So I have a new project under my belt. My grandparents are back in town for the winter and I am working with my grandmother on developing healthier eating habits.
Easier said than done.
Changing over from a diet rich in heavily processed foods to a whole foods plant-rich diet takes a lot of work, dedication and drive. It also takes some pretty strong willpower. It’s so easy for some of us healthy living bloggers to say “put down the cookie and pick up an apple, duh!” But when a person struggles with unhealthy eating habits, emotional eating, binge eating or simply making poor food choices… it’s not so easy!
I know the best way for my grandmother to change to a healthier diet is for her to take small steps. Baby steps. Each week I am challenging her with something new, and hoping that as the weeks go by the processed foods will slowly empty out of the kitchen, replaced with whole and natural foods.
One of the reasons I am undergoing this project is because of my grandmother’s health. Between her heart problems and being overweight, she needs a change in diet to better her health, and her doctors are strongly encouraging weight loss. So grandma’s challenge to a healthier lifestyle begins this week. Because as most of us know, healthy living and healthy eating is not dieting–it’s a lifestyle.
This week I challenged her to focus on food groups. Instead of telling her to quit eating this or that, I am simply asking her to eat more of certain foods. Namely, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. After discussing her usual eats, we came to the conclusion that most days she has one, or maybe two servings of vegetables. So I decided to challenge her to 3-5. Most days she has one serving of fruit, but sometimes none. I am challenging her to 2-3 servings of fruit daily. These are baby steps for her in the right direction. I also challenged her to switch from white pasta and rice to whole wheat pasta and brown rice, and to try not to have bread and butter with every meal (her favorite!) We are also switching out her usual ice cream bars and pre-made cookies and cakes (from the grocery store bakery) with some homemade and healthier desserts, as well as some store-bought products like applesauce, yogurt, and dried fruit.
For food groups and serving suggestions I referenced the Harvard School of Public Health nutritional guidelines. I really like their nutrition recommendations because they emphasize keeping red meat, cold cuts, and pork to a minimum, as well as limiting milk and dairy (1-2 servings a day is recommended). They really focus on the fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy protein (lean meats and plant protein sources).
Grandma and I went shopping together today and loaded up on fresh fruits and veggies, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, organic tomato sauce, ground turkey and chicken (to replace her favored ground beef), frozen shrimp and salmon, dried fruit and nuts, and some odds and ends for me to make a few healthy desserts to keep in the freezer to satisfy a sweet craving.
So far, grandma has been doing great with the challenge! I asked her to keep a food journal for at least a couple of weeks to hold her accountable on food groups. Today she met all of the goals I set for her, and she and I both are proud! I spent all afternoon in the kitchen prepping some healthy foods and snacks for throughout the week. So far she’s made some great changes. It just so happens that by challenging her to eat more of certain food groups, she cut out a lot of processed foods to make room for the whole foods! :)
Sugary cereals or pastries for breakfast… Oatmeal for breakfast!
Grilled cheese for lunch… Barley and bean salad for lunch with chopped veggies!
Candy, chips and cheese dip for snacks… Carrots, hummus and dried fruit for snacks!
Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread for dinner… whole wheat spaghetti, homemade veggie marinara, and turkey meatballs for dinner!
Eventually we will focus on her caloric intake, and really getting that where it needs to be. She is not very active at all, so monitoring calories and portion control will be essential for weight loss. But for now she is focusing on adapting a few healthier eating habits, which in the long run is essential for weight loss, weight maintenance and healthy living!
I really like Happy Herbivore’s list of 10 Rules for Making Healthier Choices when it comes to eating habits. Although it can be difficult to adapt to all of these right away, they are great guidelines for a long-term healthy lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that certain foods that I don’t eat every day are still okay in moderation (everyone wants some french fries, onion rings or a cupcake once and awhile right?) but let’s all remember the meaning of the word moderation. Moderation is not a few times a week. Moderation is a few times a month, or a handful of times a year. That is moderation. I told my grandmother that some of her favorite foods are going to have to go in the moderation zone now. Yes, sometimes I am the bearer of bad news.
But the good news is that grandma is on board and if things go really well, maybe grandpa will learn a lesson or two along the way ;)