Continued from last Monday. . .
This is the rest of the article that I started last Monday. Below are the remaining revisions that I made to my day-to-day menu items. The total surprise to me was that I ended up with a menu that is much more flavorful and much, much more variation than I ever thought possible. AND, in many cases, the differences I made to lower my cholesterol ended up being even cheaper!!!
- Walnuts, Almonds and Other Nuts: I researched and found that Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, and Pistachios all are known for helping to reduce LDL. The one caution that I discovered is that nuts are all very high in calories so I had to be careful how I incorporated them into my diet. I did that by grinding pecans and coating chicken breasts with the ground pecans and baking the chicken breasts. When they were done, I sliced each breast into thin slices and topped a salad with them. I also tossed a few cashews or pistachios on top of dinner salads that I had. I served sliced almonds in fresh green beans with mushrooms. I added walnuts in cottage cheese with diced apples.
- I learned so much from my research about nuts that I write an entire article focused solely on the health benefits of nuts. Because of the information that I got from my son, who is a gourmet chef, that caused me to look into all the health benefits of many of his tips, I will be doing a series of articles on the food items he suggested. Because I do not have definite dates, please check back periodically in the Food Works section of my website.
- Replace Butter and Margarine or Oleo. This was mind over matter to a point at first. When I was young, there was no such thing as homogenized milk. We got our milk delivered by milk truck and the milkman left our glass quart bottles in a milk box that was right outside our front door (along with eggs and butter). So, I really struggled with this one. I LOVE butter! I LOVE cream!
- Actually, I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I was in England one time and was served “double cream” and “clotted cream”. Double cream turned out to be what I know here in the states as “whipping cream” or the kind of cream that I knew as a child: the stuff that floated to the top of a quart bottle of milk and we scooped the cream that had floated to the top of milk off and saved that in a tiny pitcher that was used for coffee and over berries. There is nothing at all in the states that compares to “clotted cream”.
- The next thing that caused me some anxiety is when I found out that the chemical makeup of some butter substitutes was only one atom away from being PLASTIC and even insects don’t like it! I solved part of that problem by finding other things that I can use in the place of butter and when I did a reality check, I discovered that I do not usually use much butter or butter substitute.
- However, I learned that there are many substitutions you can make to replace oils that are partially hydrogenated or that contain trans-fat. The very 1st thing I learned is to begin buying the oils I selected only in glass jars due to the fact that oils could leach dangerous chemicals from plastic jars. That switch in itself removed a lot of unhealthy cooking oils from which to select.
- Switch to Olive Oil and Other Omega-3 Fatty Acids: I completely replaced the vegetable oil that I had been using with olive oil. The reason I replaced the veggie oil was because I not could use even a small bottle of vegetable oil as well as a small bottle of olive oil before the vegetable oil went rancid. I now use both regular olive oil and also extra virgin olive oil. The EVOO is processed less than regular olive oil, thereby leaving more antioxidants in the olive oil. The only change I had to make by using only olive oil was to cook at a lower heat level because olive oil starts smoking at a lower heat level than vegetable oil does. By the way, I ONLY buy regular olive oil when it goes on sale (which happens frequently). I purchased the 32 ounce bottle of Centos olive oil for $4.99!).
- A fun surprise that I never thought of before I switched to only olive oil is I never even knew that I could infuse oils with a variety of fresh herbs. Also, when we go on vacation, I make a point of checking out specialty stores that sell flavored olive oils because I can buy small tester bottles of many different flavors than I would make at home.
- In some cases, to keep the calories lower, when a recipe that I made called for oil to be included, I replaced one-third of the olive oil with applesauce.
- Avocados: although extremely high in calories, the fact is that they are also an excellent source of monounsaturated fats. A single avocado averages approximately 410 calories. Therefore, I found a variety of ways to incorporate one-quarter to one-half of an avocado into my diet on occasion.
- Keeping in mind the texture that I learned with fish, I discovered that I prefer slices of avocado rather than dicing it because I can taste more of the avocado with slices than when diced. Therefore, I topped off a dinner salad by putting slices of avocado in a “star shape” on the top of the salad. Another trick that my son taught me is that presentation is everything. If you make something look special or give it a pretty presentation, you will automatically already want to try it rather than just receiving a mound of food!
- I mashed a quarter of an avocado to use for a sandwich spread rather than mayonnaise.
- The cool thing was I never even would have thought about using a spread made from avocados or chick peas (in fact, I didn’t know how hummus was even made!) to use as a spread for sandwiches or to put a spoonful on a salad or some of the other fun things I found.
- Other Changes in My Diet to Help Lower Cholesterol Level are Below. Keep in mind that I did not have the same food items every day but rather mixed and matched, used some and not others for a week or more, etc. because I know that too much of anything on a regular basis is bad for you.
- Salt: I significantly reduced the amount of salt that I had been consuming prior to the wake up call I got when I saw that my cholesterol level had reached 109. At first I just tried cutting down on the salt I had been using; however, that was a “no go” because without substituting something for the missing salt, the food tasted HORRIBLE! USDA recommends limiting daily salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day for healthy individuals and no more than 1,500 mg per day if you are black, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease or over 51 years of age.
- I turned back to my son again and asked for help. The first suggestion was to switch to kosher salt, which tends to be larger crystals. Even when you measure the same amount of salt, due to the larger crystals, you use less and yet the taste is still there.
- He also told me to learn about herbs and spices because if you give the food a boost in flavor, you will not even notice the reduced amount of salt. He also is a huge advocate of fresh herbs and spices rather than purchasing them from the baking aisle in supermarkets.
- I learned so much from him about herbs and spices that I decided to write an entire article just on herbs and spices. I hope to post that article in January (to start the year off right!).
- He also said to stop a habit that most people do out of habit: to automatically grab the salt shaker and sprinkle salt on the plate of food placed in front of you WITHOUT EVEN TASTING IT! Rather: taste the food before sprinkling any salt on the food.
- Rinse canned veggies before using them. Salt is used to extend the shelf life.
- Track Food Intake: the only way to know how much of anything I was eating, I had to track it. I have known that for years, starting with Weight Watchers when I used to attend their meetings. However, even though I know the meetings are beneficial, I did not like paying for the benefit of tracking my food. Therefore I searched for another way to track my food intake that was free and also focused on including all of the food sources that one should eat rather than only a low carb diet, or cutting out certain food groups altogether, or any of the other fad diet websites. I have worked in the healthcare environment for 30+ years and although I am not a dietitian, it is impossible to work side-by-side dietitians and remain oblivious to the foods that people need to eat to remain as healthy as possible (there are other things to consider than just food to remain healthy). I found a great program that is completely free: SparkPeople! The website provides a ginormous amount of motivational tips, lets you track the food you eat: calories, carbs, fat, protein, and fiber. You can also add other nutrients to be tracked, and therefore, I added salt and calcium.
- Cinnamon: although I know there is little clinical evidence about cinnamon lowering cholesterol levels (Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Lifescript, Livestrong, About Health), I do know from personal use, research, and friends, that the combination of cinnamon, honey, and cider vinegar helps to reduce the pain of arthritis. However, I learned that the “cinnamon” that is sold in supermarkets is not real cinnamon but rather “cassia” cinnamon, which is a close relative to real cinnamon (Ceylon, Saigon, or Indonesian). I also learned from the above websites that there is virtually zero side effects from using Ceylon, Saigon, or Indonesian cinnamon and therefore, I use primarily Ceylon cinnamon at home every time that a recipe calls for cinnamon.
- There is so much information about cinnamon and so many uses that I also decided to do an article focusing solely on cinnamon. Check back to look for the article. I do not have a definite date that I will post the article yet, so check back to look for the article if you are interested in the many ways to use cinnamon.
- Fruits & Veggies: I made a point of including a wide varieties of fruits and veggies into my menu via eating them whole, without peeling when veggies had peels, chopping them and adding to salads, stir fries (which I began to have more often), shredding them and making breads and muffins with them, including ground veggies into turkey burger patties, making a variety of veggie salads, different ways to bake, cook, and serve veggies that I normally had before, trying new fruits (such as dragon fruit, kumquat, and star fruit).
- I also started trying new fruits and veggies and to my surprise, I found some tropical fruits I had never tried before that I really like such as: dragon fruit, star fruit, passion fruit, and papaya. I did not like the papaya at all but I do like the other three. So, I now have new foods in my diet that I never would have tried were it not for the changes and revisions I have been making.
- I also learned many different ways to cook and use veggies. Take broccoli, for example. There is Broccoli Woccoli, Broccoli slaw, Parmesan Broccoli, Broccoli Stir-Fry, Broccoli Mushroom Quiche, Baked Potato and Broccoli Soup, Broccoli Dip (served in a “bread bowl” with veggie slices), Broccoli Tomato Salad, Broccoli Cashew Crunch, Broccoli Pecan Toss, and many more