Category: Heart Healthy

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Today was my last day on the heart healthy diet. I learned a lot nutritionally and psychologically in the last few weeks. I’ve summarized my take-aways into 4 main points:

  1. Limiting sodium was (mostly) easier than I expected. At first, things are a little bland and it seems like there are a lot of things you “can’t have,” but over time I saw that I had several days well under 2,400 mg so I started adding a sprinkle of salt to bland food and found I did have a little room to add some sodium. You do also get used to needing less salt for flavor. I learned some tricks for adding flavor without salt, too. Be careful, though, because certain foods can blow almost your entire sodium budget in one fell swoop…*cough* seafood fettuccini *cough*.
  2. Limiting saturated fat was quite a bit harder than I expected. Those saturated fat grams are sneaky little suckers! I went into the heart healthy diet assuming sodium would be my biggest challenge and I quickly learned that saturated fat was much more difficult to keep within my 12 gram per day limit. Saturated fat is primarily from animal sources like butter, lard, dairy fat, and meat fat. The way I generally teach people to limit saturated fat is to eat oil-based spreads (instead of butter), low-fat or nonfat dairy, and lean meats and fish. I figured since I mostly eat that way I wouldn’t have to worry much about saturated fat on this diet. I was wrong! More often than not, halfway through the day I would check my saturated fat consumption and find it well over halfway through the budget. I now know that if patients are committed to limiting their saturated fat within recommendations, they probably need more specific guidelines and tips to keep that in check.
  3. Having dietary “restrictions” is a nasty mind game. It makes your inner petulant toddler come out: What do you mean I can’t have it? I want it! Suddenly I want lots of it! It’s a tricky thing to navigate when educating people about how to properly care for their bodies and live a life worth living.
  4. Fish is expensive. Very expensive. And I rarely get 2-3 servings per week. Unless you’re eating tuna all the time, getting in 2-3 servings per week racks up the grocery budget awfully quick-like.

 



 

Overall, I pretty much broke even on every outcome I was measuring, which didn’t really surprise me because I wasn’t eating in a drastically different way from how I normally eat. I did much better this week on my own than I did last because I made a more concerted effort to keep my saturated fat down.

 

  Heart Healthy Goal Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
# of days nutrition recommendations met 7 6 4 6
Average calorie intake <2000 1831 1571 1581
Average sodium intake <2400 mg 2064 mg 2033 mg 1972 mg
Average saturated fat intake <12 g 10.2 g 13.7 g 11.4 g (I left out the outlier of date day)
Weight change   -1 lb 0 lb +.5 lb
Blood pressure change   -5/-6 mmHg -2/-4 mmHg +8/+2 mmHg
Waist change   -.75″ -.25″ +.25″
Grocery Budget Change   +75% -65% 0%

 

So that about wraps up my experience on the heart healthy diet. What diet will I be doing next?

 

Heart Healthy

So I gotta be honest – I’m about 2 and 1/2 weeks into the Heart Healthy diet, and it’s getting to that mental point where I kinda just want to eat something REALLY salty. Because I LOVE salt, and there is that mental game we play where anything we are limiting suddenly becomes highly desirable. This is where things get tough. Yesterday, the rubber met the road.

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One weekend a month, the kids go to grandma’s and my husband and I have date weekend. This img_0706particular weekend is date weekend and yesterday, Charlie and I went a-wandering. We started out at one of our favorite breakfast places and I wanted something delicious and I also tried to get something that would be mostly heart healthy: huevos rancheros. They make these with a crunchy taco shell, black beans, poached eggs, cheese, and avocado. Mostly low in sodium and pretty darn low in saturated fat. I ate half the plate and took the rest home. So far, so good.

Mid-morning we walked around a park and got a tad chilly in the fall air, so we went to a local coffee shop and I wanted a pumpkin steamer. To be true to my heart healthy diet, I elected to have it made with soy milk (though fat free milk would have been fine) to avoid saturated fat. So far, still good.

Then it got tough. We drove up to Tacoma to check out some stores and about mid-day hunger set in. I had a craviimg_0708ng for some super-not-heart-healthy tortilla chips with nacho cheese. Cheap, not-even-food, concession-stand machine, plasticky pasteurized processed cheese product straight from 7-11. Definitely not conducive to meeting my nutritional goals for the day, particularly since I knew we had plans to go to another restaurant for dinner and I needed to save sodium and saturated fat for that. But I was started to listen to the devil on the shoulder: “You’re sick of watching your sodium. Come ooooonn…you’ve been so good for 2 and 1/2 weeks! Just don’t worry about it.” He was right – I was sick of limiting my sodium! So there! I’m going to eat it and I don’t even care!
So I ate it. And it was just as satisfying as I anticipated it would be. Alright, worth it. Maybe for dinner I’ll try to pick something more carefully.

We went to a nice restaurant for dinner and I thought I might to try getting a lean meat with some steamed veggies and maybe a roll or something. Then I got my menu and there it was – my favorite food. Seafood fettuccine. Ooooohhhhh boy.

At least I got the salad instead of the chowder...right?
At least I got the salad instead of the chowder…right?

 

I got it. I had to. It was amazing. In the whole day I overdid my calories by 300, exceeded my sodium goal by over 900 mg (I had 138% of my daily goal!) and blew my saturated fat out of the water by more than quadruple with that cheesy nacho goodness and creamy white wine butter sauce.

If I had high blood pressure or high cholesterol, this one day probably wouldn’t have been too big of a deal as long as it didn’t happen super often. If I had congestive heart failure, my sodium binge could have hospitalized me. Here enlies the mental game of a “diet,” which also tends to be one of my least favorite things about the idea of dieting. Diets are likely to promote this pendulum swing from restriction to bingeing. For me, it’s much more desirable to focus on including lots of the things that are really good for me than focus on restricting things that aren’t as good and overall promoting healthful moderation, for this very reason. But it’s super tricky if not restricting something could land you in a hospital bed or worse.

Things are back to normal now that I got my crazy day out of my system, but anyway, I wanted to make sure I kept myself honest and took note of this mental game – even dietitians are not immune to the psychology of “dieting!”

Heart Healthy

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Well, folks…week 2 is done! And unfortunately, I have become an incubus of the common cold as of yesterday. Goodie. In light of my crummy cough and angry sore throat I have resorted primarily to applesauce, soup, and nonfat frozen yogurt as my primary sustenance for the time being, but I still stayed within my nutrition goals while sick.

I was surprised to notice that I had a hard time meeting my saturated fat goal while on my own this week – I never went over on my sodium, believe it or not – but I was over on my saturated fat 3 out of 7 days. I’ll have to make a more concerted effort to watch that this week.

 



 

  Heart Healthy Goal Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
# of days nutrition recommendations met 7 6 4  
Average calorie intake <2000 1831 1571  
Average sodium intake <2400 mg 2064 mg 2033 mg  
Average saturated fat intake <12 g 10.2 g 13.7  
Weight change   -1 lb 0 lb  
Blood pressure change   -5/-6 mmHg -2/-4 mmHg  
Waist change   -.75″ -.25″  
Grocery Budget Change   +75% -65%

 



Heart Healthy

 

Living a healthy lifestyle of any kind – heart healthy or otherwise – can be daunting! It can sometimes feel like you should never eat those foods you love so much or that you’ll never enjoy food again. Not so! Check out this video I made to help you navigate a happy heart-healthy lifestyle.

 



Heart Healthy

heart healthy low sodium eating

 

Why is it that the Heart Healthy diet recommendations limit sodium? It’s highly unfortunate, as sodium is ever so tasty in many applications including (but not limited to) flavorful broths, crunchy kettle chips, and spicy sausage. Those are just a few of my personal high-sodium loves. Limiting sodium is tough for me because I can really go to town on the stuff. I’m not big on sweets – I can stay away from candies and pastries for the most part but put me near a good cracker with sharp cheese or salty chip and you have to fend me off with a stick. Limiting sodium can be a challenge. So what’s the benefit of doing it?

Research studies have shown that a lower sodium or sodium chloride (table salt) intake was associated with significantly lower blood pressure in adults with normal, slightly elevated, or high blood pressure. In most studies, “high sodium intakes” ranged from 2400-4800 mg per day while “low sodium intakes” ranged from 440 (holy low sodium!) to 2640 mg per day (Some study examples: Bray, 2004; Coruzzi, 2001; Geleijnese, 2003; He, 2004). You may wonder why sodium makes a difference in blood pressure. You are wondering, aren’t you? Of course you are.

 



 

Well surprise, surprise, it’s complicated! Bodies are complicated. The primary explanation is due to sodium’s role in directing how much fluid the body holds on to. Generally I explain it this way: Sodium and water are friends. Wherever sodium goes, water goes too – linked arm-in-arm with charged chemical attractions (oo la la!). So when we eat a lot of sodium (hello, pizza binge), our body holds on to a lot of water to hang out with it (hello, puffy bloat body). Some people notice the extra water because their feet, ankles, face, or belly swell with it. Some people can’t even tell it’s on board.

Either way, all this extra water has to move around the body to get filtered and whatnot. Guess whose job it is to move it? Your heart! Poor heart is pumping blood through the hoses of your veins and you’ve just increased the volume he has to move. His best response is to create more pressure to push all that extra fluid around to get rid of it. So, he pumps even harder and your blood pressure rises. That’s rough on him, as well as all of your hoses because in some places in your body (like your eyes and kidneys for example), your body has leeeeetle, tiny hoses that don’t respond well to pressure. Think fire hose pressure in your little green garden hose. Not a good match.

The goal of the Heart Healthy diet in limiting sodium is to keep blood pressure within healthy ranges for your heart and blood vessels. Now, as with everything in the realm of nutrition, there is debate about this. A few studies have recently been published that throw some doubt into the mix about the role of sodium in blood pressure regulation.

 



 

One such study by NutriNet-Santé found that sodium intake alone was not related to an increase in blood pressure, but rather found that the ratio of sodium intake to potassium intake was a much stronger predictor. Potassium is known as a helpful regulator of high blood pressure and foods high in potassium (like fruits and vegetables) are commonly promoted in diets recommended to lower blood pressure. Interestingly, I’ve been having a heck of a time meeting my potassium goals on this diet. More fruit! More vegetables!

There have been other studies that have suggested a notion of “salt responders” – people whose blood pressure is affected by their sodium intakes vs. others whose is not.

More research to come I hope! But overall, that’s a quick look at why we watch sodium as a contributor in the realm of promoting strong, healthy, not overworked hearts. Come back soon for ideas on how to cut sodium without sacrificing flavor (and joy)!

 



Heart Healthy

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Yesterday I completed my first week of the Heart Healthy diet, which also means I’m off the meal plan today (yay!). Overall, I’m not finding this way of eating too difficult, though the meal plan certainly could have added more sodium-free and low saturated fat flavoring methods to certain dishes to reduce their blah factor (here’s lookin’ at you, plain cooked pearled barley). For the most part, this is the way I typically eat, though I am a big salt lover. There have been a couple of notable differences:

I’ve definitely upped my fish intake, which is a great healthful change. My fiber intake has also increased,  and my digestive system took note, veered off of the approved course, made adjustments, and returned to the regularly scheduled program. Fear not – we are back on track.

 



 

I’m looking forward to doing Heart Healthy on my own for the next two weeks and experimenting with sodium-free ways to flavor things. Check out the table below to see how my last week went.

 

  Heart Healthy Goal Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
# of days nutrition recommendations met 7 6    
Average calorie intake <2000 1831    
Average sodium intake <2400 mg 2064 mg    
Average saturated fat intake <12 g 10.2 g    
Weight change   -1 lb    
Blood pressure change   -5/-6 mmHg    
Waist change   -.75″    
Grocery Budget Change   +75%  

 

Now on to the next week! Check out this tiny pile of groceries to go with all my meal plan leftovers!

 

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Heart Healthy

Want a hint? It doesn’t look like this:

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Okay, here comes my first video! Editing is bad and trying to find a better video editor put me a day late (and still didn’t fix it), but I’ll get better!

Want to learn more about carbohydrates? Check out my post here.

Need some ideas of foods high in protein? Here ya go!

 

 

Healthful Protein Foods

Beans/Peas

Nuts/Seeds (includes peanut butter/almond butter/etc)

Skinless chicken and lean turkey

Lean cuts of beef and pork (look for loin, leg, and round in the name)

Low-fat dairy products

Plant-based protein products like tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc.

 



Heart Healthy