diet

Why Boring Is Good When You Are Dieting

Photo by  Shumilov Ludmila  on  Unsplash

There are millions of websites filled with recipes and meal plans devoted to specific diet plans - paleo, gluten-free, Weight Watchers, Whole30, primal, vegan, Atkins, and on, and on, and on...

Each website has gorgeous pictures of mouth-watering food, and meal plans to get you through the week.  And I'm not knocking any of them. 

I love food.  I love to cook.  I love to cook delicious food on my diet plan du jour, and websites like these have provided me with inspiration, great recipes, and some real winners in my recipe box.

When you are starting a new diet plan and trying to figure out what you can eat, these sites can be a real lifesaver and time saver by helping you to figure out meals and calorie counts or macro counts and ideas for foods that you and your family can all eat and love.  

But the sheer volume of possibilities can be overwhelming once you get started.  So I am going to make a little suggestion: once you find a few sites and a few recipes that you love - repetition is actually going to help you out. And by that I mean once you find a few recipes that work for you, then set up your meal plan so that you make those recipes over and over throughout the month.  

For example, since starting the DASH diet challenge, my daily lunch when I pack a lunch is almost always mixed greens sprinkled with lemon juice, deli turkey or chicken, an apple, and a cheese stick.  It's simple, it's easy for me to pack in the morning, I don't have to put a lot of thought into it, and it's a snap to enter into my online food diary.  My breakfast on weekdays is similarly boring - two boiled eggs, a cup of low sugar yogurt, and an apple or grapefruit.

I'm tempted by all the beautifully prepared bento boxes on Pinterest, but to be quite honest, I don't have the time.

Dinner is where I get more creative, but since I and my family all have long work and school hours, something that can be made in the Crock-pot is most often on the menu.

It may seem a little boring when there are so many recipes to explore and try, but there are advantages to a "boring" menu rotation.

Menu Simplification

Let's face it - most of us are living very hectic lives.  It's hard to stick to a diet when you are trying to plan a complicated menu and create something "new" every day.  Creating a menu plan once that follows your diet plan and incorporates all the appropriate macros and micros, and then sticking to it week in and week out will make your shopping, your planning, your documentation (if you keep a food diary), and your meal preparation so much easier and simpler.  

Less Cheating

If you already know what you're going to make for breakfast, lunch or supper, you're less likely to think, "Let's just get a pizza tonight because I don't know what to cook" (guilty!)  You don't have to devote head space to figuring out dinner because you already know.

Less Variability

One week you're hitting all the markers on your diet and the next, you're way off, and then you wonder why the diet isn't working for you.  Changing up what you're eating every day or every week can lead to getting off plan and your diet going off the rails.  When you eat the same meals each week, you're creating consistency for your body.

More Control

By following a meal plan that stays the same or similar over a period of time, you gain control over your eating behaviors, the calories you take in, your macros and micros, and your portion sizes.  When you are working on changing your way of eating, feeling in control of what you are eating goes a long way to making the changes stick.

More Flexibility

Ironically, when you establish a standard meal plan, you actually gain some flexibility.  When you know what your daily caloric and macro intake is going to be, you can then plan for treats that will fit into your diet without worrying that you will exceed the diet's limitations.

Budget Friendly

Creating a meal plan that works with your budget and then repeating that meal plan can help you save money as well.  You're not constantly having to stock your pantry with items you use infrequently or purchasing food that you find out you don't like.  You get a sense of how much of an item you will use during the week or the month and stock accordingly.

Habit-Forming

Consistency is a key to forming good habits.  You stand a better chance of improving your eating habits by being consistent in the foods you eat, just as exercising at the same time every day will help you to build an exercise habit.

"But variety is the spice of life!" I hear you saying.  You can build variety even into a "boring" meal plan in several different ways:

  • Allow yourself a daily "treat" that you change up each day
  • Allow a weekly "cheat meal" or date night meal (even if your date is just with yourself)
  • Eat a consistent daily breakfast and lunch, but change up your dinner meals daily or weekly
  • Eat a consistent meal plan throughout the month, and then change to a different meal plan monthly

Have you found a "boring" meal plan that you like, or a tip you would like to share?  Comment below!

 

 

 

DASH Diet Challenge - Week 1

DASH Diet Challenge Week 1 Results and Meals.png

Week 1 of the DASH Diet Challenge is complete and I want to share with you how it went.  Below, I will break down what I ate, results for the week, and what I learned.  If you are considering trying out the DASH Diet for weight loss, to lower your blood pressure, or for heart health, I hope this information will be helpful to you.

For this challenge, I set my daily calorie goal at 1,800 calories, based on the calorie needs chart provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the creator of the DASH Diet Plan.  I wrote a previous post on the DASH Diet recommended food groups and serving sizes.

I started off the week tracking my food intake using my Fitbit app.  While this app does a good job of calculating total calories, sorting out percentages of carbs, proteins, and fats, and it is easy to enter the data, I couldn't track the sodium intake.  So, midweek, I switched over to tracking in MyFitnessPal.  The free version was adequate for my needs, but a premium version is available.  This app can track your food diary, and you can also track your water intake and exercise and generate printable reports (which is a great extra if you are keeping a food diary to share with your physician or dietician).  It has the functionality to provide nutrition information on imported recipes and help you with meal planning.  There is also a community forum, and MyFitnessPal syncs with lots of trackers, including the FitBit.

Week 1 Results:

1.  My starting weight was 219.5.  Weight on Friday was 217.8 - down a little over a pound, and that is within my goal plan for the year.

2.  Blood pressure.  I knew my blood pressure has been running high for several years.  I decided should get a reading for a baseline for this challenge.  Before I left my office Friday afternoon, I checked it, and it was a freaking scary 183/94.  I checked it 2 more times on different machines, and the results were similar.  Not good!  And here is where I have to admit that I did not do what I would tell any one of you to do:  I did not immediately take myself off to see the doctor.  I did what a lot of women do.  I waited. 

Luckily, when I went to my local pharmacy and checked my blood pressure the next morning, it was much more in line with what I expected at 144/87.  That reading is still way too high, though.  I will be putting a visit with my physician on my calendar this week for sure!

3.  Exercise.  I only exercised one morning this week.  Since the weather has remained frightfully cold, I did a walk-jog video on YouTube.  Gotta love all the workout video options on the internet.  

4.  The Diet.  Once I put everything I ate this week into the food diary, I categorized each food into the appropriate food group categories.  And here is what I found:

  • I had a really hard time eating the recommended amount of grains, and I did not achieve the recommended amount on any day of the first week.  I'm not used to eating a lot of grains, and even consciously incorporating them into my daily mail plan was hard.  They also have a relatively high calorie count for small portions and aren't very filling.
  • It was fairly easy to get in the right amount of vegetables every day.  My lunch is usually 3 cups of leafy power greens and lettuces, sprinkled with lemon juice, with a serving each of meat, cheese and fruit. 
  • I had to consciously add fruits, just as I had to consciously add grains.  I only got the recommended amount on 1 day.  I went for apples (studies have shown that women who regularly eat apples have lower blood pressure), and low sugar fruits like berries.  I did add bananas to smoothies on a couple of days, for the potassium and sweetening.
  • Dairy was easy.  Just a cup of yogurt or kefir or fat free milk and a cheese stick and this one is taken care of.
  • Lean meat, fish, poultry - This was another easy category.  I focused more on lean meats and fish like tuna and turkey, bison, and lean beef stew meat.
  • Because of my addiction to hummus, I went overboard on the nuts, seeds, legumes category this week.  Enough said.
  • Using just a bit of avocado oil was enough for the fat category - another easy category to meet, but I had to be careful of the portion so that I wouldn't exceed the allowance. 
  • I don't usually eat a lot of sweets anyway, having weaned myself off most sugar over a year ago, but I did have a Halo top ice cream pint that lasted through three days, and one night, I indulged in two cinnamon twists from Dominos.  The nice thing about this diet is that it does allow for those little indulgences once in a while.
  • Speaking of Dominos, yes, my favorite pizza place does have health(ier) options.  When the fam decided that Friday should be pizza night, I chose the plain bone-in chicken wings and the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad with the Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing.  But I should probably find another option for the hot wing sauce - it is way high in sodium.
  • Keeping the sodium levels low was also a challenge.  I admit it, I like the salt shaker.  Tracking it is making me mindful of how much is in what we eat everyday.
  • On only two days did I go over my calorie allowance, and not by much.  Most days were under the allowance, so I consider that a success.
  • Tracking my food intake made me really mindful of the portion sizes on the DASH Diet.  This is an area where I have struggled to get control and it is probably the area that has most contributed to my lack of progress in losing weight.  
  • There were a few things that I ate during the week that I have had to scratch my head about where to fit them in the plan:  the half and half in my morning coffee, a little snack bag of potato chips (are those a vegetable lol?), EAS Advantage Low Carb Shakes (to stave off a hunger attack mid-morning), a Zone Perfect Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar (does that go under "Sweets" or "Nuts"?), and chicken/vegetable broth that I used in soups.  
  • Although I did feel hunger on most days as lunch or dinner approached (hence, a shake or protein bar - and I'm not sure a little bit of hunger is necessarily a bad thing), I did not feel deprived.  There really was no food that was absolutely prohibited, and I could eat a large variety of foods.  
  • Planning meals through the week helped to keep me on track.
  • This whole challenge is not necessarily about following the diet perfectly.  It is about learning to be mindful about what I am eating and improving my eating habits and portion control.  Tracking my calories and portions right now is very helpful to me so that I can see exactly what and how much I'm eating and where I need to make adjustments.  

I've copied my chart and food diaries below to help you with your own meal planning on the DASH Diet.  I've color coded the top chart in green (met the goal) and red (did not meet goal), so I can more easily see where I can improve.  Please note that the charts show exactly what I ate in the first week of the challenge.  Obviously, from the chart below, if you wanted to follow the diet perfectly, some adjustments would need to be made to the meals.  Feel free to use this information as a starting point to create your own meal plan.

DASH Diet Week 1 Food Groups and Servings.PNG

Follow my progress on the 30-Day DASH Diet Challenge!

Learn to Love Your Heart in this series on Midlife Women and Heart Health

The DASH Diet Challenge

The 30-Day DASH Diet Challenge.png

As part of my series of Heart Health Month articles, I will be experimenting with the DASH Diet in the form of a 30-day DASH Diet challenge.

As you may know from reading my previous blog articles, losing 52 pounds is one of my goals for 2018.  As a general rule, I do not promote any particular diet.  It's my opinion that there are many good diet plans out there, focusing on eating healthy and nutrition-dense foods that will promote weight loss and good health if followed.  The hard part is picking one and sticking to it.

However, the DASH Diet, which originated in research conducted by the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, consistently gets high marks for improving cardiovascular health, especially in lowering blood pressure.  The DASH Diet has been ranked as the best diet for the past eight years by the National Institutes of Health according to US News and World Report.  The study's original author, Dr. Stephen Jurasche, an adjunct assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, has stated that in people with higher blood pressure, the diet is "comparable to anti-hypertensive medication." Since my blood pressure has run high for the past few years, and since I would prefer not to have to go on medication, this sounds like a great benefit to me.

Free guides and recipes are available from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.  The diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fats and whole grains, and decreases sugar, sodium, and high fat foods.  No real surprises there.  The diet does provide calorie goals for different age/activity groups, and for my goal of 52 pounds in a year at moderate activity, my suggested daily caloric intake is 2,000 calories.  The plan also suggests increasing physical activity levels (no surprises there either).

Now, I know some readers will immediately exclaim in horror, "But the carbs!"  Yes, I know.  I tend toward the lower carb theories myself.  However, this is an experiment on myself to see what happens if I follow this diet for 30 days.  Up until now, I have not really "followed" any particular diet plan; rather, I have just tried to eat healthy foods while cutting out sugar.  But I have not been good at managing my portions or focusing on specific foods for a specific result.  

After I have 30 days worth of results from following the DASH diet, I can then decide if it is working for me or not, and how or if I would tweak it for me personally.  I already have my baseline of my current state (an important step in the 2018 Success Planner - click the link to download and build your own plan for success in 2018).  Now, I need the next piece, which is to follow the part of my action plan that is "eat a healthy diet", and share and record the results (the accountability piece), and then change or continue as the results dictate.  And maybe what I learn by experimenting on myself will help you too.

So for the next 30 days, I will be following the DASH Diet and posting up my results, both here and in the Yes I Can Health Facebook group.  

I would love to have you follow along, since I will be updating this blog post throughout the month. 

And you can learn more about Women and Heart Health in my Love Your Heart series.