26 March 2009

You Are What You Eat

A long time ago (in January) I read a really great book that Eric's dad recommended to me. It's got the longest title known to man: The Culprit and the Cure; Why Lifestyle is the Culprit Behind America's Poor Health and how Transforming that Lifestyle Can be the Cure by Steven G. Aldana.

It was not necessarily an entertaining read, but it was definitely quite interesting and enlightening. The book is not just about how important it is to eat healthfully and have a healthy lifestyle; it was about WHY fruits and vegetables, whole grains, certain types of fat, and exercise are good for you. And it was about WHY refined grains, excessive sugar, simple starches, and a sedentary lifestyle are bad for you. Yet, despite the technical nature of nutrition, the book was easy to read and understand. Aldana explains the whys of healthy eating without getting too technical (read: boring).

That's my book review. Here's how it's changed my lifestyle:

Whole grains.
We only buy whole wheat bread. Yes, it can be more expensive, but it is so much better for you. Do you know what the glycemic index is? You can read about it here, but a quick definition is simply that some carbs travel through your body faster than others. The faster it goes, the higher the index number. The goal is to eat carbs with LOW glycemic index values because they stick with you longer and provide you better energy. Now, the point- a piece of white bread has a HIGHER glycemic index than a spoonful of sugar. That means a spoonful of sugar will give you longer lasting energy than a piece of white bread. Grains come in three parts: bran, endosperm and germ. Refined grains (white rice and white flour) take out the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm. This is bad because the healthiest part of the grain is in the bran and germ. In other words, white bread isn't necessarily BAD for you, it's just not as good for you as it could be if it were brown.

With all that said, we do not eat brown rice. Eric just hates it. So, we eat white rice. But, we do spend the extra money to have whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta. If we catch the wheat pasta on sale, then we stock up. It is worth it to us to spend the extra money to have longer, healthier lives.

Trans fats. There is absolutely no room in a healthy diet for trans fats. I am doing everything I can to eliminate them.

Meat. You don't need to eat meat every day. It's better for your health (and the environment, and the starving people of the world) if you cut back your meat. It's recommended that you only have red meat a few times a week. Other than that, focus on chicken and fish. Also, a serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards, not a plate.

Yes, we still eat meat. We are not gung-ho animal-rights vegetarians. But we do try to have a few vegetarian meals each week.

Legumes are great! We each try to have at least one serving of legumes every day. We especially focus on legumes when we are having a vegetarian meal. They are an excellent source of protein and fiber, and they are very cheap in most forms. Usually we eat a lot of beans, but lentils are also an option, as are nuts (usually in the form of peanut butter).

Low-fat dairy products. Skim milk makes me want to have convulsions on the floor. But! I find 1% milk highly tolerable. Also, I buy low-fat yogurts and non-fat sour cream. Dairy products have a lot of calcium (in case you weren't aware) and proteins, but I get enough fat elsewhere in my diet, so I can skip the fat my lovely dairy products provide.

Fish. Hello, like we can actually afford fish. Our fish is called tuna. It's not fancy, but it provides us with the nutrients we need, and it is affordable. Plus, we keep our eyes peeled for good fish deals.

Fruits and vegetables. I work really hard to get five of these a day. It is difficult for me. My favorite snack is a piece of bread, not a piece of fruit. But, I'm working on it.

With all that said, I still have areas that definitely need improvement. Like physical activity. I was doing the Couch to 5k program, but then Eric and I moved, and now I have no treadmill. So, clearly that means I cannot run. Like, ever. At all. I do walk to work sometimes. Or home from work. But that's going to end pretty soon. So, yes. I need to exercise more.

I eat too many sweets. There's really not another way to put it. I will not decline a bowl of ice cream or the offering of candy or pie or cake or brownies. I'm working on this, though, and I really try to limit my desserts to no more than one per day. Usually I don't even have that much. The real problem lies with the SIZE of the dessert.

And, one more thing. Despite how this sounds, we are not super meticulous about what we eat. We are more meticulous about what we BUY. If you do not buy junk, then you have no junk to eat. And of course, if we are over at your house and you cook us up steaks or give us white hamburger buns, we will not refuse to eat; that would be rude. We want to be healthy people, but we don't want to be food elitists.


Janssen said...

Great post. I'll try and convince Bart to switch to brown rice since it doesn't bother me at all :)

And maybe I will stop being a cheapskate and get some whole wheat pasta.

Bart said...

I'm impressed, Sherry. I had no idea you were into health and fitness, and I'm happy to learn that you are.

A few weeks ago I realized I was frustrated about my approach to eating. It's not that I was necessarily eating a ton of unhealthy stuff, but rather that I never had kept track of what I ate well enough to know whether I needed to change my eating habits or not.

Yesterday, Janssen and I joined fitday.com, which seems like a pretty useful website to help us track our daily physical activity and caloric intake. So far, it seems like a fun game and it gives me satisfaction to have a much better visual on what I'm eating. The feeling is similar to tracking and budgeting our finances, and should allow us to be more strategic in our approach to eating. Which is good for one's health, or so I hear.

Bart said...

Oh, and no brown rice. It's just not tasty.

Giggles said...

One thing about wheat bread, check the ingredients to see if it actually is wheat bread. If the first ingredient is "enriched flour" then it's just white bread dressed up to look like wheat. I'd say probably 75% of wheat breads fall under that category.

I've dropped down to 1% milk, but I can't make it down to skim. Skim is just too watery for me. I accidentally bought 2% a month or so ago and was surprised I could tell the difference.

Shalissa said...

Good reminders for all of us!
I have no treadmill either, and since outside is often too hot/rainy/dark etc., I've started using workout videos on YouTube. There are lots of 10 minute ones posted as ads for longer ones to buy. Stack a few of these back to back and you never have to rent them.

Dusty and Amy said...

GREAT post, Sherry! Everything you said is right on. Bart, fitday.com is a great resource especially for learning how to balance your food ratios. After a month (or less) you should be able to keep up your habits you learned by yourself. It's all just about habits.

Janssen, if you actually like whole wheat pasta, go ahead and get it because since it is a lot more dense with nutrients you actually eat A LOT less of it and then the money thing kind of balances out because you don't use as much.

I would like to check out that book, Sherry.

Oh and I will email you about what I do with Beachbody fitness coaching. If any of you want to learn more about how I can be your fitness coach for free go here: www.teambeachbody.com/amyrhoads. Sherry, I will email you with more details.