Spinach Versus Kale! Which One Rules?

April 1, 2013

KaleKale salad is one of the vegetable trends that is so good for our health. Many vegans like it as a great source of calcium.

Since kale is relatively new in our repertoires, many of us don’t know why it is fast becoming so popular. Nutritionally speaking, kale is a powerhouse. One cup (about 2 1/4 ounces or 67 g) has 34 calories, and 300 mg potassium, with only 29 mg sodium, and is very rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. It has 90 mg of calcium which is very highly absorbed, even much better than from dairy.

Spinach is also full of nutrients. Two-and-a-quarter cups (the same 2 1/4 ouncesThe Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook or 67 g) has 15 calories, 53 mg sodium, 377 mg potassium, but less beta-carotene and much less vitamin C. It has more iron and less calcium than kale. However, the iron and calcium is very poorly absorbed from spinach. Spinach is very high in oxalic acid which binds calcium and iron so tightly that very little is absorbed during digestion. Not only does it reduce the absorption of calcium from the spinach, but it will also bind calcium from other foods that are consumed at the same time.

Bottom line? Choose kale for salads, to add to lasagna or pizza, or to incorporate in omelets. That will give you the biggest payoff for vegetable sources of calcium. Recipes for the kale salad, shown right, and more delicious foods based on kale are in the soon-to-be-published book, The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook, by Marla Heller, MS, RD, with Rick Rodgers.


New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Eating

December 27, 2012

The key requirements for resolutions, whether for the New Year or any other time of year, is to make them specific, actionable, and achievable. Even better, also include a statement about why each of these steps will help you reach the goal.

In addition to the objective, the resolution should include the action steps that someone will take to reach that goal. Don’t forget that the resolution should focus on things that improve quality of life, since that will make the goal more sustainable. A goal to lose 100 pounds by March would not be achievable and would certainly not improve someone’s quality of life, even if it were something that could be done.

For a better example, if you want to lose 20 pounds by March, set your resolution to be something like,

“I will lose 20 pounds by March, by doing these actions. . .”

Have 3 meals and 2 – 3 snacks every day; because deprivation doesn’t lead to weight loss.

Make colorful veggies the center of my meals. They are bulky, filling, and so healthy, while

low in calories.

Add lean protein-rich foods, to make meals that satisfy, and won’t leave me hungry an hour later.

Include 2 – 3 dairy foods (low-fat or nonfat) to boost protein intake, help quench hunger, and lower blood pressure.

When I have grains, I will make them whole grains.

Add fresh fruits to satisfy my sweet tooth, the healthy way.

Include nuts and seeds, since they make fun, heart-healthy snacks.

Follow these guidelines from the plan in The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution, to boost weight loss and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Blackened Chicken and Berry Salad

Blackened Chicken and Berry Salad

The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution

December 20, 2012

The DASH Diet Weight Loss SolutionYes, there is a new DASH diet book. And its premise is to show you how to reframe your eating habits, and learn how to eat in a way that is more satisfying and helps you curb your cravings. This book is based on long-overlooked DASH research that shows improved results with lower levels of refined, starchy foods. And it also incorporates newer research for weight loss that shows how to maintain muscle, keep blood sugar on a more even keel, and improve health.

All this works without counting calories and without being overly rigid on measuring portion sizes. The new plan actually becomes more intuitive. You fill your plate with lots of low-calorie veggies. You include plenty of protein to quench hunger, longer. You get your sweets from fresh fruit. You have 3 meals and 2 – 3 snacks everyday. You don’t go hungry. And yes, those cravings disappear.

How do we know this? This plan was developed with my patients in my private practice, and perfected with my patients at a US Naval Hospital. Active duty military people need to meet weight standards and they need to be physically fit. This plan helped them meet their goals. And just this fall, we invited people to join a group to be early adopters of the plan from the new book. And they loved it! They saw so many benefits for health, weight loss, and long-term healthier eating.

Now this plan is available to everyone. And you can join our online support group on Facebook and join our Twitter chat at #dashweightloss on December 30 at 2:00 pm EST. See you there!

Lighten Up Your Holiday Desert for the DASH Diet

December 19, 2012

I love pumpkin pie. But after eating lighter all year, I don’t want to overdo things at Christmas dinner. So I bring this light pumpkin pie, and no one except me is the wiser.

Low Fat Pumpkin Pie

4 egg whites, slightly beaten

16 ounce can pumpkin (or the meat from 1-lb pumpkin)

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp molasses

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

12 oz can evaporated skim (fat free) milk

9″ unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 425 F. Combine ingredients in above order. Mix well. Pour into pie shell (or into an au gratin dish for a fat-free dessert). Bake for 15 minutes at 425F. Then reduce temperature to 350F, and bake for 45 more minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Each piece of pumpkin pie has 240 Cal, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, and 7 mg cholesterol.

Without the crust, each piece would have 130 Cal, 0 fat, 0 saturated fat, and 2 mg cholesterol. For a low sugar version, use Splenda™ instead of brown sugar, and increase molasses to 3 tablespoons.

Skip the Holiday Weight Gain and Enjoy the Party!

December 12, 2012


Surviving the holiday parties

This year you will get through the holiday season, without the holiday weight gain and without deprivation! Use America’s healthiest diet, the DASH plan, to keep yourself on track

It can seem challenging to stay on track with healthy eating during the holiday period. No one wants to miss out on all their favorite holiday treats. So we won’t ask you to.

How can we find a way to accommodate both of our very important, but conflicting objectives?

Compromise! You are going to learn how to load up on healthy foods during the day so that you can skim through your holiday party without sinking into holiday gluttony.

The key DASH foods are fresh fruits and veggies, light dairy foods, nuts. These are paired up with lean meats, fish, poultry, and other protein-rich foods, whole grains, and heart healthy fats. And you are not going to use your old trick of starving yourself all day! Instead we will feed you all day.


Yes, you do want a breakfast. Make it protein-rich. A couple of hard-boiled eggs, or a microwave scramble will keep you feeling full longer into the day and fire up your metabolism. Pair it with some berries, and a latte or hot chocolate, and you will start your day with huge energy. This could be especially helpful if you were at a party the night before.


Healthy snacks can keep your hunger under control, and help you avoid the trap of pigging out on office holiday cookies and candy. You do want to stock up your office fridge with light yogurt, fruit, cut up raw veggies, light individually packaged cheeses, and peanut butter. Keep it in your own insulated bag in the fridge, if you have coworkers who are likely to pilfer your healthy foods. Then, at your desk, keep some nuts in storage. Pull together a quick snack by combining something bulky, like the veggies or fresh fruit, with something protein-rich like the yogurt, cheese, nuts, or PB. This surprising trick is so easy, and makes it simple to have healthy, DASH-friendly snacks. The combination of bulky and satisfying protein-foods quenches hunger better than either of them alone.


During the holiday season, focus on veggie-laden salads. If you don’t have access to a store or restaurant with a salad bar, bring your own. The more types of veggies, the healthier. Add grated carrots, red cabbage, cukes, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas. Then add in some protein-rich foods like tuna, grilled chicken strips, egg slices, garbanzo beans, and light cheese.  Top with an oil and vinegar or vinaigrette dressing. (Although if you are bringing it from home, don’t dress it until you are ready to eat. No one likes soggy salads.) Use fruit or light yogurt for something sweet at the end of the meal.

More Snacks

Using our earlier suggestions, have an afternoon snack and one before you go out to your party. If you are at home before going out, try some fresh veggies dipped in guacamole. That will take the edge off your hunger, and help with slowing alcohol absorption later at your event.

The Party

Now that you have quenched your hunger and know that you have eaten all your key DASH foods, you can enjoy the party. Cocktails? Try to avoid the sugary or creamy ones. And alternate with water. One glass of wine, one glass of water. Appetizers? Scope out the selection and go for the ones that you really love. Because you are not starving, you can easily avoid overdoing. Then choose the very best dessert. Savor it and linger while eating it.

By not depriving yourself, and by loading up on lots of filling and satisfying foods earlier in the day, you will have found the holiday party solution with the DASH diet! And, come January, you can get a jump-start on a healthier you, with the new book, The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution.


The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution

July 17, 2012

The most effective diet for healthy weight loss just got better! THE DASH DIET WEIGHT LOSS SOLUTION turbocharges the DASH diet, ranked as the “Best Overall Diet” by US News & World Reports in 2011 and 2012, with proven NIH research on DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to create a program guaranteed to speed weight loss and boost metabolism.The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution

Based on long-overlooked DASH research and developed into a weight loss plan by the foremost DASH dietitian and leading nutrition expert, Marla Heller, MS, RD, this effective and easy weight loss program includes menu plans, recipes, shopping lists, and more. Readers will enjoy a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy, lean meats/fish/poultry, nuts/beans/seeds, heart healthy fats, and limited amounts of whole grains. The result: faster metabolism, lower body fat, improved strength and cardiovascular fitness-plus the diet can lower cholesterol and blood pressure without medication, and without counting calories!

As effective as the original DASH is for heart health, this plan is just as effective for weight loss.

This diet plan will be especially important for people with metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, or diabetes. It will reduce your body’s demand for insulin, and reduce the tendency to deposit fat in your midsection. Yes, that’s right – this plan will reduce your waist size, which is an important indicator of health risks.

The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution will be released on December 18, 2012. It is now available for preorder at discounted pricing at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you order now, you will automatically be given the lowest pricing up until the date of delivery, and your credit card won’t be charged until the book is sent.


Every few weeks we will show you a photo of one of the recipes in the new book.

July 17: First we have the orange and baby romaine salad. This recipe uses blood oranges, which are beautiful. And the flavors in the dressing are so unexpected – and great!

orange and baby romaine salad

90% of Americans consume too much sodium

June 26, 2010

According to a new CDC report, the average American consumes about 3400 mg sodium every day. The recommended amount for healthy people is 2300 mg. And since most Americans fall into the overweight/obese or otherwise high risk categories, the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 1500 mg. (Note: other high risk categories include people with hypertension, African Americans, and people over the age of 50.)

Where does the sodium in our diets come from? Primarily from processed and restaurant foods. Not from the salt shaker at the table.

The top sources of sodium are:

1. Yeast breads and pastry.

2. Frozen meals and  frozen meats/poultry.

3. Pizza and pasta dishes

4. Cold cuts and other cured meats.

5. Vegetables in soups and sauces, french fries, potato chips

The DASH Diet Action Plan avoids these foods, and the meal plans have a target of 1500 mg sodium per day.

90% of Stroke Risk Factors Under Your Control

June 24, 2010

The top 10 leading causes of strokes are under your control.

1. Get your blood pressure under control. The DASH diet, weight loss, exercise, and medication (if needed) have all be shown to work. The DASH Diet Action Plan shows you how to implement the diet, exercise, and weight loss to maximize the lifestyle changes to improved blood pressure.

2. Stop smoking.

3. Lose the excess belly fat. (DASH diet helps here.)

4. Eat more fruits and vegetables. (Key to the DASH diet).

5. Exercise. (It’s in the plan.)

6. Your diet should contain more of the good fat than the bad fat (Solid fats are the bad ones. They include the saturated fats in full-fat dairy and meats. Trans fats, which are found mostly in processed foods and baked goods.)

7. Keep diabetes under control or prevent it if you have a family history. The DASH diet has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which may reduce or delay your risk of developing diabetes. The DASH diet can also be safely consumed by people with diabetes, while keeping to the low side on refined foods, especially starchy foods. The DASH Diet Action Plan has tips for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes (insulin resistance), and metabolic syndrome (often an early indicator that the likelihood of your developing diabetes is increasing.) A healthy diet, such as the DASH diet, along with weight loss, exercise and medication, as needed, all help to avoid risk of complications, such as stroke, for people with diabetes.

8. Limit alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink per day for women, 2 for men. And don’t try to make up for it by having 3 – 4 on a weekend.

9. Learn how to deal with stress in your life. We may not be able to eliminate it, but we can control our response to stressors.

10. Follow your cardiologist’s advice if you already have a heart disorder.

The DASH Diet Action Plan specifically targets the first 8 of these modifiable risk factors.

Don’t make small changes.

January 9, 2010

Don’t make small changes.  Make big changes – to see results.

Small changes may be easier to make, but they can lead to frustration and hurt your motivation to keep going.

Big changes help you see quicker results, which increase your likelihood of continuing to follow through with your new lifestyle changes.

The DASH diet is a great example of how this works. The DASH diet is based on a plan that is rich in fruits and vegetables, low fat or non-fat dairy, and beans/nuts. Suppose you decide to just start with adding more fruits and vegetables. What will happen to your blood pressure? Most likely (based on the research), nothing.

The blood pressure-lowering effects of the DASH diet only occurred in people following the entire plan.

Learn more at dashdiet.org.

Don’t eat healthy foods.

January 7, 2010

Eat a healthy diet.

Eating a few healthy foods, does not make up for an overall poor diet.

You can easily overdo healthy foods, and take in way too many calories.

As a dietitian, I have often heard people say that they eat lots of healthy foods. That’s often the problem. They are eating enough for six healthy people.

For example, a heaping bowl of unsweetened oatmeal (2 cups, cooked) can be the equivalent of 4 slices of bread. That’s a lot of calories if your overall daily routine is sedentary.

Before starting on a new plan, many of my clients have been drinking tons of juice, eating heaping portions of berries, or overdoing high calorie salads.

Get a plan. Get the right amount of calories. Choose healthy foods, according to your plan and calorie needs.

Check out The DASH Diet Action Plan, at dashdiet.org or at Amazon.

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