Healthy dining

Rebecca Williamson, a registered dietitian at Indiana Regional Medical Center, has spent much of her career making sure folks eat so their hearts are healthier. As with most things in life, moderation is the key. But there’s more to keep in mind.

“For healthy heart eating, I usually recommend things that are low in fat, low in saturated fats, low in cholesterol and low in sodium,” Williamson says.

In other words, read the labels.

“Cooking at home, use fresh lean meats,” she says. “Use olive oils to sauté with. Incorporate whole grains and vegetables. You should try to eat at home or do meal preps as much as you can to get ready for your week.”

Of course, we can’t always eat at home.

“If you do have to eat out or have to eat on the run, pick and choose places you’re going to as far as which ones offer salads, grilled chicken or fish,” she says. “Maybe look at the menus ahead of time for fat content and if they offer any heart healthy options.”

Williamson shares a little-known secret when it comes to dining out: You can always make requests to adjust a dish. It never hurts to ask.

“If there is a vegetable being offered, ask for the vegetable to not be seasoned before they bring it out,” she says. “Ask that it is prepared plain or with butter or sour cream on the side.”

Other dining and cooking tips:

  • Steamed vegetables are better for your heart than those dripping with melted butter.
  • Chicken is your friend, be it grilled, baked or seared.
  • Learn to love whole grain and high fiber foods.
  • Avoid scampi and other dishes high in fat and calories.
  • Dust off the crock pot.
  • Grilled and broiled fish are good; breaded, not so good; deep-fried, trouble.
  • At breakfast, cook with egg whites, not the yolks. Have two eggs, not four. The same goes for bacon slices.
  • If you prepare lunch at home the night before, purchase containers designed to keep lettuce crisp. Or give yourself extra time in the morning.

The bottom line: Make an effort to plan ahead and steer clear of high-fat or high-calorie meals.

“We’re all so busy moving from Point A to B to C,” she says. “Thirty or 40 years ago, Mom was home to get dinner ready. Now, we eat fast food or at concession stands between practices or games.”

In her 10 years at IRMC, Williamson has gone from the Diabetes Department to the Institute for Healthy Living, which offers classes about weight loss and healthy eating, along with nutrition services.

This article was originally published in Community Health for Indiana Regional Medical Center.