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The DASH Diet: Good for Your Blood Pressure

By Laura Stepp RD,LD, CDE at LMC

High blood pressure (hypertension) and pre-hypertension are two conditions that can be controlled with diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that about half of all Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure (140/90) or Pre-hypertension (120/80-139/89) is one of those risk factors.

shutterstock_200040200Making a few changes to your food choices can help to naturally lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can go unnoticed therefore it is important to have your blood pressure checked annually.

The DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is a well-researched and documented pattern of eating that has been shown to help lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is a plant-based diet high in potassium and fiber and lower in saturated fat and sodium. In addition to helping to lower blood pressure, the DASH diet has been shown to help people naturally lower cholesterol and for many obtain a healthy weight. The DASH diet is closely related to another very well researched diet: the Mediterranean diet. Both of these dietary lifestyles are based on increasing ones intake of whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds. Adopting the DASH diet lifestyle helps to increase the intake of vitamins and minerals (such as Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium) needed by the body to help maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight.

A DASH diet based on 2000 calories per day (what the food labels are based on) consists of:
Whole Grains and whole grain products: Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oats, Quinoa, Corn
6-8 oz (1 oz = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of cereal hot or cold, ½ c cooked grain)

4-5 (1/2 cup cook or 1 cup Raw = serving)

4-5 (small/medium, ½ cup cooked, 2/3 cup mixed raw = serving)

Low Fat Dairy
2-3 (8 oz milk, ½ cup plain yogurt, 1 oz cheese = serving)

Nuts, Seeds, Legumes (dried beans, black eyed peas, split peas, lentils)
4-5/week (1 oz nuts/seeds = ¼ cup; ½ cup cooked legumes)

Lean Meats: Fish/Poultry (skinless)
2 (for Women 3-4 oz = serving; Men 4-6oz = serving)

Fats & Sweets
Limited: keep small and in moderation, use liquid oils such as Canola or olive oil, use butter spreads with expeller pressed oils vs stick margarine. If used, limit butter and other high saturated fat foods. Desserts on special occasions vs. daily.

A fresh and simple recipe we tested (which received good reviews for both taste and simplicity):

chickpea-wraps.jpg_1_272×1_005_pixelsChickpea Wraps with Grapes and Walnuts

    1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
    1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted walnuts
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
    1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
    1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
    2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
    1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    Freshly ground black pepper
    8 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

    In large mixing bowl, gently mash chickpeas with potato masher just to break skins. Add all remaining ingredients except tortillas and gently combine.

    On bottom half of tortilla, spoon 1/2 cup mixture in broad line. Fold left and right sides toward center until almost touching. Fold bottom edge toward center. Roll wrap firmly upwards. Place toothpick 2 inches from each end. Slice wrap diagonally and place cut side up on plate or platter. Repeat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Makes 8 servings
    Per serving (2 halves): 367 calories, 10 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 58 g carbohydrate,
    15 g protein, 10 g dietary fiber, 425 mg sodium (lower with low sodium beans & no added salt)

Take 5 for Heart Health: Eat Right!

LMC dietitian Donna Quirk, a regular contributor to our “Ask the Dietitian” blog posts, was a guest on WIS-TV last week with a delicious and healthy recipe for chocolate pudding that incorporates chia seeds. She also talked about the health benefits of flax and chia seeds, from antioxidants to fiber. Learn more in the link below.

And here’s the recipe for “Chocolate Chia Pudding.”

6 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cup Almond Milk
3 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
6 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Combine all ingredients, whisking together until cocoa powder absorbs. Refrigerate for four hours, or overnight.

The chia seeds will absorb the liquid from the mixture. The texture of the finished product will be similar to tapioca pudding. You can also put all ingredients in the food processor for a smoother dish, similar to a chocolate mousse.

Banana Split Breakfast Bowl: A Diabetic-Friendly Recipe

Banana Split Breakfast Bowl
Serves: 4 Calories: 268 calories per serving

2-1/2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2-1/2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
3 cups vanilla nonfat yogurt
1-1/3 cups sliced strawberries
2 bananas, sliced
1/2 cup drained pineapple tidbits

1. Spread almonds and walnuts in single layer in small heavy skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately remove from skillet; cool completely
2. Spoon yogurt in medium bowl. Layer with strawberries, banana slices and pineapple.Sprinkle with toasted almonds and walnuts.
Note Breakfast is a great time to eat one of the two recommended fruit servings for the day. This recipe can be made with frozen strawberries or frozen bananas. Frozen fruits are harvested at their peak and can be stored in the freezer until date on package, or to 8 to 12 months at 0°F. While fresh is always better, frozen fruits are economical, cleaned, ready to use and available year-round.

Recipes like this one are discussed at “D2 & Me,” Lexington Medical Center’s diabetes support and wellness group. There will be meetings in January about the glycemic index and how to use it in food and snack preparations to enhance your menu planning. The guest speaker will be Lere’ Robinson of Alive Again! LLC. The meetings are free and open to the public.

One class will be on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 from 5:45 – 6:45 p.m. inside Lower Level Classroom 3 at the hospital in West Columbia. The second class will be on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 from 5:45 – 6:45 p.m. inside the 2nd Floor Conference Room at the hospital’s community medical center in Lexington, located at 811 West Main Street in Lexington.

“D2 & Me” is for type 2 diabetes patients and their caregivers. The meetings, which are open to the public, will feature guest speakers, exercises, healthy cooking demonstrations and tastings, recipe exchanges and dinners at local restaurants.

Since June, D2 & Me has provided people with type 2 diabetes a forum to talk about their disease and learn how to care for themselves. For more information on upcoming meetings, visit or, or call (803) 361 – 8435.