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


  • 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


  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.

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.