Archive | Heart Healthy Recipe

Pick a sustainable plan to weight-loss and better health

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Resolutions to lose weight and eat healthier often come with the New Year.  As you begin your journey, I encourage you to look at how you are going to be successful well into 2018 and beyond.

Whatever approach you choose must be sustainable. It cannot be just about losing weight. It has to be just as much about finding, gaining and maintaining health. Consider addressing stress up front with your healthcare provider. Find a popular phone app that tracks calories and exercise. Check out the free lifestyle change classes that begin in January throughout Crow Wing County at

Eating healthy means consistently eating the same foods:  vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Some plans include low- and non-fat dairy, fish and lean meats. All banish processed foods that deliver concentrated doses of refined starches, sugar, trans fats, saturated fats and salt.

There is no one successful diet program to lose weight. Research published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, titled “End to the Diet Debates,” said the assumption that one diet is optimal for everyone is counterproductive because it ignores the wide variation in food preferences, cultural or regional traditions, food availability, and food intolerances. The most important question, it says, was how to improve adherence to certain behaviors.  “Adherence is key, and the way to destroy adherence is forcing foods on someone that they do not like, do not know how to prepare or can’t afford,” the researchers wrote.

Our current relationships with food include behaviors that we selected without a great deal of conscious thought. If doughnuts are offered at a morning meeting, we may be on auto-pilot to have one. Fast food can be an automatic response to eating on the run. Pizza is the quickest meal to put on the table when there is no time to cook.  Candy is used for stress management.

We cannot divorce ourselves from food.  We need to non-judgmentally look at our relationships with food to figure out what is going to work for each of us in the long term.

We can learn some successful strategies gleaned from the National Weight Control Registry. This research organization follows more than 10,000 individuals who have lost a significant amount of weight (more than 30 pounds) and have kept it off for more than a year.

Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for more than five years. Forty-five percent lost weight on their own, while 55 percent had the help of some type of program. Ninety-eight percent modified their food intake and 94 percent increased their exercise.  Many track their food intake and exercise.  To maintain their weight-loss, 78 percent eat breakfast every day; 75 percent weigh themselves at least once a week and 62 percent watch less than 10 hours of TV each week. Ninety percent exercise, on average, about one hour per day.

It takes real effort to eat well and be active, especially in the modern world, writes Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and the author of “Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well.” He points out that throughout most of human history, calories were relatively scarce and difficult to get, and physical activity was unavoidable. No one needed willpower to avoid eating too much and moving too little.  Eating the right amount and being active were called survival. In our world, it’s easy to be sedentary and consume excess calories.

In his book, Dr. Katz agrees that we need willpower to start our new journey and we need to combine it with some external discipline to develop new skills or “skillpower.”  Here are his “Ten Rules of External Discipline” to improve our relationship with food and exercise:

  • Avoid fast food. Fast food is a fast pass to weight gain and health problems. Avoid it while you initiate a lifestyle make-over.  It’s too late once you’re at the drive-through asking, “Should I or shouldn’t I?”  If, for some reason, you can’t avoid fast-food restaurants use to upgrade your choices.
  • Drink water. Liquid calories don’t usually fill you up, but they can certainly add up. Soft drinks, juices and the like are very sugary, encouraging your sweet tooth to grow into a sweet fang. Put soda out of bounds; when you’re thirsty drink water (dressed up with lemon, lime or orange slices, if preferred). Steer clear of diet soda, except as a brief transition from regular soda to something truly wholesome such as water. Artificial sweeteners in diet soda can propagate a sweet tooth, and the sugar and calories you’ve saved tend to sneak back in elsewhere.
  • Eat salad. Mixed greens are loaded with nutrients and have almost no calories. Including a mixed green salad with just a tablespoon of dressing at start of every dinner will help fill you up so you eat fewer calories overall.
  • Get some exercise every day. As you start your health makeover, you should get moving.  Begin with at least 20 minutes of any form of exercise, as intense as walking briskly, no fewer than five days a week. Make it a rule and honor it.
  • Make sleep a priority. If you sleep enough and soundly, you will have more control over your appetite and more energy for exercise. Commit to a consistent eight hours per night if at all possible. Use good sleep hygiene to help you stay on course.
  • Mind your mouth. Avoid mindless eating. Eat only when eating is your primary activity; don’t munch while you’re doing something else. It’s easy to eat too much or the wrong foods that way without realizing it. This is often referred to as “eating amnesia.”
  • Eat foods with identifiable ingredients. Avoid foods that contain ingredients an 8-year-old can’t pronounce. Otherwise, you may end up consuming a mouthful of additives and chemicals that offer little or no nutritional value. With real food, you can tell what the ingredients are. With manufactured foods, you often can’t.
  • Plan all eating occasions. Go off the “see food” diet. Eat only what you intended to eat, when you intended to eat it. Don’t eat just because food — say a slice of cake at an office birthday party — is there. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’ve had enough, before you’re truly full.
  • Tell everyone your plan. Tell the most important people in your life what health-related changes you want to make and why.  And tell them about these rules so they can help you stick to them.

Choose what you chew. Take control of your choices, both at home and when you’re out.  Use an insulated snack packto take wholesome foods wherever you go, so you always have them at your fingertips.

Bonnie Brost of Essentia HealthBonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Got the junk food blues? Try these tips for packing a healthy lunch


By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.


Kids are back in school and they need healthy lunches that they’ll eat and enjoy.  Adults can get on a healthy track as well.

Studies have shown that going out to eat for lunch provides the highest risk of eating an extra 150-250 calories a day. This could result in gaining one or two pounds each month or 10 to 12 pounds in a year.

In my work as a registered dietitian, I have patients who see positive result from packing healthy lunches instead of eating at restaurants, gas stations and cafeterias. They find it easier to loose or maintain weight, control blood pressure, control diabetes and eat the recommended four to five cups of fruits and vegetables each day.

Look for sales to buy:

stackable food containers



insulated lunch bags


reusable ice packs


thermoses or soup mugs


These items help insure that the foods you pack are in good shape and safe to eat. Reusable containers and lunch bags are also friendly to both the environment and your wallet.

What’s in a healthy lunch box? Katie Sullivan Mortford, a registered dietitian in California, has written a great book, “Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids will Love.”  She offers a list of containers that work well, what to keep in your pantry and what each lunch should include. Then she provides some great recipes.

Mortford reminds us that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says 80 percent of our kids’ lunches need “substantial improvement.” I believe that many adult lunches also need improvement.

A can of pop, a bag of Cheetos and a bologna sandwich on white bread will not give you the nutrients you need to function efficiently.  At mid-day, we need high-octane nutrition to fuel our brains and offset moodiness. We also need vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support growth and repair in our bodies.

To have a week of great lunches, you need to plan ahead. Discuss lunch menu ideas with your family each weekend. Restock your pantry, refrigerator and freezer with supplies and ingredients. Cook extra meat, soup, stew, rice or beans.

The night before is the best time to get that lunch box on the starting line. Plan the menu for next day.  Set out clean lunch boxes, containers and utensils. Take advantage of leftovers from dinner. Pack them into your lunch containers before putting them in refrigerator. Select fruits, vegetables and a crunchy side. Fill and chill water or milk containers. Freeze a water bottle to use as your ice pack the next day.

In the morning, heat soup or other hot food before placing it in thermos if a microwave is not available during lunch. Assemble all the items into your lunch box, add ice packs and head out the door.


Mortford offers these six steps to a superb lunch:

  1. Start with the main course:  Salad, soup, rice and beans or the age-old standard of a sandwich.  This should include a good protein source.
  2. Add a fruit. Use seasonal varieties. Local apples are great now. Bananas are a fast pack year-round.
  3. Add a vegetable. If your main course is loaded with vegetables, such as a soup or salad, this is optional.
  4. Add a satisfying side or snack. This could be some nuts, healthy popcorn or whole-grain crackers.
  5. Don’t forget a drink. Pick water or milk, unless they are available at work or school.
  6. Add an occasional sweet. Goodies make lunch something to look forward too. Try a square of dark chocolate that’s 72 percent cocoa or a homemade whole-grain muffin or cookie. Or offer a small treat that’s not food, or a little note to your loved one that will bring a mid-day smile.


Here’s a tasty recipe from “Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids will Love” by Katie Sullivan Mortford:


Takeaway Taco Salad

  • 2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce and/or spinach
  • ½ cup cooked or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
  • 2/3 cup chopped raw vegetables (any combo of carrot, jicama, cucumber, red pepper, tomato)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded cooked chicken or cooked/canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ounce tortilla chips


  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Dash of favorite taco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey

In a medium bowl, mix together the lettuce/spinach, corn, raw vegetables, cheese and chicken. Divide the salad between two containers. Crumble tortilla chips and divide between two small containers or wax-paper bags. To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, taco sauce and honey. Divide the dressing between two small containers. Yield: 2 salads.

webbonnie-brost_0Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Healthy Summer Grillers! Chicken Skewers Sizzle

By Shellie Cibuzar, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

 On a summer day, spicy chicken skewers sizzling on the grill are one of my mouth-watering favorites.

Grilling often focuses on meats, especially beef and pork. Opting for chicken or turkey instead gives you a meal that’s lower in fat and calories, which is ideal for managing your weight. Poultry is also a good source of protein as well as essential nutrients and vitamins.

A spice rub or marinade can add high-impact flavor to chicken. I recommend blending your spices with grapeseed oil, which keeps the flavor in and also helps prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill. Remember to give your grill plenty of time to preheat so the chicken gets safely and evenly cooked.

This recipe is from chef and television host Ainsley Harriott. It’s low in fat and a breeze to prepare. If you’re entertaining, make the marinade the night before and you’ll have more time to spend with guests.

Sticky Garlic Chicken Skewers

Chicken Skewers


  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or you can use mild
  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak twelve,10-inch bamboo skewers in water for at least 20 minutes. Mix together garlic, honey, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and hot pepper sauce; season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss in chicken and stir until well combined. Transfer to a non-metallic dish, cover and marinate for 20-30 minutes or overnight. Prepare grill, or preheat broiler to high. Thread marinated chicken on to skewers. Grill for 5-6 minutes. Or, arrange on foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 6 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally until well browned and cooked through. Serve with mixed salad and baby new potatoes.

Nutrition information

  • Servings: 4
  • Calorie: 221
  • Protein: 28 gr
  • Carbohydrates: 21 gr
  • Total fat: 4 gr
  • Saturated fat: 1 gr
  • Fiber: 1 gr
  • Sodium: 636 mg

Essentia Health


Shellie Cibuzar, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

Learn more about Essentia Health of Brainerd and Duluth HERE

Healthy Summer Eating with Salad Greens: Darker is Better

By Gretchen Rockstad, licensed and registered dietitian at the Essentia Health.

spinach salad

Salad greens are a super food and great for Healthy Summer Eating. A good rule to remember is that the darker the green, the more nutritious it is. Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce and Swiss chard contain significantly more vitamins and nutrients than iceberg lettuce, which some nutritionists have nicknamed “crunchy water” due to its lack of nutrients.

Dark salad greens are rich in vitamins A and K as well as folates, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin show promising benefits for eye health. They protect our eyes from sun damage and may reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, according to the American Optometric Association.

eye health

Salad greens are the base of my quickest meal. I use kitchen shears to cut the greens on to my plate and then add other veggies, like frozen peas, sweet onion, red cabbage, radishes, cauliflower or whatever is in my fridge.

This simple recipe is a nutritious and delicious taste of spring with beautiful reds and greens. It’s been passed around at my church in Ada and at family gatherings.

Salad Greens with Strawberries and Poppy Seed Dressing

Salad Greens with Strawberries and Poppy Seed DressingPhoto source

8 cups salad greens, washed and cut with scissors (Romaine, spinach, kale, leaf lettuce, Swiss chard or a blend of greens)

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup honey-roasted sliced almonds

Toss lettuce and strawberries together in large bowl. Just before serving, toss in dressing and almonds. Yield: About 10 servings.

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • ¼ cup skim milk
  • 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

Put all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined.

Nutrition information:

  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 106
  • Total fat: 5 grams
  • Trans fat: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 131 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 15 grams
  • Fiber: 2.2 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram

Guest post from Essentia Health of Brainerd

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