Hearty meals that help you eat your way to good health

A beautifully produced cookbook and lifestyle guide offering 100 tasty recipes, which are designed to help reduce weight, cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure has just been published by the West of Ireland Cardiology Foundation, Croí.

The Healthy Ways Cookbook and Lifestyle Guide, compiled and edited by Croí’s Specialist Cardiac Dietician, Claire Kerins, also contains a myriad of information on what to do to avoid heart and other health problems.

Healthy Ways evolved from the Croí My Action programme, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease in people who are classified as high risk, explains Claire for whom this two-year project has been a labour of love.

“People on the course were asking ‘do you have a cookbook?’ or ‘can you recommend a cookbook?’,” she says. But while there were some cookbooks designed to help people lose weight, very few focused on heart health, and until now, there was nothing at all from Ireland.

This book has filled that gap. Its tasty recipes – 30 of them from leading restaurants – are for people who are trying to manage cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and weight. All have been adapted by Claire to ensure that they fit the criteria for a healthy heart diet.

But there’s more to this book than cooking.

“All the talk about nutrition will not help unless you talk about lifestyle,” says Claire. So she has used the book as an opportunity to provide practical advice, encouraging people to make changes in a supportive way.

“Whatever goals people are setting, it’s about maintaining those changes,” she says. Healthy Ways begins by recommending that people list the reasons why they want their lives to change, as an incentive to keep going. And it advises people, when adopting a healthy lifestyle, not to try to change everything at once.

“Changing the eating habits of a lifetime takes time and a little effort. If you try to do too much at once you will struggle and probably give up. . . just set your goals and when you have achieved them, set some more and work on those. . .”

The first chapter outlines the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, explaining how up to 80 per cent of the incidence of heart disease can be prevented by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. That’s why diet and exercise matter, as does reducing stress. And for those who smoke, quitting cigarettes is crucial.

Healthy Ways gives advice on all these areas. It also explains that much of what we eat isn’t necessarily unhealthy – the problem is that our portions are too big, resulting in weight gain. So it outlines what constitutes a healthy serving of different types of food such as protein, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, and it takes people through the different types of fats that fill our supermarket shelves.

Importantly, it also has advice on how to read and decipher food labels, so you know exactly what you are buying and eating.

The attractively presented recipes follow, and constitute the major part of the book. These start with breakfast – most important meal of the day, says Claire, adding that if you are eating cereal, the most important thing to do is eat high fibre, because that slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream and prevents energy slumps.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.