Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, wants you to eat burgers and drink beer.  For most of us, we offer a hearty, "Can do," and continue our Summer rituals of grilling perfect burgers and tipping back cold brews.  However, some of us that are a little further down life’s path, or who aren’t able to get out and exercise on the beach as much as we should, have a little trouble keeping in shape in the face of so much Summer recreating.  

That’s okay.  Elaine is here to help. The self described, ‘recipe doctor,’ has a new book out called "Tell Me What to Eat if I Suffer From Heart Disease."  You can probably guess what it’s about from the title, so we chatted with Elaine about how we can best keep healthy this Summer without sacrificing all the great stuff that makes Summer fun.   

MM: What are some things most guys do that cause heart disease? 

EM: There are 6 steps that men can take to prevent 27 million heart attacks and 10m illion strokes in the next 30 years, according to the American Heart Association. So it stands to reason that these are some of the things most guys are doing that is raising their risk of heart disease:

-quit smoking
-get their body mass index out of the “obese” range
-get their LDL (“bad” cholesterol) under control
-get their blood pressure into the normal range
-get their blood sugar under control especially if they have diabetes
-take aspirin if their doctor tell them to because of heart disease risk

In terms of diet though…generally most guys are eating a diet too high in saturated fat with some trans fat (these are the more damaging fats) and too high in sodium with extra calories from sugar or high fat foods. They are making poor choices when it comes to what they drink too. We know that liquid calories tend not to register as “consumed calories” so the body isn’t as good at compensating for beverage calories (soda, sport drinks, alcohol, etc). They need to eat more whole foods (whole grains, fish, beans, fruits and vegetables, nuts) and less processed food, junk food and fast food.

MM: Your book isn’t just recipes – what are some tips for guys dining out? 

EM: Feel free to take what you want from the 10 heart-healthy restaurant tips on page 184-185

MM: What about when they’re buying food at the grocery store? 

EM: Take what you want from Chapter 5, Take the Heart Smart Supermarket Tour. On page 149 it talks about watching out for the three-S’s while reading labels (sugar, saturated fat and sodium. These are the three nutrients that men in the U.S. get too much of. All three can be found on the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods. You can find trans fat right under saturated fat on the food label, and some food products still contain them. But keep in mind that as manufacturers have taken out the trans fat by reformulating their products, many have increased the saturated fat totals.

MM: What’s your most popular recipe?

EM: I would think the recipes that guys might gravitate to are:

Topless Chicken Pot Pie (page 118)

Dad’s Favorite Flank Steak (page 129)

Beef and Beer Chili (page 132)

Lean Mean Bronco Burger (page 133)

Apple Pie Crisp (page 142)

MM: We’re still allowed to ‘cheat’ every once in a while, right?

EM: Well, there seems to be fairly instant physiological effects in terms of blood lipid levels and potential inflammation in the arteries after we have a super high saturated fat type of meal so I would try to direct someone to “cheat” responsibly. In other words, even when we are “cheating” we can make better choices. Like if a guy is having his favorite steak and potato meal from a restaurant. Try to choose a leaner cut of steak (filet mignon, top sirloin or London Broil, for example), and try to keep within 6 ounces or so (take the rest of the 12 or 16 ounce steak home for sandwiches the next day). He might be more satisfied with this smaller portion of steak if he has enjoyed a broth-based type cup of soup and/or a nice green salad with a vinaigrette dressing BEFORE he gets to the steak.

MM: What else besides their diet do you suggest changing in the book?

EM: There is quite a lot of information in the book on the benefits of exercise, happy marriages, laughing, good quality sleep, less stress, less pollution etc…in terms of reducing the risk of heart disease. This starts on page 22. For example at the top of page 28 it talks about how laughing appears to increase blood flow and possibly expand arteries. 

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is fondly known through her nationally syndicated column on WebMD.com as "The Recipe Doctor." She is the author of 25 books on nutrition and health cooking, including the revolutionary Food Synergy, as well as other bestselling titles in the Tell Me What to Eat series, covering type-2 diabetes, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and other important health issues. She obtained her Master’s Degree in public health nutrition from UC-Berkeley and is a registered dietitian.