A change has been made that we will be sticking with … it has been a worthwhile exercise that will hopefully help to give us improved protection of our cardiovascular systems over the longer term.

‘We have always considered ourselves reasonably healthy, so why did we choose to volunteer for a challenge programme to change our lives? Well, we are not untypical of most busy families –  probably spending too much time sedentary, eating things which are not convenience food per say, but  more simple to prepare than the typical staple things available in the fridge and cupboards.

Why leave making the change until one has a problem when there are simple changes that can be made to help prevent the problem occurring in the first place? It is basic risk mitigation so why would anyone not do it?

A recent knee operation for my wife also caused us to think about how we move forward in terms of making sure we get the most out of life, so what better way to start than from making a small change to eating things that will improve the central circulation pump.

Having looked at some of the recipes on the Cardiologist’s Kitchen website, it did not seem that difficult a change to make to rethink what we are putting into our bodies and place a bit more consideration on the effect it can have.

Like most parents we have the battle with encouraging our child to eat the correct things. We are keen to teach our child about the benefits of eating healthily and showing the good effects it can have. By having baseline data, experimenting with new recipes and seeing the difference that can be made, we can make it a fun experience that will hopefully help build on the encouragement we give.

We will be starting our ‘one month to change your life” challenge on the 1st February 2017. In the meantime, we will collect our baseline data together and, as suggested, arrange a kick off meal using one of the recipes from the Cardiologist’s Kitchen.

We will be sharing our experience of the challenge with Dr Ali Khavandi to help demonstrate the effects of the changes that can be made to typical, relatively healthy individuals as well as inform others on how we have found the dietary modifications’.

We documented their experience here. This is what is recommended in ‘one month to change your life’ Part 2

Start a ‘one month to change your life’ diary or calendar  –  this is best displayed in a prominent place (like your fridge door):

  • Mark your start day when you feel you can commit to your new life. Psychologically make a big deal to mark this day and tell your family and friends or celebrate with a special meal the night before. (Our couple have enjoyed their celebration meal at a restaurant in Bath).
  • Weigh yourself on a good set of scales. If you don’t have a good set then buy one as part of the ritual of changing your life. You need to monitor your weight on the same scales and roughly at the same time of day (e.g. morning in your PJs). Document this baseline weight on your start day calendar.
  • Measure your waist circumference. Take a tape measure to the fattest part of your belly and document this in your calendar.
  • If you have high blood pressure then it’s a good idea to buy your own home monitor  –  these can be purchased in pharmacies or online and are relatively inexpensive. Take a reading in each arm and document the highest in your calendar.
  • If you have high cholesterol, then find out your total cholesterol from your doctor and put this in the calendar. By taking charge and understanding your own risk factors you will be much more successful in improving your health in parallel with the help of your doctor.
  • Finally mark out your review day one month later. For the next 30 days or so you need to be committed and motivated. Keep thinking that you will have achieved something significant in only one month of your life — improve your future prognosis (live longer without illness) and quality of life.

They started on Monday 30 JAN 2017. 

Their first CardioKit recipe is Roast Chicken and Lentil Salad. They say, ‘More of a Summer dish but colourful and tasty’.

Their next choice is CardioKit Chilli. Their feedback is ‘Looks like we will be eating chilli for weeks! We made it to the recipe and now have a bucketful! Very nice‘.

We recommended they pop some of the chilli into their freezer. It’s useful to know the chill recipe makes a large amount. I checked, and it clearly states ‘For 6 (generous) – 8 servings’ so there’s your explanation. Anyway, we were impressed so far.

Feedback on Friday 03 FEB 2017;

‘Our experiences so far:

Shopping – we are relatively simple shoppers and tend to go to the same supermarkets and purchase the same things. To give a reasonable comparison on typical costs we went to the same places, but this time armed with the list of ingredients we required for the recipes for the week.

This was the key to changing the cupboards. We worked out a meal plan for the week and purchased what was required. This tended to keep us from straying into convenience food lines and is a good tip for those starting the plan.

We had a little difficulty in obtaining fresh courgettes and aubergines, this turned out to be due to heavy snow in Spain. We found a good way to work around this as it is possible to buy courgette sliced in the frozen section.

In terms of cost, the total bill for the week was approximately the same as normal. With a bit of analysis, the food component is not the main cost driver, it is other items like washing powder. For breakfasts and lunches we stuck with the things we would typically have like porridge, Weetabix, fruit and sandwiches.

However, at the end of the week what we have discovered is that the fridge still contains enough fresh veg for about half of week two. Therefore, in essence, there is a small cost saving on the food items compared to those we bought previously.

Recipes – we tried out the following ones:

Chilli con Corazon, Roast Chicken and Lentil Salad, Pizzettes, Mushrooms on Toast and Salmon with Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa. All were very tasty and fragrant. We found the roast chicken to be more of a summer meal as the salad is cool, but that is a personal preference.

It took no longer to prepare any of the meals than it would take to either make something we would typically eat during the week, or indeed, putting a ready meal in the oven. This surprised us as chopping veg can seem to take an age. The food blender works wonders here, particularly with the chilli.

The chilli makes a lot so we were able to have that several times. We actually used lean steak mince rather than beef chunks, but it seemed to work perfectly well. We had several meals from it and even had enough to share this meal with our neighbours. For the roast chicken we halved the ingredients and that made enough for a meal for three.

Taste is interesting. After a week we began to notice just how much salt there is in pre-packed food. It is quite nice to be able to taste the ingredients rather than the salt/sugar mask.

Some encouragement was required with the younger member of the family. I imagine the tastes are stronger for him, to be fair he did try everything. Making it look interesting and explaining what was in each meal seemed to help. We feel that by the end of the month he will probably start to come around a bit more.

How do we feel? – This is clearly subjective rather than objectively measurable and it is only week one after all. That said there are some obvious differences. The pizzettes were the item that really showed this. A normal pizza we would eat and feel very bloated afterwards. With pizzettes we felt full but not bloated. Thinking back over the week this is true of all the meals, filling but not heavy.

We are not going to compare to baseline data until the end.

So, after one week, it is going well and less difficult than anticipated to make the changes.

Well done, especially to the youngest ‘volunteer’!

Week 2: ‘Leek and Pea Fritters – really nice and more filling than they look. Quinoa Stir Fry with Salmon – we added chilli flakes and red cabbage in place of a red pepper. The spring onion is the key to the flavour explosion. Turkish Red Lentil Soup – we used orange rather than red lentils and some left over smoked gammon as the meat element. We thought this recipe turned out well and was very tasty’.

Week 2 Friday night update;

‘We have concentrated on repeating several of the recipes from week one, particularly those that lend themselves to a busy weekday lifestyle. By making up the larger quantities and freezing portions we have our own healthy ready meals. The chilli and lentil soup are excellent for this.

The red lentil soup proved to be a hit. The youngest team member declared he did not like lentils. We forgot to tell him he had just eaten an entire bowl full until the end! This is now on the ‘like’ list along with the pizzettes.

The difference to how we feel is more noticeable this week. It is hard to describe but a kind of heavy feeling has been removed and replaced with energy to do things. Whilst it is not possible to give supporting facts and figures at this stage there is a difference that can be felt.

We had no difficulty in obtaining ingredients this week and have found that by producing larger volumes for use later we have used less overall. The fridge remains stocked with all sorts.

We did venture off menu a couple of times but maintained the thinking of increased vegetable intake. Sunday roast is a favourite in the winter, but we reduced the amount of meat and potatoes and increased the mix of veg. We also need to use up some small steaks and made a steak, shallot, quinoa and green bean mix. It was not as flavoursome as the recent recipes but was an acceptable meal to use up items whilst keeping with the theme.

Neighbours have enquired about the lovely smells and we have shared several of the meals.

For week 3 we will try out some other recipes. It really is much easier to make these meals than initially expected. A good food blender is a really helpful tool. Ours has never been used so much to prepare vegetables’.

We’re genuinely impressed with this feedback, though it does reflect what patients have been saying and represents our own experience too. The changes are subtle if you previously ate a healthy diet but are still noticeable and worth the effort. Happily, our volunteers are reporting that their dietary changes are still producing positive results.

Week 3: ‘We experimented quite a lot with some of the recipes this week. We found that adding smoked peppered mackerel to the leek and pea fritters gave a good flavour. A little tricky to cook as the mix is not quite as stiff but it did work well. On the pizzettes we added anchovies. Again, this is a good add on to the base mix in terms of different flavours.

Another meal we created this week was smoked haddock and wild rice. We used smoked cod and salted pistachio nuts and very nice it was too. We suggest you go easy on the thyme as it can overpower the fish.

We made cauliflower rice and have no idea of its cardiac potential, but it tasted great and was dead easy to make. It was another big hit and mixing it up with different spices makes it an interesting addition to a meal. Here’s the recipe:

Cauliflower Rice

1/2 cauliflower to make cauliflower rice

1 green bell pepper

1 teaspoon hot chilli powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 red onion

1 handful of baby plum tomatoes

1 glug of rapeseed oil

Cut up half a cauliflower and blend it in food blender to make cauliflower rice. Place it in a separate bowl for mixing.

Next cut the bell pepper and blend it. Do this separately to the cauliflower to avoid a slushy mix. Tip it in to the mixing bowl with cauliflower. Add hot chilli powder and cumin along with the rapeseed oil. Mix it altogether with a fork.

Place the cauliflower rice mix in a tray so that it is about 15-20 mm deep. Cook the cauliflower rice for a total of 12 mins turning with a fork halfway through cooking.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cook the tomatoes and chopped red onion in a separate tray with a drizzle of rapeseed oil.

Serves approximately 3 persons, mildly spiced.

Nothing significant to report in terms of how we felt at the end of week three but the new diet of increased vegetables is definitely starting to become fixed in the mind. We consciously look for different things in the supermarket.

We intend to try out the curry in week 4‘.

Our ‘cooking cardiologist’ likes the cauliflower rice recipe and suggests we try this with a large side salad and some good quality meat … and here we see that our volunteers did just that in week 4.

Week 4: This week we made sweet and sour pork on cauliflower rice. With the cauliflower we added carrot, green pepper, celery and a red chilli. The sweet and sour mix was white wine vinegar, a little brown sugar and a good squeeze of tomato sauce. It is a spicy dish but excellent. We cooked the pork belly for about 4 hours on a low heat, so it went very soft, then added the sweet and sour sauce to it about an hour before the end so that it thickened up a bit.

It is quite surprising what can be done with seemingly simple vegetables found in the fridge.

They started on Monday 30 JAN 2017 and their one month was complete on Monday 27 FEB 2017.

During the last week our final recipe tried was the curry and what a ‘corker’ that is. We did not have okra so left that out and put a few peas in. For the fish we used Alaskan pollock. The base sauce would work with any meat and is a mild korma style when complete. The curry was well worth the effort of making.

Our ‘one month to change your life’ is now complete so what has changed?

In terms of weight, very little. We both weighed in approximately the same as we started. This is not a weight-loss diet after all, it is a diet set out to protect the cardiovascular system.

The interesting thing has been the ease of transition to move to a more vegetable-based diet. We suspect many people, like us, simply find vegetables boring. When cooked in different and interesting recipes it really has surprised us that we have really enjoyed them. Our mind-set has shifted towards using less meat and more vegetables.

As reported previously, there is an overall lighter feeling around the stomach/middle area. We both noticed it particularly in week two.

On the cost side over the month it was around the same overall cost for us. We suspect this is down to sourcing meat from the local butcher. Whilst the quantity was less the quality was a higher, as was the cost.

In conclusion, a change has been made that we will be sticking with. We started to experiment further with the recipes creating our own versions using the base ingredients and have been really pleased with the outcomes. “One month to change your life” has been a worthwhile exercise that will hopefully help to give us improved protection of our cardiovascular systems over the longer term.

Thank you to all three of you. We enjoyed reading your feedback and are so pleased that you plan to continue following Cardiologist’s Kitchen’s dietary principles for cardiovascular wellbeing. We hope you will be happy to update us again later in 2017 … and here is what they say in October 2017; 

There has definitely been a change of overall diet and we do eat a lot more fish and veg at mealtimes, so I think that is a success. The CardioKit curry is a firm favourite and we used it for a bit of mass catering whilst camping. Of the 16 people who had it there was not one complaint and that included some quite particular vegetarians and a couple of kids. We have certainly shared the message with others with varying degrees of success.

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