative therapies or functional nutrition (functional and integrative are the best terms) in their practice.

Eat a Better Diet

One thing all “alternative medicine” or integrative medicine folks may agree upon: Eat a better diet. The problem is that many won’t agree on what that diet is (dietitians however, generally individualize diets, as opposed to prescribing just one sort of diet plan).

Functional nutrition can certainly have a role in health, and I wholly believe that diet has a huge impact on health and well-being. Certainly treating “the whole” person, and doing a thorough medical exam, is smart practice. Even integrating non-medical treatment that can relieve stress, can benefit health. Massage for stress relief? Yes, but not to treat your chronic pain or your diabetes. Sauna, after a swim? Sure. Is there some science behind acupuncture and chiropractics? Yes. But some practitioners simply go over the line.

Do some people eat crappy diets? Yes, but dietitians work with them to make gradual changes with tried and true recommendations based in science. Do some people need supplements? Yes, but this has to be individualized. Do we identify the “toxic” food in their current diet? Ah, no.

But the issue I have with functional medicine, is not its definition, but the fact that some of the practitioners associated with it seem to have poor medical judgement.

I could not recommend therapies that routinely recommend you avoid certain food groups, or take unnecessary supplements that have no science behind them, promise results, or are completely anecdotal.

Oh but wait, Americans spend 30 billion dollars a year on these treatments…Right. Buyer (follower) beware.

 

 

 

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DASH Diet #1 Seventh Year in a Row

Best Diet. Seven years in a row.

Do you think this suggests you should learn more and try it? I do!

US News and World Report has once again ranked the DASH Diet as the Best Diet. Despite being ranked as the Best Overall Diet for 7 years in a row now, they report it as still “relatively obscure”. My hope is that 2017 is the year that perception changes, and more realize it really is one of the best overall plans to eat for health. The Mediterranean Diet also ranked high, in the #2 spot (and perhaps more folks are at least familiar with the term) and the MIND diet (a blend of DASH and Mediterranean diets) also ranked well at #3. You could choose any of those three, but I have DASH Diet resources for you.

As co-author of DASH Diet For Dummies®, I couldn’t be more excited that it was not only rated Best Overall Diet, but also Best Diet for healthy living, diabetes, and heart health. 

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and was originally created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute to treat high blood pressure. The research says it works to lower blood pressure, but the heart-healthy diet plan has also been shown to be easy to follow, and helpful for weight control and diabetes.

US News comes up with this list each year, and they don’t do so randomly. They actually have a methodology and a broad panel experts. They consider:

  • How easy it is to follow
  • The diets ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss
  • The nutritional completeness of the diet
  • Its safety
  • The potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.

If a diet plan is too difficult to adhere to long-term, it can’t have much benefit. Since diabetes and heart disease are leading health issues in the United States, it really is time to recommend DASH Diet to the masses.

The DASH Diet plan includes adding more fruits, veggies, dairy, nuts and seeds to your diet, and cutting back on meat, some fats, and salt. Use our For Dummies® Cheat Sheet handy as you set your goals. Better yet, go ahead and order our books! Such a small investment for a big impact on your health and lifestyle!

 

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The New Year of Now

I’ve been a dietitian for 30 years. Hard to believe, but true. I’ve been a writer for 22 years, which means I have written thousands of articles, and often this time of year many were centered around “getting healthier in the new year”.

Well, the jig is up! 

It’s not about the new year, it’s about making changes, making healthy choices, now. Now. Now. Now. Health insurance plans are in turmoil, and while you don’t have control over everything, you do have control over some things. Do something now about the things you can control, that do impact your health:

Don’t Smoke.

  • Find a way quit. Enlist a friend or family member for support.
  • Find a smoking cessation class. Talk to your doctor.

Eat Less.

  • You can control the portion sizes of your food, and how frequently you eat.
  • You can still enjoy some high calorie foods, just reduce your portions
  • If you’re over 45, it’s especially time to reduce the portion sizes of everything you eat and drink.

Eat More Plants

  • Plants are medicinal. Fruits, vegetables, and grains contain fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals that help our bodies stay well. They won’t cure us, but they’ll try to keep us as healthy as can be.
  • Find new recipes that will add delicious dishes into your plan. One-bowl meals are a quick and easy way to add veggies and grains every week
  • Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated and using beans, frozen or pre-packed veggies, makes it easy to throw a meal together.

Move More.

  • Exercise has proven health benefits. It will help keep your metabolism humming, maintain or reduce weight, and improve your mood and productivity. Do it.
  • Schedule gym days and find a friend to get there with.
  • Find ways to move more during your regular day. Not exercise, just movement. Walk farther, do more housework. Take your phone calls standing or pacing. Stretch while you are on speaker phone. Walk or bike to the neighbors instead of driving. Take the stairs. Find short 15 minute exercise videos to put on in the morning or evening.

Drink Less.

  • Excessive alcohol intake causes a number of health issues, including cirrhosis, high blood pressure, heart disease.
  • If you do drink, do so responsibly, use the moderation guidelines of 1 drink a day for women, and 1-2 for men.
  • Drink more water, use diet or soda water for mixers

Stress Less.

  • You can’t control everything bad that happens to you or your loved ones, but you can control how you choose to deal with it.
  • Find a support system.
  • Exercise regularly.

Enjoy More.

  • Don’t think in terms of what you can’t or shouldn’t eat. Frame it as trying new foods that taste good and are good for you.
  • Take the clutter away. What are you doing in your life that really doesn’t give you any joy at all? Remove it if possible, and use that time to enjoy some exercise in the fresh air, or another stress-reducing hobby.

Invest in Your Health

  • Don’t wait for your health insurance plan to schedule a visit with a dietitian or get support from an online coach.
  • You may not hesitate to spend $30-75 on hair and nails, so consider setting aside $75 for a nutrition counseling session this year.
  • While I can make the argument that healthy food does not have to cost a lot, I also can tell you that sometimes it is worth paying more for your groceries. Don’t skimp. Eat good food.

Accept Slow Progress and Maintenance.

  • Losing weight is difficult, and keeping it off is even more difficult. It’s a lifelong endeavor.
  • Start making healthier choices every day, with the understanding that maintaining your weight is part of a “weight loss program”. You won’t be “losing” every week, all the time.
  • If you hit a “plateau”, that is not a failure. Hang on. Keep eating well, don’t skip your exercise or gym time.

Don’t Quit in February.

  • All the good food your’e eating? The days at the gym? Keep it up!
  • This is where an online coach or nutrition counselor can come in – for follow up and ongoing support. Almost everyone needs support to stick to it, and help removing barriers.

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