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Jul 9, 2007 05:54 PM

Med diet recipes needed

My aunt just called and told me today she found out she has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She put the Med Diet book on order. Does anyone have it or has used it? Recipes good? Can you post some (paraphrased) here and the premise of the diet so she can get started please?

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  1. Your aunt needs to consult a Registered Dietician, not a nutritionist. RDs are licensed by the state. Any crack pot woth a theory can call themslevs a nutritionist. Her MD can point her in the right direction to find one. These people have a degree in foods and nutrotion and usually grad. degrees. If her MD can't help her fnd one then shame on her/him. Hospitals employ them and they can work with her on the foods she likes and cooking techiniques so she won't feel deprived or like she is "on a diet". It will just become a new direction in food prep for her. Of course a good 20 min. walk every day is going to do wonders. She may be surprised with what an RD can comde up with for suggestions to fit her life style.

    1. I don't have the specific book you mention, but in my understanding, a Mediterranean-style diet is simply one that is rich in grains, vegetables, mono-unsaturated fats (like olive oil) and fish, and low in meat and dairy (i.e., meat is used as one of many components of a dish, rather than its main one). North African and Middle Eastern foods would be a good place to start, as well as some regional Italian and Greek. I would recommend Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which is likely better than the Med Diet book (plus it has the added bonus of not specifically being a diet book, hence fewer feelings of deprivation). She's also got a new book which is called Arabesque that was the source of a recent cookbook of the month discussion on this board. Something your aunt might try is this recipe for tabbouleh:

      It's pretty solid, but I'd double the parsley and cut back on the salt. I always make mine to taste, but this recipe offers a reasonable starting point. Upping the lemon juice will brighten the flavors, working as a flavor enhancer to replace some of the salt.

      Fresh, cold salads like this are good in the summer, plus they will allow your aunt to eat a smaller portion of meat relative to the other ingredients than she may be used to. Moderation is key; I think it's a mistake to ban cheese entirely from your diet. For example, think about things like Greek salads which use small amounts of flavorful cheese like feta for accents, as opposed to American dishes which can drip with cheese. I've been trying to talk my parents into eating more like this for years, as they both have similar issues, but my mom insists on baking chicken breasts and serving them with steamed broccoli and new potatoes topped with I can't believe it's not butter practically every night (blech). I hope your aunt will be adventurous, possibly moving out of her comfort zone, and come to realize that you can eat healthy and tasty food by embracing flavors that may at first be unfamiliar. I'd also advise her to consider fresh fruit as a flavor enhancer and accompaniment/side dish for meat. Good luck and I hope this helps.

      1 Reply
      1. re: diva360

        Thanks; that is how she used to cook before she became so busy. She did not have health issues then. She knows in essence what the diet entails but is hoping for some new recipes. I will definitely pass on Claudia Roden's book title; she has some good recipes in her other books. As a matter of fact, I am having my aunt over for dinner tonight and making grilled blackened tilapia with a mango salsa, greek salad, green beans and grilled fruit for dessert.

      2. One cookbook and some recipes aren't going to do it. I concur with what itryalot said---your aunt needs to consult with a registered dietitian, not a nutritionist, for what should be a major change in lifestyle. But, briefly, first, high blood pressure means cutting down on table salt, so use lemon juice or spices to replace the salt. Fancy salts (sea salt, Kosher salt, fleur de sel) are just as bad as plain salt. It also means cutting WAY down on processed foods so start reading nutritional labels for sodium content and try to keep total sodium below 2000 mg per day. Use more home-prepared foods; it may be necessary to cut back also on restaurant meals, which are very high in salt. Reducing cholesterol means reducing such animal foods as meat, eggs, and dairy products. The USDA has a huge online database giving nutritional content of foods. Exercise should also be a big part of your aunt's program. And don't wait for a physician to guide you in all of this---most either don't know how or don't have time. Again, buy an hour with a registered dietitian even if insurance doesn't cover it and you have to pay for it yourself. TO CHOWHOUND: It would be nice to have a separate board to address special dietary issues.

        1. Hi you did a good question.
          Generally most people are full of info on thousand of fad diets....

          But generally all of these diets are based on the main principles of the Med diet.

          To be more clear you can read this resource:

          Thank you

          1. As Querencia said, salt reduction will be a major component of Auntie's new lifestyle. (I'm also on a restricted sodium diet.) Salt causes water retention, which increases blood pressure, so her doctor should have or will prescribe a maximum daily sodium intake for her. For heart failure patients, it's often 2,000mg/day or less. That translates into 2 teaspoons. That's TOTAL sodium intake, which includes salt pre-existing in foods as well as added to foods in manufacture and/or prep.

            Auntie's going to have to break out the pince-nez and the reading glasses when she goes grocery shopping--nutrition labels will be her daily scripture. She must consider what she eats when eating out. That blackened tilapia and Greek salad you cooked for her? If you used salt as part of the fish seasoning, she ate a significant amount of salt there. Was there feta cheese or brined veg in the salad? More salt. Did you salt the beans? Yet more salt in her system. Ordering a restaurant steak done salt-free is easy, but no guarantee the kitchen staff will obey the order. What works for me is sticking with a few small local restaurants where I can meet the chef and/or owner and develop a rapport with them. Either that, or stick with items that are lower in salt: Fruit plates, steamed/grilled veg, eggs, et al.

            Monitoring one's salt intake is a huge pain in the butt (at least I find it so) but when you consider the alternatives (heart attack, stroke, death), it doesn't seem so onerous anymore.

            Auntie can forget the deli counter and the canned food aisle in markets: They're nutritional Gehenna for low salt diets. Sliced deli meat usually has about 250mg salt per slice and canned soup is loaded with salt (anywhere from 500 to +1,000mg per serving!) Ditto canned chili, canned veg, etc. Fast food? A fast ride to the cardiac ward. Visit the online nutrition guides of some chains like Taco Bell, Wendy's, KFC, Sonic, and look at their foods' salt levels: Sky high.

            I recommend the American Heart Association's "Low-Salt Cookbook". Also, she can try adapting regular recipes to salt-free. I've found leaving out the salt means all other spices usually need to be at least doubled, if not tripled.

            5 Replies
            1. re: KenWritez

              I left out most of the salt in the blackening seasoning and didn't salt the salad because of the brined feta, but now I feel badly. I will definitely pass this around.

              Medbook - I will have to get her on my computer and have her read the link you posted - excellent one! There are great links from that website too.

              1. re: itryalot

                No need to feel badly, unless you're trying to knock her off for the inheiritance--in which case, do a better job next time, eh?

                You didn't know, now you do. One salty meal shouldn't do her in, unless she's she's already leafing through coffin catalogs and mortuary propectii. The key here is to *systematically* reduce salt intake, i.e., every meal, every snack. If she refuses to moderate her diet, then maybe order that coffin Fed-Ex instead of ground freight.

                Dramatic changes in diet are no fun at any age, trebly so when you're a geezer like me. (I have my official "You kids get off my lawn!" lapel button. Goes with my black sense of humor.) Regardless of Auntie's age, she will need your support in this endeavor. This means you get to educate yourself about issues like this, and it sounds like you're already making a good start. Talk with her doctor or the nurse and see what dietary changes they recommend. Get any literature they have on it. I would also ask about vitamins and supplements. My best to you in this.

                1. re: itryalot

                  not everyone with high blood pressure needs to be on as strict of a low salt diet as it was felt 10 years ago. there are salt sensitive blood pressure types and non -ss types. the american diet - being overly processed - is very salt heavy so nearly everyone needs to moderate their daily salt intake but not everyone needs to do so to the strict level mentioned above. that low salt of a diet is very difficult and has a high burnout rate - often with people not simply returning to salt but to other foods they shouldn't eat when they are desperate for flavor - a biggie fries after 2 days of no salt/flavor foods is worse than adding a bit of salt here and there for MOST patients with hypertension because of the fat and the likely large hamburger that goes with it. just being honest. kudos to those of you who do it but if your aunt hasn't been told by her physician that she needs to restrict salt that drastically it likely is because she doesn't need to.
                  usually the recommendations have been to change to a "good carb good fat" - whole grain, omega oils diet of which the mediterranean diet is a great one. many physicians know only that much and while plenty know more they have not the time nor the job description to provide it. it is however in the job description of an RD so i think that was a great suggestion.
                  the advantage of an RD is that he/she will meet with your aunt personally and know her specific circumstances and other issues. the disadvantage of this board is that many very well intentioned posters will try and apply their own experience to hers. may work but may not.
                  good luck exploring the many great new tastes that are out there - it really doesn't have to be that bad.

                  1. re: AMFM

                    I was giving the "worst case" scenario. (Anything less rigorous would then seem a lot less of a pain.) And as you said, we all eat too much salt.

                    IME plan for the worst but hope for the best.

                    1. re: KenWritez

                      fair enough. although salt is one that unless you are in a dire emergency scenario it's not bad too ease down on because you can moderate how things taste to you.

                      i definitely agree on the planning!