Let them NOT eat cake

Going Lo-Co Conundrum: controlling cholesterol via healthy eating and exercise while nursing an ankle injury and an unusual, prolonged aversion to meal planning and cooking.

The ankle is getting better, so exercising is on the upswing.  But having a senior in high school applying to college (insert any other challenge here) has not been exactly conducive to my finding and preparing low cholesterol meals.

I was glad to find the Fresh 20 meal planning service, which at least got me cooking a bit again. And somehow I found the strength while planning Thanksgiving for 16 to actually try a few new low fat recipes.

My first goal was a coffee cake alternative. When I gave my mother-in-law several choices for Friday-after-Thanksgiving brunch, she asked me to make her Sour Cream Coffee Cake. I won’t post the recipe here because, though delicious, it’s from the 1950s and not remotely lo-co.

However, the cake had its benefits. My son – with newly minted baking skills complements of his HS Culinary class – and I made this together, and we had a blast with it.  We’ve never baked together, as I’m more of a cook than baker and he’s never had any interest. But he now has actual skills, so he got to poke fun at how I measure (‘exact’ is not exactly in my vocab).  He also taught me about the paddle attachment for my stand mixer. Apparently, I’ve used it incorrectly for years – who knew the whisk was just for whipping?  Cake turned out to be healthy for our relationship, if not my cholesterol.

So we had fun making cake together. But I knew I should not partake in much more than a nibble (thank goodness it wasn’t chocolate or that plan would have been in vain), so I needed an alternative.  My own fresh-baked cake for breakfast.

Enter Melissa Clark’s recipe: Butternut Squash Oat Muffins with Candied Ginger. Though there is butter in this recipe, I decided the whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and butternut squash were a good enough counterbalance.  And hey, it had to be better than actual coffee cake.

These were quite tasty and though time-consuming, not very hard to make,  Fair warning: I’d not attempt unless you have a Cuisinart to grate the butternut squash.  Here are a few things I learned/modified if you give this recipe a go:

  • I am not a ginger fan, so I tweeted to Melissa Clark (and she answered in mere moments – amazing) and she suggested to substitute raisins or dried cranberries.  As it was Thanksgiving I chose dried cranberries and they were great in this!
  • If you do like ginger, good luck dicing it.  My effort was a debacle. Google it – there are tricks that involve adding a lot of sugar while in Cuisinart and that did seem to work, but it’s not a simple process.
  • Plan ahead – there are 2 items that need to be at room temp:  eggs and greek yogurt.  I ended up making this at 11pm because I didn’t notice the yogurt! Oh, and the butter needs to be melted and cooled.  So mine ended up in the freezer for a bit – better to do that ahead too.
  • I’d never before grated butternut squash, but with pre-cut cubes courtesy of Trader Joe’s and the grating disc on my Cuisinart, it was simple.

My in-laws did not try the muffins (being 86, they’re a bit set in their ways) but my husband, son and I all loved these muffins.  Not maybe as much as the cake, but…

Give these a whirl – these are a great snack or breakfast. And a big THANKS to Melissa Clark – if she hadn’t immediately tweeted back the dried cranberry for ginger alternative, I’d never have finished baking these delicious muffins!


Cholesterol Results – Static, No Statins

Bless me, doctor, for I have sinned.  It’s been 11 months since my last cholesterol test. (Sorry, could not resist putting this in Catholic confessional format!)

So, I finally worked up the courage to have my cholesterol tested a few weeks ago and the news is – well – fine.  Not great.  No movement in the right direction.  Indeed, some movement in the wrong direction. BUT the following magic words were uttered by my doctor, “We can keep monitoring – no need to start you on statins.”

She didn’t say ‘yet’ but I know she was thinking it.

Some of my friends/blog readers have been asking me to report actual results.  I’ve hesitated because I’m not sure the actual numbers are relevant.  But maybe it would be helpful to share – so geek that I am, I graphed my cholesterol test results.


Not a graph geek?  Prefer words to numbers and line charts?  Here’s a summary:

The February 2002 and August 2008 were ‘baseline’ results from regular physicals. Following the red line, you can see the 228 and 211 total cholesterol levels that are a result of my family history of high cholesterol. Sigh.

The big spike up in August 2010 – total cholesterol of 267 and a big bump up in LDL (bad) cholesterol – were alarming.  Indeed, that was the impetus for starting this blog to learn more about cholesterol and manage it via diet and exercise to stay off statins.

The last three data points – March 2011, November 2011 and October 2012 show that my blog/focus on diet and exercise to keep my cholesterol in check have been relatively successful. Since starting the blog, here’s what’s happened:

  • Total Cholesterol in 2011 was down at the 225 range, which is decent for me.  But my latest 239 number reflects my faltering discipline in recent months. Probably I’ll never meet ‘goal’ of  under 200, but clearly I did better in 2011…gotta’ get focus back.
  • Triglyceride level is stubbornly hovering above the 130 goal. As explained in Do You Know Your Non-HDL Cholesterol, I need to cut starches and impose a limit of 1 glass of wine per night.  This is proving to be my Waterloo.
  • HDL (good) cholesterol is increasing, which is good.  This can be counter-intutitive… so think of H for HDL – and that you want this number to be HIGH.
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol went up to 138, which is not good.  (Think of L for LDL – and that you want this number to be LOW.) As I stopped taking Metamucil and fish oil pills in recent months, I need to get back on the right eating/exercising track and see what happens.

So that’s where things stand.  Not a lot of change, but one amazing result: no Lipitor for me. Sorry Pfizer, but goal met.  Woot.