Cholesterol, Cravings and Food Costs: My Experience with Clean Eating

By Susan Robertson

Following my physical in January 2014 to fulfill the Partnership Promise health insurance requirements, I received the report from my doctor that my cholesterol was too high. I also received a hand-written note that simply said, “Watch your sweets and get regular exercise.”

I exercised enough and ate relatively healthy, but the truth was that I didn’t exercise on a regular basis. And following each meal with a dessert was my weakness.

I was determined to lower my cholesterol the natural way and not rely on prescription medication. Through much research, I found that high cholesterol levels are caused by inflammation in the body and not enough movement; and inflammation can be controlled through consuming a diet rich with anti-inflammatory foods (i.e. almonds, leafy greens, fish, pineapple, etc.). You can read about anti-inflammatory foods on Dr. Andrew Weil’s website.

So, I made the decision to start walking every day and switch to a whole foods diet—no processed foods and very little sugar. There went my nightly handful of peanut M&Ms.

I started by shopping on the outside perimeter of the grocery store and buying only whole, organic foods—fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean protein.

As far as beverages, I drink mostly water and black coffee. Fortunately, I never sweetened my coffee, so that was one habit I didn’t have to break.

I don’t deny myself any food. I still occasionally have a piece of cake or some ice cream, but it’s not a regular part of my diet.

Something I always hear from people is, “It’s so expensive to eat healthy.”

I agree, it’s not cheap, but neither are prescriptions, doctor’s appointments and hospital stays! I’m a strong believer in the Benjamin Franklin quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure.”

One way I’ve kept healthy eating affordable is by joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) group. With CSA farms, you pay a set amount for a year, and in return, you pick up a bin of fresh vegetables every week from April through early November.

This has allowed me to enjoy vegetables I had never eaten before, such as kohlrabi, and vegetables I would normally not buy, such as beets and fennel—which by the way are very good sautéed together with some olive oil and garlic!

I’m also a frequent visitor to area farmer’s markets for fresh ingredients, including goat cheese, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. We’re blessed to live in a state with so many farms. Visit this site to find a farmer’s market in your area.

I started clean eating in an effort to lower my cholesterol naturally, and as an added benefit, I ended up losing 30 pounds!

In my first check-up following my lifestyle changes, my cholesterol also dropped by 30 points. And based on my most recent biometric screening, my overall cholesterol dropped another 15 points— all because of clean eating and exercise.

When I made the decision to eat healthier and get regular exercise, I never called it “a diet” because that sounds so much like a fad. I called it a lifestyle change, and it certainly has been a very positive one!

In case you have a sweet tooth, too, I’ve included one of my favorite recipes. Enjoy!

High-Protein Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • 6 pitted dried dates, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
  • ¾ cups shredded coconut
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 medium eggs (or if vegan, 2 tablespoons finely ground flaxseed + 5 tablespoons warm water)
  • ½ tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons dried unsweetened dark cherries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons currants

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If you’re doing the vegan version, whisk your ground flax and warm water in a bowl. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it has thickened.
  3. Combine the coconut flour, almond butter and dates in a food processor. Process until it’s combined and the dates have broken into really small pieces—about a minute.
  4. Add the shredded coconut, applesauce, eggs or flax “eggs,” cinnamon, vanilla, salt and baking soda. Process for 30 seconds or until a wet dough forms.
  5. Add in the remaining ingredients, and pulse once or twice until the fruit is incorporated in the dough but chopped up.
  6. Drop the dough in heaping spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Dip a metal spatula in water, and use the bottom to lightly press down each ball of dough. These cookies will not spread or rise so make sure to make them the shape you want prior to baking.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they are golden on top and slightly brown along the edges.

Susan RoberstonSusan Robertson  Contact
UT Institute for Public Service

Susan handles communications for the UT Institute for Public Service. She enjoys spending time outdoors—hiking and documenting the natural beauty of East Tennessee through photography. Susan loves watching all sports, reading, cooking and fulfilling the needs of her demanding miniature dachshund, Wrigley.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

“Mama! Daddy’s staring at the box of pasta again!”

By Darren Hughes

Wren came out of the womb screaming and didn’t let up for four months. That’s how long it took us to identify most of the allergies that were making our daughter feel so miserable.

Figuring it out has been a long and frustrating process involving a lot of research, doctor visits and trial and error. Now, two and a half years later, we think we’ve finally found the culprit—gluten.

I know. Believe me, I know. There is nothing more mind-numbing than hearing someone talk about food allergies, especially gluten, which is trendier than cat pics.

I was a skeptic myself. But Wren’s diagnosis—gluten sensitivity rather than Celiac disease, fortunately—was confirmed by a biopsy and the night-and-day difference we’ve seen since eliminating gluten from her diet.

We also learned that gluten sensitivity is often an inherited trait, so as an experiment, I cut it from my own diet, and, sure enough, I feel a whole lot better, too.

But this post is not about gluten. It’s about what happened when relatively late in life (I’m 43), I was forced to start reading—and I mean really reading—food labels.

Groceries became more expensive.
I’m a child of the ‘70s, raised on bologna, Kraft cheese slices, Pop Tarts and Hostess cupcakes. Honestly, that stuff is still comfort food to me. And here’s the frustrating part: pre-packaged offerings like that are relatively inexpensive calories, especially compared to fresh produce. But I now have to avoid those aisles completely. We’ve gone so far as to subscribe to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program (Fresh from the Farm) that, for $30, delivers a big box of fruit and vegetables every Wednesday. The kids now look forward to digging through it each week.

Wren (left) and Rory checking out the fresh produce.
Wren (left) and Rory checking out the fresh produce.

But there are fewer restaurant bills.
My wife and I were married for 14 years before we became parents, and eating out was an almost daily part of our lives. When Wren’s older sister, Rory, came along, we just bundled her up and carried her with us to restaurants. Now, we cook most of our meals at home, and instead of having long conversations over prepared dinners, Joanna and I spend time together in the kitchen every evening, sharing cooking responsibilities. On balance, we’re spending about the same amount on food every month; it’s just being distributed differently. And we’re washing a lot more dishes, which, frankly, is a drag.

The entire family benefits.
Our dietary changes were provoked by Wren’s health issues, but we’re all benefiting from them. Rory recently had her pre-kindergarten check-up, and her pediatrician was shocked by her low cholesterol numbers. (Apparently cholesterol is a growing problem among American 5-year-olds!) This was music to my ears, as I’ve passed onto both my daughters a strong genetic predisposition for heart disease and diabetes.

I’m losing weight.
Apparently eating fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans instead of sandwiches, pasta, donuts, pizza and fried food really does lead to weight loss. Who knew? I’m now the same weight I was in college 20 years ago, for whatever that’s worth. I’m also sleeping better and feel less anxious.


The Hughes FamilyDarren Hughes  Contact
UT Foundation

Darren lives on a small farm with his wife, two daughters, a couple horses and a whole mess of cats. He’s not sure how that happened, to be honest. When he’s not pulling weeds or mowing, he’s attending film festivals, listening to music or cooking. Darren has had nine job titles and 13 different offices during his 17 years at UT. He currently serves as director of online engagement.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The Gift of Gardening

By Melissa Powell

Early in my career as a dietitian, it became apparent that I knew a lot about the science of food but not much about where it came from.

I began to feel like an astrophysicist who forgot to take astronomy or a neurosurgeon who never took anatomy. I felt like a piece of the puzzle was missing, so I decided to befriend farmers and take up gardening.

I spent a summer volunteering at Crabtree Farms in Chattanooga. I worked in the fields and listened to the farmers throughout the growing season.

At home, my husband and I prepared a small raised bed and planted a handful of vegetables and herbs. I started reading Joel Salatin, Wendall Berry and the Grumpy Gardener. But come August, I had a wealth of knowledge and no harvest.

In our eagerness to plant, we miscalculated the foliage growth from the canopy of trees that resulted in little to no sunlight over the garden.

The following year, we were in a new city and a rental house, so I purchased two containers and two tomato plants. We ate plump, juicy sliced tomatoes, BLTs and tomato pie through September! The next two springs were spent growing a family, so I took a break from gardening.

Since returning to Chattanooga last summer, I’ve rekindled my friendship with wonderful local farmers, prepared a bed in our front yard—where there are no trees and eight hours of full sun—and enjoyed lettuce, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, peppers and eggplant. We had marigolds in vases throughout the house, and I’ve even learned to make pesto and pickles.

Lettuce

This year, I added okra and mint, bought my 5-year-old son a garden set for Easter and joined a meat buying club to receive our pork, chicken and eggs from a local farmer.

Melissa's son, Craig, learning to garden.
Melissa’s son, Craig, learning to garden.

I’ve extended my farming friendships to a 100-mile radius and already sent a down payment for our Thanksgiving turkey. It’s being raised on a beautiful farm in Mentone, Alabama, by four loving farmers and their dog, Petra.

I have to admit that my squash did die. But an older, wiser farmer from Ohatchee, Alabama, encouraged me to press on and sent me home with some helpful tips and plenty of blueberries and squash from his own crop.

Gardening has been holy ground for me. It’s reminded me of the seasons of life. That growth often happens despite my failings. And that the Earth and her people are gifts to be cherished.

These lessons have made me a better mother and dietitian, and I hope to pass them down to my son and students.


Melissa Powell and FamilyMelissa Powell Contact
UT Chattanooga

Melissa is a registered dietitian and dietetics lecturer in the Health and Human Performance Department at UT Chattanooga.  She and her husband, Chris, are the proud parents of a playful son, Craig. She enjoys time with her church family, taming her lab mutts–Mabel and Moses—wine with neighbors and traveling south for a beach vacation or visit with her nieces. Her favorite subjects are faith, food, farming, family, friends and football. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Samford University and a master’s degree in health education from UT Chattanooga.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

You are What You Eat—And What it Eats, Too

A Crash Course on Clean Eating

By Lili’a Uili Neville

I am Samoan, and in general, we have a reputation for being quite large people—think Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as “The Rock.”

In all seriousness, present day Samoans have startling obesity and diabetes rates.

From what I understand of the research, as Samoans and other Oceanic peoples explored the Pacific Ocean, their metabolism adapted to store fats for longer periods of time to sustain them until they reached land. Present day Samoans still have this metabolism but no longer have open-ocean voyages that utilize the stored fat.

Me with my Samoan relatives in 2009.
Me with my Samoan relatives in 2009.

I often joke that if I look at a piece of cake, I gain five pounds. But I joke to mask the reality.

My recent family history includes widespread cholesterol problems, morbid obesity and adult-onset diabetes resulting in death.

Since I have to be very careful about what I eat, I’ve tried all sorts of diets and eating habits. It was about two years ago when I realized eating right requires intention and commitment.

As I became more intentional about my food choices, I found the clean eating lifestyle.

Clean eating means that you only consume food with zero or minimal amounts of processing.

Switching to a clean eating lifestyle may mean your typical food options will become limited, which can be overwhelming and hard. But for me, it’s been the right approach.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve included some tips, recommendations, recipes and even my weekly grocery list to help you get started.

Tip #1: If it comes in a sealed package, stay clear. There are exceptions, but it’s an easy standard to remember.

8 Recommendations for Clean Eating

1) Sweets: Don’t eat them.
If you’re eating clean, you’re not eating white flour or white sugar, and that’s the foundation of almost every sweet. Instead, try clean baking at home by using almond flour, honey, maple syrup, molasses or agave nectar.

2) Condiments: Look at the ingredients.
If it doesn’t use high-fructose corn syrup, it probably uses white sugar. Neither qualify for eating clean. Like clean baking, you can make clean condiments to use at home.

3) Drinks: Almost all drinks are not clean.
Stick to water, coffee, tea and herbal infusions instead.

4) Proteins: You are what you eat—and what it eats, too.
Corn-fed animals, hot dogs, sausages, hams and sandwich meats are not clean. As an alternative, purchase whole meats straight from a butcher. The animal itself should be the only ingredient. For ground meats, most butchers will freshly grind meat you select from their store.

If you’re a vegetarian, clean proteins can be slightly more difficult to consume because meat substitutes are highly processed. My personal clean protein go-tos are eggs (I have two every morning) and beans. When it comes to actually substituting for meat, I prefer beans and tofu instead of processed veggie burgers, meatless crumbles, “chik” fingers, etc. Tofu is processed soy milk but it is still considered to be a clean protein. To replace veggie burgers, I make black bean burgers from scratch. To replace meatless crumbles, I use my day-old black bean burgers and stir-fry them so they are slightly crunchy. When it comes to “chik” products, I have spent a substantial amount of time and energy learning the secret to breading and baking/frying tofu. The trick is soaking the tofu in salt water for 10-15 minutes before patting dry and using cornstarch in your breading.

5) Fruits and Vegetables: Raw vegetables are your best friend.
Be careful with fruit because natural sugars are unhealthy when eaten in excess.

Fruits and Veggies

6) Fats and Oils: Butter is clean and fairly healthy as long as you don’t eat it in excess. Use oils sparingly because they aren’t very healthy. Your typical oils like vegetable or canola are not clean, but olive and coconut oils are clean.

7) Grains: Avoid packaged breads at home and in restaurants.
Whole grain, packaged bread will use clean ingredients like whole-wheat flour and water but also use unclean ingredients like sugar, juice concentrates, milk and a variety of preservatives.

Tip #2: If you want to eat bread, consume local artisan bread because the processing will be substantially less.

Truly, bread isn’t the problem. Whole wheat, almond and other whole-grain flours are clean. The problem is with white flour. This is where clean eating hurts me the most. No packaged breads or white flour means no sandwiches, subs, buns, crackers, chips, cereal, granola bars, pasta, noodles, pizza, calzone, pita and basically everything we like to eat because the American diet is based on grains.

I get my bread fix by eating starchy tubers and whole grains. I eat a potato almost every day at breakfast. Getting that big starch portion first thing in the morning helps me avoid bread at lunch. At dinner, I typically cook with basmati, jasmine, brown and long grain rice.

8) Restaurants: Clean eating problems typically arise at restaurants.
However, most chain and upscale restaurants will have clean meat or fish options and whole food sides, like rice, baked potatoes (no fries!) and vegetables.

Fast-food restaurants are problematic—but not impossible. I recommend starting with the salad options. Pick off the croutons and forgive yourself for the cheese and dressing.

To be completely honest, I have a hard time eating salads from fast-food restaurants. I’m really picky about lettuce. Like, really picky. If you can’t bear to eat a fast-food salad, most places have apple slices or fruit cups on their sides menu that will hold you over until you can find clean food.

 Tip #3: Wendy’s restaurants have a variety of baked potato options.

Getting Started at the Grocery Store

After getting your fill of produce, add these clean items to your cart:

  • Unsweetened almond, soy, coconut milk or creamer
  • Honey
  • Greek yogurt
  • Organic eggs
  • Tofu
  • Beans (Black, garbanzo, kidney, navy)
  • Whole nuts (Almonds, peanuts, cashews)
  • Rice or nut crackers
  • Rice (Brown, long grain, wild)
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Whole-wheat flour

Always check ingredients on packaged foods, but a few brands are pretty trustworthy:

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Kroger’s Simply Truth Organic
  • Earth Balance
  • Blue Diamond

2 New Recipes to Try for Whole Grain Salads


Lili'a Uili NevilleLili’a Uili Neville  Contact
UT Knoxville

Lili’a Uili Neville is a runner, environmentalist and health nut. Lili’a is the communications director in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity at UT Knoxville. When she’s not at work, she is underestimating how long it will take her to complete a craft project, telling funny stories about her dog and cat or having a classy date night with her husband.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Recipe: Healthy Shrimp Scampi

By Dr. Gloria Browning

Ingredients
8 ounces uncooked whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons butter

Instructions
Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Add garlic to the saucepan and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add lemon juice if desired, and parsley, salt and pepper. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add butter and cooked shrimp. Toss until shrimp are coated with sauce.

Divide pasta among warmed individual bowls. Top each serving with shrimp and sauce. Serve immediately.


Recommended by Dr. Gloria Browning  Contact
Associate Professor, Department of Nursing
UT Martin

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Recipe: Paleo Chicken Parmesan

By Dr. Mace Coday

Sauce:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2, 28 ounce (800 ml) cans of tomato puree
1, 16 ounce (475 ml) can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 cup water

Chicken:
2 pounds of chicken thighs
1 and 1/2 cups almond flour
6 tablespoons coconut oil
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter (or ghee)
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Instructions
Cook onions and garlic in oil until tender, about five minutes. Add in the rest of the sauce ingredients, mix well and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes. Cover after five minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. In a bowl, add all dry ingredients and mix well. Dredge each piece of chicken, first in the dry mix, then eggs, then dry mix again. Carefully place each piece of chicken in the frying pan with the butter or ghee and fry until golden brown, or about three minutes on each side. Remove chicken from the pan and set it aside.

Pour your sauce into the frying pan. Heat the sauce to a simmer and then add the chicken back into the pan on top of the sauce. Simmer for another five minutes, then cover and cook in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the cover after 10 minutes. If you want to add mozzarella cheese slices, this is the time to do it. Place one on each piece of chicken. Cook uncovered for another 10 minutes.


Recommended by Dr. Mace Coday  Contact
Professor, Preventive Medicine and Psychiatry
UT Health Science Center

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Summer Reading: 9 Lessons for a Longer Life

By Melissa Powell

This summer marks a crossroads for my family.

After five years of divinity school and ordination exams, my husband is handing off the academic baton in August to our son, who is starting kindergarten, and me, as I begin work on my doctorate.

As a result, we’re embracing all things summer, especially reading.

I am putting down textbooks, professional journals and student assignments and instead picking up Dr. Seuss, Southern Living magazine and that reading wish list that all teachers have tucked away, collecting dust.

“The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” by Dan BuettnerMy first pick was a throwback to a 2012 bestseller, “The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” by Dan Buettner.

As a dietitian, I often ask myself what normal people are reading about health and nutrition. If you’re looking for a good book, I hope you will consider this title.

Many health-related books leave us feeling guilty, overwhelmed, or worse, lied to. Alternatively, this book made me feel as though I was traveling the globe, making new friends and, in general, hopeful about my health.

Buettner, a longevity expert and National Geographic Fellow, travels the world researching blue zones–communities with exceptionally high numbers of residents who are 100 or more years old.

In one chapter, he asks Okinawan, Japan native, Kamada, her secrete to living to the age of 102.

“Eat your vegetables, have a positive outlook, be kind to people and smile,” Kamada replied.

Buettner’s book allows us to glean from a few of our oldest “fathers and mothers” on the planet about food, activity and social habits that may be key to a full and healthy life. Similarly, Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long…”

“The Blue Zones” will encourage you to make the environment around you more healthful. And, while there is a focus on your plate and activity, it also will gently challenge you to consider how your attitude, the company you keep and even faith may affect your overall health, well-being and chances for longevity.


Melissa Powell and FamilyMelissa Powell Contact
UT Chattanooga

Melissa is a registered dietitian and dietetics lecturer in the Health and Human Performance Department at UT Chattanooga.  She and her husband, Chris, are the proud parents of a playful son, Craig. She enjoys time with her church family, taming her lab mutts–Mabel and Moses—wine with neighbors and traveling south for a beach vacation or visit with her nieces. Her favorite subjects are faith, food, farming, family, friends and football. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Samford University and a master’s degree in health education from UT Chattanooga.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Recipe: Pecan-Encrusted Salmon

By Rebecca Krukowksi

Ingredients
¾ pound salmon fillet
Freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons low-fat yogurt or sour cream
½ cup ground pecans

Instructions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pepper both sides of salmon and place in pan covered with aluminum foil. Combine mustard and yogurt; spread over salmon. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake 12-15 minutes at 450 degrees.


Recommended by Rebecca Krukowksi  Contact
UT Health Science Center
Assistant Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

5 Lessons from a Recovering Barbecue Addict

By Keith Carver

December 2014 was a low point.

I had just gotten my annual physical. My doctor told me that I was 30 pounds overweight. My blood sugar was dangerously high. And my blood pressure had gotten to a level that had captured my physician’s attention.

I was stunned. While I knew that I was overweight, I had recently completed the St. Jude marathon in Memphis and had set my personal best for that race and distance. I was “in shape.” But I knew that I hadn’t felt well in years. My sleeping habits were suffering, and I had noticed more swelling and pain in my joints. Something had to change.

He suggested that I consult a nutritionist to look at my eating. I immediately contacted a local professional to help educate and train me on good food choices and habits.

I’ve learned a great deal in the last four months.

Lesson 1: You can’t out-exercise bad eating habits.
No matter how much you walk or run, poor food choices will derail any good total-wellness plan.

Lesson 2: A well-balanced diet is easy to follow.
It just takes discipline and preparation. Use your Sunday evenings to plan your week of eating. When are you traveling? How often will you be eating at restaurants? When can you bring your lunch to work? Planning ahead so that you can make food choices ahead of time is essential. We are sporadic about eating healthy. Not planning ahead equates to poor decisions.

Lesson 3: Exercising 30 minutes a day is key to good physical (and mental) health.
I used to think that hours in the gym or on the road were needed to lose weight. I’ve now discovered that a mix of healthy eating plus consistent exercise—regardless of the particular routine—keeps me headed in the right direction. Try 30 minutes of walking with your spouse or riding bikes with your kids. Get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning to go for a run before work. Get on an elliptical machine or stationary bike while you watch the news. Whatever it takes—fit exercise into your daily schedule and make it a priority.

Lesson 4: Figure out your nutritional needs.
It varies from person to person, but I currently subscribe to a 40/30/30 plan. That’s 40 percent of my diet being lean proteins, 30 percent being good carbohydrates and 30 percent being heart-healthy fats. I eat three meals a day, plus three snacks in between. This keeps me satiated and full. A doctor or nutritionist can help you figure out a plan just for you.

Lesson 5: Set attainable goals.
Instead of striving to lose 30 pounds, break it into smaller units. You want to lose 5 pounds. Or, you want to fit into those jeans you wore two years ago. Whatever your goal—make it reachable and tangible.

I’ve lost 19 pounds since the holidays. My blood sugar is down, and I’m sleeping better. Best of all, I feel so much better.

I still have miles to go, but I’ll get there…one decision at a time.


The Carver FamilyKeith Carver  Blog  Contact
UT System Administration

Keith is husband to an amazing woman and dad to three active children. He enjoys getting outdoors with his wife, Hollianne, fishing, watching his children play sports all over East Tennessee and reading biographies of historical figures. He currently serves as the executive assistant to UT President Joe DiPietro.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Recipe: Baked Vegetables

By Melissa Powell

Ingredients
2 yellow squash, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper, to taste, optional
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Instructions
Combine the squash, zucchini and tomatoes in a bowl; toss to mix. Add the olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Spread one-third of the vegetables in a baking dish and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat the layers two more times. Bake, covered with foil, at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Serves 4.


Recommended by Melissa Powell  Contact
UT Chattanooga
Clinical Instructor, Lecturer and Registered Dietician, Department of Health and Human Performance

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.