Back in 2015, after a routine exam I found out my blood glucose and triglyceride levels were much higher than I expected. Busy tending to my kids’ needs, I opted to skip several years of doctor’s visits. I assumed I was in excellent health. So I was surprised to find out when my lipid and glucose levels revealed otherwise. This was the precursor of my journey to better health and the changes I’ve made that’s now my way of living. I like sharing this journey to help others with finding their own path to a healthier lifestyle.
One of the things I did was take a closer look at my eating habits. At the time, I didn’t really pay much attention. In fact, I thought I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I was burning off the calories. My definition of ‘health’ at that season of my life was being able to run long distances. While exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, I missed the mark when it came to eating well. I was on a mission to restore my health so I got curious to see where changes needed to be made.
Here are the five eating habits I identified and changed:
- No more after-dinner snacks.
It used to be a norm for me, a glass of wine to unwind with a piece of dark chocolate. But I didn’t stop at just the wine and chocolate, at times I’ll have crackers or tortilla chips or peanuts – I loved shelled peanuts! Somehow, I was in the habit of snacking every single night. After I tucked the girls in their bed, I turned on the TV and relaxed with a snack in hand. I wasn’t even hungry! It was more for comfort than anything else.
You may be familiar with ‘intermittent fasting’ or lengthening the time period between meals, about 16 hours. According to Dr Lipman, author of How To be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life,
It allows your body to experience a longer-than-normal period of low insulin in the blood. This tells your body to burn energy and keep insulin low, which is a powerful reset and teh opposite of what happens with a constant stream of food.”
While I never thought I could go without eating for longer periods of time, what worked best for me was an overnight fast. No snacks after dinner around 6 – 6:30pm and breakfast isn’t until 10am – 10:30am.
And if you’re wondering, yes I still would have dark chocolate (only occasional red wine), but immediately after dinner.
- Emphasis on more vegetables at every meal.
Michael Pollan, author and journalist said it best when it comes to food. To eat mostly plants! However, this is a struggle for most of us. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables. I was part of this statistic years ago and continuing to work on filling my plate with more vegetables.
For breakfast, I used to eat cereals, bagels, and waffles and slowly made the change to more fiber, protein and fat in the form of vegetables, lentils/quinoa, nuts, and avocados. One meal I had the other day to ‘break the fast’ was a plate of lentils, onions, sundried tomatoes, zuchinni, and greens with a side of avocado. It was delicious and satisfying!
- Less pasta, bread, and rice.
The impact of carbohydrate-rich food like pasta, bread, and rice to my glucose levels made me reconsider the amount and type I was consuming. So I started to look for substitutes which translated to more vegetables on my plate.
For spaghetti, I bought a spiralizer to make ‘zoodles’ out of zucchini. I would cook it with garlic, onions, and mushrooms topped with pasta sauce. Another substitute I made was cauliflower rice for rice. As far as bread, I’ve learned to make fresh sourdough bread at home and enjoy it from time to time. While it takes time, I find it rewarding to put in the effort of baking homemade sourdough.
I’ve read that true sourdough bread doesn’t spike blood sugar as much as it does when compared with eating regular wheat bread, however this might not be true for some people. I monitor my glucose levels after meals for my own awareness and haven’t experienced significant spikes.
- Addition of fat (the good kind)
I aim to eat fish 1-2x/week and also take a fish oil supplement. Dr. Mark Hyman provides an excellent recommendation with regards to what type of fish. I’ve heard him use the acronym S-M-A-S-H – which stands for salmon (wild), mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring – also shellfish, as the best types of fish to consume. Recently, I discovered my kids love the canned herring from Trader Joe’s!
Additionally, I make sure I include a variety of nuts and seeds- almonds, walnuts, and pistachios as well as pumpkin and sunflower seeds to either my breakfast or snack. Avocado is another great fat source that I love to eat. This article from mindbodygreen.com gives an excellent insight on Why You should Eat Avocados everyday.
- Goodbye to frappucinos, mocha lattes and sweet teas.
This may have been the most difficult transition! Every time I was on an errand, I found myself in a Starbucks or a Boba tea place and something I got used to doing. I remember taking my daughter out to the bookstore where I would have a grande mint mocha frappuccino with whipped cream on top. To my dismay, this drink has a whopping 65g of added sugar. More than twice the amount of the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 25 g for women. It made a big difference to turn away from all sugary drinks. Today my palate has adjusted to black coffee. Best of all, I’ve saved money and my health brewing coffee at home.
I’m currently in the process of creating a ‘Sugar Reset’ course that will help you reduce excess sugar consumption to reset your palate and restore your health. If you’re interested in this upcoming course, please sign up for my monthly newsletter to be notified when it launches.
I’m happy to note that these five changes I implemented have improved my health. It took several months for me to be consistent with these changes. As you know, any major change in your lifestyle takes time. However, once you start to see the effects, you want to continue with the behavior that it becomes embedded in your lifestyle. I continue to strive to choose the types of food I know will give my body the nourishment it needs. It’s now a part of my lifestyle and I’m grateful I was able to overcome the biggest hurdle, which was taking the first step in the right direction.
What eating habits are you ready to change? What might help you move towards healthier choices?
P.S. If you’re a woman veteran in your mid-life years looking for support to make healthy lifestyle changes, I recently created a Facebook community group and would love you to be a part of it! Please request to join here => JOIN FB GROUP.