His patients do know, for the most part, what the bad foods are, Blumenthal said. They're aware of trans fats and know that to avoid fried food. Americans know the rules, but they break them, Blumenthal said. The evidence, he said, is all around us. "Most Americans are overweight or obese."
The best chance for success, he said, comes when his patients take a consistent approach. "Certain types of food, with lots of sugar and fat, should be reserved for special occasions," he said.
Blumenthal prefers not to focus on the things healthy eating shouldn't be. "People shouldn't feel overly deprived. We try to emphasize following a healthy, nutritious diet. People do better If you emphasize the good stuff to eat. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and fibers tend to fill you up more," he said, "and they're healthier for you than high-glycemic food like potatoes, rice and white bread."
For those who are more comfortable with packaged programs, Blumenthal advocates the South Beach Diet, whose faddish-sounding name belies the fact that it was developed by a cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatson. He also likes the website myfitnesspal.com, which helps users keep a journal of their caloric intake and exercise.
Sampson and Fick will present, along with Dr. Dana Simpler, a workshop on healthy eating on Friday at the Dogwood. Simpler, who will discuss some of the science underpinning nutritional guidelines, thinks that institutional advice could be more explicit about the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet.
"I understand it," Simpler said. "Rather than ask a lot and get nothing, they'd rather ask a little and get something. But I think people need to see the science and decide for themselves," Simpler said.
But the basic search for good advice, Lee said, should be over. "There are always things in the gray zone. What's not in the gray zone is that people should exercise more, lower number of calories, less salt, more potassium."
Things that are getting a little easier, even when not dining at home.
The coming weekend is full of events devoted to heart-healthy eating:
On Friday, Galen Sampson will present a workshop on healthy eating at Dogwood with Dr. Dana Simpler and nutrition consultant Karen Fick. The event will include background on the science of heathy eating, information about implementing a healthy diet, a cooking demonstration and lunch prepared by Sampson. The event is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Dogwood, 911 W. 36th St. The cost is $75. For information call 410-563-1700.
On Saturday, chef, journalist and author Diane Kochilas will lead a master class in Greek country cooking at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. The event, a fundraiser for the church's women's guild, will highlight some of Kochilas' favorite recipes and culinary techniques. Tickets are $65 per person and include a tasting reception and signings of Kochilas' new book, "The Country Cooking of Greece," which will also be on sale at the event. The master class in Greek cooking with Diane Kochilas will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 19 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, 24 W. Preston St. The cost is $65. Go to http://www.goannun.org for more information.
On Saturday night, the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute holds its Heartfest benefit with "heart-healthy cuisine prepared by local restaurants including Zia's and Tark's Grill and musical performances by the Heart Attackers, whose band members are composed of cardiologists, a gastroenterologist, a urologist and other medical professionals. There will also be educational and interactive displays created by Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute. The event is 7:30 p.m. to midnight at Martin's Valley Mansion, 594 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville. Tickets are $125. For information, call 410-560-0677.