Are you in the top 9% of Americans ages 40-59?
This group is not comprised of the richest Americans, as one first might think. Instead, this is the group that is the healthiest, based on lifestyle practices. A recent study sponsored by the American Heart Association reviewed a representative sample of adults 40-59 using seven health factors that have been associated with excellent cardiac health. The AHA has entitled these factors “Life’s Simple 7” and include maintaining a healthy weight, healthy eating, exercising, managing blood pressure and blood sugar, not smoking, and controlling cholesterol. Most of the readers of this column would recognize that these are key factors in controlling not only heart disease, but also most chronic diseases. Sadly, only 9% of adults 40-59 and 6.4% of those over age 65 meet five or more of the ideal health factors.
Many of these seven factors are closely related to what you eat. Eating a healthy, whole foods diet that is personalized to you can be the key factor in maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood pressure, blood sugar and controlling cholesterol. The financial advisor Dave Ramsey advises people to “live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later.” I agree with this financial advice, but would also like to expand it to your diet. We need to “eat like no one else” so that we can be much more likely to have a long and healthy life.
I recognize it can be very HARD to eat this way. Whether your personal eating plan is low sugar, low sodium, or low carb, or if you have food allergies or sensitivities, you must eat very differently than what is easy or convenient for our modern lifestyles.
Healthy eating at home
We have the most control over what we eat when we cook at home, so try and prepare the majority of your meals there. If you work, then make a healthy lunch and take it with you every day instead of going out to eat. You will save money and eat healthier, too.
Make meal plans and find recipes that are quick and easy that meet your health goals. As much as possible try to plan your major meals for the week in advance before you go to the grocery store. Then when you shop purchase only the foods that fit your planned meals plus any staples you need. Have a lot of fresh whole foods in your refrigerator and minimally processed foods in your pantry. Make it convenient to eat in a healthy way by having only what is good for you to eat in the house. If cookies, chips and ice cream are not in your house and apples are, you will be much more likely to eat the apple for a snack than drive to the store to purchase junk food. Try to enlist the support of your family and keep unhealthy foods out of the house.
Understand your particular food weaknesses. For example, salty foods such as chips are not tempting for me but sweet foods are. I can purchase tortilla chips and salsa for my husband to snack on and not indulge in them myself. On the other hand, if I purchase a box of gluten-free cookies or coconut milk ice cream, I am very inclined to eat too much. Therefore, I try to avoid having those in the house on a regular basis.
If you know you will indulge if you are tired or overly hungry, then have ingredients for easy and healthy meals available in advance. Make dinner in a crockpot or batch cook ahead of time, so that food is ready after a long workday.
Suggestions for eating out
Restaurant eating can be more difficult than eating at home. You are normally with other people, many of whom may not understand or support your healthy eating choices. Remind yourself of your reasons for eating healthy.
I discussed this in the April 2017 Bella column, Find Your Bigger Why to Maximize Your Health.
If you know the restaurant you are going to, then view the menu online ahead of time. Many restaurants today have their menus available and include nutrition facts such as calories, ingredients, and food allergens. Use this information to pre-plan what to order so that you can stay within your healthy eating plan.
Eat before you go
If there is absolutely nothing on the menu that fits into your healthy eating plan or you are unable to see a menu, eat a small snack before you go. That way, when you get to the restaurant you are not starving. Most restaurants have a side salad that can be ordered separately. If you are already partially full from your snack, then it is much more likely that you could eat only a salad and not indulge in unhealthy foods due to hunger.
Take a dish you can eat
If you are going to a pot luck dinner or to someone’s house, take a dish to share that you can eat. That way you know there is at least one thing that is healthy for you. If there are no other healthy choices available, then you can eat double portions of the food that you brought and not feel deprived. There were back to back services planned for our church choir one recent Sunday, and our director was providing sandwiches for us. Because I can’t eat bread (I have to eat gluten-free), I planned ahead and brought an entrée salad. I was able to eat when the rest of the group ate instead of either being hungry or eating something that was available but detrimental to my health.
Eat to live, instead of live to eat
Many Americans are living to eat. If you want to remain healthy, (or get healthy if you already have a problem) then you need to “eat to live.” Why not adopt some of the suggestions in this article so that you can eat healthy and live healthy?
Ginger Hudock is a holistic nutrition consultant in Aiken, SC. Her business, Nutrition with Ginger, helps clients discover the power of personalized, whole foods nutrition to prevent and heal from many chronic health concerns, especially food allergies and sensitivities. She is a graduate of the Nutrition Consultant Program at Hawthorn University and is also a Certi ed Gluten Practitioner. Prior to beginning her career in nutrition, Ginger was an educator and college administrator for thirty years, most recently as the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance at USC Aiken. To sign up for nutrition consultation sessions or her newsletter and blog where she gives more nutrition news and recipes, visit Ginger’s website at www.NutritionwithGinger.net, or call 803-640-4381.