By Eli Follick
With the onset of spring, I am eager to get up and take a morning walk. I feel strong and walk longer and faster. I am gleeful knowing that this simple, enjoyable exercise is helping my heart and muscles be healthier. This time also enables me to do some thinking about my day.
Once back home, I eat a healthy, nutritionally dense breakfast within my calculated calorie limits. After my second cup of coffee, I begin my work day on the computer and telephone. One of my clients is having some difficulty since her weight plateaued. She is upset about not continuously losing a pound every week. I can hear the frustration in her voice and sympathize with her as I have had to face that issue more than once.
She sends me her food and exercise logs and as I examine the information, I note several ways to suggest improvements. For example, I suggested she cut back from two slices of toast to one slice but add a small, simple salad to her plate. These and other small changes I offered could add up to a drop of 400 calories a day. With a bit more exercise I am sure she’ll see the weight numbers going down again.
In a few days, I will be giving a lecture to a group at a community for seniors. I was invited since many of the residents are overweight and some are suffering from diseases that could be associated with being overweight. I am not a doctor of medicine. It is very important that anybody who decides to change their lifestyle, whether losing weight, eating differently, or exercising more, consult with their doctors to make sure they are not hurting themselves.
In planning the lecture, I consulted one of the American Heart Association’s websites, heart.org/Lifes8, which suggests individuals develop healthful eating patterns, starting with watching calories and eating smaller portions. Enjoy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins, skinless poultry, and seafood. Limit sweetened drinks, alcohol, salt, red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates like added sugars and processed grain foods, full-fat dairy products, highly processed foods, and tropical oils like coconut and palm. The site adds that trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils (found in some commercially baked goods and fried foods) should be avoided.
The AHA also urges consumers to read labels. Understanding labels on food can help you make more healthful choices by comparing nutrition facts among similar items. Choose products with lower amounts of salt, saturated fat and added sugars. Cooking at home allows you to control nutritional content and ensure the most healthful preparation methods are used. Baking, steaming, lightly sauteing, and roasting, are all better than frying. I like to eat many of my vegetables raw. My favorite snack is a stick or two of celery.
I have had to cook for myself since 2005. The initial challenge was not only what to make but how to get it made. Day by day I learned one thing or another. Now,
I’m not a gourmet cook but I can make some healthful and delicious dishes. I depend on the internet for many of my recipes as well as a few favorite recipe books that I keep near the stove. These include The Plant Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer, No-Fad Diet by the American Heart Association, and The Living Heart Diet by Dr. Michael E. DeBakey. These books are full of great recipes, each accompanied by a listing of calories and primary nutrients. Using those references has gradually enabled me to vary and enjoy successful eating patterns.