Creating a Culture of High Reliability at Altru

High reliabilityIt has been well over a decade since the Institutes of Medicine published, “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Healthcare System,” sending reverberations through the healthcare community that can still be felt today. This groundbreaking report called attention to the devastating harm that can be caused by medical errors. It was a call to action for provider organizations to radically improve the safety and reliability of medical processes.

In the years since, “To Err is Human…”, healthcare organizations have increasingly drawn from the lessons of other high-safety impact industries to reduce risks. A couple of notable examples are the aviation and nuclear industries, where aggressive safety improvements have accounted for a more than 90 percent reduction in safety-related events. In each of these cases, high reliability was achieved by carefully analyzing sources of error and engineering systems to prevent them from occurring, even when unexpected things happen.  

At Altru, we’re applying those same high reliability concepts to the care that we give every day. Delivering the safest care possible is the very foundation of World-Class Care. But the journey doesn’t end there. Along the way, we’ve discovered that the techniques used to provide consistently safe care are the very same tools that can be used to ensure consistently high quality care and a consistently excellent patient experience.

The idea behind this is simple: as we design the best care processes possible, we engineer into them mechanisms to make sure they deliver what they’re supposed to every single time, without exception. We have clear standards and resilient processes that prevent errors and other failures.

Our goal is to consistently deliver the best care to our patients and community. We are committed to achieving nothing less than World-Class Care.

See also:

Dave MolmenDave Molmen is Altru’s Chief Executive Officer. In his free time, Dave enjoys music, wood-working and cycling. 

Lifestyle Tips for Coping with Psoriasis

PsoriasisPsoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes thick, red, scaly patches on the skin. One third of people with psoriasis have a family history of it. Over three percent of the population develops psoriasis, and up to 11 percent of psoriasis patients have been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.

The disease can show up anywhere on the skin and nails, and each area of the body requires different treatment. Psoriasis can often affect the elbows, knees, hands, feet and scalp. Common triggers for psoriasis include: infections, certain medications, stress and injury to the skin. Many people report that it worsens in the winter. It is not contagious.

Jennifer Tinkler, dermatology FNP, shares strategies for coping with lifestyle changes of psoriasis.

1. Controlling stress may help psoriasis. Many people with psoriasis claim stress makes it worse. At the same time, a psoriasis flare can increase stress. Inflammation is the body’s way of coping with stress. Learn to manage stress effectively with meditation, exercise, or consider attending a class or seeing a therapist who specializes in stress management.

2. Dietary changes may help psoriasis. A healthy diet can help your body function at its highest level, reduce comorbidity and improve a person’s metabolic profile. Research in the relationship of diet and psoriasis is ongoing.

3. The itch of psoriasis may have a bigger impact on quality of life than the visible effect of the disease. Itch can cause lesions. At-home remedies include:

  • Keep skin moisturized. Even better: cool moisturizer in the fridge prior to use.
  • Cold showers and cold packs can offer relief.
  • Avoid hot showers and limit showers to 10 minutes or less.
  • Apply moisturizer after a shower or bath.
  • Antihistamines and prescription treatments can also help.

4. Psoriasis may impact your relationships, but it does not have to control them. It can be difficult to talk to friends and family about your psoriasis and how it affects your life. Connect with other people living with psoriasis at

5. Treatment is different for each area of the body and each of the five types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular and erythrodermic. Treatment often involves shampoos, salicylic acid, tar preparations, prescription creams, solutions and ointments, light therapy or laser treatment and prescription medications taken orally or by injection.

Seeking an expert’s opinion is the best way to determine the next step in treating psoriasis. Truyu expert providers in dermatology work closely with Altru Health System providers to offer a wide range of dermatology services, providing comprehensive and continuous care. Schedule a consultation through MyHealth or call 701.780.6623. 

Tinkler, JenniferJennifer Tinkler, FNP-C, provides expert dermatology services at Truyu Aesthetic Center in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Jennifer is a member of the National Psoriasis Foundation and Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Society. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, reading and spending time with her family.


Walking Around Altru, Greater Grand Forks and the World

In 2012, Quebec native Jean Béliveau finished his mission to walk around the world, 11 years after he started. For Béliveau, walking around the world started as a question and turned into a journey of discovery.

Although Altru employees aren’t literally walking around the world, they are well on their way to walking the earth’s circumference: 24,901 miles. As of March 6, 2015, Altru employees have logged over 14,111.67 miles of exercise through the Healthy Choices Greater Grand Forks Walking Challenge. That’s over half the distance around earth!

Walking Challenge

Meet the Altru Walkers

Dianne Vold | Prevent Diabetes
Dianne Vold, of Altru’s Research Center, grew up in a generation when people didn’t go to the gym. She considers herself in the “learning phase,” still figuring out how to incorporate exercise into her lifestyle.

She’s joined the walking challenge to prevent the strong history of diabetes in her family. She de-stresses at the gym, where she weight-trains and walks on the treadmill.

Gym time is “me time,” she explains. “I’m not going to quit. It’s the first time I can say, ‘I’m doing it for me.’”

Dianne is excited for the weather to get nicer so she can bike and walk outside.

Nicole Benson | Leading by Example
Nicole Benson, administrative assistant, sometimes spends more time at her desk than she’d like. She exercises to stay on top of her mental health. Nicole spends time with her husband and son by playing basketball, golfing and riding bike. She looks forward to the day when her one-year-old daughter, Blake, will join them.

“I want to lead by example. I want my kids to see we can exercise together.”

Nicole loves running because it allows her to catch up with her good friend, Nikki. Early morning runs allow her to take in the beauty of the Greater Grand Forks Greenway. She loves the way she feels after a challenging workout.

Nicole Collage

Art Culver | Get Back in Shape
Art Culver, manager of Altru’s Ambulance Services, uses the walking challenge as a tool to get back in shape. Over the last few years, he’s noticed his life has been sedentary. Starting in December, he downloaded the Pedometer++ app and began tracking his miles. Before the challenge, Art walked an average of 1.5 miles per day. Now he averages 3.8 miles daily.

Several times during his work day, he walks to the end of the Valley Eldercare hallway and back.

“I like tracking miles.” He looks at the weekly mileage and likes to estimate how many of those miles he walked.

Since Art began walking, he has noticed it’s become easier. At times walking brings its challenges. Last week Art returned from a mission trip to Honduras with Calvary Lutheran Church.

One morning began at 4 a.m., when Art and his team members climbed 2.2 miles to the top of El Triunfo de la Cruz. “Honestly, I was exhausted. The climb was rocky and straight up.” Despite his weariness, Art was pleased to be able to do it, and to log 6.8 total miles that day.

Art's Selfie

Art has noticed other changes in his habits. “I don’t take the elevators anymore, even if I’m going to the fifth floor.”

At times, Art still eats junk food, but he sets limits. Art has lost six pounds since January and is looking forward to spring when he can walk with his dog, Macy.

Walking may seem like a small change, but for Art it’s made a lot of difference.

Jennifer Neis | Time in the Outdoors with Baxter
Jennifer Neis, website coordinator, exercises for a number of reasons. First, it gives her time with her dog, Baxter. Being a lover of warm weather, walking and biking allows her to spend time in nature. It clears her mind, burns calories and gives her the “me” time she needs. “Feeling good and sleeping well keeps me motivated,” she says.


Chris Waind | Social Time
Altru orderly, Chris Waind, is a social guy. He views exercise as a way to interact with others, even if that means friendly competition. He enjoys racquetball, swimming, biking, hockey and kayaking.

“Competition keeps exercise fun.”

Katie Torkelson | Incorporating Exercise into the Day
Katie Torkelson isn’t a huge fan of working out. This year she decided to make small changes, incorporating exercise into her everyday life. As an IV resource nurse, she visits different areas of the health system assessing patients. She now takes the stairs rather than the elevator.

“Climbing five flights of stairs sure gets my heart racing. It’s gotten easier week by week.”

Katie also parks far away from entrances, which forces her to walk.

“It’s an easy way to get exercise without thinking about it. If I can do it (exercise) without trying, that works better!”

While recovering from a back injury, Katie explains, “Walking is exercise I can easily do without worrying about reinjuring anything or overdoing it.”

Jana Sherry | Walking is a Gift
Jana Sherry walks because she can. In her role as a diabetes educator, she sees patients struggling with walking. This reminds her how the ability to walk is a gift and one she doesn’t take for granted.

Jana has a long history of back problems, which she says is her biggest motivator.

“I need to keep moving or the problems will get worse,” Jana says. “Any movement is better than nothing.”

Lola, Harley and Jana

You don’t have to climb a mountain or run a marathon. You do have to make a choice; a choice to take steps to a healthier lifestyle.

Kaia Lunde | Know the Benefits
Exercise energizes me. In college, I’ve studied the benefits and made a choice to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

I’m curious. Why are you walking? Send me an email, I’d love to hear from you.

Join this community movement at

Kaia LundeKaia Lunde, public relations associate, was born in Africa where she lived the first six years of her life. After attending Griggs County Central in Cooperstown, she graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. She loves biking, reading, running, journaling, taking pictures and making memories with her friends and family. She also enjoys finding spontaneous heart shapes in food, nature and on the road.



See also:

5 Reasons to Run for Your Buns (5K)

5 Reasons to Run for Your BunsThis blog post was written in collaboration with Kamrin Macki, a nurse practitioner with Altru’s Gastroenterology Clinic.

As a health care provider, I know the importance of staying healthy. I try to make conscious decisions about what I eat and make sure to exercise on a regular basis. I do my best to share the importance of a healthy lifestyle with my patients by encouraging them to eat healthy, exercise regularly and stay on top of their health.

Last year, I was able to mix business with my favorite hobby as we held the inaugural Run for Your Buns 5K run/walk benefitting colon cancer. Over 200 participants and 30 volunteers came together on a beautiful June morning to raise awareness of the importance of screening colonoscopy. Take a look at last year’s fun.

Combining race registrations with sponsorship support from local businesses, Run for Your Buns presented a check for $5,000 to Altru Health Foundation to assist uninsured and underinsured patients cover the cost of their colonoscopy.

Join us for this year’s race on Saturday, June 13, 2015. On the fence? Here are a few reasons you should Run for Your Buns:

  1. It’s held on the Greater Grand Forks Greenway. The race begins in Lincoln Park and follows the Greenway towards downtown Grand Forks. Cross under the Sorlie Bridge, turn around and head back to the park. Post-race refreshments and medals will be waiting for you.
  2. Run for Your Buns is open to all ability levels. Whether you run a 5K in the blink of an eye, or join friends for a walk on the course, everyone is welcome to participate. Last year, we had people finish in less than 20 minutes, children pushed in strollers, people over the age of 70 and all abilities and ages in between.
  3. Use Run for Your Buns as a training race for other races. A 5K is a good race to train for if you’re new to running or are looking to improve your pace for longer races. Red River Runners offers a variety of group runs to get you in shape. A quick Google search will also present multiple Couch to 5K training programs. Start now, and you’ll be ready by June 13.
  4. The inflatable colon will be there. What can be more exciting than that? Take a walk through the colon and learn about the various stages of colon cancer. Colonoscopy can be a difficult subject for some people. This educational tool brings a lighter side to the topic of colon health.

  5. You’re making a difference in the fight against colon cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. Think of it this way – for every 20 people who sign up for this race, one will develop colon cancer. Together, we can provide financial assistance to those who can’t afford a colonoscopy and potentially save someone’s life.

Register Now
So what do you say? Will you Run for Your Buns, and others? Register by May 13 to guarantee your Run for Your Buns technical shirt. All participants will receive a medal, and all proceeds will again be donated to Altru Health Foundation.

KamiKamrin Macki is a wife, mother, friend, gastroenterology nurse practitioner, artist, avid runner, triathlete, and amateur gourmet gluten-free chef.

Real. Good. Veggies. | Tips for Sneaking Them in at Every Meal

Eat Your VeggiesRemember when you were young and your mom told you to eat your vegetables? She was actually onto something. Vegetables can be viewed as nature’s multivitamin. Common nutrients include fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and iron.

As a registered dietitian, I’m not too surprised when people tell me they don’t enjoy vegetables. If I were prescribed a daily bowl of iceberg lettuce topped with pale tomatoes, I’d probably have a hard time finding motivation to eat the recommended daily servings of vegetables.

When planning your week’s meals, here are some suggestions to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Your mom (and your body) will thank you.

» For a savory scramble, brown some onions and add fresh or frozen spinach to the pan before adding your eggs.

» Add onions or peppers to hash browns for a little color and crunch.

» Top off your pancakes or waffle with shredded carrots. Their sweetness makes for a tasty topping or added mix-in.

» Pack a sandwich bag of raw carrots, celery, bell pepper slices or cherry tomatoes. Prepare several snack bags at the same time for the week ahead.

» Looking for a crunchy and tangy pairing? Dip your veggies in homemade hummus.

Lunch entrée – Chili
» Carrots, celery and onions are considered the holy trinity of vegetables because of the flavorful magic that happens when they’re cooked together.  Make a pot of homemade chili and include these vegetables in it. Prepare it on the weekend and you’ve got  lunch handled for the week.

» It’s hard to find a vegetable that doesn’t taste good in chili. If you’re longing for a thick and hearty texture, look no further than canned pumpkin puree. It makes any chili or stew filling and creamy without actually using cream.

Lunch side
» Reinvent your idea of a side salad with new ingredients like snap peas, nuts, avocado, zucchini, oranges or berries.

» Looking for a new dressing? Try this 3-2-1 recipe: 3 parts olive oil, 2 parts white wine vinegar, 1 part Dijon mustard. This simple vinaigrette is light, zesty and once again, creamy without the cream.

» Tired of soggy salad? Keep your salad and dressing separate in one of the many divided containers available in stores.

Dinner entrée
» Hot dishes scream for vegetables! Onions, mushrooms, garlic, zucchini and yellow squash will cook right along with your noodles and meat. Sautéing them first will eliminate some of their water content.

» Picky eater at home? Add sautéed veggies to your pasta sauce to balance their flavor with the sweet sauce. To help with consistency, you can even put the sauce and veggies in a blender to puree to one smooth texture. I doubt anyone will know they’re in there.

Dinner side
» During colder months, frozen vegetables are your best friend. They’re crisper, fresher and lower in sodium than their canned counterparts. They’ll also save you money when most “fresh” vegetables are shipped to our neck of the woods from far away.

» Steam frozen vegetables in their microwaveable bag or throw them in a stovetop steamer according to package directions.

» I like to add olive oil, lemon juice and a spice blend (Mrs. Dash or McCormick’s Perfect Pinch). If you haven’t tried lemon juice as a substitute for salt, you’re in for a treat.

» Vegetables for dessert? I promise you won’t regret it.

» Baking acorn or butternut squash brings out its natural sweetness. Cut the squash in half and remove the pulp and seeds. Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, a tablespoon of sugar and a dash of salt with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Brush this mixture inside the two halves and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Depending on the size and type of squash, one squash will make two to four filling servings.

So…are you hungry for vegetables yet?

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

Colonoscopy: Real Questions, Real Answers from Altru’s Gastroenterology Providers

Colonscopy QuestionsFriend: What’d you get for your 50th birthday?

You: I got a colonoscopy!

Probably not the answer your friend was looking for.

While a colonoscopy isn’t as exciting as a new gadget or as fancy as a new piece of jewelry, it’s one of the best presents you can give yourself (and those who love you).

Altru’s Gastroenterology Providers tackle some of the frequently asked questions about colonoscopy in the first edition of Real Questions, Real Answers.

Do I really need to have a colonoscopy? What are the chances you’ll find something?

» Yes. While screenings for other cancers detect the presence of cancer, colonoscopy screenings can prevent colon cancer. During a colonoscopy, the physician is looking for polyps, small growths that over time can become cancer.

» If a polyp is found, the physician will remove it. In those over 50, polyps are found in approximately 25 percent of males and 15 percent of females, but are usually not cancerous. One in 20 adults will develop colon cancer in their lifetime. If caught early, colon cancer has a 90 percent cure rate.

» Colonoscopy is recommended beginning at age 50 and continuing until 75 years of age. People with an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age, and may need to be tested more frequently.

Real answers by Anthony Chu, MD.

Will my insurance cover the procedure?

» Most insurance plans and Medicare cover colorectal cancer screening for people who are age 50 or older. Colorectal cancer screening tests may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay. Consult your insurance provider for your specific coverage.

» Altru’s No-Cost Colonoscopy program offers financial assistance for eligible patients who are uninsured or underinsured. Funding is available from Altru Health Foundation, thanks to Altru’s Gala and grants from the North Dakota Department of Health. For more information, call 701.780.6533.

Real answers by James R. Wood, MD, FACP.

What does the colon prep liquid taste like? Why is it necessary to drink it prior to my colonoscopy?

» Patients have a choice when it comes to colon prep. GoLYTELY® is typically recommended as it has the best coverage from insurance. GoLYTELY® is mildly salty, but patients can mix lemonade or limeade flavor packets in to the liquid to make the flavor more enjoyable. The other two options – Prepopik and Miralax – aren’t covered as well by insurance, resulting in additional out-of-pocket cost to the patient. Prepopik tastes similar to sour orange cream candy. With Miralax, the taste is determined by the Gatorade flavor with which you mix the powder.

» It’s important to drink all of the colon prep to properly clean your colon. This helps to provide your physician with a clear view of your colon.

Real answers by Kamrin Macki, NP.

What happens afterward? Will I be sore? Can I go back to eating normal and continue with my daily activities?

» You will likely not remember much about your appointment due to the sedation used. If there is a need for follow-up, appointments will be scheduled for you. If a biopsy was taken, you will receive a letter with the results in about a week.

» Most people don’t feel any different after a colonoscopy. However, some people may feel a bit bloated or have excess gas for a day or so. It may take a few days to have a bowel movement, and that’s completely fine.

» You can return to your normal diet after your procedure, but may want to avoid gas-forming foods the first day, such as onions, beans and broccoli. You are not to work, drive a vehicle, operate heavy equipment or make any significant decisions (such as buying a new vehicle or a house) until the day after your procedure due to the effects of the sedation used.

Real answers by Brenda Hanson, PA-C, MPAS, RD. 

To schedule a screening colonoscopy, call Altru’s Endoscopy Center at 701.780.6533.

Have you heard? Altru reached Stage 7

Have you heard? Stage 7Remember playing the game of telephone as a kid? Get in a straight line. Whisper a message. Repeat until the message reaches the end of the line. The final message is often nothing like the original. “Altru reached Stage 7 in HIMSS” could become “All through the stage rang 11 hymns.”

The old school way of transposing medical records was much like a game of telephone. Gone are the days of thick, color-coded pen-and-paper charts. Nurses no longer decipher handwritten notes to input important medical information. A paperless environment eliminates opportunities for errors. Information is now entered into the system directly from the caregiver.

In January of 2015, Altru Health System reached Stage 7, the highest level of electronic medical record adoption through HIMSS Analytics. Only 1.07 percent of providers in the nation have reached this dual clinic-hospital status, and Altru is the first in North Dakota.

Simpler for Staff, Simpler for Patients
Remember the days of filling out a new paper questionnaire, listing your entire health history, at every appointment? Those days are gone—for both you and your provider’s office. No more re-entering data into a new chart.

Charts are now carefully and safely tucked away in digital form, easily accessible from virtually anywhere. From a doctor’s office in Rugby, to a hospital room at Altru, to your personal iPhone or tablet, your electronic medical record is completely portable.

People in rural communities can receive care at Altru and easily have their medical records transferred. The safe, digital exchange of information is much faster, potentially saving the patient time and money (not to mention, a headache).

Best Practices for Quality Care
The electronic medical record is built to help guide patient care using best practices. At Altru, we’ve seen a positive impact on quality metrics as a direct result of streamlined technologies.

We are always striving to reduce the number of patient falls. From 2011 to 2014, our fall rate improved significantly from 4.5 falls/1,000 days to 3.1/1,000 days. Sometimes, all we need is a simple reminder. Epic helps our staff take better care of hospital patients by creating reminders throughout the day. For instance, to reduce falls we identify patients at risk in Epic. Through the technology, nurses are prompted to round hourly, with more frequent reminders for at-risk patients. Best practices will also pop up regularly, improving quality of care in a number of ways.

Advanced technology provides a solid foundation for analytics and data. This is becoming more and more important in healthcare as we are continually evaluated on our quality performance, directly impacting the patient experience.

While reaching Stage 7 is an exciting milestone, it’s more than a certification. It’s about consistently providing the highest level of electronic medical records to our patients, ensuring records are portable, well organized and accurate. Electronic medical records make patients’ lives healthier and healthcare providers’ lives easier.

After all, the game of telephone is fun for kids. Not healthcare professionals.

Altru Supports Reducing Binge Drinking in Greater Grand Forks

High-risk alcohol use is a growing concern for the well-being of our entire community, not only for those participating in high-risk behavior, but also their families, friends and neighbors. Data show alcohol is readily available to local youth, most often by family or friends. In Grand Forks County alone, three DUI arrests occur every two days. Alcohol is a factor in 75 percent of the cases in which people received medical treatment after an assault.

Reducing binge drinking is a top priority identified through our Community Health Assessment. We have been working with the Community and Campus Committee on High-Risk Alcohol Use, a group of officials representing the University of North Dakota, various City organizations and area business owners in the hospitality industry, toward this goal.

Recently, this group has received some media attention regarding their efforts to reduce binge drinking. As a community partner, Altru Health System fully supports this group’s efforts to reduce underage and binge drinking in Greater Grand Forks to create a safer and healthier community for all.

This message was sent to the Grand Forks Herald’s editorial section in support of the CCC. Read the letter to the editor>>

DR photo

As Chief Planning Executive, Dennis Reisnour leads the development of Altru’s strategic plan and directs the marketing, communication and overall management of Altru’s brand. In his spare time, he enjoys time at the cabin, culinary explorations and spending time with his granddaughters.

3 Nutrition Trends: Mythbusting with Altru Dietitians [2.0]

MythbustingNew nutrition trends pop up online and in health magazines all the time. With so much advice floating around, it’s easy to get confused about the right foods to eat. We went straight to the experts—Altru’s dietitians—and asked them to bust three popular nutrition trends. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Myth: Coconut oil is healthier than olive oil.

Truth: Coconut oil does not offer any more health benefits beyond olive oil. In fact, it may be unhealthy if consumed in large amounts due to its saturated fat content.

Coconut oil is rapidly increasing in popularity and health claims range from helping people lose weight to curing Alzheimer’s disease. There are two basic categories of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Coconut oil is about 90 percent saturated fat. Too much saturated fat in the diet can raise LDL “bad” cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart disease. It also raises HDL “good” cholesterol.

Olive oil is mainly an unsaturated fat, and unsaturated fats lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and raise HDL “good” cholesterol. Coconut oil can be used occasionally for its flavor or to replace other hard fat sources, such as vegetable shortening in baking.

Nutrition Mythbuster: Becky Westereng, RD, CSSD, LD, CDE   

2. Myth: A healthy diet is too expensive.

Truth: Consider not only the cost at the grocery store, but also the economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases. It’s possible to eat well on a budget.

Obesity, heart disease and diabetes could be dramatically reduced by a healthy diet. While groceries do add up quickly, it’s difficult to put a price on healthy eating. To help keep healthy foods a part of any budget, keep the following in mind:

  • Get into the habit of menu planning and shopping from a list. Avoid wandering aimlessly through the store, picking up items you might end up using.
  • Pay attention at the checkout. Make sure prices are tallied correctly.
  • Buy store brands. These are often 15-20 percent less expensive when compared to national brands, while the quality is very similar.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store to avoid tempting convenience items in the middle aisles. These are often less healthy and more expensive.
  • Use coupons and watch sales to take advantage of great deals. Remember: the deal isn’t so great if you don’t need the food or won’t use it.
  • Eggs, beans, canned tuna, frozen veggies, peanut butter and seasonal fruits and veggies are a few healthy foods that won’t break the bank.
  • Plan a meatless meal once or twice a week. (See Myth #3.)

Nutrition Mythbuster: Lynn Holum, RD, LRD, CDE

3. Myth: A vegetarian diet does not provide enough protein.

Truth: Protein doesn’t just come from animal products. Beans, nuts and whole grains can provide ample protein for almost everyone as part of a well-planned diet.

Plant-based proteins are loaded with other nutrients as well: fiber, folate, potassium and antioxidants, to name a few. Substituting meat for beans and using animal protein as an accent rather than the main event of a dish are effective strategies to prepare filling and nutritious meals. Eating plant-based protein sources may also help you lose weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and slash your risk of cancer and heart disease.

Nutrition Mythbuster: John Crist, RDN, LD

Lifestyle modification, rather than quick fixes, is the way to go for long-term weight loss and maintenance. If you are looking to manage your weight by changing your diet and exercise for the better, check out Altru’s Weight Management Program or visit with one of our dietitians. 

See also: 4 Nutrition Trends: Mythbusting with Altru Dietitians

Antioxidants 101: Your Heart’s Favorite Foods

Eat For Your HeartIn America, it seems the food industry tries to get us to eat in a way our heart doesn’t like. But there are plenty of people (myself included) who find a heart-healthy diet delicious and satisfying!

Switching out saturated and trans fats, salty snacks and refined carbohydrates for antioxidant-rich foods takes patience. Given time, your tastes will adjust so that you can enjoy a diet that’s more in sync with what your body truly wants. Take a look at your food choices this February. Here are a few suggestions to up your antioxidants and nourish your heart and cardiovascular system.

Branch out with your protein sources.
Wild-caught salmon, sardines and tuna are all sources of a powerful anti-inflammatory type of fat called omega-3. Chronic inflammation plays a big role in the hardening of blood vessels which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Soy products, such as edamame, tofu, tempeh and soymilk,  are another excellent source of protein and are rich in antioxidants called isoflavones. Antioxidants help protect your body from damage, so they play a role in fighting inflammation, too.  

  • Challenge: This month, switch from steak to tuna steak, hamburgers to salmon burgers, 2% milk to unsweetened soymilk or meatloaf to edamame. Try a tuna barley salad.

Eat in full color.
Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite spokespeople for good nutrition, Michael Pollan:

“The idea that a healthy plate of food will feature several different colors is a good example of an old wives’ tale about food that turns out to be good science, too. The colors of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain – anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids. Many of these chemicals help protect against chronic diseases, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing as many different phytochemicals as possible.”

  • Challenge: For three days straight, eat one fruit or vegetable from each color group: dark green/orange, purple/blue, red, yellow and white/brown. Chop up some veggies and enjoy homemade hummus.

Flip your fats.
Besides fish, heart-healthy fats come primarily from plant sources like nuts, seeds, oils and avocado. Not only will these sources provide unsaturated fat to help you lower your cholesterol, they also come with a strong dose of vitamin E, another antioxidant to add to your growing collection. 

  • Challenge: For one week, switch from cream-based to oil-based salad dressing, cheese to nuts as a snack, butter to oil when cooking and bacon/sausage to natural peanut butter for your morning protein. Blueberry soymilk smoothie for breakfast? Yes, please.

Fill up on beans and oats.
Although beans and oats have antioxidants too, the highlight of this section is their soluble fiber. This specific type of fiber grabs cholesterol in your digestive tract and removes it from your system, lowering your cholesterol in the process. An added benefit of these high-fiber foods is that they are more filling than refined carbs, making it easier to tell when you’ve had enough. 

  • Challenge: For one week, switch from white bread or refined cereals to oatmeal for your morning carbs. Three times this month, eat a bean-based meal like hummus with veggies, a green salad with black beans or meatless chili. Let your slow-cooker do the work and wake up to apple cinnamon oats. 

When you’re meal planning this month, think about not only what your stomach wants, but what your heart needs.

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.