_ Got the munchies? Wow, do I know how you feel! Or are you thirsty? My research tells me the feeling is the same ... a rather dull ache in your stomach you immediately want to satisfy with food. Of course we all know what happens, don't we? First something sweet/soft, then salty/crunchy until you're so stuffed you don't even feel like moving. Well, my friend, consider this ... have a glass of water first and I’ll bet your hunger pangs will disappear ... for a while.
If you’re like me, it’s easier, well at least more satisfying, to grab a bag of chips than a glass of water - and a lot more fun, too - but the results are wonderful if you manage to make the right choice.
I came across a website blog recently that summed it up well and the bottom line is you might just be thirsty, not hungry. Another site I happened upon offered a tip that the best way to reduce your weight is to recognize the difference between hunger and thirst. Oddly, the feeling is the same so what is a person to do?? DRINK WATER FIRST!
So, here I am ... hungry ... well, thirsty? Some healthy snacks fill my refrigerator - hummus with baked pita chips ... yogurt with some fresh blueberries ... soy-based chocolate brownie ice cream ... homemade lemon meringue pie ... oh, and there are so many more. So easy to reach for something sweet ... then salty ... mushy ... then crunchy ... oh, what to do!! I opted for my purple 24 ounce plastic cup, filled it 3/4 full of big chunks of ice and topped it off with water. Imagine my surprise when I downed it in just a minute or so and wanted more! What is this new feeling? Satisfied without playing the sweet/salty and mushy/crunchy game? Plus, I felt good about ME ... I did it ... I recognized thirst. How refreshing.
So while we’re at it, there will be times you are actually hungry. I’m going to try to drink first before I eat anything and see what happens. I wouldn’t mind losing a couple pounds so aside from the few snack items I mentioned above, if you’re ever looking to improve your snacking, allow me to make a couple of suggestions. Note there are no amounts provided. There are literally hundreds of sites available to offer you some good and healthy snacks. I’m going to limit this list to those that can actually help keep your cholesterol under control or reduce it.
Here goes ...
• Fruits and vegetables are great, but watch (or eliminate) your dips and dressings - I love fresh blueberries, baby carrots, blanched and cold asparagus ... oh, the list goes on and on and on ...
• Nuts and seeds, particularly pistachios, walnuts, and almonds - watch your quantities ... best to measure out a serving and put the bag away!
• Hummus and baked pita chips are wonderful together
• Whole grains - particularly oats - try some low fat cereals and watch your sugar and serving size
• Avocados offer a great unsaturated fat that can increase your levels of HDL. Add a squirt of fresh lime and a dash of sea salt and enjoy.
• 100% cranberry-grape juice - great antioxidants - again watch your serving size
• Yogurt with live active cultures (probiotics) - watch the sugar content - best to buy plain an add your own fruit. Soy yogurts are much improved if you’re lactose intolerant, but be forewarned, some soy yogurts have used a dairy starter so be careful.
You might consider a “clean out the pantry/cabinet” day ... rid your personal space of all the inappropriate junk food and give yourself a chance to succeed!
You won’t regret it, I promise. And, you have a hunger pang and can’t put your hands on that bag of chips you threw out ... grab your favorite glass, add some ice ... and fill it up with water! You weren’t really hungry now were you?
_ Every time I glance into my pantry, I see a package of lasagna noodles. Since I don’t ... well, can’t eat cheese (or any dairy) I never know quite what to do with these noodles! With the Internet at my fingertips one quick Google search for “no cheese lasagna” and I had pages of sites!
The first one was on Rachael Ray’s site. It was a Bob Greene recipe and after reading the recipe I just knew it was going to be gross. It uses almonds and walnuts - both of which offer great nutritional value - plus it has no meat or dairy so if it’s good I’ll be thrilled. The website shown below is actually a video of Bob Greene on the Rachael Ray Show demonstrating the preparation.
Here is Bob Greene’s No-Cheese Vegetable Lasagna recipe:
• Vegetable cooking spray
• ½ cup almonds
• ½ cup walnuts
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup fresh basil leaves
• 1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
• 1/8 tsp. Salt
• black pepper, to taste
• ½ cup water
• 1 cup store-bought marinara sauce, such as Barilla
• 4-ounces uncooked, whole wheat lasagna noodles
• 2 cups spinach, washed thoroughly
• 2 cups fresh tomatoes, sliced and chopped or canned, no salt added diced tomatoes (I used canned)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9" square or 10" x 8" pan with vegetable oil cooking spray.
Spread ½ the marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan. Cover with half of the uncooked noodles, spinach, tomatoes, and nut mixture. Repeat the layers again and transfer to oven. Bake for 50 minutes or until lightly browned.
So, what do you think? Sound good? Look good? Well me tell you this ... when I put the almonds, walnuts, onion, garlic, fresh basil, nutmeg, and water in my food processor, the scent was shocking! My eyes watered and when I tasted it I just knew I’d be feeding the trash can instead of my family. Following the instructions, I layered the ingredients and popped it in the oven. The aroma was amazing and when it was finished the taste was, too.
I’ll say this. EVEN MY ‘MEAT AND POTATOES’ HUSBAND LIKE IT!! Plus, my husband's co-worker who recently discovered he had high cholesterol, loved it, too! In fact, he was shocked the lasagna had no meat! His only concern (because he suffers with diverticulitis) was the use of nuts, which he is forbidden to eat. I assured my husband he could comfortably tell his co-worker that because the nuts were pulverized, he could eat them prepared this way. I also reminded him that drinking plenty of water was essential!
OK then ... let’s cut to the chase. Even though I made the recipe as instructed and it was delicious, there are a few tweaks my husband and I thought might make it even better. The recipe calls for uncooked lasagna noodles. My casserole offered several noodles that were just plain not cooked. Though I felt there was plenty of liquid, my husband and I decided it’d be better if I had cooked the pasta first. The only other thing I’d change is I’d add some mushrooms. Aside from that ... WONDERFUL! Truly an amazing dish!! Thanks, Bob Greene for thinking outside the box! Visit Bob Greene’s website HERE.
♬ Beans, beans the musical fruit, ♬
♬The more you eat, the more you toot ♬
♬ The more you toot the better you’ll feel, ♬
♬ So eat your beans at every meal ♬
Does that little ditty remind you of your childhood? Growing up with five brothers they needed no excuse to “let one fly” followed by those sing-songy words. Each time I hear (ah, or smell) expelled gas, those little words come to mind.
We all know beans are a great protein and filled with fiber, but, how do you cook beans so your family and friends won’t be permeating the air for the next twenty-four hours? Years ago I found this recipe in a Woman’s Day magazine - I’m guessing it was about twenty-five years ago or so, but it is our favorite way to cook dried pinto beans.
Pot o’ Beans
Remove from heat, cover. Let stand for one hour. Drain. Stir in:
Makes 12 cups.
So, now that you have the beans what can you do with them. First of all, you have a lovely bean that’s low sodium and second, the options are endless. You can freeze them. You can add them to salads, casseroles, and chili. So, speaking of chili, how about some chili beans?
Using 8 cups of your cooked pinto beans, add:
Mix together and that’s it. You can freeze them up to three months or cover and simmer for thirty minutes. You can serve them over brown rice, over pasta or a baked potato, over some homemade baked whole wheat tortilla chips, rolled in a whole wheat tortilla or just eat them in a bowl with a bit of allowed cheese/sour cream. Don’t forget to pile whatever you decide to do with some fresh tomatoes, fresh spinach, a diced avocado, diced peppers! And, here’s a little hint ... squeeze a bit of fresh lime over your dish for a real WOW factor!
_So you want to add more vegetables to your meal plans but don’t want to go full vegetarian? That’s a great way to start and if you prefer to eat meat, it’s a great place to finish!
The best way I can share some of the easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is to share how I do it. There are web sites all over the place with ideas, but since you’ve landed here, I’ll be happy to share!
A good example would be my lunch today. My husband, a born meat and potatoes guy, isn’t too thrilled with no meat and I do eat fish, so today was a broiled salmon and a salad. The difference between his salad and mine is simple. He likes iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, a few slivers of carrots, and some black or green olives. Then he covers the whole thing in a fat-laden dressing. For the record, he’s only a teeny bit overweight and as healthy as a horse. I, on the other hand, have had high cholesterol, which after changing my lifestyle is now perfect, and to pump up my salad I added a few more ingredients. A word of warning here ... when you have multiple ingredients planned your salad can go from a reasonable size to a monster salad if you’re not careful! Since iceberg lettuce has little healthy benefits, I opted for fresh baby spinach, some fresh pineapple, grated apple (with the skin), shredded carrots, green and black olives, diced avocado, tomatoes, dried cranberries, a few currants, homemade whole wheat croutons and a tablespoon of Ken’s Lite Honey Mustard dressing. Park a beautifully broiled piece salmon and top and enjoy.
It was so filling but I didn’t find myself stuffed and with a tall glass of freshly brewed green tea with honey and lemon I was all set.
When I told a friend about my marvelous salad her response was a bit sad in my opinion. She said it sounded like too much trouble to be worth it. Really? I thought since when are YOU not worth it? I asked her why not and she said it was just easier to pop a box pizza in the oven. Do you feel that way, too? Are you worth the extra effort? I know I am but I have an added benefit - I love to cook and create beautiful and colorful dishes, and if you don’t ... well ... I’m not sure what I can say to change your mind!
Another favorite lunch (or dinner, if your prefer) is a stir-fry. The oriental stir-fry can be filled with some wonderful vegetables. Everything from marinated tofu (or shrimp or whatever protein you love), shredded cabbage, carrots, onion, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bok choy (or celery if you can’t find bok choy), edamame, mushrooms, baby corn, the list is endless! If you don’t have a great stir-fry recipe is doesn’t get any easier than this:
In a large frying pan or wok, heat about 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil or olive oil. Add the drained and marinated tofu (dice some firm tofu and marinate for thirty minutes in whatever seasoning you like - teriyaki, Bragg’s liquid aminos, soy sauce). Toss in the drained tofu and cook on high heat for about 3 minutes and remove from pan, setting aside.
Add whatever hard vegetables you have (carrots, celery, bok choy, onion, garlic) to your pan/wok and saute until almost done. Push aside and add the softer vegetables (bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, mushrooms, baby corn). Saute for two minutes or until almost done and push aside.
Add very soft vegetables - those needing to only be heated - (edamame, cabbage); push aside and add the shrimp and tofu. Stir to mix and pour stir-fry sauce over all and remove from the heat.
Serve over steamed brown rice and offer more Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or soy sauce.
Enjoy! There are so many variations one only has to have an imagination to succeed in stir-fry cooking. You can add rice to the recipe above and after mixing, add some beaten eggs for a fried rice variation.
The trick is keeping it heart healthy ... watch your oils and meats, double up on veggies and have a glass of iced green tea! It doesn’t get any better than this!
_In the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (I couldn't resist posting a clip from the movie), and upon hearing that Toula’s intended is a vegetarian, her Aunt Voula says, “What do you mean he don't eat no meat?” The entire room stops, in shock and she says, “Oh, that's okay. I make lamb.”
I laughed out loud when I heard that line, and realized the world of meat-eaters must think eating a vegetarian diet is absolutely crazy! We are carnivores, after all, right? Well ... Wikipedia says, “Vegetarianism is the practice of following a plant-based diet including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds, mushrooms, with or without dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat meat, including red meat, game, poultry, fish, crustacea, and shellfish, and may also abstain from by-products of animal slaughter such as animal-derived rennet, found in some cheeses, and gelatin. Vegetarians may unknowingly consume animal-derived rennet, gelatin, or other unfamiliar animal ingredients, however.
Vegetarianism is adopted for various reasons: ethical, health, environmental, religious, political, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or other reasons, and there are a number of vegetarian diets. A lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, such as dairy products, eggs, and usually honey.
Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods, but may include fish or poultry, or other meats on an infrequent basis. Those with diets containing fish or poultry may define "meat" only as mammalian flesh and may identify with vegetarianism. A pescetarian diet, for example, includes "fish but no meat. The common use association between such diets and vegetarianism has led vegetarian groups such as the Vegetarian Society to state diets containing these ingredients are not vegetarian, because fish and birds are animals.”
So, is vegetarianism really the way to go? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Personally, I am more vegetarian than not, I do eat fish and eggs. But, honestly, if I saw a perfectly roasted leg of lamb or pork roast ... yeah, I’m not sure my carnivorous side wouldn’t be salivating. Once I realized how I’d have to eat meat in order to regain and retain my normal cholesterol, I decided it just plain wasn’t really worth it! If I couldn’t taste that crusty, salt and peppered bit of fat with a bite of pork roast, well, I didn’t really want it at all. OK, I’m a baby, but I want what I want or I’ll take nothing at all.
I had to change my attitude to make my new lifestyle really work for me. I found some marvelous vegetarian recipes and love to experiment with new ideas so it was a match made in heaven. I still cook meat for my meat and potato husband, but even he’s enjoying the new vegetables I prepare for him.
All in all, it’s a choice we all need to make for ourselves. Do it or don’t ... it’s your choice ... just don’t let it be a decision you have to make at the last minute ... it might be too late.
_Many people have come to me and asked, "How did you do it?" So, I thought I'd make a 'quick list' for those who haven't the time to read my whole blog - I understand!
So, here's the simple list. What isn't so simple is implementing the list:
I started with what I was eating. To stabilize my numbers, I removed all meat except the 'good for you' Omega-3 foods. After my second "let's take a look at your numbers visit" I added smart meats - research helped me decide what would be best for me. I began to watch my saturated fat intake and removed all inappropriate fats - again, research helped me decide what would work best for me.
I began to keep a food journal ... I visited Vegetarian Times to learn more and better ways to incorporate the much needed veggies into my diet. I eventually subscribed to their magazine - and I love it!!
I researched supplements and working with my doctor adjusted them to be more efficient. I discovered red yeast rice which my doctor hadn't heard of, but was amazed at my success in lowering my numbers. Some trial and error was required as I had a reaction when I mixed red yeast rice with Fresca or other grapefruit-laced foods. (Note: do not take red yeast rice and any grapefruit products). I added 500 mg of niacin and my doctor added another 500mg. Research indicated taking supplements or statin drugs were more effective if taken at night.
Now, exercise was my challenge. I'd much prefer to research, compute, read, do puzzles and science experiments with my grandson so exercise was a challenge. We own a Wii and have WiiFit and even WiiFit Plus, sports games, etc., but you have to actually turn them on to reap the benefits! One small success I have is with some little exercise CDs ... A Morning Cup of Yoga ... Stretching ... Balance ... TaiChi andmany others. This twelve to fifteen minutes routines fit very nicely into my day. Everybody has 15 minutes!! So, make the time ...you're THAT important!
I have toyed with a gym membership and even found a local one who offers a three-month contract rather than the full year. Still not sure since I'd much rather come home from a stressful day at work and chit-chat with my grandson! I'm working on doing both.
Equally important is staying in touch with your doctor. And, if you don't like him or feel he isn't a good listener or caregiver, for heaven's sake, find another doctor! Check out alternative ways to lower your cholesterol numbers ... community yoga classes, meditation, whatever it takes to de-stress you!! Stress plays a very significant role in high cholesterol numbers.
Our society is so stressed out we have acquired all sorts of maladies ... take time for YOU ... take time to do what you love ... breathe!!!
Stay tuned ... what does not work for me ...
_With a vivid memory of the cramping caused by the red yeast rice and Fresca fresh in my mind, I cautiously decided to reintroduce the red yeast rice a full week later. However, being an impatient sort, after five days I took the plunge. I so wanted to continue stabilizing my high cholesterol and triglycerides without prescription drugs and felt this was the best way. Rather than jump into taking the recommend dose of two a day, I took one for a week watching for a reaction. Nothing. I took one before I went to bed with 1000mg of niacin, my CoQ10, and a fish oil capsule. After three more days, I upped it to two capsules, crossed my fingers and went to bed.
No cramps through the night; no cramps in the morning; I decided to continue taking two capsules and expect no more difficulties.
Now, what else can I do? Oh, yeah ... that dreaded thirty minutes of aerobic exercise daily ... now, there is a challenge. I can easily commit to taking a couple pills before I go to bed ... I can easily give up meat and dairy products ... but exercise? When whomever can give me a twenty-four and a half hour day, that blasted thirty minutes escapes my grasp. I have read all the tips and tricks to pull it off, but nothing really keeps me focused. Got an idea? If you do, please feel free to comment ... how do you get daily exercise?
Stay tuned for my thoughts on exercise.
_Whoa! Time to rethink my supplements or something! The abdominal cramping, joint aches, muscle pain, and diarrhea must stop! Is it a supplement or the flu? Is my stress level so high that I’m falling apart? My mind is racing ... so many options ... so many variables ... so many things to consider. My cholesterol is very close to acceptable numbers, my IBS is under control save a diverticulitis attack every now and then ... so what gives? Where do I begin? Diet? Exercise? Supplements? Stress?
I decided to start with the last thing I changed or added. Red yeast rice. I immediately stopped taking red yeast rice and within 48 hours the terrible abdominal cramping stopped, as did the muscle aches and pains and joint pain. No more diarrhea. The Internet provided contradictory information - not unusual considering the vast number of people who add information - many of whom are looking primarily to padding their own pocket. I reminded myself to tread lightly yet deeply.
I read that red yeast rice was an excellent way to reduce bad cholesterol and honestly, taking it as directed, I had marvelous luck reducing my bad cholesterol. Now, it’s easy to blame the red yeast since I’ve never had a reaction to niacin and nothing else really changed in my daily habits save my new exercise routine, but why after more than a month? Why all of a sudden? Sadly, I have not found that answer.
I found a web site recommending that one NOT take red yeast rice and niacin together (not that I can find it now!), and then found several web sites offering a combination of red yeast rice and niacin supplements! What's up with that??
However, in an effort to save you the pain and suffering I experienced, I offer this:
A SIDENOTE: as I spoke to a co-worker recently, she said she’d prefer to just take a statin and avoid all the guessing games with which I am dealing ... me? I prefer to control my own health. Besides, statin drugs have their own issues ... popping one pill and hoping for the best just won’t work for me ... and if one were to read the statin drug insert one would discover you still have to monitor your diet and exercise.
Here are a couple more sites I found helpful:
_As I sat patiently in my doctor’s office, I read over my notes about my cholesterol numbers. I’ll admit I felt rather nervous, but still confident my plan had worked. I was still up for a fight from the doctor about taking statin drugs. I should explain it isn’t that I’m so difficult, but after reading the side effects, I’d just prefer to start out with lifestyle change and a few supplements. Funny, don’t you think, that my medical insurance will gladly pay for statin drugs, but not my efforts to take supplements or join a gym? There is something terribly wrong with our health care options (OK, I’ll get off THAT soapbox ... for now).
So, here I sit ... knowing my numbers and hoping for the best. At my last visit my numbers will explain my doctor’s recommendation for statin drugs:
I didn’t hear the door open and the doctor found me sitting Indian-style in the chair, my eyes closed, and breathing rhythmically and deeply. I sensed his presence and returned to reality. “Welcome back,” he said with a smile, “let’s take a look at your numbers.” I stood and reviewed my chart with him. He pointed to the chart and with unexpected enthusiasm said, “Hey, hey ... look at this ... you did it!!” I was thrilled ... I still had some work to do and some adjustments to make, but the numbers spoke for themselves. We went over each number:
As we wrapped up my appointment, he asked me if I knew of a TaiChi instructor in our area (of course, I did) .
He’s a cool doctor ... he listens ... he learns ... he admits he doesn’t know it all ... and he’s never said, “Trust me, dear.”
Stay tuned for why I had to make an supplement adjustment ...
_Three months seemed like forever and yet right around the corner. I already had a plan and I knew it was going to work (right?). After some research my findings provided me with some simple lifestyle changes. Now, I’m the kind of person who enjoys change and a challenge so this was right up my alley. If you are one who just can’t bear not drinking milk or give up necessary foods, then this blog may not be for you. But since you're here mayb you can pick up a few things you can do to help lower your cholesterol.
First, some websites that encouraged me and fed my insane desire to try new recipes:
Then, I continued to search for other options and found a site that showed me how to lower my cholesterol naturally, such as this site — Lower Cholesterol Naturally.
Keeping in mind that the Internet offers a wealth of information, I read through each site thoroughly and decided just what I would do:
I found an article in the first Heart Healthy Living magazine called “Cholesterol Myths ... Busted” that was great! It told of another miracle supplement ... red yeast rice that had similar results to the typically prescribed statins. I figured I didn't have anything to lose so I found some at WalMart of all places!
So, there you have it–my plan. Get moving, add oatmeal to my diet, add niacin, fish oil, and red yeast rice and go low fat.
Stay tuned for the next doctor’s visit ...
I am ...
... a former blogger for a health site, which means eating healthy aka heart smart
which has become a passion for me. I will start at the beginning when I first
discovered I had high cholesterol.