Ohio University offers food tips to improve heart, overall health

by Joe Higgins

Guys, whether you want to help your heart, shed some of that “dad bod” weight or just try new foods and eat healthier, Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) has a few tips that are sure to add some variety to your diet.

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Protein is a popular topic among men, especially when working on building lean muscle mass or trying to get back in shape. According to Selena Baker, MS, RDN, LD, a nutrition counselor at CHSP’s WellWorks, more isn’t always better.

“We don’t need massive amounts of protein in the diet but rather should pay attention to the quality of the protein, especially among older men working with smaller calorie budgets,“ advised Baker.

As men age, lean muscle mass becomes more important in keeping metabolism high and maintaining both functional fitness and strength. Baker said the amount of protein in an 8-ounce steak isn’t necessary but getting 25-30 grams of quality protein in each meal is a good goal.

“A lot of times, people eat a breakfast with very low protein, maybe a little more at lunch and probably an excessive amount at dinner,” said Baker. “It’s important to instead consume moderate amounts of high-quality proteins throughout the day.”

A few of Baker’s favorite suggestions:

Lentil Sloppy Joes

“Lentils are so good. I love the Lentil Sloppy Joes served on a whole wheat bun with a slice of swiss cheese,” said Baker. “If you want a manly food but want to explore a plant protein, lentils are a great, fast-cooking option.”

(A recipe for this delicious dish is listed below the article.)

Grilled fish

The sun is shining and the grill is hot. Now it just needs some salmon!

A popular option is to toss some fish on aluminum foil and have at it. But Baker suggests lining the foil with a piece of parchment paper and placing your salmon on top to keep the dish moist while preventing the aluminum from coming in direct contact with your dinner.

“Spread it with some Dijon mustard, fresh garlic and cracked black pepper,” she said. “The vinegar in the mustard will neutralize the mildly fishy smell if you’re sensitive to that. Lemon juice and malt vinegar have the same effect. Once it’s done, upwrap your packet and you’ve got super moist salmon on the grill!”

More fish!

Tuna steaks marinated in avocado oil can add more of the coveted Omega-3 heart-healthy fatty acid to the menu. Baker said avocado oil has a similar fatty acid profile to olive oil but can take the heat better with a higher smoke point. She also suggests a simple lunch using white albacore tuna.

“Open your white albacore, drain it, throw it directly in a Tupperware-type container and add olive oil or avocado oil mayonnaise. It has heart-healthy fat and half the fat of regular mayo, plus it will pass the ‘dude taste test.’ Add in some Mrs. Dash (the garlic blend) and you have lots of flavor ready to go,” said Baker. “If you have time, mince in some onion, carrots, celery or whatever you want.”

Let’s get nuts

Vegetarians looking for Omega-3 benefits can try walnuts. Baker said eating a 1-ounce portion of nuts most days of the week is a good goal and added that walnuts also contain fiber, potassium, protein and other heart-healthy fats.

The power of tomatoes

Scientific results are still mixed when it comes to lycopene in tomatoes but Baker said there are some positive links between lycopene and good prostate health.

Lycopene isn’t destroyed by cooking and tomatoes are also a good source of potassium which plays a role in healthy blood pressure.

“Try a whole wheat pasta salad,” said Baker. “Lightly steam, sauté or grill a bunch of veggies and toss on some vinaigrette or whatever dressing you like. Dice up some sundried tomatoes and you’ll get that concentrated flavor, sweetness and unique texture which is great in a pasta salad along with some marinated artichokes and sautéed zucchini.”

MIND your diet

Along with a healthy body, a healthy mind is desirable. Baker recommends trying the MIND diet — a take on the popular Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. Studies have shown the diet has helped decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The MIND diet calls for more than six servings per week of green leafy vegetables, one serving per day of other vegetables, five servings per week of nuts, two servings per week of berries, three meals of beans per week, three servings per day of whole grains, one meal per week of fish, two meals per week of poultry and the use of olive oil as the primary cooking oil along with one glass of wine per day.

Finally, Baker offers the reminder that with the shining sun and all the summer fun, it’s important to stay hydrated!



Lentil Sloppy Joe (credit sparkpeople.com)

1 cup uncooked lentils

4 cups water

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

1 green bell pepper, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp salt

1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce

¼ cup tomato paste

2-3 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp prepared yellow mustard


Pour lentils and water into small saucepan. Cover and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.

About 10 minutes before lentils are ready, preheat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and pepper in the oil for seven minutes or until softened. Add garlic and saute for one minute more.

Stir in the cooked lentils, chili powder, oregano and salt. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and cook for 10 minutes. Add maple syrup and mustard and heat.

Turn off the heat and let the pot sit on the warm burner for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Serves five people at 142 calories per serving.