I chuckle at the way I’m listed in the Farm and Dairy table of contents each week: “Laurie Steeb/Food”. It sounds to me like a self fulfilling prophecy toward over-indulgence. True, wherever I look, from delectable morsel to super-sized platter, today’s world makes great quantities and varieties of food available to me more than ever before.
Mark and I have been fortunate to not have physical ailments that challenge us to watch our diet (so far). Thankfully, Mark has never been one to crave large quantities of meat, so I’ve always been able to stretch our meat portions mixing them with carbs and vegetables in casserole and stir-fry-type dishes. We try to balance meals with fruits and vegetables, but often, in late evening, we succumb to a bowl of salty popcorn, a dish of ice cream (usually with a topping or two) or, in my case, a cup of coffee with a couple of Gorant chocolates on the side.
We all face food temptations. Keeping your heart healthy involves much more than your eating habits. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that your lifestyle plays an equal role. “The two go together–they should be inseparable,” says Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., chair of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee. Here are AHA guidelines for a healthy heart:
— Get more exercise. The AHA reports that regular exercise reduces cardiovascular risk, as well as the risk of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, depression, and breast and colon cancer.
— Reduce saturated and trans-fats. To cut saturated and trans fats, the AHA advises choosing lean meats, using fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and reducing intake of partially hydrogenated fats, such as those found in fried and baked foods.
— Reduce sugary foods and drinks. People who drink large amounts of sugary beverages, such as soda, tend to consume more calories and gain more weight.
— Avoid tobacco. Exposure to tobacco, even secondhand smoke, can cause heart disease to worsen.
— Put down the saltshaker. As sodium intake increases, so does blood pressure. Shaking sodium out of your diet can prevent or control hypertension. African-Americans and middle-age and older persons, along with those who have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, should limit their intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. Others should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.
— Maintain an even keel. When your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels remain at a healthy constant, you may be less likely to have heart disease.
— Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. Deeply colored produce, such as carrots and spinach, have higher amounts of nutrients. Avoid preservation techniques that add trans-fat, sugar, or salt.
I’m going to try to adhere to one of Oprah’s tips that makes a lot of sense: Set a time in early evening after dinner when you stop eating for the day. Note that nothing more will pass your lips past this cut off time with the exception of a drink of water. May the force (against mindless food consumption) be with us every evening!