Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Eating Clean: Step One

OK, finally...here is the food post that I've been meaning to write for weeks!  So just to recap...back at the beginning of March, Hubs went to go get his regular annual physical done, and the doctor ordered some bloodwork for him.  Not really thinking this was a big deal, I wasn't that worried...until the results came back and they were a little less than desirable.  Not crazy bad, but bad enough that we went into action right away on changing things up, particularly when it came to our diet.  I really, really, really don't want him to have to go on meds, so figured we'd start with making some lifestyle changes and see what happens.  So some of the things he was dealing with?  Elevated cholesterol levels (high LDL/low HDL), high triglycerides, slightly high blood pressure and blood sugar sensitivities.  Poor Hubs comes from a long line of family with poor health histories, so I'm glad we're getting this under control earlier rather than later...being a health nut, a stubborn Taurus and a feisty little Asian lady, there's no way I'm letting go of this now!

I gotta admit...when we first started thinking about what to do as far as diet went, it was confusing.  Are beans OK?  How about fruit?  Do we have to cut back all fat or just certain types of fat?  We were caught in a bit of a circle because we had to cut back on meat due to the cholesterol, but this would likely mean an increase in carbs, which can be bad for someone with blood sugar issues.  Argh!  Anyways, I'm so glad I did that grocery store tour put on by PISE (all things happen for a reason, amirite?) because it helped me really figure out food labels and gave me some stuff to think about.   Overall, I thought we ate fairly well, but now looking back we definitely had room for improvement.  Never to go halfway, we made some pretty big changes over the past ten weeks.  So...what have we been doing?

Reduce meat intake
Oooooh...at first when we decided to cut back on the amount of meat we ate, I thought it was going to be tough.  We had a fairly meat-centric diet...always some kind of protein at lunch and dinner and we weren't strangers to the occasional steak every now and then.  In the last two and half months, we've had chicken or turkey maybe half a dozen times, cut out red meat completely but have really increased the amount of fish and tofu we eat, particularly oily fish like salmon...all those good fats and omega 3s.  To be honest, we haven't really missed eating meat that much...Hubs was just commenting on this the other day, which is really eye opening for us.  Some weeks the majority of our meals are vegetarian or vegan, and we've enjoyed them just as much as meated meals.  While I'm not sure if I could go 100% vegan/vegetarian, I'm totally on board with adopting a more plant-based diet for sure.

Lots of fruits, veggies and healthy fats
Every week I steam up huge amounts of veggies so we can eat them all week with our dinners, and we quite often have yummy fruit like strawberries for dessert.  I keep an eye on how much fat I use when I'm cooking and only use extra virgin olive oil which is heart healthy...and we're eating healthy fats like those in avocado (looooooovvve) and nuts.

Eat more whole grains, nuts/seeds and lotsa beans - in other words...fibre, fibre, fibre
We were always pretty good with whole wheat products, but are now focussing more on whole grains, eating more almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, and the big one...we are now huge consumers of beans, chickpeas and lentils.  With cutting back on meat so much, I really wanted to make sure we were both getting enough protein in our diets.  I initially wasn't sure if beans would be good for someone with blood sugar issues, but apparently even though they are high in carbs, they're also high in fibre and are OK for people with diabetes.  The other switch up is steel cut oats for breakfast.

Cut back on sodium
Oooooch!  This one was tough for me.  Super tough.  A total salt hound, I admit I seasoned our food quite liberally and loved salty foods like chips and instant noodles.  Loved them to pieces.  At first it was hard for me to not reach for that salt shaker at the dinner table or sprinkle salt on food during cooking, and slowly I've gotten used to it but I admit, it's hard for me.  Really hard.  Like crazy ridiculously hard and some days I've succumbed to the devil, the salt shaker.  But I know it's something that we really need to change for Hubs' blood pressure...and honestly, once we started looking at the amount of sodium in foods, it was absolutely jaw dropping.  The maximum daily amount is 2300 milligrams, but apparently what people should strive for is 1500 milligrams.  This is nothing!  We were looking at some bread the other day, and each slice itself was around 200 milligrams.  So a sandwich with a bit of deli meat, cheese and some mayo or something and you're already there.  I watched a really great segment on Marketplace that talked about the amount of salt Canadians eat...check it out here to watch the full video.  The other thing I notice now?  When I do eat something from a restaurant, I am insanely thirsty after and kinda don't like it...makes me wonder why I never noticed this before? 

Cut out all processed foods and refined sugars
Coming from two people who love their chips and sweet, sweet nothings, we thought this would kill us.  No more chips?  No more cookies?  What good is left in the world?!  Honestly...and I never thought I would say this, but we haven't really missed it.  OK, sometimes we have a bit of a craving every now and then and Hubs has been absolutely stellar in this department...I've had the odd thing (or two, tee hee) slip past my lips, but overall, we've stuck to this one.  I think maybe once your body gets rid of the dependence on sugary goodness, it gets easier and the cravings go away.  The one thing that we do to help keep the sugar cravings at bay is have a square or two of good quality dark chocolate every night...antioxidants, folks...that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.  Ha!
Cut back on dairy and limit eggs
This one was kinda hard too as I loves me my cheese-y goodness, but the extra fat and cholesterol wasn't good for Hubs.  After doing some food sensitivity testing back in 2009, I discovered I was very sensitive to dairy and eggs...and guess what I was eating every morning?  Cottage cheese, yoghourt or eggs for breakfast.  I used to have horrible GI issues but since I've done away with dairy, stomach issues are pretty much non-existent and some persistent eczema I was battling with completely disappeared.  So a win-win!  My one absolute weakness though?  Cream in my coffee.  Sob.

More exercise
Hubs has increased the length and intensity of  his workouts...and I've even introduced him to Spartacus.  You're welcome, honey...har! 

Cheat days
Hubs and I were always big on our cheat days...we still sorta do these, but instead of going out all with burgers and fries, we might have an ahi burger with salad instead, or homemade pizza instead of ordering something from the local pizza joint.  So basically still treating ourselves but just being smarter with our choices.  We both love food, and to be honest sometimes you just have to live a little!

Sooo...after all these changes, what have we noticed?  Hubs' has lost some weight and his blood pressure has dropped...he's been testing himself at the drug stores and logging his numbers.  He's getting more blood work done at the three month point to see what difference, if any, these changes have made to his numbers.  I'm hopeful that we'll see some good results...and if not, we're going to make an appointment to see the dietician that took us on that grocery store tour to see if she can help us make even more tweaks....I'm on a mission to get Hubs' numbers down using lifestyle changes and am pulling out all the stops!  The other thing Hubs' has noticed is that his energy levels are better...he would always get that afternoon dropoff and could barely keep his eyes open, and doesn't get that so much anymore. For myself, I'm noticing I'm sleeping like a rock now and less water retention, especially around the eyes.  Seriously, some days I used to give Bill Clinton a run for his money and would wake up with hugely puffy eyes, swollen cheeks and sausages for fingers...

hiya bill...I feel your puffy pain...

Ha!  Anyways...so far, even though some days it's not easy and it takes a lot more planning around meals, it's worth it if I can have a healthy Hubs...and I benefit from it too so it's all good in the hood.  Stay tuned for an update!


Char said...

Wow you've made some big changes. But I'm sure they'll be worth it once you get those blood results back in a few months.

My Dad had a heart attack when he was 32 and that initiated a whole lot of eating changes in our family while I was still quite young. We cut out lots of red meat and salt and upped the veggies and that's stayed with me since then.

Renata said...

I LOVE these changes! yay! of course I am a biased VEGAN! LOL! Check out "the Engine 2 Diet" written by the son of one of the "Forks Over Knives" doctors. http://engine2diet.com/ Plus if you haven't seen it, go get Forks Over Knives and watch it! love you!!