New Year’s Exercise Resolutions and Heart Health

If you’re like most Americans, getting more exercise is on your list of New Year’s resolutions.

And for good reason: exercise is one of the key methods for lowering cholesterol – and blood pressure, my new concern — without medications.  Oh, and that dropping weight side-benefit (ha ha) is kind of fantastic, too.

So to reduce my blood pressure and to continue to keep my cholesterol in check without any meds, I’ve been wondering just how much, how hard, and how often I need to exercise.

In researching, I found this nifty chart from the American Heart Association.  It’s a little busy, but the key is the bottom-most graphic, which is for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure (how handy that they are together goal-wise!)

Apparently, to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, one needs to exercise for an average of 40 minutes at a ‘moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity’ 3-4 days each week.

AHA Exercise Guidelines

Which sounds like kind of a lot, people.

I mean, I like exercise and exercise more frequently than most people I know, and that sounds like a lot to me.

So obviously, the next question is – what is ‘moderate-to-vigorous-intensity’ aerobic activity?

Luckily, the American Heart Association had a post that answered that exact question: Moderate to Vigorous – What is your level of intensity?  The AHA defines moderate and vigorous exercise as follows (link to the article for more detailed, pretty interesting info):

Examples of Moderate Intensity:

  • Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking)
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Ballroom dancing
  • General gardening

Examples of Vigorous Intensity:

  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
  • Jumping rope
  • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack

I found this useful, but prefer a more specific goal: for me, moderate-vigorous means my heart rate hits at about 70-85% of my Max Heart Rate (for me, that’s 140-154 or so).  If you want to know more about setting a personal heart rate goal, read How To Set A Simple Heart Rate Goal.

Since the only thing I do for exercise that lasts more than 30 minutes is walking or spin class, all this means I need to be a bit more, um, diligent about working out. Sure, I play tennis 2-3 times per week, power walk on nice days (3 miles at about 4 mph) and take spin classes – but I’m pretty clear that I’m not hitting the 40 minutes part of the 3-4 days per week goal.

But I’d rather ramp up my exercise plan than go on blood pressure or cholesterol meds, so I’m looking at scheduling more – or longer – aerobic exercise into my week. How about you?

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Cholesterol Results 2014

So I finally bucked up and got my cholesterol tested in November and the results were surprising.  First of all, my cholesterol – after a year of reasonably careful eating and a lot more exercise, but no Metamucil or Fish Oil pills – actually moved in the right direction.

Details in a second.

Not only that, my new cardiologist (again, more in a sec on why I needed to finally see a cardiologist) actually called my cholesterol results “enviable.”

Enviable, people.

This shocked me. Especially because I gave up on the fish oil pills which apparently now, in a total turnaround from past belief, don’t help much with cholesterol. (It’s frustratingly difficult to keep up with what’s recommended –  and what is no long considered effective – for managing cholesterol without statins.)

That said, in the face of a genetic predisposition toward high cholesterol, I’ve managed through diet and exercise to avoid cholesterol medication.  Though truth be told, that’s more likely due to the American Heart Association’s 2013 revised Guidelines For Managing Blood Cholesterol than anything I’ve done… if the Guidelines hadn’t been revised, I’d probably still be having the statin conversation with my doctor.

In any case, here are my exciting (ha ha) cholesterol results.

My overall cholesterol is UP and now measures 246 – which used to be considered high but is apparently now not so big a deal.  Not a big deal, I guess, because my LDL (bad) cholesterol keeps falling (“goal” is less than 130 and mine is now 123) and my HDL (good) cholesterol keeps rising (“goal” is higher than 46 and mine shot up to 95).

NOTE: I put “goal” in quotes because these goals are no longer really in line with the new Guidelines; I find it fascinating that they are still reported as “goal” when the only goal according to the new guidelines is LDL (bad) cholesterol over 190 along with other heart disease risk factors that have nothing to do with cholesterol results.  Bizarre that this is still ‘outdated’ a year later.  Or maybe not bizarre, just sad.

In any case, I’m excited about the results.  Here’s a chart for those who prefer graphs.  If that’s not you, skip to cardiologist discussion 2 paragraphs below!

KLS Chol Trend Thru 2014

You’ll see the red line of total cholesterol is still high and rising – but no one seems worried about that, since the green line of LDL (bad) cholesterol is falling along with the purple triglyceride line … and because the blue line of HDL (good) cholesterol is rising.

Things certainly do change – I’m so glad I never started on a statin back in 2010-2011 when my numbers looked like a statin was in order.

Now, on to cardiologist.  My cholesterol results were surprising – and nicely so. But at same blood test I found I am positive for a blood clotting disorder, so that was a major bummer.  It’s not treated – and not dangerous unless you take hormones (which of course I was) so that had to stop immediately.

And then it turns out my blood pressure has risen quite dramatically.

Likely the stress of this past year – along with wondering and worrying about the blood clotting disorder.  Hence my doctor-referred trip to the cardiologist.

So my new cardiologist and primary care doctor are sorting out how to deal with my (hopefully short-lived) blood pressure issue … and on the plus side, I really liked the new cardiologist.  And when we discussed cardiac risk and my cholesterol trends and family history, he also thought that getting a handle on what my cardiac risk really looks like is a good idea.  So I had two more blood tests – and YAY – these are the very tests I’ve written about thinking made sense for me in Cholesterol Tests Your Doctor Hasn’t Told You About.  Finally!

So I had blood tests for both C Reactive Protein (CRP is a measure of inflammation in the body and high levels have been associated with heart disease) and also a full lipid analysis that will measure LDL density, ApoB and more.  I am really relieved to finally be getting a handle on cardiac risk.  Lastly, am debating about getting a Coronary Calcium test done – it’s a CT test so there’s radiation involved (and Aetna denied coverage) so I’ll likely wait until the blood test results come back to decide.

So on plus side, my cholesterol tests are now ‘enviable’ but am waiting for the blood test results to come back and really help hone in on cardiac disease risk. Oh, and trying to figure out how to get my blood pressure back to normal.

So I’ll end 2014 with a question for you: how’s your cholesterol? And, um, blood pressure? If you don’t know, please resolve in 2015 to have them checked.

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Vote For A Healthier, Tastier Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Dish

In last week’s New York Times, Kim Severson wrote about a recipe originally created by Regina Charboneau called Sweet Potatoes With Cranberry-Jalapeño Chutney.  I decided I had to try this for two reasons: a) I recently learned my mother-in-law adores baked sweet potatoes, which are incredibly easy to prepare (and it’s always a good plan to get on the in-laws good side, no?) and 2) the description of this dish promised it was both easy and that it can be made a week ahead, key for Thanksgiving:

“This is an easy and surprisingly delicious way to get a dramatic-looking sweet-potato dish on the Thanksgiving table with little fuss…  Make the chutney up to two weeks ahead and keep it in the refrigerator. It also freezes well. Assembly on Thanksgiving is an easy last-minute task.”

So I made this last week and other than finding black currants (regular supermarkets seem to have only something called Zante currants – and they are not what you want, apparently, for this recipe), it was both easy and delicious.

Not only is this elegant, delicious recipe easy to prepare (and prepare ahead, key for Thanksgiving), it is a far healthier alternative to the traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows.

I entered both recipes into the My Fitness Pal Recipe Importer, and here is the not-at-all surprising result.

  • A half potato serving of Kim Severson’s Sweet Potatoes With Cranberry-Jalapeño Chutney – even WITH sour cream (which is not even needed, IMHO), is just 214 calories with 7 grams of fat, and it’s loaded with Vitamin A and C because it’s, um, a real food.
  • A serving of “Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole” (from MyRecipes.com) packs 731 calories and 23 grams of fat!

Even if you ate an entire huge sweet potato with a huge amount of chutney (a double serving if you will), you’d still be at about HALF the calories and fat than the marshmallow casserole.  HALF.

Sweet Potato Nutritional Comparison

Luckily, I am not a fan of the Sweet Potato with Marshmallow dish so am not tempted (don’t talk to me about gravy though!)  But here’s an idea — this Thanksgiving, serve both. See if you can convert to a new healthier (and frankly tastier) sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving.

Three preparation tips:

  • Buy the red onion and peppers already diced.  I was thrilled to find in Stop & Shop one package that had red onion and 3 colors of bell peppers freshly,beautifully diced – it saved a ton of time, and I just ditched the yellow pepper portion.
  • This recipe makes a virtual VAT of chutney.  Halve the chutney recipe and you’ll have more than enough for 12 servings.  (Note: I adjusted the serving size in the nutritional value calculations.)
  • This chutney gels in the refrigerator – make sure to take it out hours ahead to get back to the proper chutney consistency.

HOST A FAMILY CONTEST!
For my Thanksgiving this year, since the marshmallow casserole is a ‘must’ I decided to have a contest – I’m going to ask everyone to vote for which sweet potato recipe is best, with the hope of a healthier new dish for our annual feast.

First, I assigned the task of bringing the traditional (fat-laden) Marshmallow Sweet Potato casserole to one of the people who insists it’s necessary. My plan is to serve that, and right next to it, feature the Kim Severson dish — and include the nutritional info for both right at the buffet table. Then we’ll have a taste-off. (We have a wildly competitive family – if they can vote, they’ll participate!)

Sound like fun? If you also want to have a contest, just click on the chart above and it’ll open a PDF that you can print – then you can just lay that out next to these two dishes at your Thanksgiving table this year, in the hopes of a new, healthier Thanksgiving tradition.

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New Chart Helps Identify Heart Disease Risk

The National Lipid Association (NLA) recently released an ‘infographic’ that, according to the person who contacted me on behalf of the NLA, is intended “to help people better understand their cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

And indeed, I think it’s a very useful chart.  Essentially, it helps you visualize your heart disease risk by turning the major risk factors into a series of easy questions; these questions help determine your heart disease risk and serve as a basis for discussion with your doctor:

NLA Infographic FINAL

You can also find this chart on the National Lipid Association’s “Learn Your Lipid” site.

As I wrote about in both The NEW Guidelines For Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Meds and also, New Cholesterol Guidelines – An App For That, when the American Heart Association published the new cholesterol guidelines in November 2013, there was a new focus on determining a person’s 10-year risk of heart disease rather than treating LDL (bad) cholesterol to a specific level.  In broad strokes the new guidelines state that if you are in one of the following four groups you have elevated heart disease risk and should take statins:

  1. those who already have cardiovascular disease
  2. anyone with LDL (bad) cholesterol of 190 mg/dL or higher
  3. anyone between 40 and 75 years of age who has Type 2 diabetes
  4. people between 40 and 75 who have an estimated 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease of 7.5 percent or higher.

What’s great about this NLA chart is that it works in tandem with the new guidelines – and helps people easily see if they are at risk. Net, this infographic quickly flags those who may fall into risk groups #2 or #4 above.

For example, for risk group #2, using the NLA infographic will ensure you know your total cholesterol – so you can see if LDL cholesterol is 190 mg/dL or higher and thus at risk.

And for risk group #4, the questions asked by the NLA infographic help you determine (without using a calculator!) if you might be at an elevated risk of heart disease.  That’s because the questions asked in the chart (if you smoke, are overweight, have diabetes and/or high blood pressure, etc) are the very factors that feed into the AHA’s 10-year risk calculator.

So have a look at this chart and if you answer ‘yes’ to the items in step 1, make sure you have your total cholesterol checked and talk to your doctor about your heart disease risk.

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Why High Cholesterol Increases Heart Disease Risk

In my role as cholesterol “Category Expert” for www.answers.com, I recently answered a question sent in by an Answers reader that I was surprised to find I’d never expressly addressed here on my blog:  “Why does high cholesterol lead to heart disease?”

Here’s the answer I posted: you can read it on this page of wiki.answers.com, or I’ve pasted it here as well:

Once you look at the definition of cholesterol, it’s easy to see why high cholesterol can cause heart disease.

The National Institute of Health defines cholesterol as, “a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body.” Cholesterol in and of itself is not bad – in fact, your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones and vitamin D, and your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. But sometimes genetics and/or eating high fat foods and not getting enough exercise results in overly high cholesterol levels. 

When you have more cholesterol than your body needs, the waxy, excess cholesterol can build up and stick to the artery walls – that’s called plaque. When plaque forms, there is a significant increase in risk of two heart disease problems — stroke and heart attack — because plaque can break open and cause a blood clot. A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks an artery that feeds the brain. A heart attack is the result when plaque or a blood clot blocks an artery that feeds the heart.

So while having high cholesterol alone used to be cause for treatment to stave off heart disease, as of the new November 2013 guidelines, now high cholesterol by itself is not THE big risk factor. Rather, the latest treatment standard is to factor high cholesterol in with other heart disease risk factors to determine overall risk of stroke and heart attack.

 

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Cholesterol Treatment – Guidelines Pocket Cards for Doctors

Did you know that any old person (and by ‘any old’ I mean a regular, non-doctor person, not any OLD person!) can purchase the American Heart Association’s “guidelines pocket cards” meant to keep doctors up to date on latest treatment protocols/recommendations?

On the American Heart Association website, these pocket cards are described as:

“These quick reference tools provide instant access to current AHA/ASA and ACCF/AHA guidelines in a clear, concise format – available in print and in the Guideline Central Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android.”

AHAlogo_lifeiswhy-logoFor months, I have been wondering whether there have been any updates or changes to the November 2013 Cholesterol Guidelines – and how doctors are following – or not – the new guidelines. (More info about the 2013 guidelines here: The NEW guidelines for cholesterol-lowering statin meds).

To me, there’s been a startling dearth of information about how treatment of high cholesterol has changed – or not – since these guidelines were issued. So I was pleased to stumble upon these pocket guidelines for doctors – updated with the latest recommendations.  For just $8.99 I downloaded the cholesterol pocket guidelines and found them largely unchanged since the new guidelines were issued in November 2013.

Which is good, I guess.

That said, one new thing I learned from this pocket guide is that there are established goals for the more in-depth cholesterol tests like C-Reactive Protein and Coronary Artery Calcium – both tests I think I might benefit from.

While my $8.99 purchase would NOT let me print (grr), I was able to grab some text via the handy iPhone app. Love that.

So if you would like a peak at the ‘pocket guidelines’ your doctor may well use when considering how to treat your high cholesterol, read on. Fair warning: it’s, um, quite detailed and uses acronyms (it is, after all, for doctors) so I’ve included a simple glossary for some of the medical terms.

Here goes – what follows is the ‘key points’ section of the doctor ‘pocket guide’ for treating high cholesterol:

TITLE: Cholesterol Adult Management

KEY POINTS

  • Encourage adherence to a heart-healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet, regular aerobic physical activity, smoking cessation and maintenance of a healthy weight are critical components of ASCVD risk reduction. Control hypertension and diabetes, when present.
  • Statin therapy is recommended for adults in groups demonstrated to benefit. ASCVD risk reduction clearly outweighs the risk of adverse events based on a strong body of evidence in 4 groups:
    • Secondary prevention in individuals with clinical ASCVD
    • Primary prevention in individuals age ≥ 21 years with primary elevations of LDL-C ≥ 190 mg/dL
    • Primary prevention in individuals with diabetes 40 to 75 years of age who have LDL-C 70 to 189 mg/dL
    • Primary prevention in individual without diabetes and with estimated 10-year ASCVD risk ≥ 7.5%, 40 to 75 years of age who have LDL-C 70 to 189 mg/dL
  • Statins have an acceptable margin of safety when used in properly selected individuals and appropriately monitored. If no baseline abnormality, monitoring of hepatic transaminases is not routinely needed. CK should not be routinely measured unless there is a personal or family history of muscle problems. You may need to discontinue and then restart the statin to determine the cause of muscle symptoms.
  • Engage in a clinician-patient discussion before initiating statin therapy, especially for primary prevention. Discuss the potential for ASCVD event reduction, adverse effects, drug–drug interactions, and patient preferences. Additional factors may be considered when a risk-based decision is uncertain.
    • These include LDL-C ≥ 160 mg/dL, family history of premature ASCVD, hs-CRP ≥ 2.0 mg/L, CAC ≥ 300 Agatson units, ABI < 0.9; lifetime risk of ASCVD.
  • Use the newly developed Pooled Cohort Equations for estimating 10-year ASCVD risk. Calculating the estimated 10-year ASCVD risk should be the start of the clinician-patient discussion and should not automatically lead to statin initiation.
    • For other ethnic groups, use the equations for non-Hispanic whites, although these estimates may underestimate the risk for persons from some race/ethnic groups, especially American Indians, some Asian Americans (e.g., of south Asian ancestry), and some Hispanics (e.g., Puerto Ricans), and may overestimate the risk for others, including some Asian Americans (e.g., of east Asian ancestry) and some Hispanics (e.g., Mexican Americans).
  • Initiate the appropriate intensity of statin therapy to reduce ASCVD risk.
  • Evidence is inadequate to support treatment to specific LDL-C or non–HDL-C treatment goals. “Treating to goal” may result in treatment with less-than-optimum statin intensity or adding unproven nonstatin therapy.
  • Regularly monitor patients for adherence to lifestyle and appropriate intensity of statin therapy. Obtain a fasting lipid panel before and after initiating statin or other drug therapy.
  • Nonstatin drug therapy may be considered in selected individuals.”

Going Lo-Co GLOSSARY:

  • ASCVD -atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension – high blood pressure
  • Statin Therapy – treatment with statin drugs, like Lipitor
  • Individuals with clinical ASCVD  – people with cardiovascular disease or who have had a ‘cardiac event’ like a heart attack
  • LDL-C – level of LDL cholesterol in the blood
  • 10 year ASCVD risk – risk of a cardiac event in 10 years, as measured by the calculator issued with the November 2013 guidelines.  More here: Going LoCo Calculator Post
  • hs-CRP – measure of “C-Reactive Protein” which is a marker for inflammation
  • CAC – coronary artery calcium which measures the thickness of fatty accumulation in the arteries and is used to predict heart disease risk

While managing cholesterol down to a specific goal is no longer the treatment standard, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tracking your cholesterol and managing non-dangerous/risky high cholesterol with lifestyle choices. And remember, if your LDL cholesterol is at/over 190 mg/dL or you have other risks, discuss a statin with your doctor.

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Answers Q&A

As you may know, as “cholesterol expert” I’ve written many articles for Answers.com, which you can find in two places. First, on the cholesterol page of the Answers.com site. Also I have all the articles listed by title on the “Answers.com Published Articles” page on this Going Lo-Co site.

And now, new news…

This week, Answers.com added a new page to their site: a Q&A with me.  Of course, if you have cholesterol questions, you can always email me/comment right here on the Going Lo-Co site. But now you can also ask me a question (but not, of course, for medical advice!) on the all new www.answers.com/karenswanson site.

Just mentioning…

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Do You Have FH?

The cholesterol-watching world is filled to the brim with acronyms and easily confused verbiage.  Who can remember what LDL and HDL stand for – much less which is the good and which is the bad cholesterol?  And then there’s Apo-B and LDL particle size to boot. But today I learned one that was total news to me: FH.

Turns out, FH stands for Familial Hypercholesterolemia which, in a nutshell, is very high LDL (bad) cholesterol that is caused by genetics. A more complete definition is given on The FH Foundation website:

FHlogo“FH is short for Familial Hypercholesterolemia. It is an inherited disorder that leads to aggressive and premature cardiovascular disease. This includes problems like heart attacks, strokes, and even narrowing of our heart valves. For individuals with FH, although diet and lifestyle are important, they are not the cause of high LDL. In FH patients, genetic mutations make the liver incapable of metabolizing (or removing) excess LDL. The result is very high LDL levels which can lead to premature cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

I was amazed to find there’s a site – indeed, an entire foundation – dedicated to high cholesterol caused by genetics.  And a bit miffed – because I know my high cholesterol is genetic… so I can’t believe I didn’t know about this very useful source of information.

And it’s important – because FH is a serious condition and essentially requires choleterol-lowering medication or other intervention:

“Nearly 100% of people with FH will require cholesterol-lowering medications. For some people with FH, more aggressive measures are needed, including LDL-apheresis (a very simple procedure in which LDL-C cholesterol is removed from the blood on a weekly or biweekly basis.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if a family has a pattern of early heart attacks or heart disease defined as before age 55 for men and 65 for women, children in that family should have cholesterol testing after the age of 2 years and before age 10.”

All this very sobering information compelled me to track down the excel spreadsheet I use to track my cholesterol results over time.  I was quite pleased to discover that although my high cholesterol is largely caused by genetics, it does not look like I have FH. In my most recent test, I’d brought my LDL (bad) cholesterol down through diet and exercise to 132 (under 130 was the goal before new guidelines were established).  And according to The FH Foundation website, FH is suspected when untreated LDL is above 190 (or 160 in children).

Whew.  Good news for me on the FH front.

Not so good news for me to ‘discover’ that my last cholesterol test was in March 2013.  Um, more than a year and a half ago.  It seems I have “forgotten” to keep track of my cholesterol levels.  Probably because I spent a lot of time this past year at Shake Shack.

So next week, at my annual ob/gyn appointment, I’ll take the blood test order my doctor always gives me and use it to have my cholesterol tested.

And if you have high LDL cholesterol that has not declined with diet and exercise and/or a family history of early heart disease / heart attacks, consider learning more about FH at The FH Foundation site and discuss with your doctor.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes To Get Back On Lo-Co Track

I don’t know about you, but when life throws me curveballs, my lo-co lifestyle gets flattened.

From blog technical issues to family-member health crises to having a college kid home for the summer (and the requisite, very stressful conversations that include: “why do I need to tell you what time I’ll be home,” and “I can’t get home by 2am” among other gems) let’s just say I’ve not been cooking.

OK, let’s tell the truth: several times a week this summer, my routine was a 3 mile fast-paced walk for exercise followed immediately by dinner at Shake Shack. Because, um, they serve beer. And you can sit outside. For me, nothing is better than sitting outside in workout clothes enjoying delicious, cold beer from a tap along with dinner? Oh, and the dinner – Shake Shack fixed their fries and those burgers continue to be outrageously good. This from someone who does not care for most burgers – and who eats almost no other red meat – except for Shake Shack.

Yes, I could order Shake Shack’s bird dog.  Yes, my virtuous husband does.  Yes, that’s incredibly annoying because NO, I do not make smart dining choices when I’m stressing. What I do is not eat very much at all – or eat very badly.  Or, more to the point, first I stop eating/eat very little. Then when I realize I’m not eating, I eat very very badly.

That was pretty much my summer in a nutshell. On the plus side, my weight is largely unchanged (the only good part of the not-eating-due-to-stress segment of this summer). But I’d be scared to get a cholesterol reading right now.

With my son finally — finally — back at college,  I actually cooked a meal this week. (Word of advice – do not consider schools on a trimester/quarter system as they start in LATE September. LATE. Like WEEKS after all other college kids have gone back to school.)

Not only did I cook – I cooked a meal I have never made before – and I didn’t even follow a recipe. I usually rely on recipes – don’t always follow them all the way through, but I do usually require them as a starting point (aka crutch).  So this was unusual behavior for me.

What happened was, my friend Chris and I had a meeting for a consulting project we’re working on and she had a veritable raft of gorgeous cherry tomatoes from her garden, which she insisted I take, telling me to roast them in the oven and they’d be prefect for bruschetta.

So I planned to do that, but forgot to buy bread.

Sigh.

But then I remembered she’d also said that roasted cherry tomatoes burst open when poked with a fork so they kind of make their own sauce.

Perfect. No forgotten ingredients necessary.

RoastedCherryTomatoesI just cranked the oven to 425 degrees, drizzled the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and salt (and since there was room in the Pyrex pan AND we had one red pepper in the fridge, I sliced it and oiled/salted that too). Then last second, I decided to throw in a handful of garlic I’d slivered.  Once it was all slicked up, I just roasted it all for 20 minutes.

I had forgotten how amazing it smells in your house when you, um, cook.  Especially garlic.

Meanwhile, I cooked up some high fiber penne (!) and warmed a can of LeSeur baby peas (hey, it was the only green thing I had on hand other than lettuce).

RoastedCherryTomatos PastaVoila.  A healthy, lo-co dinner in 30 minutes.  All I had to do was dish out the pasta, spoon in the peas, roasted tomatoes and roasted pepper slices, then pour the fabulous olive oil with roasted garlic left in the Pyrex over it.  And it was fun to then burst the tomatoes and create a kind of tomato sauce. My husband tossed some fresh pepper flakes in for a kick but I left my garlicky olive oil with burst tomato ‘gravy’ unsullied.

It’d have been nice if I had a little bread (ha ha) – and some fresh mozarella (also funny as my fridge was quite barren) for some protein, but even without, it was quite tasty.

I popped the top off a Corona and toasted buh-bye to my so-not-lo-co Shake Shack summer.

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How To Calculate Nutritional Value For Any Recipe

Wondering about the nutritional value and/or calories of a favorite recipe? It’s one of my pet peeves about cookbooks and interesting recipes found online or in a newspaper or magazine – the recipes rarely list the calories and key nutritional info (like fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, etc) included per serving.

Well, wonder no more.

I’ve written multiple posts about the fabulous app, My Fitness Pal (I Heart My Fitness PalI Love Me Some Nutrition Graphs; and Better Than Salad at Wendy’s to name a few) but I just discovered an update to their site that enables you to quickly and easily – using copy/paste – import recipes and see their nutritional value.

The basic ability to input recipe ingredients and calculate the nutritional value – and save the recipe into My Fitness Pal so you can use it to track your calories/nutritional intake – is not new. But they’ve now made it far faster and easier by adding the ability to copy/paste recipe ingredients rather than enter each one manually. But wait, there’s more!  Their recipe importer stops the guesswork – for example, it automatically translated ‘1 medium onion’ into 1/2 cup onion – an equivalency I always just guessed at before (um, even when cooking).

To me, this is miraculous. (OK, OK, I know, I need to ‘get a life.’)  But I heart technology, what can I say.

Now calculating the full nutritional value of any recipe is so, so simple.  Just login to your My Fitness Pal account on your PC or Mac, and under the ‘Food’ tab, click ‘Recipes.’  That brings up the Recipe Importer – importing from a URL didn’t work for me, but right underneath that, just click on ‘Add Recipe Manually.’  Then copy/paste your ingredients into the box, name the recipe, adjust the # of servings, and click the green ‘match ingredients’ button under the input box.  Either all your ingredients will either magically match – or if there are any issues, it’ll point them out for you to adjust manually.

Then save it and it appears in your ‘recipe box.’  To see the nutritional value, just click the recipe title in your recipe box and this is what appears (this is the nutritional value of my favorite homemade salad dressing: Mustard Vinaigrette):

Mustard Vinaigrette

 

I tried  out My Fitness Pal’s new copy/paste recipe importer for this 5 ingredient mustard vinaigrette and ALSO for a more complicated recipe.  I’ll write about that recipe, Risi E Bisi, separately – but the recipe importer worked beautifully for both a very simple recipe like this vinaigrette and a more typically complex dinner recipe.

So if you are ever in need of nutritional value of a meal at a fast food place OR a side dish you’re making or even a full recipe, check out My Fitness Pal.  My husband and I (and several friends) have found it a tremendously easy-to-use and very helpful way to pay attention to what you’re eating – for both calorie counting/losing weight and also for tracking cholesterol and fat (or any other nutritional value) of a recipe or meal out.

Note: I am in NO WAY associated with My Fitness Pal. Though LOL,  I think I need to contact them about putting an ad on my blog…

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