Our Healthy Eating Guide
We developed a healthy eating guide to help us stay focused on choosing heart healthy foods. So far our healthy eating guide has been working well for us. We certainly can’t say we’re perfect about following all of the guidelines in our plan all of the time. But we can say we are a whole lot better about what we eat now than we were before we started this adventure.
To get started on setting up this healthy eating guide for ourselves, we took three important steps.
We Read Nutrition Facts Labels
Our first step was to make a habit of paying close attention to the Nutrition Facts labels on all foods we purchase. Comparing nutrition labels has been very enlightening and we pay attention to our “shop smart” rules as well. Please click on the “Healthy Eating Plan” button for details.
The Nutrition Facts labels have become our very good friends and they help us out every single time we refer to them. A major benefit to us is that the Percent Daily Values located on the Nutrition Facts label help us to think in terms of a daily food budget. We know if we “spend” too much on one meal, we’ll need to make cutbacks someplace else. Please click on our “Nutrition Labels” button for additional information about reading labels.
By reading and comparing label information we’ve learned that we can’t assume a food item is OK just because the item says “reduced fat”, “low fat”, or “heart healthy”. Those enticing, attention-getting marketing statements are often times quite misleading. Our Food Packaging Section has more information about this.
Out With the Bad
Our second step was to go through our cupboards and refrigerator and toss the “bad” stuff. We figured if it wasn’t good for us, we wanted it gone.
Help to Stay Focused
Third, we put together the following list of Do’s and Don’ts to help us stay focused on making smart food choices.
- Eat a lot of vegetables, both raw and cooked. Our goal is for three or more servings per day. When we use frozen vegetables, we find that the sodium count in frozen vegetables can vary a great deal from product to product.Our favorite ways to cook vegetables include steam, roasting in the oven with a little olive oil and seasoning, and doing a stir fry with a little balsamic vinegar.
- Eat a lot of fruit. Our goal is for two or more servings per day. Fresh, cored pineapple has become a staple in our house. We’re careful about dried fruit because it’s often high in sugar.
- Eat whole grains like quinoa, couscous, oats, brown rice, wild rice, and mixed grains.
- Eat a lot of chicken and turkey (skin removed).
- Eat a lot of fish – we try for twice a week.
- Eat beans and nuts.
- Include eggs – but no more than 2 to 4 egg yolks per week. Egg whites are fine.
- Use low-fat dairy products – milk, yogurt, and cheese. Our cheese choices are the reduced fat varieties of cheese containing no more than 3 grams of total saturated fat per ounce of cheese. Two of our favorite low-fat dairy products are reduced sodium, reduced fat mozzarella, and low-fat Greek yogurt.
- Eat a lot of salads – very fun to experiment with. We usually use balsamic vinegar as dressing.
- Eat whole grain bread products.
- Our favorite drink is water.
- Cook with extra virgin olive oil.
- We season foods with herbs and spices. We’re big fans of the Mrs. Dash products because they add great flavor to food and yet they contain no salt and no MSG. We never use salt.
- Low fat often means a higher sodium count. We make sure to compare labels.
- Avoid processed, prepackaged, and canned foods because they are usually very high in sodium. We search out the no salt or low sodium options if we need to use canned foods and we rinse the product to help remove salt.
- Work on portion control. We pay attention to serving size on the Nutrition Facts labels. We were surprised to learn that a serving size of Deb’s favorite cereal only ¼ cup. This was significantly less than what she had been eating.
- Don’t eat directly from the box or big bag of anything.
- Don’t eat a lot of desserts.
- Don’t eat heavy sauces.
- Don’t eat processed meats especially cold cuts, sausage, bacon, ham, and hot dogs.
- Don’t eat fried foods.
- Don’t grocery shop when hungry.
We have been asked if shopping for healthy foods has increased the cost of our groceries and the answer is no. Any increase in dollars spent on healthy food has been offset by the fact that we no longer spend money on junk food.
We have worked to change the way we think about food. We try to remember the primary purpose of food is nourishment to keep the body functioning properly…but we certainly still like to enjoy what we eat!