Trying to Eat Right for Life

Today is the official first day of our Eat Right for Life challenge at work. I signed up a few weeks ago, not knowing much about the program, except that:

  • it was based on sound science, not a fad diet
  • there would be menu and recipe suggestions to help implement it
  • there would be some kind of incentives for sticking with the program
  • lots of my co-workers would be doing it too
  • it only cost $5 (this is a special savings offered through the Wellness Council of America)

Once I got my book and started reading it last week, my first reaction was, How can I make all those changes? It sounds way too much like all the stuff my mother used to say. Minimize (or eliminate, if you are trying to lose weight) white flour, white sugar, and white rice. (I think Dr. Ann even says to stay away from white potatoes, which I don’t think my mother would have agreed with, though she would have pointed out that most of the nutrition was in the skins.) Avoid sweet drinks, even diet drinks. (Fruit juice is frowned on though not completely banned.) Eat legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as plenty dark green or bright-colored fruits and vegetables. Minimize saturated fats and absolutely avoid trans fats.

I tend to think of the advice regarding fats as sort of an add-on, with the main focus on the major food groups. But to my surprise, Dr. Ann’s book puts fats at the beginning. And the thrust is not about eating low-fat meals – she says this is hard for a lot of people to adjust to, after so many years of being told to minimize fats. The key is to eat the right fats, primarily monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats. These both give significant nutritional benefits and make food taste good (which is important for keeping with a food plan long-term).

This week I just have to avoid trans fats, which shouldn’t be too hard. I’ve been checking labels on everything I buy for the past several days, to be sure they all say zero grams of trans fats. But next week I am supposed to consider going to the next level, having no more than two servings of red meat a week. I don’t serve red meat much, but I do use ground beef for our “Hump Day Hamburger” meal Wednesday evening, and the weekend often includes some kind of sausage.

Then there’s “Mexican Monday” which is usually beef and bean burritos or chimichangas, and “Fast Food Friday” which is sometimes breaded chicken patties or nuggets, but more often hamburgers, beef tacos, hot dogs, or three-meat pizza. I can use ground turkey for the burritos (all the seasonings kind of mask the flavor of the meat itself), but I have yet to find turkey sausages that the family likes. Long-term, Dr. Ann’s recommendations call for more fish (especially the ones high in omega-3 fats), but first I have to figure out how to cook it so it tastes good.

I also find it somewhat discouraging to realize that even the things I was doing “right” need improvement. I started eating salads regularly several months ago, switched from iceberg lettuce to romaine (for the darker green leaves), and started using vinegar and olive oil for dressing because I knew olive oil had “good” fat. But I use “extra light” olive oil rather than “extra virgin” olive oil because I’m really not a fan of the taste of olives. Dr. Ann, however, stresses the importance of using the extra virgin olive oil. Not surprisingly, the processing that removes the strong taste also affects the nutritional value.

But I did enjoy a delicious and – I hope – reasonably nutritious dinner this evening. I made the usual romaine salads, adding chopped bell peppers, onions, and tomato to mine. I sautéed more of the vegetables for a great topping for my cheese ravioli (my son prefers a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on his).

Now to figure out what to do with the ground beef tomorrow…

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