Friday, September 21, 2007

5 Easy Ways to Healthy Hearts and a Clean Planet

Packing my lunch and fixing dinner are two parts of the day that I try to do as fast as possible. With the job I have right now, efficiency at home has become a high priority. But I'm also not getting enough exercise.

So I try to pick foods that meet three goals: heart-healthy, low-calorie, and low environmental impact.

Here are 5 tips to meet those goals:

For a midmorning snack, eat grapes or a locally-grown apple. A whole cup of grapes has relatively few calories. Weight-Watchers gives a cup of grapes only one point, compared to two for a banana. (The more points, the more calories in their rating system. A slice of pizza has 7 points, for example.)

2. For lunch, eat a cup or a cup and a half of low-fat or fat-free plain soy yogurt, fortified with calcium. If you prefer dairy yogurt, choose non-fat plain organic yogurt. Just before eating: slice a banana into it, add a tablespoon or so of walnut pieces, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Very low-fat and low-calorie, with a lot of calcium and protein, and very tasty. Soy yogurt and organic dairy yogurt have a lower environmental impact than regular yogurt. I buy 32-oz tubs of yogurt and that makes about 3 lunches.

3. Use olive oil instead of oils with saturated fats. Only olive oil and canola oil are high in monounsaturated fats. The FDA has approved this statement for use by olive oil manfacturers: "Eating about 2 tbsps of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil." Among the worst oils for your heart are palm oil and cottonseed oil. In between somewhere are corn oil, sunflower, and safflower oils. More about that in our book Veggie Revolution.

4. Cook vegetables in the microwave. Just put sliced vegetables on a plate, fresh or frozen, and put it into the microwave. Zap for one minute and test, then add additional minutes as needed. Some people put a teaspoon of water on the plate for steam, but I don't. This is really fast way to cook frozen broccoli. And microwaves are by far the most energy-efficient appliance for cooking food. When possible, buy locally-grown veggies. Less transport means fewer greenhouse gases. Plus, buying local foods usually means you're supporting small farmers in your own community.

5. Eat whole grains, such as whole-grain rice, whole-wheat bread, barley, quinoa, or wheat berries (chewy and very good). Eating 2 and half servings of whole grains every day is associated with a 21% lower risk of heart disease than eating close to none. Be aware that "Wheat Bread" or brown bread is not necessarily whole-wheat. Look for a bread bag that says "100% Whole-Wheat." And check the fiber. Some 100% whole-wheat bread has twice as much fiber as other brands. While you're at it, look for organic breads and grains. These are not only healthier for you, because they lack pesticides, but they're also far healthier for wildlife, for fields and forests, and for our rivers and streams where agricultural chemicals wind up.

Key words:: easy foods, heart healthy, low calorie, local food, monounsaturated, whole grain, calcium. soy

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