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Give your menu a makeover during Cholesterol Education Month

I usually don't talk to my TV, not often, anyway. "Now tell us how to make your recipe healthier. You need a dietitian on this show!" I exclaimed to my TV set as I watched some national cooking shows. I usually don't talk to my TV, not often, anyway.

I usually don't talk to my TV, not often, anyway.

"Now tell us how to make your recipe healthier. You need a dietitian on this show!" I exclaimed to my TV set as I watched some national cooking shows.

I usually don't talk to my TV, not often, anyway. But the chefs on the shows were missing a grand opportunity to educate the public about nutrition.

Yes, the hosts were entertaining and the food looked appealing. I'm sure the studios were filled with wonderful aromas.

I watched one chef sauté a pound of bacon, scoop a large hunk of butter into the skillet, crack six eggs into the skillet and toss in a heaping spoon of salt. The chef topped it off with a cup and a half of cheddar cheese. The omelet was for two people.


The chef sprinkled it with fresh herbs. That earned a few redeeming bonus points on my unofficial rating scale.

If I'd had a saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and calorie "meter," it would have been spinning off the charts. My heart almost started to hurt.

The dishes prepared by most of the chefs were in need of a "nutrition makeover," especially during September, which is National Cholesterol Education Month.

About 65 million Americans have high blood cholesterol that puts them at risk for heart disease, stroke and other conditions. Cholesterol is a substance in blood that the body uses to make cell membranes, vitamin D and hormones.

Total cholesterol is made up of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as "bad cholesterol" and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as "good cholesterol." Cholesterol can build up and form plaque in arteries, narrowing the openings and putting excess strain on your heart.

Do you know your blood cholesterol number? A blood cholesterol level of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) is desirable. The optimal level of LDL is less than 100 mg/dl. Visit with your health-care provider to learn more about your numbers. Sometimes medication is necessary to reduce blood cholesterol.

Is your menu in need of a makeover without a loss of flavor? Try these heart-healthy food selection and preparation tips:

  • Read Nutrition Facts labels and ingredient statements. Pay close attention to the amounts of saturated fat and trans fat on the nutrition labels. These types of fats are linked to raising your blood cholesterol level. Limit foods that contain "hydrogenated" shortenings noted on the ingredient label.
  • Eat more plant foods high in "soluble fiber," such as apples, carrots, cooked dry edible beans and oatmeal.
  • Use vegetable oils high in monounsaturated fats, such as canola, sunflower and olive, in place of solid shortening, margarine and butter whenever possible.
  • Try whole-grain flours to enhance the flavors of baked goods.
  • Replace whole milk with low-fat or nonfat milk in puddings, soups and baked products.
  • Remove excess fat and skin from meat and poultry.
  • Substitute egg whites in recipes calling for whole eggs. Use two egg whites in place of each whole egg in muffins, cookies and puddings.

For more information about food and nutrition, visit the Web sites of the NDSU Extension Service at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/ . Visit the Web site of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for more information about heart health at http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/cholmonth/ .


Here's a cookie recipe from the Montana State University Extension Service. It features several good-for-your-heart ingredients, including carrots, oatmeal and soft margarine, which are low in saturated fat and trans fat.

Carrot Cookies

½ cup soft margarine

1 cup honey*

1 cup grated raw carrots

2 well-beaten egg whites

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder


¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups raw oatmeal, quick cooking

1 cup raisins

In a large bowl, cream together margarine and honey. Stir in carrots and egg whites. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, oatmeal and raisins. Gradually stir flour-oatmeal mixture into creamed mixture until all the flour is mixed. Do not overmix. Drop from teaspoon on greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

* Note: Instead of honey, you can use 1 ¼ cups sugar mixed with ¼cup water.

Makes 60 cookies. Each two-cookie serving has 130 calories, 3.5 grams (g) of fat, 0.5 (g) of saturated fat, 24 g of carbohydrate and 1 g of fiber.


Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson @ndsu.edu

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