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It’s not a diet; it’s a healthy lifestyle

My youngest daughter Emily has headed back to college for her junior year, and I have to admit my house is a little empty.

The good news for me is I can go back to concentrating on what I’m eating. I’ve learned the hard way that weight does affect my life and what I’m able to do with my family. While I’m trying some other options currently, it is clear that I will be having knee surgery before long.

Another thing I know for sure is that rehab of any kind is going to be easier if I continue to lose weight. So it’s back to healthy eating — no nachos, no milkshakes and no eating dinner at 8 at night.

Here’s the frustrating thing about eating healthy: everyone you ask and every book you read has different advice. I certainly don’t have a degree in nutrition, so like you, I do a lot of reading and a lot of hoping that my common sense is on the right track.

First thing I have learned is that the drink-more-water thing is on the money. I’ve been much better about drinking 8 cups of water a day, and I can tell when I don’t do it, and it hasn’t been easy. What I’m getting ready to say won’t come as a surprise to any of my family and friends. I hate plain water — yuck.

I prefer my water flavored as coffee, diet coke or at the least flavored with some powdered fruit pack. Imagine my dismay when I found out that those don’t count! First thing in the morning I drink 16 ounces before anything else, and my rule is if I don’t drink all my water one day then the next morning I cannot have my one and only cup of coffee. Believe me the thought of missing my one cup of java makes me drink my water.

Another thing I’ve learned is that eating healthy can be boring. I know the right thing is “eating to live, not living to eat” but still, I found myself eating grilled chicken, sautéed vegetables and brown rice at least 4 nights a week. Of course, it was definitely easy, but boring.

The first thing I did about this was expand my protein choices beyond chicken and fish. Yes, beef and pork are completely different in calorie and fat content and even price. The most important thing here was to remember what the correct portion size is for your dinner time proteins. For beef and pork that should be 3 to 4 ounces. If you are eating those portion sizes then it is easier to afford leaner cuts than if you are eating a 10 ounce hunk of meat.

I’m really not a milk person unless it comes as a mug of hot chocolate, but I’ve been worried about my calcium intake. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that that there are many vegetables, fruits and nuts that have a good amount of calcium in them, such as soybeans, okra, almonds, collard and turnip greens, oranges, broccoli and bok choy. I also love cheese, any cheese, but I’ve learned to be a little pickier now that I’ve looked at calorie and fat content. I keep a square of real Parmesan cheese in my freezer because if you sauté or grill vegetables nothing tops them off better than a little grating of real parmesan.

I’m learning to drive by fast food places and not listen to what I want to believe is hunger and convenience. And I’m not as hungry throughout the day now that I’m drinking my water and eating a healthy snack during the day such as nuts or fruit.

Succumbing to technology I also placed an app on my phone so I enter daily what I’m eating, it takes the guess work out of the calorie counting, and seeing it in black and white makes a difference. Plus I don’t have to carry a book around with me. I just type in the food and the amount and there it is.

I keep telling myself that it’s not a diet, it’s a healthy lifestyle and these changes will become habits and no longer be a big deal. Most importantly I remind myself that I have three children who are going to have kids, and I want to be here a long time to be a part of their lives.

 

Christina Hall writes a weekly food column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.