Heart Health: Balancing the Straight and Narrow

A friend shared recently that her cousin had a heart attack. Several months later, he was regularly hitting the drive-through at his favorite fast-food chain.

“What could he be thinking?” she asked.

I nodded as I listened. I understood all too well.

When someone puts you on an austere diet and tells you that you can’t eat foods that you used to enjoy, you crave them more.

Since Dan had his heart attack, we try to eat as well as possible, but every once in while we go off track. It’s too daunting to say that you can NEVER eat something that you really love. Deprivation is difficult and why diets often fail.

To address this challenge we take two tacks: we do splurge once in a while but try to balance those splurges with healthy choices. We also try to make or find healthier versions of what we crave. (However, be sure to check with your doctor regarding your particular case.)

For example, more restaurants are serving turkey and veggie burgers, which are better options than your typical quarter-pound hamburger. We ask for light cheese or skip it altogether. It’s also easy to make turkey, veggie and black bean burgers at home, with healthy toppings to bump up the nutrients and add flavor. Some possibilities? Savory roasted peppers and onions, fresh pineapple caramelized on the grill, or peppery arugula with sliced tomatoes.

It also helps to eat a smaller portion of whatever you are craving, such as a slider made with 95% lean ground beef or a stir-fry containing a smaller amount of meat. If you’re craving beef, the American Heart Association recommends choosing a lean cut, such as sirloin or beef roast and limiting the serving size to 3 oz. or the size of a deck of cards.

When we do splurge, we almost never seek out fast-food restaurants. It doesn’t seem worthwhile. We save our indulgences for something that really hits the spot. It might be a petite filet mignon or a slice of homemade pie.

What are your favorite indulgences? Can you create a healthier version or find a way to fit it into your diet on special occasions?

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