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From Your Table to Your Health: The Skinny on Fat Tuesday

Becky Varner has tips for making your Fat Tuesday heart-healthy.
BY BECKY VARNER Modified: February 6, 2013 at 9:35 am •  Published: February 6, 2013

Since Mardi Gras is at the start of American Heart Month, I thought I'd share ideas for putting your Fat Tuesday on a diet.

This is a great time to raise the awareness of heart disease, how to reduce the risk of heart disease and emphasize heart healthy living.

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease and it can lead to a heart attack. A healthful diet and lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart disease.

There are many simple small steps one can take to implement heart healthy eating habits. One is to consume a diet rich in a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. Eating lots of different colors of vegetables and fruits is a simple way to increase the variety. Get in the habit of adding a vegetable or fruit salad to meals. Or combine the two by having a mixed green salad topped with a few berries and mandarin orange segments or other favorite fruit. Choose a small amount of a reduced-sodium vinegar and olive oil-based vinaigrette instead of a rich high-fat creamy dressing. Use raw vegetables paired with a little hummus for snacks. Layer lots of different-colored raw vegetables such as green leaf lettuce, purple onion slices, red tomato slices and yellow bell pepper strips on sandwiches.

There are many fruits that can also be served in different ways. Fruits are ideal as part of a breakfast, for snacks, as a fruit salad or dessert. Put chunks of fruit on kabobs. Poach apples or pears for a light dessert. Add diced fruit to low-fat cottage cheese for a salad.

Incorporate whole-grain and high-fiber foods into the diet. Simple changes such as substituting a whole-grain bread for a refined bread when making toast or for a sandwich is a great small step to take. Choose oatmeal or cream of wheat as a hot breakfast cereal. Substitute whole-wheat pasta for refined pasta and brown rice for white rice. Each of these is as simple step to enjoy more whole grains.

Choose very lean meats instead of high-fat cuts. Remove the skin on poultry to reduce the fat. Enjoy a couple of seafood meals each week. Seafood contributes a range of nutrients and specifically the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are associated with heart health. Especially good sources of these fatty acids include salmon, herring, sardines, trout, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel. Dried beans and peas are vegetables but can be used as a meatless alternative because they are good protein sources.

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Cajun Seasoning Mix

Makes 6½ teaspoons

1 tablespoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon white pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

• Combine all ingredients in a small container with a tight fitting lid. Stir gently.

• Secure lid and shake to mix.

• Sprinkle ½ to 1 teaspoon seasoning mix on 3 to 4 ounces of fish, poultry or lean read meat and bake, grill or broil until done.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 6½ teaspoons seasoning mix. Each teaspoon contains approximately 5 calories, .2 grams fat and 177 mg sodium.

Cajun Salmon

Makes 4 servings

4 salmon fillets (4 ounces each)

4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning mix

1 medium avocado, peeled and cut in slices

• Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

• Spray a glass baking dish with a nonstick cooking spray.

• Sprinkle ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning mix on one side of each salmon fillet and lightly press into salmon. Turn fillets over and sprinkle each with another ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning mix. Place each in prepared baking dish.

• Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until fish is thoroughly cooked and flakes easily when pierced with a fork.

• Place salmon fillets on serving platter and garnish with avocado slices.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 4 servings. Each serving contains approximately 242 calories, 15 grams fat and 231 mg sodium.


Makes 4 servings

4 cups coleslaw mix

2 tablespoons honey at room temperature

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

• Combine honey, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium serving bowl and stir well to mix.

• Add coleslaw mix and toss to coat.

• Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 4 servings. Each serving contains approximately 75 calories, 4 grams fat and 194 mg sodium.

Dirty Rice

Makes 4 servings

2 cups instant whole grain brown rice

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup finely diced celery

½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

• Bring chicken stock to boil in a medium pan. Stir in rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, add bay leaf and cover. Cook for 5 to 10 until liquid is absorbed.

• Meanwhile pour oil in skillet and heat to medium. Add celery, bell pepper and black pepper and saute 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat.

• When rice is done, stir in celery and bell pepper mixture and remove bay leaf.

• Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 4 servings. Each serving contains approximately 199 calories, 5 grams fat and 320 mg sodium.


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