Potato chips, bacon cheeseburgers, fried chicken, hot
fudge sundaes, pork rinds:
All must be cast aside as you nourish your body with fruits, vegetables, and lean
Not ready to go through quadruple bypass surgery ever again? The good news:
there are healthy diet choices to keep your arteries free of cholesterol. The
better news: you snack your way through the day, eating small portions of
fruits, vegetables, plain unsalted popcorn, or graham crackers. The best news:
Combine new heart-healthy eating with moderate exercise, under your doctor’s
supervision, and you’ll soon feel 10 years younger.
"It’s true," says Kelly Balzer, registered dietitian, McLaren Bay Region
Medical Center, "that you commit to overhauling your diet." Kelly teaches
cardiac nutrition classes to heart patients enrolled in Bay’s cardiac rehab
program on the West Campus.
"When we’re young and active," says Kelly, "we don’t think much about portion
size or food choices. We choose foods we like, and we may end up taking in
2,500-3,500 calories a day. The reality is that when we’re in our 40s and up,
we’re not as active physically as we once were, and our food choices are based
on what we learned to eat and love when we were young.
The Bay cardiac rehab program follows the Dietary Approach to Stop
Hypertension, or DASH diet. "It’s a whole new way of thinking about food. Three
ounces of lean meat per day satisfies our protein requirement. Three ounces is
the size of a deck of cards. Patients are steered toward a more vegetarian-based
- whole grains (wheat or nine-grain breads, wild or
brown rice, unsweetened whole wheat or bran cereals)
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- herbs and spices as seasoning, instead of salt
- skim milk, unsweetened fruit juices and water
- non-fat frozen yogurt, angel food cake, sorbet or
- baked or broiled foods
- egg substitutes
- Lean, skinless meat cuts, with emphasis on chicken
- No more than a teaspoon of salt a day, or 2,400
- Monounsatured fats, like olive oil, peanut oil
- Low-fat nuts like unsalted almonds or walnuts, and
legumes (kidney beans, lentils, and peas)
- Salads: Top with fresh raw vegetables, nuts or seeds. Avoid olives,
pickled beets, bacon bits, cheese and ham. Consider oil and vinegar as your
"Eating and exercise go hand in hand. Ideally, a 10-15 minute walk before
breakfast, and the same before dinner become part of your regular routine. Eat
small potions and eat slowly. We’re so used to gobbling our food down that we’re
way past the full level about five minutes into the meal.
"The American Heart Association has shown in research studies that healthy
eating and regular exercise reduces high blood pressure, and decreases the risk
of additional heart problems. The surgeon who did your bypass, or the
cardiologist who opened up arteries with stents will thank you if you follow
this rule: Eat to live; don’t live to eat."
For more information on Bay’s cardiac rehab program, that includes a range of
educational offerings, call (989) 894-6400.