Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Health Tricks from a Working Mom

Both my husband and I have out of control cholesterol. Out of control good, that is. We've both had ours checked in the last two years and been surprised at the results. My HDL is 80, and while I can't remember the LDL and triglycerides offhand, both were in the 60s or 70s.

My husband's cholesterol surprised me more. He reported to me that his LDL was 39. He's not a physician, so I assumed he got confused and was telling me his HDL because I have literally never seen an LDL that low. But then he showed me the paper and he was right. (His HDL was only 47 though, which he took as a personal offense since he says he eats a lot of peanut butter.) It's weird because neither of us really "deserve" to have good cholesterol based on the way we eat and (to be entirely frank) look, but I guess we're young and have good genes. (At least, good cholesterol genes. The rest is still suspect.)

Sort of the same way doing well on a test makes you want to study more, having good cholesterol makes me want to eat healthier. My husband and I are far from being health nuts. Very far. We've gotten better in the last few years, since my schedule has allowed me to do more home cooking, but we still get fast food probably twice a week. And the fast food isn't, like, a grilled chicken sandwich. My husband gets the Angus bacon burger with approximately 10 million calories, although I get the Southern Style chicken sandwich with only 5 million calories. And other times when we eat out at a restaurant, it isn't healthy stuff either. Although this is way better than in residency, when my personal food pyramid probably would have allotted a large space for the vending machine.

I do try to cook as much as possible. I figure anything I make at home, even the stuff that comes out of a box, is better than eating out. Even TV dinners, which are probably the equivalent of chugging from a salt shaker, are better than eating out, because the portions are way smaller. Whenever I eat out, I usually end up feeling nauseatingly full, whereas I rarely feel that way from home cooking.

These are my extremely easy, working mom strategies to try to be healthier:

1) I buy big bags of frozen vegetables, mainly broccoli, corn, peas, and carrots. Whatever I cook, no matter what it is, I dump a bunch of vegetables in it, and then add less of everything else (i.e. meat, pasta). I'm sure frozen veggies aren't as good as fresh, but I'm not Susie Homemaker and I just don't have time to chop fresh vegetables like I used to do when I was an MS4 (that was the most free time I will ever have in my life again until I retire). I figure even if the veggies have zero nutritional value, they at least take up space and make us eat less of the other stuff.

2) I only use olive oil. It's the only oil in my house. I use it place of any other oil that's been called for in a recipe and there have been no major consequences. I sometimes use it in place of butter, but that's been a little less successful.

3) I buy whole grain rice and bread. My daughter will only eat white rice and bread, but you can buy whole grain white rice and bread, and if you're a trusting sort, you can believe that's just as healthy as the brown stuff. (We compared the ingredients once and it was pretty close, actually.)

4) I drink only water. When I gave up soft drinks a few years ago, I instantly lost like five pounds without making any other changes. The only drink we have in our house right now is milk. I even get water in place of a soft drink at fast food restaurants.

So those are my easy strategies for trying to be healthier. What are yours?


  1. I walk the dog 1-2 miles a day, and I walk to work (3 miles round trip). When Xmas vacation was occurring, I gained 3 pounds just because I wasn't walking anymore. Lately I've been trying to swim more often because it makes me happy. Working out to lose weight or "because it's good for me" has never been very motivating for me. Working out should be fun.

    We've cut back on red meat mostly because cleaning the pan annoyed me and I am lazy. I purchase frozen lunches from Trader Joes that consist mostly of spinach (Palak Paneer?). I don't drink soda. We try to limit our Chipotle intake to once per week, which isn't that hard because it's a little bit out of my way on my walk home, and I am lazy. I typically limit my EtOH intake to 1 drink per sitting, no more than a couple of times a week.

    And -- My HDL is kicking your HDL's ass. ;-)

  2. The highest HDL I've ever seen was 180, so mine isn't remarkable aside from being very good considering my diet isn't fantastic. But I honestly have never seen an LDL less than 40.

    Last year I used to walk home 2 miles a day, weather permitting, and it was great. Now walking home would be 4 miles, a lot of it on non-streets. I'd probably be run over. I'm sad I can't find an easy way to incorporate walking into my day anymore.

    I LOVE the TJs Indian meals. The supermarket has these Indian Ethnic Gourmet meals that aren't quite as tasty as the TJs ones, but are really low cal and low fat, and still taste very good. It's shocking that Indian food lends itself so well to frozen food.

    Ah Chipotle... used to love them, but then one occasion of eating there coincided with the commencement of pregnancy nausea, and I haven't been able to set foot in there since. Maybe I'll try it again soon.

  3. Nice post! I would love to be a health nut, but aside from during my actual pregnancy, I've been failing since high school. My tricks:

    (I also do the olive oil and LOTS of frozen veggies trick and I only drink water, but I've actually done that since I was a kid, I don't like juice.)

    - I put everything in baggies as soon as I buy it for healthy snacking and side items for daily lunches - baby carrots, almonds, raisins, string cheese, etc. This way its just grab and go on the way out of the door.

    - I keep apples around - this is extra random, but I've found that it works as a good hunger quenching snack and makes me eat a lot less crap.

    - low pressure gym routine - instead of elaborately planned gym routines, my goal is just to go and not come home for 30 minutes, even if I just stay on the elliptical and stretch, I consider it a success and feel less pressure. I make no goals about how many calories to burn or how fast to go and I always leave feeling refreshed!

    thats about all for me, hopefully it works!

  4. We go for family walks at least 3 nights a week. I walk everyday. I started making my husband pack a lunch so that he wouldn't be eating fast food every day. I also pre-portion snacks, like trail mix, etc. That way since you're only grabbing a serving you are less likely to overeat it.

    We don't keep any drinks in the house except for 100% fruit juice, milk and water.

  5. I could definitely do better. I have to get back into my exercise regimen more regularly - it's a little less frequent than I would like right now. My trick though is to walk/run on the treadmill after the kids are put to bed, and I read my kindle while on it. Otherwise, it's waaaayyy too boring for me.

    In terms of food we do a lot of steamed veggies - quick and easy. We have a steamer, and you can buy steam ready veggies if you don't have time to chop/prep - favorites are green beans, broccoli, asparagus, sometimes brussel sprouts, and then add some margarine and salt. I eat a fair amount of fruit as well. Unfortunately, I also have a sweet tooth that is sometimes hard to curb!

  6. Cutter: Nobody believes me, but I am actually allergic to uncooked apples and most pitted fruits (like peaches)! It's the weirdest thing, but I read about it online and it's linked to seasonal allergies. I can eat processed apples, but if I eat them raw, my face and throat gets very itchy and I have trouble swallowing. This just developed in the last few years and it seriously sucks. And... I think I may also be allergic to the gym (no, just kidding about that one :).

    ForeverRhonda: I wish I could go on family walks every night. Unfortunately, weather doesn't really permit such things for about 50% of the year. Maybe now that it's finally warming up...

    Kelly: They have steamfresh veggies at our supermarket but they're always really overpriced. Is what you're talking about something different?

  7. From all the baby food making research I've done, it seems frozen veggies are often "fresher" than fresh ones. So probably not a bad idea at all!
    I hate to say I'm very inconsistent with my healthy eating. Ex- this morning I had a whole grain bagel with cream cheese, fresh strawberries, and part of a symphony chocolate bar.

  8. I gave up soda (for Lent, not for religious reasons...just a good excuse to kick it!). I take the stairs when reasonable. I try to eat fruits or veggies at 2 out of 3 meals a day. When we do eat fast food, I look at calories and try to choose wisely (get a kids meal instead of an adult meal, or skip the fries, or get 2 tacos at Chipotle instead of 3, ect). I should do more, I'm sure, but I've lost about 15 pounds recently doing these little things.

  9. Walking is great...every day on the treadmill. Except not now because of anke sprain. And I miss it!

  10. Me too, taking those stairs. And veggies. And I try not to eat after the kids go to sleep (which is, LATE).

  11. Fizzy - Sam's Club has prewashed packs of fresh broccoli, green beans, brussel sprouts, sugar snap peas that you can either microwave or steam. Asparagus is not prewashed, but easy to do because all you have to do is pluck the ends off. My only problem is that sometimes these packs are too big for us to finish in a timely fashion, but they are a lot cheaper than the options in grocery stores, and fresh tastes better than frozen (although frozen is fine too).

  12. Actually, frozen vegetables have a higher nutritional value than do fresh vegetables. Fresh vegetables often travelled a long time, losing their nutrients. Frozen vegetables were frozen when they were at their freshest, capturing the nutrients. So the frozen veggie trick is a really great one!

  13. Yeah, I've heard that about frozen veggies.


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