Adventures in Heart Health and Diets – The Sequel

Well, readers, it’s been a little over a year since chest pains sent me to the doctor on my 40th birthday. 😐 You can read all about that fun adventure here, but given that a recent cardiologist visit gave me some good news, I figured it was time for an update.

The good news? I no longer need to see him for heart issues! 😄

Gif by @nerdbugs.

While it’s possible that there’s still a blockage, my intense adherence to my heart-healthy diet, combined with regular exercise and my prescribed meds, reduced the issue so much that it’s no longer significantly detectable. He still kept me on some of my assigned medications due to my age and family health history, but even so—it’s a real relief to find that my heart trouble was more lifestyle-based than medically-based. A lifestyle, after all, can be changed easily. A physical heart problem is more of a challenge.

All that said, though I’m going to allow myself some occasional splurges—which will be so nice after a year of no splurges—I still plan to stick to some version of this diet. Heart improvements aside, I’ve felt a lot better while on it and have even seen some wholly unintended perks like clearer skin!

I have to give credit again to H.P. for helping me stick to it. Her fascination with all things food—and finding tasty ways to emulate the yumminess of high-fat, high-cholesterol foods—has been instrumental in keeping me satisfied enough to keep up with it.

On that note, here are some other tasty, diet-friendly foods we’ve discovered over the past year, for any of you readers who are also aiming for low-fat, low-cholesterol diets:

Everything MorningStar Farms – Since cholesterol is found only in animal products, it logically followed that switching to a mostly-vegetarian/vegan diet was the way to go. The challenge with vegan diets, though, is that a lot of vegan meat substitutes are nasty, or at least off enough in texture to make them unpalatable. Enter MorningStar Farms. While we’ve tried a few products we were indifferent to (The pizza rolls didn’t taste pizza-y enough), most everything we’ve tried tastes exactly like the non-vegan equivalent. It’s insane. And delicious. The corn dogs, chicken nuggets, and various veggie burgers are regulars in our freezer.

A note about eating out on vegan diets: One thing we learned early on in this adventure is that, while a vegan diet generally suits our purposes, vegan dishes can be designed for one of two types of people: 1) those who eat vegan for ethical reasons, and 2) those who eat vegan for health reasons. And most non-vegan-specific restaurants make their vegan dishes for ethical vegans. Which is to say, while they use healthy plant matter, they also use high-fat ingredients like coconut oil to give the dish flavor—and coconut oil is one of the fattiest oils out there. That said, even when eating vegan dishes at restaurants, I still had to double-check the ingredients to make sure they fit on my diet.

Vegetable Stock – One of H.P.’s best discoveries was the flavor vegetable stock can impart to even simple food, like rice. For many dishes, she’d previously just used water since the flavorful (i.e. fatty) items would counterbalance the blandness, but once I switched to this diet, we found that veggie stock contributes a surprising lot of flavor! Now we always make sure to have some on hand. (H.P.’s brand of choice is Swanson, but honestly she’ll buy anything that’s on sale.)

Spice Blends – One afternoon H.P. got bored and wandered into the local Spice and Tea Exchange, and it was life-changing (so she says). It doesn’t take much of a good spice blend to make a boring vegetable delicious, and after some impulse buys of the most interesting-smelling blends, H.P. discovered a whole new range of dishes to make. The Tuscany spice blend is our favorite, but Vik’s Garlic Fix, the Smoked BBQ Rub, and Onion Obsession blends are close seconds. Also worth noting is the Popcorn Seasoning. We didn’t even eat that much popcorn before, but H.P. tried a sample in store (this was in The Before Times), and now we keep a stock of Skinny Girl popcorn at the house solely for this seasoning.

Skinny Cow Vanilla and Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches – These are on the higher end of the amount of fat I’m comfortable eating, but they’re also a yummy treat for my sweet tooth.

Tostitos Baked Scoops – Tortilla chips and salsa was one of my favorite snacks before this diet, but most tortilla chips were no-goes because to the amount of fat content. Fortunately these Scoops (and really, most of Lay’s Baked line) fit comfortably within my diet.

Hello Fresh – This doesn’t apply to all their offerings, of course, but I thought it worth a mention. H.P. signed up on a whim when the pandemic started and we were trying to limit our going-out. We’d only intended to stick with it a short amount of time, but the longer we’re on it, the more we enjoy it! There’s such a variety of meal options each week that it’s surprisingly easy to find meals that are on my diet (or that H.P. can easily make for my diet by switching out a few ingredients), and we haven’t had a single bad meal yet. In fact, since each delivery comes with recipe/ingredient cards, H.P. has started working her own variations into regular rotation!

Fellow heart-healthy dieters, what are your favorite diet foods? 😀

Categories: Adventures

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