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Alzheimers Diet Brain Healthy Alternatives

Posted on | January 27, 2013 | No Comments

Wow! We we have now received over 700 responses to our recent post on Facebook, asking our experts to help suggest Brain-Healthier alternatives for their meals. Here are two Brain-Healthy meal suggestions, based on the new book, The Alzheimer’s Diet, by Drs. Isaacson and Ochner. If you would like our Experts to suggest Brain-Healthier alternatives for your meal, Click Here! 

Meal Submitted by Facebook Fan named “Doug D.”: “Cheeseburger”

Can a Cheeseburger be made “Brain Healthier”? Absolutely! It is possible to make a few small changes to meals without sacrificing taste, and also keeping your belly (and brain!) happy at the same time. But before our experts comment on this, we want to point out that when it comes to making Brain-Healthy decisions, it’s important to consider all of the different components of the foods and meals we eat. For example, all Cheeseburgers are not created equal! Was there mayo added? Butter on the bun? How was the hamburger prepared and what ingredients were used to prepare it? These aspects are important to consider, since each ingredient may have a more Brain-Healthy substitute.

Also, when it comes to keeping food records in general (or when submitting meals for review by our experts), the more detail provided, the better.  See example below for an incomplete vs. complete meal sample:

Bad example: Cheeseburger

Good example: Hamburger bun, Butter on bun, Pan-fried hamburger patty (80% lean), Oil in pan (canola), American cheese (full fat, one slice), Mayonnaise (full fat), Ketchup (1 ounce), Tomato slice, Onion slice

A great Brain-Healthy learning point here is that even a few of these ingredients can be modified without much noticable difference in taste. For example, light mayonnaise can have over 50% less fat and calories as the full fat alternative, eliminating the harmful trans fats altogether, and cutting down on brain-draining saturated fat (half tablespoon with 25 calories, 2 grams of fat, and onky 1 gram of carbohydrate). Click here for a Brain-Healthy Cheeseburger alternative (from page 96 of The Alzheimer’s Diet).


Meal Submitted by Facebook Fan: “Two slices of pepperoni pizza, ice cream cake, a glass of cranberry juice, and a pretzel”

Our experts selected this meal because they believe it typifies the types of foods a lot of us enjoy eating.  Here’s where some brain-healthy changes could go a really long way without giving up the types of foods we love.

PIZZA: (Dr. Ochner’s favorite and something he eats on at least a weekly basis).  Unfortunately loaded with brain busting saturated fat and high-glycemic carbs when purchased from the store, so let’s explore an option for quick home cooking from page 95 of The Alzheimer’s Diet: – 1 Flatbread from Trader Joe’s – 12 slices turkey pepperoni – 1/2 cup tomato sauce (no sugar added) – 1/2 cup fat free mozzarella cheese – 1/8 cup mix of oregano, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and parsley – Trust us, it’s delicious and non-greasy

ICE CREAM CAKE: The ones with the chocolate crunchies in the middle are the best!  How about a brain healthy hot fudge sundae?  Not too good to be true, check out page 97 of The Alzheimer’s Diet:

- 1 cup sugar-free ice cream

- 4 tablespoons calorie-free fudge topping (Not only does this exist, but it actually tastes good. Check specialty food stores.)

- 2 tablespoons fat-free whipped cream

CRANBERRY JUICE: At the very least, make sure it’s 100% juice!  We would be willing to bet this was actually cranberry juice ‘cocktail,’ which means anywhere from 5-25% actual juice and the rest basically sugar and food coloring.  No bueno.  If you love juice, either get the light version of your favorite juice or if you don’t want to shell out the extra $, just make sure it’s 100% juice and mix half water and half juice.  You’ll notice the 50/50 mix quenches your thirst much better.

PRETZEL: High-glycemic carbohydrate, which is not good for the brain.  If it’s one little pretzel or pretzel stick, no big deal.  If it’s a giant 400 calorie soft pretzel, try baby carrots dipped in fat-free or low-fat dressing (try Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Sweet Vidalia Onion) or baked tortilla chips with unlimited salsa.  These will give you the crunch factor and make the belly happy.

Our experts would definitely recommend more lean, high-quality protein, as this meal is very heavy on the carbs and sugar.  However, most diets fail b/c they teach us that we have to stop eating the foods we love.  The overall point here and in The Alzheimer’s Diet is to keep eating the kinds of foods you love, just do so in a brain healthy manner. Here’s our best estimates based on 2 slices pepperoni pizza, normal slice ice cream cake and medium soft pretzel -

Original meal:  1,746 calories; 66 total grams fat; 35 grams saturated fat; 255 grams carbohydrates
Brain healthy but just as delicious alternative meal: 787 calories; 11 total grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 83 grams carbohydrates

If you would like our experts to suggest Brain-Healthier alternatives for your meal, visit our Facebook page and click the link posted on January 12 to get started. We will select several examples to discuss in our next Newsletter and on our Facebook page.

Hope this helps.  Enjoy and be well!


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Harvard-trained Neurologist, Richard S. Isaacson, M.D. currently serves as Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology, Vice Chair of Education, and Education Director of the McKnight Brain Institute in the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami (UM) Miller School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, and his medical internship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, FL. Prior to joining UM, he served as Associate Medical Director of the Wien Center for Alzheimers disease and Memory Disorders at Mount Sinai.

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