Not just for heart health

It’s true, the only reason my family started the Mediterranean diet is because of my husband’s condition. Heart health has become a number 1 priority in our household. With that being said, there are loads of other advantages to this diet. 

The most obvious is that you will become overall healthier. The American diet is not known for its health benefits. Alex’s cardiologist told us not to stress about totally sticking with the diet because it’s near impossible to do so in America. We tend to like foods sweeter and saltier than other countries, so unless you are exclusively farm to table, you will probably have a few things extra that the diet normally avoids. We have notice our overall health improving though just by making healthier decisions with each meal and snack. 

Weight loss will most likely happen as well. My husband hasn’t completely started his exercise routine yet. In the summer we tend to be more active in general since the weather is so nice! Alex has already lost 20 lbs just by switching his diet! He weighs less now than he did when we were training for our half marathon a few years ago. Part of this diet is plenty of exercise. Once we start hitting up our gym more regular I’m sure he will lose more weight! 

Your energy levels will increase. When you eat a balance diet your energy levels usually increase with that. Harvard medicine has researched the best ways to naturally boost your energy levels. All of their tips are apart of the Mediterranean diet. A balance diet, smaller portion sizes and more frequent meals, and limiting alcohol but still enjoying a drink (or 2 for men) are all key parts to this diet. 

If you are not worried about your heart health yet, but want to live healthier then the Mediterranean diet is for you. It’s not a crash diet, where you will lose weight quickly but then quickly regain it all afterwards. It’s a complete lifestyle change! This means you will only continue to feel better as you continue the diet. Small changes to your overall lifestyle can cause huge improvement if you stay at it! 

All the signs

Do you ever look back and realize how many warning signs one event had. You then wonder how you could be so blind to it. I have been thinking about this a lot lately…

Alex and I went to one of our friend’s wedding a few weeks ago. It was our first night away from the baby! Which also meant, my first night having more than a glass or two of wine. Of course, I became a little emotional over the night, so I was a little on edge. Alex also had a little bit more than he should have to drink and started tell everyone about his “near death” experience. Of course, he bragged a little about how close to death he was as if he had to prove how miraculous it was that he was here.

As silly as he was being with that, I realized it was true. Most of our friends did not know this had happened to him. We had not told them just because we wanted to tell them in person. Didn’t seem appropriate to tell them via text! As Alex went around saying he nearly escaped death, people then came up to me to explain what happen exactly.

I told the story a few hundred times before, but this night with being a little over emotional I started to realize something. There were a billion warning signs telling us something was wrong.

We discovered it was a blocked artery in June of 2017. We found out how severe it was in July when he got his stent in. However, the warning signs started the winter before. The first was when we were working out. He started getting out of breath easily when doing any type of exercise. I told him to tell his doctor about it. She thought it was probably exercise induced asthma. He got his inhaler in January 2017.

Next he started getting jaw pain. He told his dentist about it in March 2017 and they told him to get a mouth guard for at night. They told him that it was mostly him grinding his teeth at night from stress. We of course discovered later that the jaw pain was actually associated with the blocked artery.

These are some of the bigger signs, but there were too many smaller signs. Like the stairs at our house getting harder for him each day. Mowing the lawn becoming a huge chore. Just the feeling of something being wrong whenever we talked about how he was feeling. Everyone kept saying it was stress because the baby was coming.

I don’t blame the doctors or anything for missing it at first. This was a freak incident. Alex’s cardiologist told him that he was actually angry when he found out how bad the block was. It was 4 weeks between the scan finding the block and him getting the stent. They knew it was blocked, but thought it was minimal. Upon learning that it was over 90% blocked, the cardiologist was angry at himself for putting Alex’s life endanger like that.

So there I was telling friends and strangers at this wedding about the events leading to the procedure and after. And I broke. This was the first time I truly cried about the incident. When I first found out, I had to hold back the tears, but I knew I had to be the strong one for our family at that point. But at that wedding, there was no holding back. I told my friend there that I forget how close we were to losing him. She said to me that I would have had the support from them and they would have helped anyway possible.

However, my tears weren’t for how close I was to becoming a widow at 25 or having to raise my infant son alone. They were for Alex and how he wouldn’t have been able to get to know our son. He wouldn’t have heard his first giggles or first words. Wouldn’t see him go to kindergarten or graduate from high school. Alex is truly one of the most loving people you could ever meet. Yes, he is a sarcastic ass at times and challenges everyone, but it’s always out of love. He deserves to live a long and happy life.

I know plenty of people go through similar type of situations and don’t have a happy ending. I thank our lucky stars every night because I know luck was on our side for this one. The doctors and us missed about every warning sign, but thankfully it was discovered in time.

This is just to remind everyone, that if warning signs start to add up, don’t ignore them. If you have a bad feeling in your gut, listen. It could save your life!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Pizza is pretty much the greatest food on the planet. My husband’s family pretty much lived on pizza while growing up. Even now, it’s shocking if his parents don’t have left over pizza on the counter when we come over. Before Alex’s health issues, frozen pizza was our go to quick meal.
We all have days where cooking is the furthest thing from your mind. Not sure if you ever looked at the nutrition facts on a frozen, but it’s not good. Digiorno cheese pizza has 670 mg per serving. The serving size is 1/6 of the pizza. When we eat pizza, self control usually goes out the window and we both end up eating half the pizza! So right there you are almost to your daily allowance for salt. And that’s with just cheese. Add any meat and you are way past it!

The fat intake is just as bad.

Alex was nearly depressed when learning this. Taking your favorite food away completely would be extremely difficult. Steps in the perfect wife 😉

I wanted to make an easy pizza sauce with tons of flavor but as little sodium as possible.

Tomatoes naturally contain about 9 mg of sodium per 1 cup. 

My friend grows her own tomatoes and always have an over abundance. Luckily for me, that means free tomatoes! She had Roma tomatoes ripe when I went picking.

I used 9 Roma tomatoes, so that is about 81 mg of sodium.

To make the sauce, I quartered the tomatoes and threw the into a glass baking pan. I added 1 sliced red bell pepper, which contains about 6 mg of sodium. To boost the flavor up I added 12 cloves of garlic, no sodium in those! I left the cloves whole.  For the seasonings I added pepper, parsley, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Drizzled it all in olive oil and mixed them all together on the pan.


I threw it in the oven at 375 degrees and let them bake. I baked them until the tomatoes started getting brown on the outside.

Let everything cool for about 5 minutes. Then throw it all in a good processor. If you want a chunkier sauce, then pulse blend until you get the right consistency. I like my sauces to be more smooth so I blended it for a few minutes on my blenders middle speed.


This made about 6 cups of sauce. But it’s ready to go. You have a few options at this point. You can seal it and refrigerate for about a week. You could can it and store it away for future use. Or you can make pizza now!

I made 3 pizzas from this sauce and still had some left over.


I have not mastered pizza dough yet, so I got the pre-made ones. I went with a thin crust because those tend to have less sodium. Shop around your store though and find the crust that best fits your needs. If you have a killer pizza dough recipe let me know! I’m in search for a healthy pizza dough recipe.

I topped two pizzas with just sauce and fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

  • I would like to add that mozzarella is high in fat. It has loads of other health benefits but that is a huge downfall. To me it’s not pizza without mozzarella. If you plan on eating this pizza, just watch your fat intake for your other meals that day to ensure you don’t go overboard.

I froze these two pizzas as is. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap a few times to ensure it is completely covered then wrap in tin foil.

The pizza I made for us to eat had sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and sliced tomatoes. Basically a margherita pizza.


And boy was it good! The red pepper in the sauce really shines through and gives it a little kick in flavor. The garlic is just the right amount. You can really taste it but it’s not overwhelming.

No matter what you do, pizza will always be a little unhealthy. However, now you can enjoy it without missing out on all the flavor!

Find recipe here

No-Bake Granola Bites

My senior year of college was a hectic time in my life. I was commuting an hour and half to college, working part-time as a nanny, and had an internship with a legislature. I remember discussing with my supervisor at the internship how I never had time to eat a good breakfast. When I did eat breakfast it was usually super sugary and handheld. Something I could eat while driving! She then introduced me to no-bake granola bites. They are very easy and customizable granola bars, but made into bite size pieces. I started to make them all the time, but once the hectic mornings ended, I stopped making them as much.

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Recently my husband said that he wish he could have something quick and on the go for breakfast. Nearly everything we looked at in the store had way too much sugar, sodium, or fat. I decided to make him some easy on the go breakfast. No-bake granola bites were reintroduced into our life.

I seriously cannot stress how amazing these things are! My friend describes them as cookie dough bites, which I know I can eat endless amounts of that!

The base recipe is very simple: 

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup peanut or almond butter
  • 1/4 cup honey

From there you can go crazy! I found this great website that gives 8 different recipe ideas for this along with the nutrition facts. They also give some great tips and tricks to make them the best they can be.

I found these tips to be most useful:

  • Resting time in the fridge – I tried my first ones with no resting time. Not only does this give the dry ingredients time to absorb the wet ingredients, it makes rolling them so much easier!
  • Adding different ingredients you love – I added flaxseed to all of mine. I love flaxseed and it gives an added nutritional boost. I added a tablespoon to each recipe. If you add more and feel like it is not sticky enough to hold all the ingredients, add a  little extra honey or peanut butter. A little bit goes a long way!

 

Tips for the Peanut Butter:

The FDA is banning all Trans Fat from food by 2018. We are currently still in 2017, so it’s still important to read the labels for this. Peanut butter is a common food that has hidden Trans Fat. If it has less than 0.5 grams, the company do not need to list it on the nutrition facts. However, it will be on the ingredient list. If one of the ingredients is hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil then Trans Fat is actually in there.

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Sadly, the Aldi brand we normally get has hydrogenated vegetable oils. We chucked that peanut butter out and went to the grocery. While searching we found the best peanut butter to get is the natural peanut butters. If you hate stirring peanut butter, we have found Jif Natural to the best alternative.

Trans Fat is directly related to heart disease. Artificial Trans Fat is made by a harsh chemical process by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. Trans Fat increases LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), but does not increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Other fats tend to increase both, which helps balance each other out.

By avoiding peanut butter with Trans Fat you will make this delicious treat even healthier! I did not realize until we met with Alex’s nutritionist how much of my favorite foods still have some Trans Fat in it. Even when you try to go the healthier route, hidden bad ingredients still exist.

Storing the Energy Bites

The best way to store these in my opinion is the freezer. You won’t be tempted to eat all of them at once, like I want to if they are left out on the counter. They also keep for a very long time in the freezer. We usually only leave them there for about a month at most, but that is because we eat them all before them! When we want them we just pull how many we want out of the freezer bag and let them sit a few minutes to thaw a bit. They stay nice and chewy without becoming gooey messes!

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This is also one of my go to snacks for camping since they keep so well. We freeze them overnight in a ziplock bag then put them in the cooler right before we leave for our trip. As long as your ziplock is sealed tight, these babies will stay good the entire trip!

We are not huge snackers to begin with. You will have a heard time finding potato chips, crackers, or cookies in our pantry. However, once in awhile, a quick little snack is needed. Or even a quick on the go breakfast. These granola bites have been a great substitute for the not-so-healthy snacks in our lives!

Road Trip Eating

We are currently driving to Door County in Wisconsin! We are having a mini vacation there, first one with Sammy! I’ll sure to post  about the adventures from this weekend. We had to stop for lunch. We wanted a quicker lunch so that we could get to Door County in the afternoon still. 

We were driving on the highway and looking at the road signs to see what restaurants were off the exit. We saw Panera Bread and thought that was probably our healthiest option. 

I got my favorite, half a Greek salad and half a bowl of the broccoli cheddar soup, YUM!! Alex had a harder time finding something that fit into the diet. That started our conversation about perceived health in the United States. 

You always see advertisements for less fat, low calorie, or low carb, but heart health is often not mentioned. The amount of sodium in everything is truly unbelievable. I never realized how much we Americans love our salt. I knew fried food was a problem but sodium is even in things that seem “healthy”. 

There was a line when ordering, so Alex didn’t get the nutrion facts pamphlet. He got what sounded the healthiest. Apparently that wasn’t the smartest idea… you live and learn right?! 

He ended up getting the half strawberry poppyseed with chicken salad and the half roasted turkey, apple & cheddar on cranberry walnut miche sandwich. That’s a mouth full!

As a side note, it can be hard to find the nutrition facts on the restaurant’s website. We found it easier to just Google “restaurants name nutrition facts” and it will come up right away. Click here for Panera Bread’s nutrition facts. 


The salad only had 140 mg of sodium, so not bad at all! The sandwich, however, was not so good. It had 640 mg of sodium! And that was just a half sandwich! This sandwich was low calorie so it would seem really healthy. He originally was going to have a full sandwich and no salad but changed his mind thankfully. 

The reason why it had so much salt is because it had this coleslaw on it, which was not mentioned in the sandwiches name. That’s why, my friends, you can’t just go off the name when ordering. 

I ended up eating half of his sandwich so he had 320 mg of sodium on the sandwich and 140 mg of sodium on the salad. Plus the 440 mg of sodium in that small baguette! So 800 mg of sodium in the entire meal! 

We will be smarter for the rest of the trip! Going out to eat has been the hardest thing for us so far. We didn’t realize how much hidden sodium is in everything. Don’t let names fool you, look at the actual numbers before deciding! Please comment on what the hardest challenge you have had on this diet, or any other diets you’ve tried. We would like to know what the common struggles are for everyone so we know what to keep an eye out for.