At my husband Al’s last medical visit his doctor was impressed.* He asked me, “What are you eating? What diet do you have him on?” Al’s blood pressure was down, he was losing weight, and generally doing well. His doctor knew what most of us do – that what we eat makes a big difference in how we feel and in so many areas of our health. I’m proud of my husband! But how did we do it?
I’ve written previously about my spiritual breakfast. Here I talk about the healthy nutrition plan I follow.
I grew up a vegetarian, which meant I enjoyed a lot of fruits and vegetables. That was the good part. But there were other parts of my diet that weren’t so good. I ate a lot of pasta, white rice, bread, and pastries. I did leave my vegetarian ways later, but the other habits persisted.
Before we got married my husband was used to a lot of red meat, processed meat, and grease, with very little fruits and vegetables. Fast food, snacks, and processed baked goods were staples for him.
When we got married both of us had to make some changes, and it’s all been for the better. We haven’t made these changes all at once, but now they are firmly a part of what we do every day. There’s no magic formula to our diet. If there’s one underlying principle for the way we eat, it’s to stay as close to natural foods as possible. Here are some specifics:
- Fresh vegetables every day. That may sound expensive, but it’s really not. We’ve found a farmer’s market type store close to where we live, and my husband has become really good at shopping for inexpensive fresh vegetables. There are occasional days when we don’t get our fresh veggies, but we miss it if we don’t have asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or some other veggies for dinner.
- Unprocessed low-fat protein. Or at least as unprocessed as possible. That means mostly fish or chicken, baked or fixed in the crock-pot, without additives as much as possible. I don’t use processed meat or red meat at all, and my husband will only eat these perhaps once a week now.
- Smaller amounts of whole-grain bread and other wheat products. I’m not one who goes for gluten-free, but I can say that I don’t feel nearly as well after a meal of pasta as I do after baked fish. We do incorporate a few pieces of whole-grain bread a week, and a few servings of whole-grain low-sugar cereal, but much less wheat than I had been used to. And I feel better.
- Fresh fruit regularly. We love grapefruit in the morning, and strawberries have become a treat in our household. We don’t have as much fresh fruit as we do fresh vegetables, but there’s almost always some fruit in the house.
- Eating out only infrequently. Even with our very busy lives, we eat out only once a week. And that includes lunches. It saves money, and I am certain our diet is healthier because of it. I can’t remember the last time we purchased fast food – it’s probably been two or three months. We take one evening a week to eat out together, and we find ourselves choosing mostly poultry or fish for those meals as well.
- When we do use oil, it’s olive oil. We use it to cook the occasional eggs, to coat chicken for baking and to hold the seasonings, and any other needs. It’s the only oil we have in the house.
- Baked goods such as cookies or pastries, chips, sodas – those just aren’t in our house. We will have some ice cream every now and then – that’s one treat both of us enjoy. But that’s an every-now-and-then thing, not every day.
We don’t count calories. We do focus on the quality of the protein and vegetables we eat, and that is almost always very satisfying without consuming too large a quantity of food.
We DO read labels. For anything we DO purchase that is processed at all, we check for the amount of sodium, grams of sugar, trans fats, etc. But the more fresh foods you use, the less labels there are to read!
There was a time in my life when I weighed more than was healthy. And my husband struggled a lot with his weight after quitting smoking. But now I’m at a healthy weight without even trying, and he is losing weight steadily and without feeling a bit deprived. I believe the way we’re eating has been the major factor in managing our weight without struggle.
Could we do better? Sometimes yes. Are we doing quite well? Absolutely! And the way we eat is something we can continue indefinitely. We’re not on a diet – we’re eating healthy!
And my husband will tell you he doesn’t miss the grease and processed meats at all! When he thinks about it, he tells me it’s not even appealing any longer. He looks forward to our vegetables!
Personally I believe someone can eat healthy as a vegetarian, although I don’t believe I was. I relied too much on things like pasta, cheese, and bread. If one took the time and effort to regularly incorporate beans and other legumes in your diet, vegetarianism would be the least expensive and most environmentally friendly of all ways to eat, as well as very healthy. In our household we’re closer to that than ever before.
So, in answer to my husband’s doctor, our food plan is very simple. We eat vegetables and fruits, healthy protein, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. And it works!
*I wrote this article a few years ago. I’m certain our healthier eating helped my husband live longer than he would have otherwise even with his health challenges. And I’m still eating this way today – and I’m feeling better than ever.
What about you? What is your nutrition plan? Are you satisfied with it? Have you made any changes lately? What changes do you plan to make? Leave a comment below.
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