Food Police

I imagine that everyone who teaches people about healthful eating has at least one problem in common.

Their families.

My husband had a heart attack last September.  He had that heart attack after we were already eating a reasonably healthful diet. (We mostly eat according to the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet). We were watching the levels of saturated fats, calories, sodium, and fiber in all the foods we were eating.  We were both losing weight, and his last blood tests were significantly better.

The week after his heart attack, I started teaching a (previously-scheduled) weight loss and healthful eating class. Now our sessions are almost over. As the class began to draw to a close, one of the ladies said to me “I wish I could take you home so you could guide and coach me.”

My husband has me at home. What does he call me?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s not “coach.”

He calls me “The Food Police.”

I went with him to his cardiac rehab class when they talked about diet. The instructor did a great job. He said things that I know I have also told my classes… almost exactly word for word. But, it’s easier to hear this information from someone else, not your wife.

Eating, be it healthful or not so healthful, is such a personal thing. As we all know, it’s hard to change an eating habit, even when you’re super motivated. I can’t make my husband change his habits.

It’s hard not to be the food police. I have a sign in my office that quotes, “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” I’m trying to remember that and not police my husband’s meals at home. He says it’s hard to enjoy a meal with someone watching so closely.

But what can I do?

I’m trying to be a good role model. I’m trying to have good food in the refrigerator. I’m trying to modify recipes to make them even more healthful. I’m trying to take healthful foods when we go to parties or events. I’m trying not to suggest restaurants that would require us to make difficult decisions. I’m trying not to eat things in front of him that would be tempting.

Most of all… I’m trying to keep my mouth shut when I see him eat something that I don’t think he should eat.

It’s not fun being the “food police”

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Looking for ways to help your clients improve their eating and protect their hearts? Try these top-selling nutrition education materials…

Surprise! Here’s a free handout that you can use to help people evaluate whether their diets are good for their hearts. Get your copy of Eat Right for Your Heart today!

Are You Eating Right for Your Heart?Check out these new materials for a healthy diet that are so fun you won’t be seen as the Food Police:

Nutrition Education Store exclusive plastic MyPlate Plate (NEW!):

Heart Brochure set, heart posters, heart-healthy cooking instruction and more:



No Kale?

Kale seems to be one of those foods that you either like or you don’t.  For my husband, it’s a definite dislike.  According to him, one of the only good things about his recent heart attack is that he isn’t allowed to eat kale.

OK…perhaps this is “selective hearing” on his part.  All he heard was don’t eat kale or other leafy greens because it will interfere with your drugs.  Yes, he is now taking Warfarin (also known as Coumadin) prescribed to prevent blood clots due to his heart disease.   He also has to go to his doctor’s office frequently to have the Warfarin levels in his blood tested (INR).  In the beginning these levels varied greatly and the he wanted to get it balanced, so he avoided kale (this was not a big sacrifice) along with all other green vegetables.

Why the avoidance? Vitamin K.  This vitamin plays an important role in blood coagulation—which when you are on Warfarin you don’t want to happen.  It is found mainly in green vegetables.  What foods are the highest in Vitamin K?  Kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens and cooked broccoli.

The doctors and the folks at cardiac rehab were quick to tell him, “no, don’t avoid these vegetables completely—just balance them out”.  The key is to eat the same amounts of Vitamin K foods every week.  Yes, it does affect the working of the drugs, but the levels can be adjusted for the amounts of Vitamin K foods you eat on a regular basis—the key word here is consistent.

So did he do this?  No. He avoided all vegetables that were even close to green—including iceberg lettuce.  Why, I don’t know, perhaps it is one way he can to be “in control” and also to make sure that the levels of the drug in his system were constant. I can understand this. 

I bet he’s not the only heart patient that has done this.

But this avoidance of vitamin K foods puts a real crimp in our menu planning. He’s now trying to eat more healthful, follow the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet and lose some weight.  We all know one of the most important things we all should be doing is eating more vegetables.  Hard to do when you’ve taken many out of the running.

This goes counter to everything I’m used to regarding  shopping and eating.  No broccoli, no salads, no spinach…no kale.  We’ve been eating lots of tomatoes, celery, winter squash, zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash and have even expanded to pumpkin and eggplant.   We’re always teaching variety in vegetables…this isn’t the way to go.

Now that we’re almost five months into this adventure he has begin to add these vegetables back in to his (our) diet.  I’m glad.  But I’m not sure I’ll ever get kale onto his plate.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Here are tips for people who are timid about eating and trying new vegetables.

  • Focus on the presentation. Chances are, if the vegetables are fresh, cut in small pieces, and served with a sauce, people will try them just because they are sitting in front of them. One favorite idea is to place vegetable sticks in a glass with a little light Ranch Dressing on the bottom.
  • Carrots, yams, and winter squash are sweet and they have a bright orange color so they are a great place to start.
  • Cook items perfectly so they are not overcooked or discolored will help. Steam items for 2 minutes to start and then check doneness.
  • Focus on a favorite dressing or sauce.
  • Grilling vegetables can be a fun and delicious way to get people to eat them.
  • Chopping vegetables finely and adding them to salads and pasta sauce can bring success.
  • Chili is also a great place to add more veggies.

Check out our Fruit and Vegetable Promotion Items:

Invisible Eggs

In the process of my husband’s recovery from a heart attack, he has been working hard at improving his diet and exercise habits. He’s also been going to Cardiac Rehab three days a week.  Near the end of the program, they sent him home with a survey to complete so that he and his instructors could see how his diet has changed.

Before the heart attack, my husband was eating a fairly healthful diet. Needless to say, I was curious to see how his survey would be “graded.” As he was completing the survey, one of the questions stood out to us both. It asked, “How many visible eggs have you eaten in the last week?”

This got him joking about “invisible eggs.” How could he eat an egg that he couldn’t see?

After some thought (and a few laughs), we realized that the questionnaire was really asking about the number of whole eggs he was eating.  These would be eggs eaten as scrambled eggs, over-easy, or even deviled eggs. This type of egg is easy to see and easy to count.

The other type of eggs, “invisible eggs,” must be the ones that are combined with other foods. You know, the eggs in cakes, cookies, meat loaf, crab cakes and combination foods. These are the eggs that you don’t see, and that makes them more difficult to count.

The American Heart Association recommends cutting back on foods that are high in dietary cholesterol. They say to eat less than 300 milligrams (mg) of dietary cholesterol each day. That’s been the recommendation for all Americans with normal blood cholesterol levels for at least 20 years. That’s nothing really new.

Research is still showing that diets high in dietary cholesterol do have an effect on blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL (a.k.a. “bad”) cholesterol. I have seen some recommendations for people with heart disease to try to keep this number to 200 mg a day — but no one has made that recommendation to us.

What does 200-300 mg of cholesterol per day look like? Not a lot.

A medium-sized egg has about 185 mg of cholesterol. A large egg has about 215 mg. Two eggs for breakfast would quickly wipe out the recommendation of less than 300 mg a day.

All the cholesterol in eggs is in the yolks.  Egg whites without the yolks are a heart-healthy protein.  We’ve gone to substituting liquid egg whites for most of the eggs we eat. In most recipes, two whites will equal a whole egg. Replacing an egg with egg whites also helps reduce total fat and total calories in the diet.

Baked goods and other foods often contain “invisible” eggs. Those “invisible” eggs count toward that 300 mg a day limit too.

Keep in mind that two eggs spread over 12 muffins or a whole cake don’t add up as quickly as those two eggs eaten sunny-side up.*

Remember, eggs are only part of the cholesterol equation. It’s also recommended for people with high blood cholesterol levels to reduce not only the amount of dietary cholesterol they eat but also reduce their saturated fat and trans fat consumption.  In addition to helping with the cholesterol levels, reducing saturated and trans fats can help with overall calories, getting people closer to meeting their weight loss goals. Family history and genetics also play a big role in blood cholesterol levels.

Like many folks with heart disease, my husband is also on a cholesterol-lowering drug.  His cardiac doctor is recommending them for at least a year for overall artery health.

Thinking that drugs are not the only answer, we’re being aware of all eggs — visible or invisible — for the long haul.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Are you looking for ways to reduce cholesterol, saturated fat, or trans fat consumption? Check out these great resources!

How Much Fat is in That? Poster

Cholesterol 101 Education Bundle

Make the DASH: Heart Health Brochure

* The fat and sugar and other ingredients in that cake or muffins is another story for another day.

Suddenly It’s Real

It’s different when it happens to you.

I’ve been teaching fitness and wellness topics for many years. I’ve taught heart-healthy cooking, strong bone nutrition, dining with diabetes, and lots of general healthful eating strategies. I’ve seen people get frustrated as they try to understand conflicting dietary recommendations. I’ve seen people struggle to make major lifestyle changes as a result of a medical diagnosis. Nothing seems to make people more serious about a dietary change than a sudden health event. But nothing you can teach makes this more real than when it’s your family.

Last September, when I was on my way home from a conference, I got a phone call. My husband had had a heart attack.

He survived.

We were lucky. Statistics show that 1 in 4 deaths in the United States are a result of heart disease. After four nights in the hospital, three ambulance rides, two stents, and one drug reaction, my husband was finally released from the hospital. Ultimately, we were sent home with little fanfare. There were some packets and informational materials, but that was it. We were on our own.

Included in the pile of computer printout packets were four pages titled “Cardiac Diet.” Now, I have been teaching this topic for years, so I didn’t feel like I was completely unknowledgeable. But I was sure that there was more to this. Maybe there was something I missed in all the classes I’ve taken.  After all, this wasn’t just “reducing risk factors” and other classroom subjects. This was the real thing. My husband had had a heart attack.

I was hoping that a registered dietitian could tell me more. I wanted specifics. I wanted calories, grams, and milligrams. I wanted more than a list of foods that were “allowed” and other foods to “avoid.” You can’t eat like that, I thought. So, I asked if we could talk with a dietitian.

Unfortunately, because we live in a small rural community, there was no dietitian on staff for that.

Suddenly, I’m looking at this from the inside out. I’m not blaming the hospital, the doctors, or the nurses; they have enough on their plate already. But, I don’t think I’m an exception to the rule. I think that there are lots of folks out there who want more than a piece of paper and they want a step by step lesson for what to do. If you think about what you teach in this manner you can make more effective materials.

Thank goodness for those of you who do have the time to teach cooking, do consultations, and offer classes on cardiac rehabilitation diets. Please keep up the good work. I’m joining the charge. In fact, I’m currently looking for a grant so that I can teach some heart-healthy cooking classes in my community.

So now it’s real. My husband and I are learning a lot about heart disease, and I’m looking at it from an entirely different perspective. Here are some very helpful cooking handouts that can help folks make healthier foods. And here is a free handout for an overview of a heart healthy diet: EatRightHeart

More tips to come!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

From the Nutrition Education Store Staff:

You don’t have to create all the materials to communicate key heart health messages by yourself. Let us do it for you! Here are some of the most popular heart health educational materials…

Lower Your Heart Attack Risk Brochure

Heart Health Poster Value Set

Heart Healthy Cooking PowerPoint

3 Questions for Heart Month

Heart Month is right around the corner! What is your action plan?

We want to create some new materials that will help you teach the keys of Heart Month easily and effectively. Would you take the survey below and let us know what you need? The most engaging answer will win a Heart Month prize from the Nutrition Education Store! Plus, we’ll create the materials you request!

Psst… there’s also a coupon code for nutrition and health education resources. It will be revealed once you finish the survey…

[wpsqt name=”Heart Month Survey” type=”survey”]

Looking for more Heart Month inspiration? Check out these great tools!

Premium Heart Education Kit

Heart Health Brochure Set

Heart Health Poster Set

Heart Healthy Cooking PowerPoint

How to Help Your Clients Follow the DASH Diet

In a review of 32 of the most popular diets of 2013, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet came out on top.

Is this a surprise? Not really. After all, this is the fourth year in a row that the expert panel at U.S. News and World Report has ranked the DASH diet as the best overall diet. On its heels are the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, the Mayo Clinic Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, and Weight Watchers. The DASH diet’s focus on limiting sodium rather than cutting out a wide range of foods, along with its positive impact on health, have combined to earn it the number one spot in the rankings.

What positive impact on health?

Well, according to the National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute,”Following the DASH eating plan and eating less sodium (salt) can lower high blood pressure or your risk for the condition. Results from the DASH research showed that following a DASH plan containing 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day lowered blood pressure. Following a DASH plan containing 1,500 mg of sodium lowered blood pressure even more (systolic blood pressure was lowered by about 7 to 12 mmHg).” The U.S. News and World Report’s panel further asserts that the DASH diet has “also been shown to increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and decrease ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, a fatty substance that in excess has been linked to heart disease.”

In other words, the DASH diet is good for your heart, especially when it comes to your blood pressure.

So, how can you go about helping your clients adopt the DASH diet?

There are a few ways you could go. One is with DASH posters like the Make the DASH poster or an About Your Blood Pressure poster. You could also offer handouts to clarify the key points of the DASH diet — both the Make the DASH brochure and the Blood Pressure 101 handout have been both popular and effective. For more intensive work, there are presentations like 4 Lessons to Lower Blood Pressure and DASH Diet Basics. Of course there are always resource bundles that combine everything you need in a single package. Top-selling DASH bundles include the Blood Pressure 101 Educational Materials Bundle and the 6 Lessons of Heart Health.

For More Information:

Now is a great time to show Paleo Versus DASH:

Paleo Versus DASH Diet


Announcement: Updated Heart Month Materials

For Immediate Release: January 8, 2014
Media and Consumer Inquiries: 800-462-2352

Louisville, CO — Food and Health Communications, Inc has released a series of new nutrition education materials in the Nutrition Education Store. These new materials promote updated diet and heart disease health information, just in time for Heart Month.

The diet and cholesterol education resources cover the updated cardiovascular disease care guidelines from the the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. The blood pressure education materials feature the new guidelines from the Journal of the American Medical Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s JNC 8. The new blood pressure poster features the DASH diet as a healthful approach to reduce heart disease risk. The materials also discuss heart disease, lifestyle risk factors for heart disease, diet and exercise routines to adopt in order to improve health, the long-term impact of heart disease, the basics of cholesterol, a review of body mass index, a closer look at the role of excess salt in the development of heart disease, an exploration of the importance of fruits and vegetables to good health, and much more.

The launch of these resources was prompted by Judy Doherty, PC II, who founded Food and Health Communications, Inc in order to provide necessary resources to busy health educators. To further that end, the heart education materials take a wide range of formats that will appeal to a broad audience. Each one features tools for a few different learning styles, ensuring that there is something for everyone. The full complement of posters, presentations, handouts, tearpads, clipart, worksheets, recipes, bulletin board kits, banners, and tabletop displays are all available at

For more information, visit or

The updated heart materials include…

Blood Pressure Poster

DASH and Your Heart Brochure


Heart-Healthy Cooking Presentation