Learn New Strategies

Instead of focusing on what you have to give up (like junk food), keep your focus on the great things you, or your loved one, can have. Learn to work with the many fresh, whole foods that are allowed and create new meal combinations. If you are filling up (or filling your loved one up) on healthy combinations of meats and vegetables, and keeping some less-damaging snacks around as a backup, things like carry-out or highly processed foods will be less of a temptation.

The structure of the Diabetic Heart Lifestyle SystemTM is based on starting with Core Meals (meals that have minimal sugar, sodium, saturated fat or starchy/refined carbs), and expanding your range of options with Adjustments (use of more of your allowances for these items, substitutions of healthy items for less healthy ones, and makeovers of old recipes). If you are eating most meals with the ingredients and substitutions that keep you in compliance, then you can save most of your sugar/salt/starch/saturated fat allowances mostly for other things, like snacks or a meal out.

Core meals are built with fresh vegetables, lean poultry or fish, healthy fats and no-sodium spices.

Here are a few strategies to get you started. Learn more at Core Meals.

Vegetables

There are as many ways to prepare fresh vegetables as there are vegetables. For details, see Vegetables and Cooking Methods.

  • Roasting (toss with a little olive oil and some seasoning)
  • Steaming (with a bit of concentrated broth and seasoning added just before serving), and
  • Stir fry (mix several vegetables of different colors, some meat and a little olive oil and some seasonings).

All of these are healthy and delicious if you start with fresh vegetables. Ideally, if you can rinse and trim your produce for the coming week on the weekend prior, it will be is easy to throw together side dishes, snacks, soups and smoothies. What you don’t use can go in the freezer for soup or broth.

Always be on the lookout for new ways to make the vegetables you or your loved one enjoy. You can’t go wrong steaming them lightly, then tossing them in a skillet with a little olive oil or concentrated stock (or our all-purpose sauce), and finishing them with your favorite no-salt seasoning.

Soups

Homemade soups are an excellent way to implement your new eating lifestyle. With a delicious homemade stock or broth base, you can pull together almost any combination of your favorite vegetables and lean protein to make a new meal or provide lunches. Even if you have to use a no-salt commercial broth, a pot full of a variety of good vegetables still creates a delicious treat.

Meats

There is a very wide range of possibilities for the meats usually recommended for heart patients. Doctors’ recommendations vary on whether beef is permitted, but poultry and fish give you many more options than you might realize. See Meats and fish and Recipes to start getting ideas. We put a lot of emphasis on chicken because it is highly versatile, it is low in saturated fat and it keeps well. However, you can add variety and keep your meals interesting by punctuating your week with fresh fish and turkey as a protein option.

One of your most important new cooking strategies will be to replace canned vegetables with fresh ones. Not only will the taste and texture will be much more enjoyable, but you’ll avoid the very high sodium that’s in many canned vegetables.

In a pinch, you can use frozen, but be sure you buy just the vegetables without sauces added.

More Main dish variety

Onions, herbs, lemon and other enhancements: Anytime you have a choice, try to use fresh herbs, like parsley, shallots, cilantro (if that’s a taste you enjoy), chives, basil, dill, etc. Fresh herbs will always make your dish more outstanding than dried ones. We all have those times when we have to rely on dried herbs, but one of the great tools to add for your new eating lifestyle will be fresh herbs. And while we’re on the subject, if you’ve used dried minced onion or onion or garlic powder most of your life, this is a great time to step up to fresh ingredients! Onions, green onions, garlic and fresh lemons all keep well and are available year-round, so there’s no excuse not to use the real thing.

Toppers: one of the greatest toppers you can learn to make is Julia Child’s “duxelles,” which is basically mushrooms and onions or garlic chopped finely and sautéed slowly until they are browned. The caramelization of the ingredients creates a delicious flavor that compliments any meat, or works well in omelettes too. (Including omelettes made with egg substitutes!) Another option is simply caramelized onions, or a combination of sautéed onions and green peppers. Having a topper like one of these over a bit of fish or chicken creates an entirely new taste and will make you forget you didn’t use salt. With olive oil as your healthy fat, the meal is satisfying without saturated fat.

In addition to learning new strategies for preparing enjoyable and healthy food, consider practicing new strategies for:

  • Deciding when an Exceptions and splurges are “worth it”
  • Limiting the damage when you make an exception or splurge.