Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Part 2 of Penelope's I Wanna Stay Alive Plan: The Diet

Welcome to Part 2 of Penelope's I Wanna Stay Alive Plan! Part 1 (which was posted yesterday) was all about exercise. (Walking!) Today's post is about my new diet. After having a heart attack in August, I completed re-vamped my eating. No more McDonald's french fries. No more nacho platters at the Mexican restaurant. I have 2 main health concerns to address: heart health and diabetes. So, according to the nutritionist at the hospital, my diet needed to be low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie (low-taste...hee hee). After I compared the Do Not Eat List and the Okay To Eat List, I was left with...
Celery Sticks.

And Water.

All right, maybe not that bad, but pretty damned close. Some things were okay on one list, but not okay on another. So, what did I do? I took all the lists and made up my own diet, with a heavy emphasis on the super-foods, and stuff I liked. Here is what I eat every day. You might think that eating the same thing every day sucks, but actually it's great. I don't have to think about it...I know it's healthy. And of course, I can mix it up a bit when I want to!

Breakfast: 1 piece of whole wheat toast w/ lo-fat, lo-sodium peanut butter, some walnuts, tea or coffee

Morning Snack (if needed): half an apple w/ peanut butter, or banana, or 1/2 container fat-free Greek yogurt w/ blueberries and wheat germ, or handful of walnuts; water

Lunch: mini whole wheat pita pocket stuffed with veggies (cuke, tomato, sprouts, greens, mushrooms, avocado, and hummus) or mini whole wheat pita grilled on panini maker (with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, 1 slice lo-salt, lo-fat cheese, avocado). 5-10 "healthy" chips, such as Food Should Taste Good olive chips. Water. (fruit for dessert if I want it)

Afternoon Snack (if needed): hummus and pita chips or carrots/celery to dip (part skim ricotta cheese also a good dipper!), 1/2 container fat free Greek yogurt (w/ fruit if desired).

Dinner: Bowl of greens! Use different kinds of greens...spinach, mesclun with herbs, red-leaf, whatever; add on top, grilled salmon, chicken, steak, small portion--whatever I am cooking for the family; plus, sprinkle of cheese, such as goat cheese, feta, or blue; plus walnuts, pumpkin seeds or other nuts; plus dried fruit if desired--such as dried cranberries, etc. Sprinkle olive oil and a dash of vinegar on top. Water to drink (add slice of orange in water to spiff it up a bit!) This winter I have also been roasting veggies (squash, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, fennel, beets, etc) and plopping them on top of my bowl of greens, just to have something nice and warm to eat.

This diet works for me. I love veggies. Well, I love food. But I've learned that my life can't center around my meals anymore. Being healthy is more important.

Here's my new motto: Nothing tastes as good as being alive.

Here are some more tips and ideas...please leave a comment and let me know some of your tips, too!

**Your diet needs to be about quality AND quantity. Sure, you could lose weight by eating crap at McDonald's all day--if you ate small amounts of food--but eventually you would still die from a heart attack. It's not just the number of calories you consume, but the quality of calories. You need to eat heart healthy stuff...walnuts, salmon, blueberries. Check out this great website (Heart Healthy Living) for more info about heart healthy foods.

**Sodium is a killer. Prepared foods and restaurant foods are on the no-no list. This was really hard for me. I love eating out and I love the convenience of prepared foods. Even supposedly "healthy" foods and soups have astronomically high amounts of sodium. DON'T EAT THEM. Freeze your own home-made soup, make a healthy sandwich for lunch, if you go out to eat order a salad with no dressing--ask for oil and vinegar and make your own. Also, try appetizers...better portion size. Veggie sushi is good (no soy sauce!). You'll get used to it.

**You don't need to join Jenny Craig. Any diet plan that uses prepared foods is bad (and expensive)...and worst of all, the probability of gaining all the weight back after the "diet" is over is pretty high. That totally sucks. Weight Watchers seems good to me because it's teaching people to eat healthy without using prepared foods, and there is a good support system.

**Red wine is heart healthy!--have half a glass. So is dark chocolate...have a tiny square.

**Find recipes you like and make a batch for the week. My two favorites are chick pea and feta salad (I make it with whole wheat couscous and stuff it in my pita pocket) and homemade chicken soup.

**I eat a lot of chick peas and nuts for protein. If you need more protein in your diet, try lean turkey on your sammie, or tuna (make your own salad w/ fat free mayo and lots of veggies) or egg salad (make your own!).

**Going to a party? Is it Thanksgiving? Fill up on a big salad, then have one bite of something bite of the cake, or pumpkin pie, whatever. That's all you really need. You'll already be stuffed from all the veggies!

**After every meal, I walk. It burns up calories, it increases your energy level. It makes you feel better.

This is what has been working for me. I gave up white pasta and white bread, which hurt like a bitch. I love that stuff! But I got used to this new diet pretty quickly, and I noticed right away I felt better eating this way. I no longer have horrible acid reflux, I don't get tired so easily.

I would love to hear from all of you and find out your diet tips. What works? What doesn't work? How do you incorporate healthy eating if you have a family, and your daughter only eats chicken nuggets? Stuff like that.

Let's chat!



Tales of Whimsy said...

That was awesome. I'm printing this out :)

Michelle Picard said...

You are my role model. And particularly because you are taking the time to share your wisdom with us.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Juju...this diet is great if you like veggies! :)

Penny Watson said...

Michelle...your diet is way more complicated than mine! You are so dedicated to eating the way you need to for good health.

Hannah said...

Hi Penny--Thanks for sharing your daily meals! It's really much more helpful than any diet book to hear from a real person "how I really lost weight and kept it off."

One question--do you feel full after your evening meal even without any kind of bread? When I've tried low- or healthly-carb diets, I sometimes end up binging on unhealthy carbs. Does it take a while to get over the carb cravings and what do you do in the meantime. Bite pillows?

Penny Watson said...

Hi Hannah! That is a great question. I used to be totally addicted to white bread/pasta, etc. I couldn't imagine eating a meal without them. I just started substituting tons of salad greens for the carbs. You can have as many bowls of greens as you'd like. They fill you up, are full of fiber, very low calorie. Once you throw carrots, tomatoes, orange/yellow pepper slices, cuke, on'll really get filled up quickly. If I am really jonesing for carbs, I'll have one piece of whole wheat bread with "healthy" butter substitute on it. And maybe some yogurt/fruit after dinner in an emergency! It didn't take that long to get over the carb thing.

Kath said...

You are doing great!

Since age 19, I have eaten few processed foods, mostly home made salads, fruit smoothies and slow cooker soups.

Jack LaLanne was my hero; I also use a juicer and have fresh gazpacho most months (not January) and strawberry smoothies most months and tons of fruit and uncooked veggies every day.

Over the holidays when I eat holiday food, I get soo tired - not just from turkey - but from everything else - mashed potatoes, pies - etc., all the delicious things I usually do not eat - and come January -- I find a few more pounds on the scale.

For 2 decades, I ran every day -- but I have really slipped up in recent years. After this next snowfall (tonight) I am heading back to the gym every day, and jogging around my neighborhood.

It is true that sitting here all day can really be hazardous to one's health.

I am so happy for you! You did great after a heart attack !!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Kathryn...thanks so much! Gazpacho is one of my favorite foods...I make it all the time in the summer, with fresh basil from my garden. My hubby also makes smoothies almost every night after dinner for my daughter...with yogurt and fresh fruit. Your diet sounds super healthy...way to go. This snow is awful! It's killing my exercise routine. I'm forced to go to the track at the gym or walk inside. I cannot wait for spring in New England!

Kath said...

Yes, indoors is horrible here; I used to live in Montreal, which had severely restricted biking and jogging months. I do wall pushups against the sink and do 'ballet barre' with the chairs and backs of furniture; dance in the laundry room, but yeah, not the same. My youngest sister ate junk all her life and didn't exercise and suffers so much from serious disease; I worry that my laziness is costing me, so can't wait for spring.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your great discipline and positive changes. Long life to you and everyone reading this post. It's very inspiring. My "Friday Feast" post at is about the blood type diet "Eat Right 4 Your Type". My family has successfully followed this program since 1998. Take a peek. I eat plenty of pasta and bread but not wheat. We eat spelt, rice, and Ezekial bread.
Be well, write well,
Joy Held
Writer Wellness, A Writer's Path to Health and Creativity
Who Dares Wins Publishing

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

I have a hiatal hernia and GERD so my food list doesn't look much better than yours, Penny. I saw my GI guy today and he is very pleased with my weight loss. A little sad that I have restricted myself so much (no chocolate, no coffee, no soda, no fruit juice, no raw garlic or onion, a small amount of tomato sauce, that's the killer for me to give up), but I'm feeling better and I have very few symptoms. So he was happy again. So food is not a comfort or enjoyable as it used to be, but I'm healthy and feeling good! Think that should be a song! I used the Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan by Barbara Rolls, PhD (Penn State) and Robert A. Barnett. It worked for me and maybe it will work for others. Keep up the good work, Penny. Nancy

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Yes! I have this rule, nothing white shall cross these lips, with the possible exception of yogurt/cheese/a little buttermilk - in small quantities since I'm lactose-intolerant.
We keep the carbs to a minimum, the fresh fruits and veggies to a maximum. I love beans of all kinds - nuts, peanut butter - the stir-y kind.
You are eating such great stuff! My main vice is that I don't like dark chocolate. I like milk chocolate so I allow myself to eat it, but not too much.
It's not all that complicated to eat healthy - you get used to the extra time it takes and it's worth it.
I'm lucky - this is how my parents eat and this is how my mom taught me to cook.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Joy! Thanks for stopping by...your blog is really cool.

Hi Nancy!--I had horrible, horrible GERD...couldn't drink coffee for 2 years. Oh, how I missed it. Once I lost the 48 pounds, my acid reflux went away, and I can drink coffee again. I am so happy. Severe acid reflux can be really debilitating. Good luck...the weight loss will hopefully fix it. Sounds like you're doing great!

Penny Watson said... have such a good, healthy diet and lifestyle. It helps if you like fresh fruit and dad had triple bypass and unfortunately he just loved to eat junk food...fatty meats, fried stuff. It's really hard for older folks to change a lifetime of bad dietary habits. Much easier to do it when you're younger!

Lindsay said...

Wow, that's awesome that you can stick to a diet like that. I don't know that I ever could. My big secret was focusing on size and giving myself rewards. My husband does all of the cooking and it isn't always the healthiest thing although we have gotten better. So how I changed this was I watched how much of it I ate and then substituted the food that I was eating but having healthy snacks like veggies, fruits, and almonds.

I'm a very guilty person, if that makes sense. I knew that I couldn't stick to a strict diet so I went for the idea of rewards. At my work every night there is a huge plate of cookies. If I spent the whole night without eating one, then the next night I could without any feelings of guilt. Or if I went two nights without, I'd get a candy bar etc. It was the daily short term goals that allowed me to say NO!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Lindsay! Fear, guilt...all good motivations for eating right...hee hee! Just kidding. Truly, it all comes down to "all things in moderation"--it's OK to have a cookie every day, just not the whole box.

MiaMarlowe said...

I'm so proud of you for your "make no excuses" attitude. You've taken control of your own health by changing what you put in your mouth.

I've been on high dose steroids since last September and one of the side effects is increased appetite (read: ravenous hunger) and significant weight gain. However, I'm actually down 27 pounds from my high weight of last summer. I'd love to lose more, but even staying even is a win on steroids. Every day I have to take the wolf out of its cage for three strolls around the dining table, but I keep it on a tight leash.

Fortunately, the steroids are working to fix my lung problems and my diet is keeping me from turning into the Goodyear Blimp. I can't control everything, but I am in charge of what I put in my mouth.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Mia! Thanks for stopping by. Your weight loss is amazing! I was on steroids a long time ago and I remember being absolutely starved...all the time! I know how tough that is. That's why this diet is can eat all day long, little mini healthy snacks, so you don't get too hungry.

Hot Ash Romance Novels said...

Great diet, Penny.

I'm in the same boat, and recently I found out my hubby has food allergies--to just about everything! So, no superbowl party here this year. It would be too hard, plus we just got back from a cruise and are now eating about the same things you are and drinking water.

I figure the longer we let the excess sit on our hips, the longer the hips will want to keep it there.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Ashlyn....I loved your comments about the cruise...funny! There is no way in holy hell to lose weight on a cruise ship...way too much (naughty) food to choose from. The cool thing I found out about heart disease is that it's reversible. Once you start eating a "clean" diet your heart will recover.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Penny!

Thanks for sharing all your tips! You've already been a great inspiration to me. :)

One thing I’ve discovered that helped in my personal Be Healthy Quest is this book called the Diabetes Dtour Diet. (It's not just for diabetes; it's for anyone who wants to be healthy and to avoid the disease. As a wonderful side effect, it targets & eliminates belly fat. *grin*) A lot of your tips fall in line with their recommendations. I choose whole grain breads over white processed and in moderation. I also add more Omega-3 rich foods (like avocados, walnuts, toasted flax seeds, salmon…) to my diet and more calcium and vitamin D, in the form of fat free milk and reduced fat cheeses. Oh, and I avoid sugary treats. (I thought that last one would be tougher than it has been, btw. One thing I’ve discovered I love is chocolate graham crackers, which are whole grain and I can have as a snack or dessert.)

I also calorie count and measure. Yeah, I told myself years ago I’d NEVER count calories again, ever, but I had to accept that what I was doing wasn’t working. I’ve found it makes an enormous difference! I use’s calorie counting app which makes tracking way easier. For measuring, I bought a set of nesting bowls that look like regular cereal bowls and I use them to measure out cereal (etc...) without having to drag out the measuring cups. I use a food scale now and then too. It’s really not a big deal! Measuring spoons help too – and also keeping everything handy in the kitchen.

For exercise, I tapped into my love of dance and asked for Dance Central as a Christmas gift. I love it! :) I’m down 14 pounds since the beginning of December (yeah, I know! I lost weight through the holidays!!??) and am on my way to making my first milestone goal of twenty pounds.

Thanks again for all your positive inspiration! Let’s meet up for salad & grilled salmon soon! :)

Lena G.

Penny Watson said...

Lena....I am so happy for you! Way to go with the weight loss! Thanks for bringing up the portion size thing. I forgot to mention that. When I first started my diet, I measured serving sizes for everything. I had no idea that I was eating 2 or 3x more food/serving than I should.

Sounds like you are on the right track to good health! :)