FOOD PAGE - NEW CHOICES
Low Saturated Fat - Some Organic - Some Vegetarian
 

2012 note:  I have decided not to update this page any more.  Companies change things, and not always for the better.  I simply do not have the time to stay on top of the changes here.  I am choosing, however, to keep the page in my website.  It gives a good idea of some of the kinds of things which need to be considered in moving toward better health.   But, you need to be sure to check the current numbers on packaging.  Where I put the text in red below, I left the old numbers in place, so you can see how they compare.  I check product numbers and the list of ingredients every time I shop.  I wish to stay away from drugs, so diet, exercise, herbs and vitamins are my mainstay.  A little more sleep would help too.  I try to keep it natural - keep it simple - and keep it positive.  Why we knowingly choose otherwise when our health is at stake, baffles me?  I have read that only 10% of heart surgery patients make significant changes in their lifestyle to improve their health.  God grants each of us the freedom to choose.  I pray you will choose well. 

2015 note:  I have added a "general food tips" box (toward the bottom) to which I will periodically add things I do, or something I have run across that seem like sound advice. 

As mentioned on the opening page, on March 13th in 2006, I had quadruple by-pass open heart surgery.  After sifting through a barrage of "life changes" suggestions, I began focusing on saturated fats (the bad guys) and trans fats (the really bad guys; avoid them like the plague. Polyunsaturated fat is pretty much neutral, and monounsaturated fat is good for you, according to the nutritionists providing the cardiac rehab information).  I have a link to a Mayo Clinic article about fats on my Toward Better Health links page.  I do not have salt or sugar issues (I all but eliminated the use of table salt years ago), so my choices were less complicated that many who undergo such surgery.  By seeking out products with no trans fat* and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving (the standard is under 20g SF per day, or under 10g if you already have heart or circulatory issues), and adding some exercise, I have been able to lower my cholesterol by as much as 77 points without the use of drugs.  But, life nonetheless needs a quality, not just a quantity.  For me, giving up everything I find enjoyable, to preserve life in this world, is simply not an option.  Fortunately, with a little bit of looking, there are alternatives.  I show some of what I have found below.  Beyond the numbers themselves, in general, whenever possible, opt for organic.  It will usually be more healthy for your overall well being.  Still, life is about balance, so do not get to the end of it wishing you had been a little less inhibited with your decisions. 

One final note.  We all know that the single biggest missing piece of healthy living for Americans is exercise.  Heart surgery is a great motivator, and I now have a four days a week program I do pretty religiously.  My belief is you will not stay with a program you do not enjoy.  So search your heart for something you can enjoy, and do not wait for a surgery to get you started.   

*watch out for partially hydrogenated oils in the list of ingredients on a product.  Even though the product may say zero trans fat, manufacturers do not have to list anything under .5, so .49 could still be there and potentially add up.  The word hydrogenated is your clue to avoid it.  The exception to this is if it specifically says "fully hydrogenated."  That process tends to eliminate the trans fat, but for me that gets a little too complicated.  I stay clear of hydrogenated oils if I can.  

SF=Saturated Fat g; TR=Trans Fat g; PF=Polyunsaturated Fat g; MF=Monounsaturated Fat g; TF=Total Fat g; CH=Cholesterol mg; CA=Calories; CF=Calories From Fat; SA=Sodium mg; SU=Sugar g; FB=Fiber g; PR=Protein g; SS=Serving Size (a dash under any heading means the number was not shown on that product)

 
SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
0 0 - - 4.5 0 140 40 110 0 2 2 1oz

Snyder's changed this product in 2011 making it less healthy with a higher SF than shown above.  Many brand options have 1 gram, as they now have. 

1oz = 13 chips  (is that whole chips or are broken pieces included?)

Potato chips were pretty much a staple of my diet.  Reduced Fat Ruffles had good enough numbers to remain in it.  Ruffles also has a .5 SF product, but it does not go on sale (as often) like these do. 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
1 0 2 4 7 0 140 60 180 0 1 2 1oz
 

Hamburgers, hot dogs and lunch meats --- our diet does not get any more American than these.  Unfortunately, they are typically loaded with artery clogging fats.  You can use ground turkey (watch the fat content) for a hamburger, but if you purchase 95% (or better) lean beef, you are likely doing just as well, and I like the beef better for a burger.  I do, however, use ground turkey for virtually everything that I put a sauce on (Sloppy Joes, chili, spaghetti, taco salad, etc).  I have found one good vegetarian alternative in the "Grillers Prime" Morning Star burger.  It and their mushroom burger are the only vegetarian ones I truly enjoy. 

Unless you are fond of chewing on rubber, I would steer clear of veggie hot dogs.  However, my mother found a beef hot dog from Applegate Farms with only two grams of saturated fat (versus four to eight in a typical hot dog).  Eckrich also markets a turkey roasted sausage I like, whose numbers are, though not great, a vast improvement over the typical hot dogs or sausages.   

As far as lunch meats go, I look for 97% fat free ham and, though costly, all natural Lifestyle smoked turkey is not only low in fat, but free of nitrates as well.   I was not a big eater of bologna and salami previously, so I have not bothered seeking out an alternative for them.   

 

 
SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
1 0 4 4 9 0 170 80 360 0 2 17 1

 
SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
2 0 - - 4.5 20 70 40 340 0 0 6 1

 
SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
0 0 - - .5 35 60 5 400 1 0 12 2oz
 

I have had people joke after eating a big meal that we should go exercise it off.  Based on what others have said, it seems exercising after eating, or eating before exercising, is a common misperception.  In the heart classes at the hospital, I learned that if you eat just before any physical exertion, the energy the body would normally use in digestion gets diverted to the physical activity, and the food just sits in your stomach mostly undigested.  I eat something small or light about an hour before exercising, since it is also not good to exercise on a totally empty stomach.  

 

 
SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
0 0 0 0 0 0 110 0 100 22 1 2 32g

They are not quite apple pie, but brownies and frozen yogurt (rather than ice cream) would certainly fit our American ways.  These No Pudge brownies are excellent, and easy to fix (just add a carton of yogurt to the mix). 

I used to purchase the Homemade brand of frozen yogurt (vanilla, chocolate, and cherry cordial) until it became hard to find in our area.  The numbers shown are for vanilla which I use a lot to make milkshakes (using 1/2 percent milk).  In my opinion frozen yogurt tastes as good as ice cream. 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
1.5 0 - - 2.5 5 120 20 75 17 0 4 78g

Now I buy Meijer Lowfat Frozen Yogurt (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and peach) .  The flavors other than vanilla have slightly less saturated fat. 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
1.5 0 - - 2 10 100 15 40 14 0 2 64g
 

I read an article written by a doctor, in which he said, if a product has more than five ingredients, odds are it is not good for you.  My family physician basically says a similar thing when she advises to always look for a food in its least processed form.  As example, even if they are both relatively healthy for you, it is better to eat the apple than to drink apple juice. 

There are a number of ingredients I do try to avoid in the packaged foods I consume.  One, of course, is partially hydrogenated oils.  As I already mentioned, they are a sure sign of the presence of trans fat regardless of what the product label numbers say.  I also avoid Aspartame, in particular, and any other artificial sweeteners in general.  There is an abundance of information that proposes how detrimental Aspartame is to our well being.  Why chance it.  I also look for products which do not contain high fructose corn syrup.  This is a difficult one because it is in so many common things we eat and drink.  Sugar is in our food and beverages in many forms.  Why should we use one of its worst forms?  Companies use it most likely because it is cheaper.  I also watch out for sodium benzoate (used as a preservative).  It apparently has some problems when it mixes with vitamin C. 

These are just a few key items we would do well to avoid.  There are many others.  While we will not likely eliminate all of them, reducing them substantially in our diets is a start.   

 

 

 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
2 0 - - 16 0 190 140 80 1 3 8 32g

I have never been a big breakfast person, unless we were having it close to lunchtime.  But, I have started eating something first thing in the morning. Peanut butter and homemade jelly on an English muffin or toast or perhaps a bowl of cereal.  Several big name companies are coming out with organic peanut butter now, but this MaraNatha has good numbers and taste. 

32g = 2 tbsp       64g=1/2 cup

Krema natural caught my attention because its sole ingredient is peanuts.  I look for products with basic ingredients.  It is not organic but I use it as much or more than MaraNatha because of the cost savings (at Meijer's locally). 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
2 0 5 8 16 0 190 150 0 2 3 9 32g

I was sort of notorious for having a mix of Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and Double Stuff Oreos for cereal.  I still use the first three, but the Oreos have been replaced by a cut up banana, cup of frozen wild blueberries (store bought), and a shredded wheat like Kashi's.  I like it. 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
0 0 - - 4.5 0 190 10 0 7 6 5 54g
 

During my time at Cardiac Rehab, I discovered it is easier mentally to exercise if I am switching between exercises rather than doing a single activity for 34 to 45 minutes.  I already owned a Health Rider (I hardly ever used - I was too tired after 3 or 4 minutes), so I purchased an inexpensive treadmill that folds upright.  They are in the same room as my computer.  I begin a slide show, put a music tape in with some rock and roll from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and start with 12 minutes on the treadmill.  Then I move to the Health Rider for ten minutes, and after that, back to the treadmill for another twelve minutes.  The first two, and last two minutes on the treadmill are at lower speeds, as a warm-up and cool down time.  I follow this with some stretching exercises for about another 15 minutes.  The routines are those I learned at Cardiac Rehab.  Once you do something regularly for over a month, it pretty much becomes habit.  Now four days a week is a normal part of my life.  In the nice weather, I have a routine mapped out on the nature trails at Fitzgerald Park which takes me the same amount of time at a quick pace as the time I would spend on the machines.  I actually prefer the nature trails, but either one works as long as I keep doing it.  I have also determined a route at Hawk Meadow Park in Delta Township, which has blacktop trails, for the days when the Fitzgerald trails are too muddy.  The routines I have set up are enjoyable because I have chosen to make them interesting.  In 2012 I started carrying a pocket size camera on my routes because it would engage my senses more looking for possible pictures while I cruise the trails, rather than just thinking about stuff, and not always seeing the beauty and wonder around me.  As I mentioned from the start, picking something you enjoy or find interesting is crucial to staying with an exercise program. 

 

 
SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
0 0 - - 1 0 210 10 0 2 6 7 2oz

The above numbers are for the pasta I use when making spaghetti.  Below are the numbers for the organic eggs.  This Bella Terra product is excellent.  It is whole wheat.  It is organic.  And, it tastes as good as any other spaghetti I have ever eaten.  It boils up in about four minutes, and as a bonus, it goes on sale sometimes around here, so I can stock up when it does.   I also use Full Circle organic capellini which has a little salt, but otherwise the same numbers.  

Eggs are tough customers for those of us with heart disease.  They are loaded with cholesterol.  The situation is improved if you use only the whites, but what is a good egg without the yolk?  Folks in the herbal and organic arena say free range organic eggs do not harbor the same bad cholesterol effects as regular eggs.   I have switched to those, but I am still limiting myself to three or less per week (recommended) until I see some science on it. 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
1 0 - - 4 170 70 35 65 - - 6 1

 

Sometimes you simply need to give something up, or cut way back.  Cheeses are very high in saturated fats.  I previously used a lot of cheese.  It was surprisingly easy to mostly eliminate them though.  When I do use it, I go with 2% , or a Swiss or Mozzarella, which tend to be lower in saturated fat.  You have to read the labels.  We already used 1/2% milk, but one of my biggest disappointments was Hershey's milk chocolate.  A single Hershey's candy bar has 7 or more grams of saturated fat depending on the size of the bar.  Even the kisses, or other snack size ones, add up quickly.  I did not eat chocolate all the time, but I would run in spells craving it.  Once in a great while I still give in to a bite, but it is one of the examples of something you are better off not getting started on.  And, the more I am away from it, the less I like how I feel after I eat some. 

 

You are always better off starting fresh with a natural item (like potatoes). But, hey, sometimes you just do not feel like doing the work.  There are a number of frozen fries on the market now with a single gram of saturated fat per serving, but pay attention to those serving sizes.  Some companies play games with their numbers by listing an unreasonably low serving size.  The McCain fries went from .5 SF to 1 SF in 2007.   

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
1 0 3 4 9 0 170 80 490 1 2 2 3oz

Meijer changed this product in 2012 making it less healthy , even though their packaging emphasizing no trans fat would lead you to believe otherwise.  The below numbers are the old ones.  I left them here for comparison. 

SF TR PF MF TF CH CA CF SA SU FB PR SS
0 0 - - 6 0 170 50 30 <1 2 2 3oz

There are many more products I have switched to, and new products hit the store shelves regularly.  Bisquick (for my pancakes) now makes a heart smart version of its product.  Honey mustard substitutes well on sandwiches for Miracle Whip, but even Miracle Whip can be OK if you are using very little of it.  I use Egg Beaters in baking and pancakes.  Canola and olive oil top the hospital's list as healthiest for cooking, with safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, peanut, and cottonseed oils heading down the chart to lard, palm, beef tallow, butterfat, and coconut oils as the worst.  Nuts, and beans, vegetables, and fruits have all become more prevalent in my diet.  I have found the trick is to keep them conveniently available, like any snack food.  We tend to reach for what is handy.  I started using herbs and vitamins quite a few years ago, but my food choices remained pretty poor until I was highly motivated.  You too can, of course, wait for a surgery (or illness) to inspire you - or not.  The products are out there.  It takes a little knowledge, and the willingness to pay attention to what you are putting in your cart.  But, our American diets can improve while remaining tasty.  The more demand there is for quality, the more food producers will respond.  I see it happening every day.  Good eating! 

 

GENERAL FOOD TIPS

Aspartame - I try to avoid it. Many low fat products substitute some form of artificial sweetener to try to keep fat and calorie numbers low. I have read nothing good about aspertame in particular, and try to avoid artificial (chemical) sweeteners in general. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup - There are many ways to add sugar to products without actually saying sugar. Fructose and corn syrup are two examples of such words. Someone ask me, with all the variations of sugar, why do I specifically try to avoid products with high fructose corn syrup. The name itself says it all for me. If you simply use the word "sugar," the ingredient would read high sugar sugar. It is likely only one of the sugar ingredients (by whatever names used) of sugar in the product. In a country where diabetes is rampant, why would you want to use a product which contains the ultimate sugar overdose. And many times it is the first or second ingredient listed which means it is one of the primary ingredients. BBQ sauces and pop are notorious for use of it. I use Stubbs, or Weber, because they do not contain it. Heinz has come out with "Simply Heinz" which has no high fructose corn syrup, and many companies are eliminating it like Log Cabin syrups. Our sugar intake is out of control in this country, so I say no to it as a start. 

Milk - I do not care for skimmed, but I usually go for the lowest fat milk I can find, typically 1/2% or 1%. There are a whole bunch of issues surrounding milk, but one I saw recently said if you cannot afford organic, make sure the label says the milk comes from cows not treated with the hormone rBST (or rBGH), which is banned in the European Union and Canada. Reducing the number of chemicals we take into our bodies can help avoid a lot of health issues. 

 

   

Before I close this page, I would like to make a special mention of the Grand Ledge Mancino's.  As far as fast food goes, the owner of this Mancino's has gone above and beyond in trying to offer healthy alternatives.  Here are some excerpts from one of his flyers:  Our meats are 97% fat free and above . . . We offer honey wheat and spelt pizza crusts made from the same recipe as our breads . . . We offer a gluten free menu, low fat cheese, fat free mayonnaise and fat free salad dressings to make your meal healthy and delicious . . . We are the only Mancino's that has this many bread choices, size options and healthy alternatives . . . We worked with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital to make our honey wheat and spelt breads "heart healthy choices." 

 

If you have had heart surgery, or know someone who has, or is about to, I found the following link to have the most helpful information for the immediate weeks and months after surgery:

http://www.sts.org/sections/patientinformation/adultcardiacsurgery/heartsurgery/

Like with any other topic, the Internet has a wealth of information regarding heart healthy eating.

 

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