Written by: Rob Philibert, MD PhD
Let’s be honest. If you are like me and millions of other Americans, you probably did not have the most heart-healthy diet while watching the Super Bowl. That is okay. As I tell my patients, “if you can tolerate an imperfect doctor, I will tolerate an imperfect patient.” And in the end, we are all imperfect- to one extent or another.
At the same time, it is important not to get lulled into complacency. As enjoyable as watching the Big Game can be, it can still stressful. In fact, the frequency of heart attacks actually increases while watching the Super Bowl! Perhaps worse yet, other more stressful and less enjoyable events lay on the horizon. For example, “income tax day” (April 15th) is a particularly stressful day for most Americans lies just over the horizon. Furthermore, for those in the northern half of the United States, the specter of Winter will linger for several more weeks to come. Therefore, it is important to use annual events, like the post-Super Bowl period, to refocus our efforts on eating healthy so we can deal with these stressors more effectively.
Eating healthy does not have to be a hardship. Instead, by making it a “team” adventure and initiating healthier habits in increments, it can become instead a social endeavor. For example, start with one meal-like breakfast! For that “first down”, get together with your family and friends and construct a “scouting report” for healthy options. Use the Internet to identify the best “players” for your meal. Instead of speed in the 40-yard dash, the key criterion for “drafting a food” should be its nutritional content. Foods should be low in fats and high in unprocessed materials. For example, yogurt is a “go-to” standard in European breakfast buffets and is high in protein, high in probiotics, and relatively low in fat. In fact, low-fat and fat-free yogurts are great options for those who really need to cut down on saturated fats. But yogurt is only one player, so use a couple of extra draft choices to obtain some fruit or whole-grain cereals to eat with the yogurt.
For the “second down” of Tuesday morning breakfast, have only your assistant coaches identify some additional players. Cottage cheese should be high on your draft board. For those at low cardiac risk, reduced-fat cottage cheese is usually an acceptable option. For those at high risk, fat-free cottage cheese may be best. But put some “motion” into your play-add some fruit or berries to spice up the diary backbone of the meal.
For the “third down”, how about oatmeal or whole-wheat toast? These food staples do not have to be like those from our childhoods. Just as “three yards and a cloud of dust” play-calling has been replaced by “air raid” offensives, there are a number of high-quality oatmeals and bread that are now readily available. Supplement those grains with a generous assortment of fruits, such as raisins, or jams. Alternatively, try a “change of pace” back. Instead of oatmeal, try grits, a staple of those in the Southern United States.
In fact, there are a lot of great options for a healthy breakfast. But be a smart coach-pick up some plays from your friends. Just as the “Philly Special” became a staple of most NFL playbooks, crowdsource a couple of meals from your friends. Find out who has the best bagels in town; one of your friends probably knows. How about the freshest bakery? Somebody out there has that information. In fact, there are a lot of great options for a healthy breakfast. Check out reliable sources like Good Housekeeping for additional suggestions.
Perhaps the most important thing in your mission to build a better you is to set realistic goals. Sadly, your favorite football team is unlikely to win the Super Bowl. Similarly, it is hard to develop a totally new dietary playbook. Instead, you should use this post big game opportunity as “fuel” to improve your eating habits. Begin with a healthy breakfast and build outwards to a healthier lunch and dinner. And who knows, you and the rest of your team might just be heading off to better living.
And while you are surfing the internet to compile your own personal scouting report, why don’t you just wander over to Cardio Diagnostics and check out Epi+Gen CHD. Epi+Gen CHD is a great referee for your heart health. In head-to-head testing, Epi+Gen CHD predicted twice the cardiac events as conventional lipid-based testing. So get with today’s game; try Epi+Gen CHD™.