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Lunch Ideas for Work: Heart-Healthy Options

Original article appeared on Go Red for Women

While at work it can be tempting to reach for a sweet snack around lunchtime, there are plenty of easy lunch alternatives that can benefit your heart. Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., Chairperson of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont, offers the following tips to help you plan your heart-healthy workday lunch.

Packing Your Lunch

Wake up 15 minutes early to pack your lunch. Johnson recommends the following heart-healthy choices:

-Low-sodium canned tuna or low-sodium canned salmon (try it in a salad or on a sandwich with whole-wheat bread)

-Low-fat string cheese

-Fresh fruits

-Non-fat yogurt

-Veggie sticks

-Whole-grain breakfast cereal, such as the American Heart Association’s recipe for Creamy Apricot Oatmeal

For salad dressings, Johnson suggests you keep it natural with ingredients such as canola oil, olive oil or grape seed oil and balamic vinegar or white wine vinegar. She is also a fan of breakfast options for lunch. “One of my favorites is whole grain breakfast cereal with skim milk or non-fat yogurt topped with fresh fruit. I love cereal for lunch.”

Eating Out

When heading out to a restaurant for lunch, Johnson says to watch out for three things:

1. Sweetened beverages

2. High-calorie salad toppings (e.g. bacon, croutons, packaged or pre-made dressings)

3. Unhealthy sandwiches (e.g. those made with deli meat due to excess sodium)

“Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages,” suggests Johnson. “And, although salads can seem healthy, you need to watch out for high-calorie extras like croutons, bits of bacon and fatty cheeses.”

Instead, she recommends:

1. Water or skim milk to drink

2. Salads with vegetables and natural dressing (try asking for olive oil and vinegar)

3. Tuna or vegetarian sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread

Be aware of your portion size, too. Johnson suggests cutting meals in half before you begin eating.

“Just ask for a takeout box when your meal is delivered and put half away for the next day,” she recommends. “That will help fight your tendency to over eat.”

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How to Start Running, Get Into Shape

Original article appeared on Go Red for Women

You’ve already learned about how to start a walking group, so why not give running a try? We know the concept of running can be a daunting one, but don’t sweat it; running can be fun, easy and one of the best ways to get into (and stay in) shape. Try these ideas to get started.

1. Get medical clearance

Healthy adults generally do not need to consult a health-care provider before becoming physically active. If you have a chronic condition you should talk with your health-care provider about setting physical activity goals and determine whether running is right for you. If you’ve never run for exercise, it is a good idea to start gradually. This is especially important if you are have a heart condition.

2. Choose the right shoe

Choosing the right running shoes is incredibly important before heading out on the road or treadmill. Try going to a specialty running shoe store and talking with an expert about the contours of your feet and how they may fit into different styles of running shoes.

If you don’t have a specialized store near you, simply buy a pair of shoes that enables solid arch support, has plenty of room for your toes (your toes should not be cramped; there should be approximately a quarter inch of space from the end of the big toe to the front of the shoe) and snugly fits to your foot.

Try walking or jogging for a few miles in your new shoes. If they don’t feel good on your feet, take them back and try another pair.

3. Know proper running form

Form is everything when running. It is important to keep your head up, eyes straight ahead and your shoulders low and loose. This way, your torso and back naturally straighten to allow you to run in an efficient, upright position that promotes optimal lung capacity and stride length. Try not to hunch; it can cause back and knee pain when running.

Also, your foot should hit the ground lightly, landing between your heel and mid-foot, and then quickly roll forward. Keep your ankle flexed as your foot rolls forward to create more force when you push off. Good running is springy and quiet.

4. Start at a slow pace

You are just starting out, which means it is important to start slowly. Begin your running regimen by walking over short intervals or for a few miles at a time on a weekly basis. Once you feel comfortable doing that several times a week, start jogging slowly, stopping to walk when you need during your route. You will work up to running consistently, but patience is important as your body gets used to the physical activity.

5. Set small goals

While running a 5k race may be your ultimate goal, go easy on yourself as you start out, recommends Dr. Deborah Rohm Young, vice chair of the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Subcommittee. “If you haven’t done a lot of exercise over the past several months, I’d schedule a 5k race about six months out and, in the meantime, set small goals for myself,” she says.

Start by walking 15 minutes four times per week. Don’t have enough energy? Young encourages women to try it anyway. “You can experience an increased sense of wellbeing almost immediately,” she says. “From there, you can have more energy to do other things.”

Once you’ve mastered a 15-minute walk four times per week, try extending your walk to encompass three miles a time. From there, mix light jogging into your routine.

Learn more heart-healthy exercises on Go Red. And track your progress on the American Heart Association’s free online Activity Tracker.

Heart-Healthy Soul Food

Original article appeared on Go Red for Women

Did you know traditional, everyday soul food dishes could be heart healthy?

Before processed ingredients defined modern soul food, traditional soul food used fresh, seasonal vegetables, such as beans, tomatoes, summer and winter squashes, collard greens, turnips, beets and sweet potatoes. And meat was served mainly for special occasions, or a small amount was used for flavoring.

If your family meals typically include mostly processed ingredients, your family is missing out on the true taste of soul food cooking. Changing your family’s diet to fresher options is a process involving patience, strategic planning and some education. Here are a few tips to get started with healthy soul food cooking and the heart-healthy ingredients to consider.

Start an herb and vegetable garden.

This works if you have access to a backyard or a small space with soil along the side of your home that gets some sunlight.

If an outdoor garden work doesn’t fit into your schedule or if you’re an urban dweller with a fire escape (check your building’s regulations), try growing herbs in pots as smaller, starter gardens on your porch or windowsill. If you lack a “green thumb,” join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group or a food co-op.

Buy lean and extra lean meat.

It’s cheaper and healthier to use smaller quantities of meat for everyday cooking, because it’s only needed for flavor. Learn to think of grains and vegetables as the main course, and meat as a side dish.

Eat more greens.

Try to incorporate as many green vegetables into your diet by starting mornings with steame collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, swiss chard, beets or chard greens served with morning egg whites and whole grain toast.

Learn to use the whole vegetable.

“Waste not, want not” was a Southern mantra for many poor households. For example, a few root vegetables have edible greens. Use celery leaves the same way as parsley (they’re related). Cook beets and turnip leaves in small amounts of vegetable oils such as olive oil and garlic.

Prepare sweet potatoes and yams the healthy way.

Sweet potatoes and yams are the glory of modern day soul food. They can be healthy if they are prepared without a lot of extra fat and salt. Try buying them fresh to roast in a small amount of olive oil and herbs, add them to slow simmering greens or boiling them to whip with fat free Greek yogurt (just like potatoes). If your family still craves sweet potatoes with brown sugar, try reducing the amount of sugar you use over time until there everyone is used to only a tiny bit for flavor. Try a few unfamiliar Southern root vegetables, such as salsify, celeriac and kohlrabi, too.

Teach your kids about their food.

Teach kids to connect their food to a farm by taking them to a local farmer’s market and have them pick out their dinner. Get the kids involved in their meals by having them help cook.

Also, a lot of spice mixes are loaded with salt. For extra credit, visit a spice shop and make your own curry mix to add to all the fresh vegetables growing your garden. More tips to reduce salt are:

-Can vegetables and fruits. Involve family members as part of the process. Pickled vegetables and preserved fruit are classic garnishes to many Southern dishes.

-Use fresh herbs in cooking. Generally, basil is good in tomato-based dishes and salads, rosemary pairs with most meats, thyme goes well in soup and parsley goes with everything. Also try stirring in minced, fresh herbs in rice or grain dishes.

-Use apple cider vinegar. Add the flavor slowly to simmered greens, such as collards, kale and mustard.

Find heart-healthy soul food recipes in cookbooks available from the American Heart Association.


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Fat is Just a Word and it Feels Good to be Sweaty! Insights from Jenny Hutt’s Sirius XM Radio Show

“I’m comfortable with the word fat. I like the word fat. It’s honest,” said Jenny Hutt this morning during her Sirius XM Radio show. I joined her on the air for about 18 minutes wherein we discussed the new F word and why we’ve given it too much power.

“It’s a word. It has as much value or meaning as a person places on it,” I told her, explaining why the word ‘fat’ doesn’t bother me.

LISTEN HERE to our chat and then weigh in on the fat conversation, hear why we love being sweaty, and why we picked the diets we called the best!

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Jenny’s been on the air for eight years, one year longer than we’ve been greasing the wheels over here at It was a joy to be invited on the show to talk about what we do here, why we do it, and what’s going on in the industry.

The Most Diet Reviews on the Web!

We bragged a bit on our 2500 diet reviews, which cover everything from books and gadgets to pills and potions. “There’s a lot of crap out there that, in general, isn’t worth your time or money or attention,” I asserted. That’s why we love what we do. We clear the noise and clutter and give you just the facts so you can make the best decision for your health. Those reviews are the backbone of our site and the reason we’ve been called the Wikipedia of diet reviews!

The Best Diets!

She put us on the spot to name three diets that we think actually work. Based on our criteria that these programs have clean eating and balanced nutrition approaches, not overlook a fitness component, and even address habit change, we named a few “best” diets for their focus on sustainability and life-long habit change.

Retrofit – based wholly online and grants access to a team comprised of a nutritionist, exercise physiologist, and behavior coach. Here’s the Save $500 Coupon we mentioned in the interview!

Bistro MD – in February our test-testers named this the best meal delivery diet around! The fresh-frozen meals offer customers variety, portion control, and quality flavor to help jump start your weight loss efforts.

Breaking News!

As Jenny explained in the interview, there’s something here on for everyone. Whether it’s our news channel where we break down everything from Tom Hanks’ big type 2 diabetes reveal to what Obamacare means for you, or a really solid arms workout, we’ve got you covered!

Now Eat This!

Plus, if you’re more a health-conscious foodie, then our recipe channel will satisfy what you’re looking for. Every Monday we publish a new, original recipe that’s always surprisingly very good for you. In the interview we shared this Harvest Chopped Salad with Orange Ginger Vinaigrette and the new 419-calorie Parmesan White Wine Sauce and Pasta!

Get Sweaty!

We discussed how most weight loss and fitness excuses just aren’t good enough, and that there’s always a way to get in a workout. Services like Expertory and Wello, or smartphone apps like iYoga ensure you can stay active no matter what! “It feels good to be sweaty!” I told her. Jenny agreed, reminding that “it boosts your mood.”

October 9th, 2013

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Brandi is a health journalist who enjoys the task of keeping DietsInReview running like a well-oiled machine. She’s also a health-conscious mom who loves to cook without recipes.

Tips to Improve Your Workout Routine

Original article appeared on Go Red for Women

While doctors may never agree on a “best” workout to improve heart health, they will all attest to the fact that fitness is a powerful and effective way of combating cardiac disease. Of course, exercise only works when a person is willing to commit to making it a routine.

With the help of Kameswari Maganti, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, we’ve created a workout checklist to ensure accountability, improve heart health and set you up for success. According to Maganti, “Exercise and lifestyle changes are a crucial part of prevention and recovery from heart disease.”

When it comes to heart health, Maganti emphasizes there is no single training regimen that will work for everyone, because everyone is so different—as are the manifestations heart disease. However, motivating yourself to workout—whatever the workout may be—and finding a workout you will stick with is key.

Maganti shared the following workout checklist to help women get the most heart-healthy effects from their workout:

1. Be accountable. Maganti has learned that when she holds her patients accountable, they have much higher success rates at sticking to a fitness routine. She suggests that women find an app or online tool, such as the American Heart Association’s free Activity Tracker to track their progress or keep a monthly written log of what they’ve done. Personal trainers are also an effective, albeit expensive, way to keep accountable.

2. Establish a routine. Working out becomes easier when it’s an accepted part of your daily life. Maganti says that the first three months are a challenge, but it gets easier after about 90 days. The six-month mark is something to truly celebrate. She says that after this amount of time, the routine is solidly established and women are more likely to stick with it.

3. Walk it off. Walking doesn’t require a gym, it doesn’t require a new wardrobe, it’s free and nearly everyone can do it. Start by trying a brisk walk at least 15 minutes a day several times per week. The more you walk, the more health benefits you’ll likely experience.

4. Find a moderate activity you love. The American Heart Association recommends you spend at least two and a half hours a week engaging in some moderate exercise (you can combine this with vigorous exercise, see below).

There are many to choose from, and Maganti emphasizes the importance of finding one you enjoy so that you’re more likely to want to do it. She also says it’s important to vary your exercise regimen to avoid muscle strain. For example, if you jog one day, consider swimming or cycling the next. She lists theses moderate exercises as examples: biking on level ground or small hills; general gardening, such as raking leaves and trimming shrubs; sports where you catch and throw, such as baseball, softball and volleyball; doubles tennis; and water aerobics.

5. Find a vigorous activity you love. The American Heart Association says that you should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity aerobic activity for health benefits. Vigorous activities include singles tennis, training for a triathlon or running event, soccer, hockey, basketball, heavy gardening (like hoeing and digging), bicycling (faster than 10 miles per hour) and jumping rope.

6. Do strength training. “I always tell my patients to remember strength training,” says Maganti. She says all adults but especially women should be doing muscle-strengthening activity at moderate or high intentsity a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes a day at least two days a week, making sure to work out all of the major muscle groups. This provides a powerful workout, and also helps prevent osteoporosis. “Strength training increases bone density and muscle mass, and is consistently shown to be a benefit for women,” she says. Try lifting light weights to workout arms and holding light weights while performing leg lifts and squats to workout legs.

7. Try interval training. Working out in intervals (i.e., alternating the intensity of your exercise in various intervals of time) offers heart benefits and can further help you get in shape. In interval training, the goal is to push yourself into overdrive, entering the anaerobic zone for a brief period of time during your workout, and then slow down to recover, repeating the process six to 10 times. The Mayo Clinic has been utilizing interval workouts even with patients who have suffered a cardiac event. “Interval training has been shown to be of significant benefit,” says Maganti. Be sure to check with your doctor before engaging in interval training.

8. Warm up and cool down. Start your workout slowly and end your workout with stretching. By easing in and out of your workout, you’re doing your heart a favor. “There is going to be increased oxygen demand, so you slowly want to increase the heart rate,” says Maganti. The gradual increase and decrease also helps protect your muscles from potential strain and injury.

Learn more heart-healthy exercises on Go Red.