Posts Tagged ‘Food’

More than you think

June 9, 2010

June 15, 2010: Grand Rounds Blog Carnival! Entry Guidelines HERE

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville, searching for my lost shaker of salt… — Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett (1977)

Don’t bother looking too hard for that salt shaker, Jimmy.

What did you have the last time you ate out? Or better yet, how much did you have? A 2007 report from the research journal Obesity that states that chefs regularly overestimate portion sizes. To make matters worse, the average diner underestimates the amount of food they have consumed. It’s tempting to try to fight this “portion creep” with willpower – after all, I don’t have to eat everything on my plate, do I? (If you are less than ten years old, the answer to that question is usually “YES!”) We can’t… if it is in front of us, we’ll eat it. Maybe mom and dad really did ruin all of us when they told us to clean our plates.

Portion creep doesn’t help when you are trying to watch your weight or eat healthy. It even affects our beverages – we’ll buy a “single” drink in a 16 ounce or 24 ounce bottle. I serving isn’t nearly that big – read the nutritional label. Or just ask anyone over 30 what a “Short Coke” is. (A 6 and a half ounce bottle of Coca-Cola) Interestingly enough, older chefs routinely serve less food than younger chefs, who honed their skills in the “Supersize me!” era.

Still trying to control your diet? I’m not helping much, am I?

So when we eat out we’re getting a larger portions, and naturally a whole heapin’ helping of ingredients… including our old friend, salt. Most of the salt in our diet comes from processed meat and/or eating out. If you are on the Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) diet, you have to watch the salt. And a nice meal out may not be so nice for your heart. Salt is under attack from all sides, people are calling for manufacturers to lower the amount of salt in foods (gradually; don’t make the entire nation go cold turkey) and there has even been a call for legislation to make this a law. But not so fast – when you remove most of the salt from food, strange things start happening to the food.

So what’s the answer? Ultimately, it is up to us – we’ve got to learn to order and eat smaller portions (Not easy) and complain to the manufacturers. You can also pick up a copy of Corrine Netzer’s Complete book of Food Counts. This book covers most of the national restaurant chains, and lists their menus and the nutritional contest of a lot of their items. It’ll give you a fighting chance the next time you’re heading out for a meal.

(I am not getting anything if you choose to purchase this book)

“At Night I’m a Junk Food Junkie…”

October 26, 2009

I have to go to the doctor’s office today to have my Prothrombin level checked, and I have a feeling that I’m going to be changing the amount of blood thinner I take. But overall, I think it is a good thing.

When you give the blood sample to have your anticoagulation level checked – a measure of the ability of your blood to clot – the results are your INR level. INR stands for International Normalized Ratio. At one time, there were many different systems and math formulas used to check anticoagulation, and lots of different results: This testing service may give you a result of 1.4, another might give a result of 73. It was too difficult to figure out if the systems were compatible, so finally the World Health Organization stepped in. A standardized system was determined along with a standard scoring system (the INR level). So now a reading of 2.6 means exactly the same thing, no matter if you have you test done in rural Virgina or downtown Toronto.

The rate at which your blood clots can depend on a lot of different factors: the availability of Vitamin K or Potassium are two of them. So when you start your anticoagulation therapy, they tell you to watch your intake of both and above all, be consistent.

I’ve been breaking that rule. Whoops!

All my life I have been a “Junk Fook Junkie”! That changed when I went on the low salt diet for Heart Failure, but I still ate poorly (Nutrition wise – it all tastes pretty good!) . I’ve recently decided that while I probably can’t just change completely, I can at least improve my diet.

So it’s been a bunch of little steps – and I’m a fan of the Eat This! Not That! series of books. They occasionally bump into my Low Sodium restrictions, and when that happens, the heart wins. Don’t take them as gospel, but rather as a guideline, and you’ll make better decisions. There are some Rules for Eating Well online at Everything Health that also make a lot of sense:

  • If you aren’t hungry enough to eat an apple, then you aren’t hungry!
  • Avoid snack food with the “OH!” sound (Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos…).
  • It’s easier to pay the grocer than the doctor.
  • Never eat something pretending to be something else (fake meat, fake butter, chocolate flavored drink…)
  • Make your own lunch whenever possible

But since I’m working on eating better, my diet is nowhere near consistent, and I have no clue how the Vitamin K and Potassium levels are doing. One thing you are told it “Try to eat about the same amount of green leafy vegetables that you usually do – big swings can mess up your INR.” Well I am not doing that, I am trying to increase the amount!

But they’ll just tell me to change the dosage of Warfarin that I take, and besides – you can’t really give a fellow a hard time for trying to take better care of himself, can you?

Pass the plate, gain a little weight. Walk a mile, make your doctor smile!

December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas Day 2008!

Thanks to the economy, this may not have been the most exciting Christmas on record (at least to the retailers) but the important thing is that we are all here!

Today was quiet; my family has our gathering on Christmas Eve. And I love every moment of it… until I step on the scale the next morning.  Then I’m not such a fan. I am so glad that I don’t have a talking scale, because this morning  it would have said “Unnnnh…. Come on, come on, read the dial and get offa me! Whew, that’s better… wait a minute, getting back on isn’t going to give you a lower reading! That’s not gonna wo-UUUHHH!”

There was a lot of options to choose from yesterday; starting with my mom’s barbeque. I can enjoy her barbeque because she uses very little salt, so a good bit of that goes on my plate. I get a little slaw but that’s it; the Vitamin K found in most leafy greens doesn’t get along well with my blood thinner. At least, that’s what I tell myself; I’m also a junk food junkie. My membership in the That’s not Good for Me Club is pretty much honorary these days, but old habits are hard to break.

So far, I’m doing ok – barbecue, rice, some slaw, and a piece of bread. Once I finish, I examine the desert table very carefully. Coconut Pie, Peanut Brittle (Already in individual plastic bags, so it is meant as take-out) an Orange Slice Cake – the candy, not the fruit – and “stickies”. Some people call these “haystacks”; they are Graham Crackers dipped into a Carmel coating and then coated with chopped pecans. When the Carmel coating dries, the pecans will stick to the crackers.

My aunt called and is running late, she sent word just to go ahead and start and she would catch up when she arrived. She walks in the door carrying a large container of thin cookies and a homemade pizza loaf. The cookies are a family favorite, but the pizza loaf… we’ve been having this Christmas gathering for years and I’ve never seen this before! Have you been holding out on us?!?!

She turns the oven to broil and shoves in the pizza loaf, and in a few moments in begins to smell wonderful. Well, I thought I was through eating… but I’ll take a small piece. I really shouldn’t, but it smells so good. Oh. Dear. Heaven. This is delicious. Maybe one more small piece….

More? I think you guys are trying to kill me, but hand me some before I pass!  Yes, that one right there, please!

And so on, until this morning, when the scale gave me the bad news. I hate pizza loaf! It is an abomination, and a pox upon my house! Keep it away from me!

Well, it is dreary and rainy today. Weather does funny things; after it rains, I can hear the train whistle blow as it passes through town, five miles away. I normally can’t hear that sound. Inclement weather will also cause your weight to go up. I’m sure that’s the problem… right doc?

‘Till next time!

I feel “Fair”!

October 16, 2008

The South Carolina State Fair is open this week!

If you have a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) or Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), or both, you may think that the fair is a place to be avoided. Why go? I can’t ride the rides (a lot of them have those CARDIAC PATIENTS SHOULD AVOID THIS RIDE signs we all hate) and the food… the food is a nuclear disaster without all the radiation. Forget any other questions about “nutrition”, the sodium content of most fair items is through the roof! But I went, and I enjoyed myself because I knew what I could do.

Try to time your arrival for as soon as the gates open. Most fairs use metal detectors at the entrance, so don’t forget “Pacemaker Rules” are in effect if you have a pacer. What are the Pacemaker Rules? Very simple:

Thou shall not allow thy pacemaker to pass between the gates of the metal detector, nor shall thy allow the detector wand to be used upon thy person, so that thy days may be long upon the earth indeed!

To be serious, metal detectors could damage pacemakers. No one is exactly sure why, or how, since it usually can’t be recreated under controlled conditions. Maybe it is a cumulative effect, no one is certain. So pacemaker wearers should just avoid trouble by stepping out of line and requesting a hand search.

Once you are inside, enjoy walking around the fair. Usually the games and the rides open an hour after the midway does, so there are no distractions. And no groups of people congregating around a game or ride, so you should be able to flow with the traffic and get your exercise.

I’m not much of a game player – Funky Heart or not, those midway games will empty your wallet pretty quick! I usually head for the exhibit halls. I think every state agency has a table in the exhibit hall, so I scored a free ruler, yardstick, rain gauge, and someone from the State Treasurer’s office did a record search to see if I had any unclaimed money on deposit with the State. No such luck, I hate to say. The major political parties have booths, especially during an election year! I got a sticker from both the Democrats and the Republicans  – I hid one party’s sticker in my pocket while I was at the other party’s table – and seriously thought about wearing both stickers at the same time. I could be one of those “undecided voters” you’re always hearing about. And this year, there seemed to be more than the usual number of those hucksters selling cookware… I wondered for a moment if this was the fair, or maybe I had wandered onto a Food Network show.

Witch brings us to the dangerous part of a state fair: fair food. With Congestive Heart Failure, you have to be very careful about the amount of sodium you consume. My personal limit is 2000 milligrams daily. How much is that, exactly? 2000 Milligrams is two packs of Sweet ‘N’ Low.

Corn dogs? Way more than 2000 miligrams!

Elephant Ears? Forget it!

French Fries? You gotta be kidding!

Batter dipped fried Twinkies? Better eat that in the Emergency Room!

It really comes down to personal responsibility. If you’ve ever been to a fair or festival before, you know what kind of menu items that are available. If you aren’t going to do your part to take care of yourself, then your Cardiologist is pretty much wasting his time. That sounds terrible, but it is the truth. You have to bite the bullet, steer your way past all that great fair food (that can seriously mess you up) and do the right thing.

I always look at it as trading “now” for “later”. I’m going to DC next February, and to Denver later in the year. I have a lot of friends, this blog, and hopefully more good things I can do with and for the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA). So I behave NOW so I can have a good chance of doing all that LATER. So I went over to the Farmer’s Market section and bought a nice red apple for my lunch. (I did “borrow” one French Fry from my dad’s plate when he wasn’t looking… don’t tell anybody!)

The State Fair unofficially marks the end of Summer, so to say goodbye, here is a classic summer song: Bob Seager and the Silver Bullet Band with a live performance of Night Moves. Enjoy!

Six Days on the Road

September 8, 2008

I’m going to town tomorrow to pick up medication for the 14, 573rd time (I’ve kept count!) and I’ll probably eat lunch at a seafood restaurant that I really like. They do have good seafood; I ate there many times before being diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Now that I’m in CHF, seafood is off limits. It contains too much sodium.

Well… maybe it does. As a general rule, seafood is off limits, because it is sea food.. swimming in and breathing salt water. But if I go to my uncle’s freshwater pond and catch something there, I could probably have a small piece of seafood without doing much damage. But since you can’t guarantee the origin of every piece of fish you could order, the best policy is to avoid it. I’ll have the chicken strips at the restaurant, those are delicious!

Traveling with CHF can be difficult. A day out like I have planned tomorrow can cause problems, since there are so many things I shouldn’t eat. And I’m only planning to eat ONE MEAL away from home. When you’re gone for more than a few hours, it can drive you crazy.

Before you start packing your clothes for a trip, it’s best to stick a copy of Corrine Netzer’s Complete Book of Food Counts in your suitcase. The book(I have the 5th edition) contains thousands of foods and their nutritional contents, it even list brand name foods and the menus of popular restaurants. Just opening the book at random, I find a page and a half of listings for the various versions of Hamburger Helper. The sodium content of most of the Hamburger Helper dishes are in the 800mg to 950mg range, which is pretty steep for a 2000mg of sodium per day limit. The Reduced Sodium Cheddar Spirals has only 590mg of sodium… still high, but not as bad. If you eat light the rest of the day, you can handle 590mg of sodium at a meal.

The next page over lists Hardee’s menu items; if you start your day with a bacon and egg biscuit, you’re sunk: 1400mg of sodium. Ouch!

And don’t get me started on Jared. Jared may have lost all that weight by eating at Subway every day, but he didn’t have a sodium restriction. Go to the Subway website and look up the sodium content on some of their sandwiches. Go ahead, I dare you to. But you have been warned!

You better get used to the phrase “I’ll have the salad bar,” because often that is your best option. But use your common sense. Lettuce, and Tomatoes are good; adding a gallon of Thousand Island dressing isn’t. And it doesn’t matter if you spell it “Catsup” or “Ketchup”, there is a lot of S-O-D-I-U-M in it. Almost a full days allowance in a couple of tablespoons.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no reason you can’t travel and enjoy yourself. Just be sure to pack your walking shoes, you’re going to need to exercise more to counter the extra sodium that comes with “road food.” Use your common sense and things will go just fine!