Monthly Archives: September 2016

Eating My Ten Must Foods Daily

I shared in my last blog the ten foods I eat on a daily basis to keep me healthy, my energy level high, and are simple to prepare.  You may wonder how many different ways can you eat cottage cheese or cabbage before your mouth rebels.  But, honestly, you can eat these ten must foods daily and in a variety of ways and keep your taste buds happy.

My Ten Must Foods Daily, and Gaily!

kale smoothiePlain Greek Low-fat Yogurt, flax seed, and milk.  On weekdays I make a smoothie with Greek yogurt, kale, frozen berries, flax seed and low-fat milk.  On Saturday I make whole grain pancakes also using Greek yogurt, flax seed and milk.  I also use Greek yogurt to make veggie dips mixing half Greek yogurt and half light mayo with a spice mixture, like the ones from Westminster Whimsy in Chelsea Maine.  They make a variety of seasoning packets that go wonderfully with fresh veggies or whole grain pretzels or Wasa crackers.  You can also substitute Greek yogurt in a variety of recipes:

  • 1 cup sour cream with 1 cup low-fat or fat-free  plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of butter with 1/3 cup mayo and 2/3 cup low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup oil with 1/3 cup oil and 2/3 cup low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup heavy cream with 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk or cream with  3/4 milk or cream and 1/4 low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup buttermilk with 1/3 cup milk and 2/3 cup low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 8 oz cream cheese or mascarpone with 4 oz cream cheese or mascarpone and 1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup ricotta and 1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free plain Greek yogurt

Cottage Cheese.  Instead of using Greek yogurt in dips, I sometimes use whipped cottage cheese.  If you whip cottage cheese for a few minutes it does become smooth and creamy.  It has much more protein than cream cheese.  Add chives and you have a perfect spread for a bagel.  A favorite summer lunch for me is cottage cheese with some freshly picked tomatoes from my garden.

Cabbage.  Roasted cabbageI love cabbage.  I love everything about it – the colors, whether green or red, the cheap cost, and even how long it will stay fresh in my frig.  I shred it to put in wraps along with chicken, black beans, cheese and salsa for a complete summer meal.  It’s in my Asian slaw recipe that my sister turned me on to and also includes one of my other ten must foods, peanut butter.  I put cabbage in my soups, in my salad concoctions and even in my delicious bean salad that makes enough for a large party, or to have over several meals during the week.  I’ve enjoyed roasting Napa cabbage with a bit of olive oil and salt and will try this wonderful recipe soon.

Wasa crackers and peanut butter.  Wasa crackers make a great foundation.  By themselves, many would say taste like cardboard, but top them with anything and they become the perfect vehicle and crunch for any topper.  One of my favorite toppers is cottage cheese, with a few onion slices and minced Kalamata olives.  A couple of these with a piece of fruit and I’m full until my next meal.  Lately, I’m hooked on eating them sandwiched over some crunchy Teddy peanut butter.  Keep a bag of them along with a jar of Teddy peanut butter and you have the perfect snack.  I love Teddy – it’s just roasted peanuts and salt, no hydrogenated oils added to line my arteries with transfat.  I also love to top my Wasa’s with bean soup or chili; Wasa crackers can stand up to anything you put on it and still maintain the crunch.

Olive oil.  There is some research that indicates several manufacturers have been caught substituting other oils for extra virgin olive oil.  Their recommendation was to get your olive oil from California or Greece.  I use my extra virgin olive oil to toss my veggies in before roasting, in some cake recipes and my salad dressing.  Of course one of the tastiest ways to enjoy olive oil is with some freshly baked bread.  Skip the butter, who needs that if you find some really nice buttery olive oil.  The link above also lists recommended brands.  Trader Joe’s California Estate scored well on a taste test.

Apple Cider Vinegar.  I love Balsamic vinegar but recently learned how only apple cider vinegar has an alkali pH – so it’s the only vinegar that can lower post meal blood sugars by interfering with the digestion of starches.  Over 9% or 29 million people in the US with diabetes, lowering post meal blood sugars could reduce some of the damage done to the arteries and reduce the workload on the pancreas if consumed regularly.  This doesn’t mean one can eat a whole pizza and follow up with a swig of apple cider vinegar to reduce the damage.  But it does mean that in addition to eating carbs mindfully, regular consumption of apple cider vinegar could lower blood sugars and A1c.  There is also some evidence that apple cider vinegar’s anti-glycemic effect could even help with weight loss.  Many sources recommend buying organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar and mixing 2 tbsp with 1 tsp of honey and water.  You can also mix this with olive oil and some of the Westminster Whimsy spice packets for a nice salad dressing.

Barley.  BarleyBarley is my rice substitute.  I add it to soups.  I use it in my seafood paella.  I have even substituted it for hot oatmeal.  Add a little low-fat milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, chopped walnuts and a raisins, and you have a perfect winter hot cereal full of fiber and protein.  You can follow the recipe mentioned here to slow cook it overnight.  It is slowly digested and will keep you fuller longer than most other grains, while also being one of the best foods to lower your bad cholesterol.

What You Might Notice After Eating These Ten Must Foods

What might you notice after a month of eating these ten foods?  Consumed regularly you will be giving your body good sources of low fat protein, plenty of fiber that will not only slow down digestion, keeping you fuller longer, but lower bad cholesterol as well.  You will also get fiber that will feed your good gut microbes that boost your immune system.  You will get anti-inflammatory agents that may reduce pain, arterial inflammation and perhaps even boost your mood.  You will be protecting your bones, keeping them strong for the future if you get at least 2-3 servings of dairy daily like low-fat milk, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt.  You could even lower your blood pressure by getting enough calcium from the above sources and the potassium from veggies like cabbage.  The antioxidants in the flax seed and cabbage will help your body fight against cancer.

It’s amazing how these ten foods will help protect your heart and arteries, fight against disease and cancer, help with weight loss and diabetes and even help auto-immune inflammatory conditions.  Isn’t that wonderful payback.  To feel better, improve health and possibly lose weight.  Try these ten foods on a daily basis for one month and see what you might notice.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

ten food musts

Ten Must Foods To Stock In Your Kitchen

Being empty nesters, my husband and I “wing-it” more often than not when it comes to mealtime in the summer in Maine.  We tend to eat simpler meals than the rest of the year.  For example, last nights meal consisted of a huge bowl of cut-up tomatoes from our garden combined with some fresh veggies, a scoop of low fat cottage cheese and a piece of whole grain toast.  Nothing fancy, but with freshly picked veggies from our garden, I was totally satisfied.  Making a quick health meal means always keeping key essentials around.  I have ten “must” foods that I always keep stocked in my kitchen so I can put together a quick meal that meets my requirements beyond just being tasty:  they must keep me full and must promote health.

How My List Promotes Fullness And Healthy

The key to fullness lies in getting enough fiber, protein and fat with each meal.  The key to making it healthy is getting both soluble and insoluble fiber, lean protein and heart healthy fat.


Fiber increases biodiversity of microbes that boost our immune system and is linked to reducing the risk of many disease processes including irritable bowel disease, cardiovascular disease and even the intestinal infection, C-difficile.   Fiber keeps us full, lowers cholesterol and improves blood sugars.  The Institute of Medicine recommends that women eat at least 25 gms and men 38 gms daily.  The average American consumes only 15 gms a day.  Foods high in both these kinds of fiber include fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, and a variety of whole grains.


Protein is the building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.  Our body doesn’t store protein like it does fat and carbohydrates, so we need to consume it regularly and in the right amount.  The Institute of Medicine recommends .8 gm per kilogram of weight for the average adult.  That means a 200 lb person should consume about 72 gms daily.  Some research indicates eating large amounts at once, does not benefit the body as well as eating smaller amounts throughout the day.  On average, an ounce of meat, poultry or fish will deliver about 6-7 gms of protein.  There is also protein in beans, whole grains, nuts and dairy.  The key is to move away from the artery-clogging saturated fat found in beef and most dairy and move more towards poultry, fish and low-fat dairy.

Healthy Fat

Dietary fat is needed for energy and cell growth.  It also helps the body absorb certain nutrients and produce certain hormones.  Fats have more than twice the amount of calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins.  Eaten in small amounts with the focus on heart-healthy types, it can help lower cholesterol, improve cardiovascular healthy and keep you fuller longer.  The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend that we consume less than 10% of our total daily calories from saturated fat and get most of our grams of fat from olive and canola oil, nuts, avocado and seeds.  Here is the good, bad and ugly on fats.

My Ten “Must” Food

My ten “must” foods list does not make a complete meal, but each item is an essential component of my daily diet and meets my criteria for helping with fullness and promoting health.

  1. Plain Fat Free Greek Yogurt – It’s high in protein with each 8 oz delivering 23 gms of protein – that’s equivalent to 3 1/2 oz meat, poultry of fish.  Plus it has probiotics that increase the good gut bacteria and are a good source of calcium for bone health.
  2. Low-fat cottage cheese – This is also high in protein with one half cup delivering 14 gms of fiber and is a good source of calcium.
  3. Cabbage – These crunchy leaves are a good source of fiber and sulforaphane, a compound associated with reducing the risk of cancer.  And red cabbage contains anthocyanin, a compound that can kill cancer cells.
  4. Flax seed – This is considered the most powerful plant food on the planet with 3 tbsp delivering 8 gms of fiber, 6 gms of protein, and loads of antioxidant lignans.  It has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
  5. Wasa crackers – Two of these whole grain crackers provides only 60 calories, 3 gms of fiber and are very low in sodium.  I use them as a foundation to put cottage cheese, sliced onions and olives on or to sandwich around a scoop of my next essential.
  6. Teddy peanut butter – With ingredients including only roasted peanuts and salt, peanut butter is a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber.  Peanut butter and nuts in general are linked to reduced risk of heart disease and alzheimers.
  7. Skim or 1% milk – This is one of the best sources of calcium while also providing 8 gms of protein.
  8. Barley – This delicious grain is one of the best sources of soluble fiber and a great alternative to rice.  A half cup of cooked barley delivers 8 gms of fiber and 5 gms of protein.  It’s also very high in potassium which lowers blood pressure, and has also been linked to reducing risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.  Barley provides a high percentage of an individual’s daily requirement of manganese and selenium.
  9. Olive oil – This powerful anti-inflammatory reduces the body’s inflammatory markers and is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer as well.  Where you buy your extra virgin olive oil does matter – not all olive oil is what it says on the label.  Consider getting yours from California.
  10. Apple Cider Vinegar – When combined with extra virgin olive oil this makes a wonderful low calorie salad dressing, especially if you use a 2:1 ratio, vinegar to oil.  Apple cider vinegar is alkali and is known to reduce blood sugars.   Lowering post-meal blood sugars is very helpful for those with diabetes as well as those with insulin resistance (many people who carry excess weight around their belly have insulin resistance).  It has also been linked to weight loss, possibly by interfering with the breakdown of fats.  Taken with meals, apple cider vinegar interferes with the digestion of starches, allowing more for the good bacteria in our gut to enjoy.  The unfiltered apple cider vinegar is considered to be best.

I certainly don’t eat a perfect diet.  However, I believe the more I consume the foods on my list on a daily basis, the more I reduce my risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  And perhaps these items will make up for my occasional splurge on cookies, chips and cheese.  Life is not about being perfect, it’s about being better.  And these ten must foods might help you have better health too.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

Eat Your Cake, But Eat This Too

It’s about damage control.  I like my cake, cookies, chips and chocolate like any other warm-blooded American, but I make sure I take care of my body first.  My kale/berry smoothie for breakfast, tomatoes and cucumbers at lunch, and salad or broccoli for dinner are my health reinforcements to make up for my splurges of tasty, crunchy morsels during the day.  I make sure I fortify my body with enough dietary potassium, a mineral that most Americans under consume.

Dietary Health Concerns

The scientific report from the 2015 dietary guidelines advisory committee concludes:

“Nutrient intake data, together with nutritional biomarker and health outcomes data indicate that vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and fiber are underconsumed and may pose a public health concern. Iron also is a nutrient of public health concern for adolescent and premenopausal females.”

They further conclude:

“Nutrient intake data, together with nutritional biomarker and health outcomes data indicate that sodium and saturated fat are overconsumed and may pose a public health concern.”

We hear a lot on the importance of Vitamin D, calcium and fiber, but why is dietary potassium so important for health?

Dietary Potassium

According to the National Institute on Health our body needs potassium in order to:

  1. Build proteins
  2. Break down and use carbohydrates
  3. Build muscle
  4. Maintain normal body growth
  5. Improve heart health by lowering blood pressure
  6. Improve acid-base balance in the body, with a move towards a more alkali blood pH.

This fabulous article goes into further detail how an alkaline diet, one high in potassium, (particular fruits and veggies), can improve bone health, cardiovascular health, and prevent muscle wasting as we age.

Getting Enough Dietary Potassium

The FDA recommends that adults get at least 3500 mg of potassium based on a 2000 calorie diet.  And now the new food labels will include potassium.Dietary Potassium on Food label

The bottom of every food label will now list the amount of dietary potassium.  But the best sources of potassium are found in foods with no labels, from mother nature herself – fruits and vegetables.  The FDA recommends that we eat at least 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies a day in a variety of colors.

Fortify Your Body

I think life is not about getting things perfect, just better, so I feel better.  When I feel good, I’m happier.  Focusing on fruits and veggies is a simple way for me to think about food.  When I do that right, the rest tends to fall into place.  In the winter and early spring, I keep frozen berries and veggies in the frig to add to smoothies, soups, and even casseroles.  In the summer I add lots of celery, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions to pasta salads or snack on them raw.  I grow a few things in my garden that I feel are the simplest and give me the most bang for my time: tomatoes and lettuce.  Fall is wonderful for winter squashes, root veggies, and apples.

I may not eat a lot of cake but I sure do stroke my sweet tooth by making fruit crisps.  Often, I just use frozen fruit like sliced mango, but apple is my favorite.  A fruit crisp is the perfect solution to getting a serving of fruit and whole grains, while still satisfying that need for a little somein’, somein’!  You can have your sweets, and still take care of your health too!