A month to change your heart: Day 7

“I don’t have time for breakfast.”
“I’ll just grab a sandwich for lunch.”
“Will you pick up a pizza on the way home for dinner?” 

Sound familiar? Heart healthy eating is not difficult or complicated, but it does take some planning.

People consume 30 percent more calories when they eat a meal prepared outside of their home.  It makes sense. Restaurants want you to come back.  Sugar, salt and fat — they all taste really good. Nutrition is way down the list of a restaurant’s priorities. 

The average American adult buys a meal or a snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week. Restaurant and fast food meals are a genuine problem.  There are two very compelling reasons that you should consider eating most of your food from home:  Dramatically improved health and lots of saved money.

In order to eat a more heart healthy diet, you need to plan.

If your goal is to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables:

  • Pack a plastic bag with raw carrots and sliced cucumbers to eat mid-morning. It’s a great substitute for the 10 AM coffee and doughnut snack. You’ll have eaten one serving of vegetables before lunch.
  • Take advantage of salad bars.  They offer an assortment of vegetables, beans and lean protein.  They can be a great way to amp up the veggies in your diet.  Be careful about what you add to your salad. Most salad bars offer a selection of very high fat foods, such as potato salad, bacon bits, croutons, or cheese, in addition to the vegetables.
  • If time is an issue, purchase pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables. Most grocery stores are now offering a large selection of these ready-to-eat vegetables. It’s healthy fast food!

If dinner is the problem:

  • Keep weeknights simple.  Choose five meals that your family likes and repeat them during the week.  Do your more creative cooking on the weekend when you have more time.
  • Do the preparation for a few meals on Sunday.  This will give you a little breathing room when you are in a hurry on a weeknight. 
  • Consider doing all of the prep for Tuesday’s dinner on Monday night.  Defrost and marinate your chicken, cut up the broccoli and choose brown rice as your carbohydrate.  With the prep completed and the items chosen, you will save time when you arrive home to cook. 

If lunch is usually on the fly:

  • Spend an extra 10 minutes in the kitchen after the dishes are done and pack your lunch.  If you wait until morning, who knows what crisis will arise. Put some vegetables in a sandwich baggie, pack two pieces of fruit and make a quick turkey, chicken or tuna sandwich on whole grain bread.  It only took a few minutes and you will be very thankful tomorrow. 
  • It is not a big surprise that you are going to be hungry several times a day.  Plan for it. Pack your heart healthy meals and snacks and pay attention to how much better you feel.

On the seventh day of Change of Heart, my doctor said to me:

  1. Since our theme today is preparation, let’s continue with it.  How, where and when are you going to exercise today, and tomorrow and the next day?  Everything you have ever accomplished in your life you achieved because you had a plan.  Lay out your exercise clothes, put them right next to your sneakers. Plan to exercise first thing tomorrow morning.  You can do this.
  2. Stress reduction – Maybe exercise is your stress reducer.  Great, a two for one!  Because you have planned, there is no rush for lunch.  You don’t have to run out to forage for food.  As soon as you are hungry, go to the refrigerator and it’s there.  And, the price is just right!
  3. Your blood pressure will stay nice and steady because there is no crisis.  No family member is upset because they are hungry and dinner is not ready.  All of these benefits because you had a plan.

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