Eating for better health the easy way

Me dressed for a party
Me dressed for a party

To start here is a little information about me. I'm currently about 70 lbs overweight, and 58 yrs of age. I do not have High blood pressure, diabetes, High cholesterol or any of those other ailments people of my age and weight are suppose to have. Not even close. My doctor says it is because I eat well, and exercise. Now if I could get that darn portion size under control, I just might lose weight. Sadly, I like to eat and I am a stress eater.

I started reviewing and making changes in my food and exercise choices about 20 years ago. The reason was I was sick all the time. Everything I ate resulted in a prolong visit to the bathroom. Sometimes I felt so so bad I would just lay on the cool tile unable to move. The pills my doctor prescribed did not help. I also developed stomach flu's at the drop of the hat, and colds. In short I was sick all the time, and I was tired of being sick. I rarely get sick now and believe it is all about food choices and exercise.

To begin I began reading every diet, and healthy eating book I could lay my hands on. The interesting part was how many of the diet and healthy eating books basically had the same recommendations. I began to keep track of what was common in each book and removed the latest marketing gimmick. Anyone remember the one about eating nothing but Salmon for 3 days? Yucky, and I like Salmon, but the book itself had very good information.

The following became my rules to live by. There are about 10 and I think the rules are pretty simple.

1. My first rule is to prepare as much food as possible at home. This helps cut back the amount of salt, fat and sugar taken in. I'm not talking fancy cooking here, just basic, simple cooking. Grill, broil or bake the meat. Blanch vegetables instead of boil. Potatoes either baked or boiled and mashed, brown rice (no white) cooked in chicken broth, (helps with flavor and adds protein) salads, lots of salads, go ahead and buy the bags, ( they wash the stuff more than I do. I'm not washing lettuce 3 to 7 times. Give me a break) low fat margarine's, non-fat milk. I can make most dinners in 20 to 60 minutes depending on the meat. Chicken takes 45 minutes, Pork depending on the cut 20 to 45 min, Beef, depending on the cut, 12 to 30 min.

2. Next fast food, is not to be eaten 95% of the time. We all know Fast food is high salt and high fat. I'm not saying I never eat fast food. I'm saying it is not my first choice. I think I eat Fast food, about 3-4 times a year. I try to limit myself to a decent restaurant no more than once a week. Even than I make a effort to choose wisely. That does not mean salads only. I choose fish most often because I don't cook it at home, and always have the sauce or dressing on the side. Ordering the sauce, gravy,dressing, etc. on the side is very important. Drizzle a very light amount on the food, try to leave more than half in the container. Never ever request a second one.

3. I use small amounts of processed foods, I try for none, but it is just not reasonable. Hamburger Helper is on my no no list, along with most can foods, ( I do use low sodium cream of mushroom soup) and foods like potato chips, cookies, crackers, etc. These items have too much, sodium, fat, and/or sugar, not to mention preservatives. OK for a treat once in awhile, just not daily consumption. I use frozen vegetables in most of my dishes instead of can if I can not get fresh.

4. Read all labels on products and compare before buying. Look for whole grain products. Choose the products with the highest fiber made with whole grains. Do not buy anything that is white, or says it has been "enriched". Another no no on my list. Enriched means the product was processed to the point all the original nutrients were removed, and they had to chemically put them back. Nice marketing ploy though, isn't it?

5. Eat meat. Not a lot, but eat it. No more than 6 ounces in a meal, less is better. There are some nutrients our bodies need that is only found in meat. Go ahead and eat either dark or white meat chicken. Don't worry about the skin, most of the fat cooks off, unless it is fried. I used to remove all the skin, even though I love skin, than I read some of the newer studies. Guess what? If the chicken is grilled or broiled there isn't that much difference in fat. Also dark meat has a higher nutritional value than white and the same amount of fat. A whole generation has been getting fat thinking they are eating healthy by eating only Chicken Breasts. Very annoying.

Beef, lamb, and pork try to select nicely trimmed meat, but again, don't worry to much about the fat, as most will cook off, when grilled. Think hamburger. That fat will flow out and it will stick together better if you buy regular instead of low fat. The only exception is making spagetti sauce, than buy the leanest stuff, unless you really enjoy draining the meat. I don't. Do cut off any large chunks of fat before eating.

If you like fish, I do, my husband doesn't, so I usually order at a restaurant, I love sushi. Fish can be baked in foil, helps keep the smell down, or grilled.

Eat low to non- fat dairy products. I eat low fat cottage cheese, low fat, sugar free yogurt and low fat string cheese as well as non-fat milk. Sometimes I substitute pudding cups.

Also eat eggs, with the yolk. The latest studies have found eggs, have so much value, even the cholesterol is good for us.

6. Grill, broil or bake meat. This will remove most of the fat and add flavor. Do not boil meat. This, like vegetables, removes the nutrients, and flavor. Pan fry on rare occasions, as a treat, and when you do pan fry, use Pam, or Olive Oil or a combination of the two. Extra Virgin is best, but if you don't like the taste, use the light. Again, Pan frying is to be done occasionally, not every night. Was probably the hardest lesson I learned. I do like a pan seared steak with a reduction sauce. Sigh. Really needs to be a treat. Very high fat.

7. Use fresh ground sea salt and pepper. This was one of the best things I learned over the years. I use less salt since I started using Fresh ground Sea Salt. Also if possible grow your own herbs. Just basic herbs. Basil, Oregano, sage, and Parsley well do for most cooking. I also grow Catnip for my kitties. If you can't grow your own, buy the smallest amount possible. Did you know dried herbs are actually only good for 6 months? I still think that is a scam, but I can't find a study to disprove it. Yet.

8. Eat fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables with every meal and snacks. Do not add sugar or salt to the fruit. Choose the brightest colored fruit and vegetables. Red is the best. That means Tomatoes, Raspberries, Strawberries, Red bell peppers etc. The brighter the better. Vegetables, choose a light butter or margarine to dress, if you have to, and choose a light salad dressing. Again read the labels to make sure you are choosing the healthiest product. Watch out for high sodium and sugar content in the product if it says Non-fat. You may need to choose a little higher fat product to lower the sodium/sugar content. If I don't eat the vegetables raw, I either grill, blanch or roast. Blanch is pretty easy. Boil lightly salted water. Put the vegetables in, when the water starts to boil again, drain. Serve either hot or cold. I make a lot of broccoli this way. Blanching leaves the broccoli crisp and bright green, but not raw. I like this preparation method better than steaming. The broccoli ends up being eaten either alone or mixed into a salad.

9. Drink water. Lots of it. Plain. No sodas, period. Not even diet. I swear they must put something in diet soda's to make me eat more. I'm always hungry after a diet soda and my stomach hurts. I also drink 2 cups of coffee a day with Non-fat milk. No creamers and on occasion a glass of non-fat milk. Mostly I put the milk in my coffee. I also like a glass of red wine daily.

10. Exercise. Do some type of exercise daily. Go for a 30 minute walk, or two 15 minute walks, rake leaves, no blowers, sweep, vacuum, dust. In other words, get up and move. This too was hard. I would much rather read a book than exercise, but the muscles don't seem to appreciate being sedentary.

The following are examples of what I normally eat in a day. One of the other things I found durning my research period was how much higher my food bill went up. The books did menus that only used ingredents once in a week, but I had to buy enough that I could serve 3 to 4 times in a week. Who can afford that?

Breakfast (always eat breakfast), Coffee with non-fat milk, either low fat cottage cheese, or an egg either fried in Pam, or scrambled, or poached, a piece of whole grain toast with low fat margarine and fruit. My current mix, it is summer after all, is fresh strawberries, raspberries, banana, blueberries, and sometimes grapes. I usually clean the fruit and cut it up on Sunday. Put it in a lidded container, than just scoop out during the week. Please note I do not add any sugar( or sugar substitute) or salt to the fruit. Melons can also be added. I understand they are very healthy, but I don't like them. My husband does, so occasionally I put in for him, and pick them out. I also like yogert and fruit for breakfast and sometimes a whole grain cereal. I'm not a big lover of cereal.

I also have as a alternate breakfast of low fat peanut butter on whole grain toast with a banana sliced between the bread. I usually split with my husband. This is usually our weekend in a hurry breakfast. Very portable.

Morning snack if I'm hungry, yogurt or string cheese with fruit. Water

Lunch, 1/2 a tuna sandwich. Tuna is made with celery, pickles, and Best Foods light mayo on whole grain bread. Currently I love Orowheats Nutty Grains. 80 calories a slice, 5 grams of fiber 5 grams of protein. Two cups Salad with light ranch dressing. Water. (If I don't want a sandwich, I eat one of Safeway's Eating Right frozen dinners with a salad). They are very good, and most of them are low sodium, low fat, and low suger.

Afternoon snack, again only if hungry, fruit, or carrots and/or celery, maybe another yogurt, or string cheese or cottage cheese. Water

Dinner, I usually grill either, beef, pork, or chicken. Lately we have been cutting a potato in to quarters and put on the grill, brushed with olive oil, we add a salad with light dressing. I usually have a glass of Red wine while I'm cooking, than switch to water with dinner. I sometimes make corn, cleaned and wrapped in foil, for the grill. Corn is a starch, so no potato that night.

Desert, DARK chocolate. 1 to 2 pieces only. I rotate between Dove, Hersey and Lindt. Dark chocolate is lower fat and has higher antioxidants. I love chocolate, so I have to have a little bit every day, otherwise I become cranky, and go on a binge. Binges are bad.

I'm also a Starbucks junky. I try to keep my Starbucks fix to once a week, I would be happier if I could have it daily, but than my wieght would really go through the roof. A tall double chocolate chip Frap with extra chocolate and no whip. I usually buy on Saturday when we do the weekly grocery shopping.

I walk daily from 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on time and energy. I also do weight training at the gym 3 times a week. Need to keep the bones and muscles strong, as I am now pushing 60 and I take vitamin supplements. A multivitamin, B Complex, E, C, Fish Oil, CoQ10, Calcium,( 2 600 mg a day, one in the morning, one in the evening), and 2 glucosamine chondroitin. I stretch the supplements out through the day.

Just as info I did loose 50+ lbs with the above eating habits, but that required monitoring portions. Than both my parents past away, see my hub, My Dad had Parkinson, and I lost my job of 22 yrs, 3 months after my mother passed away. My company relocated my job from California to Florida and we choose not to relocate as my husband's father was pushing 90 and we had just lost both my parents. Guess who is stress eater? ME! She says waving her had in the air. However even though I gained the weight back after these 3 high stress disasters hit so close together, I did not change my eating habits that much, I just ate too much food. This was confirmed by my Doctor doing a physical on me. He was very surprised that other than the weight gain, I still had not developed any major health issues. That made me feel so much better. I know if I just started to monitor the portions again, 3 ounces of meat instead of 6 etc, the weight would come back off. I'm just not ready to take the extra step. For now I am happy being overweight and healthy.

I wrote this hub in hopes that others will understand it is not that hard to be healthy, and that a person just needs to make small changes in thier habits to make a significant difference. Good luck.

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