Monthly Archives: February 2016

Parsley Veggie Dip

shutterstock_287212199Whip up some homemade veggie dip with low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese and a blend of spices. Whether it’s for a potluck with friends or just a quick snack for the family, this easy-to-make side dish works for any occasion!

Number of servings: 8
Per serving:
20 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 4 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, 190 mg sodium.


  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 tablespoon onion (chopped very fine)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons parsley flakes


  1. Measure cottage cheese and put in bowl or blender.
  2. Beat with a fork or mixer, or in a blender, until cottage cheese is smooth.
  3. Add the other ingredients. Stir together.
  4. Store the dip in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours to let the flavors blend.
  5. Serve with slices of raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, turnips, cauliflower or green pepper.


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How to Have a Pleasurable & Healthy Eating Experience

Lauren LeBeau is a dietetic intern at the REX Wellness Centers.LeBeau
She currently attends Meredith College, and will complete her dietetic internship in June 2016. During National Nutrition Month, LeBeau shares useful information and tips that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing positive eating habits.

In a busy world, it is often hard to sit down, enjoy a meal, and appreciate what the dining experience is truly about. Here are some tips to help make eating more pleasurable:

Focus on the act of eating: Remove all distractions, such as the T.V. or cell phone, and focus on the flavors and aroma of the food, and the people at the table.

Take time to eat: Make time to sit down in a pleasant environment, and eat without rushing. Focus on eating slowly, and savor the food.

Provide variety: Eat a variety of colors, textures, temperatures, and flavors at a meal to maximize the satisfaction of the meal, as well as its nutritional content.

shutterstock_172085921Remember, making sure to have a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious, flavorful foods is the best way to savor the flavor of eating right!

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Tips to Make Traditional Recipes More Nutritious & Flavorful

Lauren LeBeau is a dietetic intern at the REX Wellness Centers.LeBeau
She currently attends Meredith College, and will complete her dietetic internship in June 2016. During National Nutrition Month, LeBeau shares useful information and tips that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing positive eating habits.

Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics launches a nutrition education and information campaign called National Nutrition Month® to raise awareness about healthy eating decisions. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which emphasizes the importance of taking the time to enjoy food traditions, as well as taking the time to appreciate the flavors, memories, and social experiences associated with food in order to develop an overall healthy eating plan.

Recipes do not have to be full of fat, salt, or sugar to be flavorful. There are several ways to make traditional recipes more nutritious, without compromising flavor.


Here are some general tips on how to reduce the amount of fat, salt, and sugar in recipes:

Fat: Replace half of the butter, shortening, or oil with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, pureed beans, or pureed pumpkin.

Salt: Reduce the amount of salt by half, or even eliminate it. With yeast-leavened baked goods, the quantity of salt may need to be tested several times before in order to determine the correct amount that could be used without the product becoming dense/flat.

Sugar: Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to half by adding spices, flavorings, and dried fruits instead.

Substituting certain ingredients not only helps reduce the amount of calories, fat, salt, and sugar, but can also improve the nutritional content of the recipe. The following are some examples with common recipe ingredients:

Pasta: Use whole wheat instead of enriched/white.

Milk: Use 1% or skim instead of whole.

Meat: Use fish or poultry instead of red meat; or use beans or a vegetable, if possible.

Depending on the recipe, an ingredient may be able to be reduced or eliminated completely. The following are some examples of how the amounts of ingredients can be scaled back:

Cheese: Reduce the amount by half, and use a sharp cheese instead to maximize flavor with a smaller amount.

Toppings: Eliminate items such as frosting, whipped cream, and the like.

Condiments: Use half or, if possible, eliminate altogether.

Avoid frying and adding excessive amounts of fat/oil, salt, and sugar by using the following preparation methods:

Liquids: Use vinegars, low-sodium broths, and other similar liquids instead of basting with meat drippings or oil.

Cooking: Braising, broiling, grilling, baking, poaching, sautéing, and steaming.

Healthy Ways to Add Flavor to Recipes

Recipes can be packed with flavor without having excessive amounts of calories and other unhealthy ingredients. Season foods with some of the following herbs, spices, and flavorings instead of adding fat, salt, and sugar:

 Garlic  Cumin
 Ginger  Coriander
 Oregano  Turmeric
 Basil  Cinnamon
 Parsley  Allspice
 Thyme  Cloves
 Dill  Nutmeg
 Rosemary  Dried Fruits
 Mint  Citrus juice
 Pepper  Citrus zest
 Red pepper flakes  Onion
 Garlic powder  Paprika
 Mustard powder  Vinegar
 Onion Powder  Vanilla extract

The following are a couple of recipes for salt-free seasoning blends. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl, blend, and store in cool, dry place:

Herb Seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons dried dill weed or basil leaves (crumbled)
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Spicy Seasoning:

  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed (crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
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Staying Active During Pregnancy

shutterstock_271083656Taking it easy during pregnancy may seem like a good idea for you and your baby’s health, but staying active could be beneficial too! Unless you’re experiencing serious complications, adding exercise to your daily routine (or continuing your exercise routine) can help in many ways.

Exercise during pregnancy can:

  • Ease or prevent back pain and other discomforts
  • Boost your mood and energy levels
  • Help you sleep better
  • Prevent excess weight gain
  • Increase stamina and muscle strength

Exercise during pregnancy may also help reduce your risk for gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure and having a baby with larger than average birth weight. Some studies also show that exercise during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester, may lower your risk or lessen symptoms of postpartum depression. If you’re worried about your unborn baby’s safety, take heart. Physical activity during pregnancy doesn’t increase your chances for low birth weight, early delivery or early pregnancy loss.

Keep moving
Adding movement to your day can be as simple as going for a walk. Choose exercises that place minimal stress on your joints. Swimming, cycling on a stationary bike, low-impact aerobics and prenatal yoga are all good low-impact activities to try. Avoid exercises with jumping or jarring movements, or quick changes of direction that could throw off your balance. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to take your exercise down a notch or take days off when you feel tired.

Exercise safely
Be sure to heed your doctor’s recommendations for exercise during pregnancy. Avoid any exercises that involve lying flat on your back after your first trimester.

Paying attention to your body is very important, especially while pregnant. As you exercise, you should watch for signs that everything might not be OK. Stop exercising and contact your doctor if you experience pain, bleeding, fluid leaking from your vagina, faintness or dizziness, uneven or rapid heartbeat, or if you notice the baby stops moving.

REX Women’s Center offers comprehensive obstetric care, covering all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. To learn more, download our Pregnancy Information Packet.

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How to Stay Young (At Heart)

12092Ashley Lewis, MD, FACC, RPVI, is a cardiologist at UNC REX Healthcare. She is board certified in general cardiology and is registered in vascular imaging. She is a general cardiologist with interventional training and has specific interests in coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and heart disease in women. She is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

Have you seen the recent news about heart age? Do you know your heart’s age? Learning about your heart age will give you a general indication of your current heart health and of what lifestyle-related factors may affect your heart health.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, if your predicted heart age is older than your actual age, you may be at a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke.


How can you prevent your heart from aging too fast? UNC REX Cardiologist Dr. Ashley Lewis names the most common risk factors to look for when it comes to protecting yourself from heart disease.

Your age and gender: “Though women are at a lower risk for heart disease than men, their chances increase after the age of 55,” says Dr. Lewis. “Once men reach the age of 45, they are at risk for heart disease.”

Your family history: You are at a greater risk of developing heart disease if you have a first-degree relative (i.e. mother, father, brother or sister) who’s suffered from heart disease before the age of 55 for males or before the age of 65 for females.

“Family history is a significant risk factor, so we always take that into account when it comes to our patients’ heart health,” Dr. Lewis says.

High Blood Pressure: According to the American Heart Association, about 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

“For adults, a healthy blood pressure is a systolic blood pressure less than 140 and a diastolic blood pressure less than 90. There are some populations, like people with diabetes or kidney disease, where the goal blood pressure is even lower,” says Dr. Lewis.

High Cholesterol: Cholesterol is found in your blood and the food that you eat. Elevated levels of cholesterol in your blood leads to build-up of a soft, waxy substance along the walls of your heart arteries called plaque and this can form a blockage, making it difficult for your heart to circulate blood appropriately. This can cause a heart attack.

Smoking: Tobacco abuse is one of the top two leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“Second-hand smoke exposure does not come without risk as well, and is often overlooked,” says Dr. Lewis.

Weight: A normal body mass index is anywhere between 18 and 24. Controlling your weight decreases your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

“Obesity contributes to a domino effect; once you develop high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol you’re at risk for developing heart disease, kidney disease, and/or stroke,” Dr. Lewis says.

Diabetes: Diabetes is a disorder that disrupts the way your body uses glucose (sugar). Type 1 diabetes develops in children or young adults and is a condition that occurs when the pancreas makes little or no insulin. Whereas, Type 2 diabetes more often occurs in adults and is a disorder where the cells of the body do not respond to insulin; this is called insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and abnormalities in cholesterol levels.

The only benefit in having Type 2 diabetes is that if patients choose to make drastic changes in their lifestyle including exercise, weight loss and good blood sugar management, they are actually able to resolve their condition,” says Dr. Lewis.

Are you young or old at heart? Determine your heart age with this simple quiz.
Take a free, confidential online heart risk assessment with Heart Aware and you may be eligible for a free follow-up screening by a physician from UNC REX Healthcare.

Learn more about UNC REX heart and vascular care

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4 Everyday Things to Keep Your Heart Healthy

12092Ashley Lewis, MD, FACC, RPVI, is a cardiologist at UNC REX Healthcare. She is board certified in general cardiology and is registered in vascular imaging. She is a general cardiologist with interventional training and has specific interests in coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and heart disease in women. She is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

For many of us, we start our days off with a casual morning routine that is usually shaped by the habits we adapt over time. When it comes to improving your health, Dr. Ashley Lewis says the first step is to make healthy lifestyle choices every day. In honor of Heart Health Awareness Month, Dr. Lewis explains four important habits we should focus on to maintain our heart heath.


  1. Get up and move! – Studies show that sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for heart disease. The Statistic Brain Research Institute reveals that 49 percent of Americans watch up to five hours of television a day. However, by getting the right amount of physical activity, you can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by about 30 percent. Dr. Lewis recommends that you exercise 30 minutes a day for five days a week (a total of 150 minutes per week) with a moderate-intensity aerobic workout. Some examples of moderate-intensity activities include, brisk walking, jogging, biking or swimming.

    “Five days per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in addition to light weight lifting or resistance training two times per week leads to weight loss, lower blood pressure, decreased blood sugars, decreased cholesterol levels, and stress,” Dr. Lewis says.
  1. Eat a healthy diet – Along with exercising, limiting the amount of salt in your everyday meals has proven to decrease your blood pressure by 5 to 10 points. Pay close attention to eating good fats in your everyday diet. Saturated fats and trans fat are the types of fats you should try to avoid and monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are good fats to add to your diet. The most well-known heart healthy nutrition plan is often referred as the Mediterranean diet. Many of the foods included in this diet provide various benefits to your heart and consist of items such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds as well as monounsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil and polyunsaturated fats such as fish.
  1. Try a stress relieving activity – When you’re under stress, your body releases adrenaline into your blood stream, making your heart rate speed up and blood pressure rise temporarily. Living a stressful life can cause your body to change the way it behaves by increasing your resting blood pressure and heart rate, potentially contributing to blockages and reduced blood flow within the heart. Some ways to reduce stress include daily exercise and 7 to 8 hours each night.

    “If you exercise daily and get enough rest at night, you are contributing to a lower stress level and therefore having less of an impact on your blood pressure, reducing your risk of developing heart disease,” Dr. Lewis says.
  1. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke – Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of mortality. Nicotine which is found in tobacco damages the structure and function of your heart’s blood vessels. The effects of smoking can cause plaque to develop within the arteries which can form blockages leading to heart attack. Non-smokers are also at risk for heart disease. Second-hand smoke exposure has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease by 25-30 percent.

To learn more about UNC REX heart and vascular care, visit

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