3 Keys To A Healthy Heart This Valentine’s Day: Key 3- Dark Chocolate Delight

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s officially here, the special holiday of celebrating the ones you love. Whether you’re planning to eat chocolate yourself or will be buying it for someone special, today’s final key to a healthy heart will speak to the health benefits found in dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids that are derived from the cocoa bean. Antioxidants protect the body by working to fight substances called free radicals whose main job is to damage healthy cells. Choose dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa to reap more of these antioxidant benefits.

There are some studies that suggest small portions of dark chocolate can support heart health and the health of your blood vessels. Flavanols in dark chocolate can increase nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and insulin sensitivity and lowers blood pressure.

Choosing dark chocolate and eating modest quantities can offer the best health benefits. Aim to pick 60-70% dark chocolate and limit your maximum portion to 1 oz per day (daily consumption of chocolate may not fit into a healthy eating plan for diabetes or kidney disease. Consult with your doctor and Registered Dietitian for an individualized recommendation if you have either of these conditions). Be careful not to overindulge in your chocolate intake because dark chocolate is high in calories and can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.

To close, I’ll leave you with the memorable words of Charles M. Schulz, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

3 Keys To A Healthy Heart This Valentine’s Day: Key 2- Eat Healthy Fats

Dietary fat has this notoriously bad reputation. You hear the word fat and automatically think any food with fat is unhealthy or will make you gain weight. The shocking truth however is that fat is actually an important part of a healthy and balanced diet.

The second key to keeping your heart healthy is to include healthy fats in your diet. So which fats are considered the healthy ones? Fats that are rich in omega 3s and unsaturated fats can help raise your good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and increase your protection from heart attack and stroke. Check out the examples below.

Omega 3 Fats:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, lake trout, and Atlantic or Pacific mackerel
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Hemp seeds

Monounsaturated fats:

  • Vegetable oils such as olive, grape seed oil, canola, and avocado oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts (stick to 1oz portion sizes and aim for unsalted)
  • Avocados

Including healthy fats in your lifestyle will also help you to have more satiety with your meals which can promote portion control and help prevent overeating.

Now that you know some healthier sources of dietary fat, swap them out for some of the less healthy ones (for example butter, lard, bacon, heavy cream, sausage, and processed meats).

This Valentine’s Day, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of a healthy heart. Keep an eye out for the next post that will feature the third and final key to a healthy heart.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

3 Keys To A Healthy Heart This Valentine’s Day: Key 1-Cut Back On Salt

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s only fitting to share some helpful tips on how to keep your heart healthy this month and throughout your lifetime. One of the key principles to a heart healthy diet is lowering your salt intake.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. When you eat too much salt in your diet, the extra water stored in your body can raise your blood pressure and put extra strain on your heart. Ninety percent of Americans are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes. So even if you don’t have high blood pressure now, it’s important to make preventative steps to avoid it in the future.

The salty 6, are the foods that most commonly add the most salt to the diet. These include: pizza, soup, cold cuts and cured meats, poultry, breads and rolls, and sandwiches. Other foods that typically have a lot of salt include frozen dinners, canned vegetables, instant or boxed meals, as well as processed and convenience foods. Read the nutrition label (low sodium is defined as 140mg or less per serving) and prepare foods from scratch at home to help limit your salt intake.

Bring flavor to your food without the excess salt. Try seasoning your food with natural herbs and spices, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar, and pepper (lemon pepper is not a good choice as it has a lot of salt), or try a salt free seasoning blend like Mrs.Dash or Lawry’s Salt Free 17.

This Valentine’s Day, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of a healthy heart. Keep an eye out for the next post that will feature the second key to a healthy heart.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Healthy holiday hacks: 5 tips to eat healthy this holiday season

The holidays are a joyous time of year filled with family gatherings, annual traditions, and let’s not forget the fabulous food!! I myself get excited every time the holidays roll around each year. 

Another less fortunate trend of the holiday season is found in expanding waistlines. The Calorie Control Council estimates the average holiday meal has 3,000 calories, and this is without even including the additional calories consumed in appetizers and drinks. On average Americans experience 1 to 2 pounds of uninvited weight gain during the holidays. That amount may seem pretty insignificant but when you have an extra pound or two creeping on each year and compounding year after year, before you know it you’re ten pounds heavier and can no longer fit into your favorite pair of jeans.

Not to worry, this week’s post will give you a few simple tips to keep you on track with your healthy eating during the holidays and still allow you to enjoy a little pie.

Holiday tip # 1 Don’t skip breakfast

I myself have been guilty of skipping breakfast on Thanksgiving in the past. I used to think that since I knew I would be eating a large feast later in the day I should skip my food intake in the morning. What can actually happen when we skip or miss meals though, is we end up overeating later on. Research even shows that people who eat breakfast actually eat fewer calories throughout the day. Therefore an easy way to reduce the amount of calories you eat at Thanksgiving is by making sure you include breakfast. It truly is important and can set the tone for your whole day. Eating breakfast has also been found to be a common denominator of people who have been able to successfully maintain their weight loss.

Holiday tip # 2 Downsize the carbs

Holiday feasts are usually full of carbs galore with everything from mashed potatoes, dressing, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, bread rolls, and macaroni and cheese to name a few. No wonder it’s easy to overdo it in the carbs department. Carbohydrates are not bad, it’s just when we eat them in excess that things become problematic. Aim to limit your portion of carbs and starches to just 1/4 of your plate. This will help you to get a more balanced meal and allow more room on your plate for non starchy vegetables. Try adding some of these tasty veggie dishes to your holiday spread:

Holiday tip # 3 Include activity in your family celebration

To help balance out some of the extra calories you’re bound to consume during the holiday season, make an effort to do something active the day of your family get together. You can try going for a morning hike, playing an afternoon game of football, or even have a dance battle on Nintendo Wii. The most important thing is to find a physical activity that you and your family can enjoy together.

Holiday tip # 4 Take leftovers to go

Remember that there are always ample leftovers at Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have heaping portions, or even a bite of every dish the day of. Stick to modest portion sizes knowing that you can have more at a later meal or even later on in the week.

Holiday tip # 5 Be mindful of your portions

Portions have drastically increased over the years which has contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Cut back on your portions to lower your overall calorie intake. Even a small sliver of pie can satisfy your craving for holiday sweets. Eat slowly and savor your bites so that you can enjoy the fall flavors of your meal. Choosing a smaller plate can also help you keep your portions in check.

Hopefully these 5 tips for healthy eating during the holidays help you to finish your holiday guilt free and thankful for finding the right balance in the most indulgent meal of the year.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

5 Ways to Lower Cancer Risk Through Diet and Lifestyle

Cancer is an all too common and devastating disease that affects millions of people each year. Chances are you know someone that has had cancer, or even you yourself have battled the disease. There are various factors that can increase your risk for cancer. Diet, physical activity, and body weight for example are significant risk factors for developing certain types of cancer.

The five following diet and lifestyle guidelines are recommended by the American Cancer Society to help fight your risk for cancer.

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity increases the risk for at least seven types of cancer including: colorectal, kidney, pancreatic, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, gallbladder, and a common variety of esophageal cancer called adenocarcinoma. Maintaining a healthy weight can be achieved by regular physical activity and following a healthy balanced diet. Even losing a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.

2. Limit Alcohol

It is recommended to drink no more than one drink a day for women and two per day for men.

3. Eat Fruits and Vegetables Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body’s cells from oxidative damage. The AICR (American Institute for Cancer Research) recommends eating 5 servings of non starchy vegetables and fruit per day. Examples of a serving = 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or a medium apple.

4. Eat Whole Grains and Beans

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans provide the body with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which can help the body to fight against cancer and other diseases. Phytochemicals have the ability to stimulate the immune system, prevent DNA damage that can lead to cancer, and slow the growth rate of cancer cells.

5. Limit Red and Processed Meats

Processed meats are linked to increased cancer risk. Processed meat is meat that has been salted, cured, smoked, or has chemical preservatives added to it. Examples of processed meats include: hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and corned beef. Because of their association with increased cancer risk, it is recommended to limit your intake of processed and red meats.

There you have it, the five diet and lifestyle related ways to lower your risk for cancer. It’s never too early to start taking steps to fight this disease.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Healthy Tips for Back to School

Back to school is a busy time of year with lots to think about as a parent. Everything from shopping for back to school supplies and clothes to planning to attend your children’s meet the teacher night. Another important thing to think about is preparing healthy back to school lunches.

It’s important for your kid’s lunches to be colorful, fun, tasty, and nutritious. Eating healthy, balanced meals can help improve your child’s school performance, development, and overall health.

Tip 1. Prepare lunches ahead of time

Prepping the school lunches ahead of time can make things less stressful as you try to get everyone ready in the morning. It also can give you extra time to make sure the lunch you’re packing is balanced and nutritious.

Prep your lunch ingredients on the days that you are the least busy. Rinse and chop your fruits and veggies so that they are ready to pack and eat. Be sure to rotate through a variety of options and colors (see ideas below). Change it up so your kids don’t get burned out on the same lunch day after day.

Red: tomatoes, bell peppers, radishes, raspberries, apples, watermelon, red pears and strawberries

Orange: carrots, bell peppers, peaches, nectarines, oranges, butternut squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, sweet potato, and persimmons

Yellow: bananas, bell peppers, yellow tomatoes, yellow squash, corn, pineapple, and yellow radishes

Green: spinach, celery, pears, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, grapes, avocado, asparagus, kiwi, artichokes, apples, and green beans

Blue/Purple: grapes, eggplant, blackberries, cabbage, plums, blueberries, and purple carrots and potatoes

White: cauliflower, jicama, mushrooms, onion, and potatoes

Try including hummus or Greek yogurt as a fun sauce for your kids to dip their vegetables and fruit into.

Tip 2. Choose quality grains

Whether your packed lunch includes a traditional sandwich, or something less common, try including whole grain choices most of the time. Whole grains will offer your kids more fiber and nutrients. Examples include: whole wheat bread, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, whole wheat crackers, and whole grain corn tortillas.

If you have younger children, cutting their sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters and creating fun characters is a great way to get them excited about their lunches.

Tip 3. Include lean protein

To balance out your school lunch, be sure to include some quality protein. Protein is important for keeping your kid’s immune systems healthy and strong and will help them to feel more full so they don’t get hungry between meals. Include lean sources of protein that are rich in nutrients such as: eggs, tuna, salmon, nut butters, cottage cheese, turkey, tofu, beans, cheese, and chicken.

Hopefully you find this week’s blog topic helpful and it inspires you to revamp some of the school lunches for your children this year. Let’s do our part to keep our kids fueled with the best nutrition.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

National Watermelon Month

July is officially National Watermelon Month. To celebrate all things watermelon, this week I thought I’d post one of my favorite summer salads…..that yes, does include watermelon 🍉😋

This week enjoy a healthy, cool, and refreshing dish without having to heat up the whole kitchen. If you have diabetes, try pairing this salad with some grilled chicken or fish for the best glycemic control.

Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/8th seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 12 ounces feta cheese, 1/2 inch diced
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion. Refrigerate the vinaigrette if you do not plan to use it within an hour.

2. Place the arugula, watermelon, feta, and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.

This salad is a great way to include some nutrient rich veggies and fruit with your meal which can help foster a healthy diet and can assist with weight loss and healthy weight management.

Let me know what you think of the recipe by commenting and liking below. Please let me know if they’re any other summer recipes you’re interested in trying.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

3 Tips for a healthy 4th of July

The 4th of July is just a day away and is filled with annual traditions, everything from patriotic parades, barbecues with friends and family, and nighttime firework shows. If you’re having any anxiety or worries about staying on track with your healthy eating this Independence Day, try some of the tips below.

1. Eat before you go

Eating something healthy before you go can be a great way to avoid arriving to the barbecue on an empty stomach. This will help you to avoid overeating once you get there. It can also give you the opportunity to eat healthier choices that may not be available there (for example a green salad or grilled veggies).

2. Bring a healthier dish with you

Most barbecues have an ample supply of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato chips, macaroni and potato salad and soda. Think about bringing something else that’s typically not served. For example bring some whole wheat buns for the hamburgers, vegetable kebabs to roast on the grill, green salad, or a sugar free alternative to soda like watermelon mint infused water. Check with the host to see what is being served, that way you can bring a healthy option that’s currently not on the menu. Your healthier option will not only be a benefit to you, but also everyone in attendance.

3. Allow yourself a small treat

Moderation and balance is key to mastering a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you only limit and restrict yourself, you may set yourself up for failure by overindulging later on. It’s human nature, if you tell yourself that you can’t have something, you’re likely to want it even more than if you hadn’t put the restriction in place. Keep your portions small so you don’t set yourself back with too many calories, etc. For example just doing a single scoop or 1/2 cup of ice cream or a 2 inch square (about 2 oz) piece of cake will allow you to enjoy a treat without beating yourself up for it later on.

Try implementing one of these healthy tips tomorrow and see where it leaves you. I hope you find at least one of these tips helpful for staying on track with your healthy diet while still getting to enjoy the holiday with your loved ones. Happy Independence Day.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

10 Healthy Graduation Party Food Ideas

Graduation season is upon us. Whether you are celebrating a graduation yourself or are hosting a graduation party for a loved one, this week’s post will feature healthy recipes for you to enjoy as a part of this year’s graduation festivities.

Graduations are often pivotal moments of accomplishment that are celebrated in the company of friends and family. If you’d like to stay on track with your healthy eating, you can bring along or serve some healthier dishes at the graduation parties you have to either attend or host this year. For some fresh ideas, check out some of the recipes below:

Middle Eastern Tahini and Yogurt Appetizer

Spinach Artichoke Strata

Edamame and Shrimp Bruschetta

Mini Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

*Try this recipe with mini whole wheat or whole corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas for a healthier whole grain option*

Sheet Pan White Pizza with Salami and Peppers

Parm-Style Chicken Sliders

Watermelon Arugula and Feta Salad

Skinny Baked Mozzarella Sticks

Rainbow Fruit Skewers with Yogurt Dip

Skinny Cake Pops

I hope you find some delicious yet healthier recipes to try. Comment and share which recipes you enjoy the most.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

The 50 Percent Rule: An Easy Way to Make Every Meal Healthier

There are many great tools available that make healthy eating and weight loss more manageable. Calorie counting apps, measuring cups, and activity trackers are some great examples. While each tool or method may not be a perfect fit for everyone, there is one simple strategy that you can use anyplace anytime. The 50 percent rule is where you aim to fill up half of your plate with veggies.

The 50 percent rule is easier than counting calories, because you don’t have to worry about the exact number of calories or macro nutrients you’re consuming. Instead you bring more balance to your meals by upping your intake of healthier, more nutrient dense foods.

Most people know or believe that vegetables are good for you. There are many health benefits that go along with eating a diet rich in veggies. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Dietary fiber can help with lowering cholesterol and is linked to lower rates of obesity and heart disease. Fiber can also give you more fullness (satiety) with your meals which can be helpful with portion control and overeating. Studies have also found that higher intake of dark leafy green vegetables lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet for cancer protection. Not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are the two most important things you can do to lower your risk of cancer and eating more vegetables in your diet is a great way to help maintain a healthy weight.

Not all vegetables are created equal. They each provide different nutrients, so variety is key. Aim to fill up half of your plate with non starchy vegetables. Grains or starchier vegetables like corn, potatoes, and peas should instead comprise a smaller portion of your plate, just 25%, while the remaining 25% of your plate should be protein.

Non starchy vegetables

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chayote
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
  • Sprouts
  • Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts

This week I challenge you to put the 50% rule to practice. All you need to do is literally eyeball your plate and make sure that half of it is covered with non starchy veggies. If you don’t eat a lot of vegetables normally, you can ease your way in by just applying the 50% rule to one meal a day. Be bold and adventurous by trying new vegetables and recipes that you haven’t before. Until next time.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess