Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How to change your life: What I eat

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Dinosaur kale or lacinato kale
Yes, kale - just one of the many vegetables I'm eating a lot of these days

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Series index: How to change your life

Ever since I decided to improve my health and change my life, I have gotten one question more than any other from friends, family, and even strangers.

What do you eat?

The short answer: I eat anything I believe will help me get healthier and stay that way.

I want to share with you the basic low-carb guidelines I try to follow 95% of the time.

I want to stress that this is the approach I decided to take for my body and my health. I am not saying this is what you should do. This is what has worked for me, period.

What I eat daily: protein, vegetables, and fat

Protein includes beef, lamb, bison, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, eggs, some tofu, and probably a few more animals I'm forgetting. I eat protein at every meal — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

Vegetables includes everything green and most things orange, red, yellow and purple. I eat lettuce, kale, chard, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, onions, eggplant and zucchini. I eat more vegetables than anything else.

Fat includes butter, olive oil, avocado oil, avocados, nuts, nut butter, coconut, coconut oil and cheese. I don't skimp on fat. 

What I eat occasionally: fruit, legumes, chocolate

Fruit includes strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and occasionally other summer fruits like nectarines, melons, peaches and cherries. By "occasionally" I mean once or twice a week. In the winter I hardly ate any fruit at all; now that it's summer I'll probably have one serving of fruit 3-4 times per week. Why the seasonal difference? I like summer fruit more than winter fruit.

Legumes includes black beans, garbanzo beans or other incidental legumes that show up in restaurant dishes. I don't seek legumes out, but if they're in something I've ordered I won't pick them out.

Chocolate includes dark chocolate, usually 85%. I also like the stevia-sweetened chocolate from Lily's Sweets. I eat a few squares each week. A girl needs her antioxidants.

What I choose to avoid: grains, starchy vegetables, sugar

Grains includes wheat, barley, rye, corn, millet, oats...the whole category. The one exception I make sometimes are these low-carb tortillas by La Tortilla Factory. I eat 3-4 of these per week.

Starchy vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yucca, plantains and butternut squash.

Sugar includes anything containing sugar, honey, molasses, coconut sugar, agave, or any other sweetener.

No, I don't feel deprived

I settled on this way of eating because I thought it was well-suited for my tastes, my body and my life.

  • I am apple-shaped and thus more likely to suffer from the cluster of challenges associated with metabolic syndrome. Some studies have recommended a low-carb diet for people with metabolic syndrome.
  • I like low-carb foods.
  • I wanted to focus on eating more vegetables.
  • I don't have a sweet tooth. 
  • I had never tried eating low-carb and know people who find it satisfying and helpful.
  • I tend to overdo it on starchy foods, so for now it's easier to eliminate them entirely. (This may not always be the case. Or it may. I don't actually miss them.)
  • It felt like something I might be able to do every single day for the rest of my life. I was looking for a lifestyle, not a diet. This has to last.

Got questions? I'd love to hear them, so leave me a comment. Just know that some of the answers are going to be along the lines of "because that's what felt right to me" instead of having any scientific foundation.


Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious said...

Very practical to get a glimpse at your list.

Caren said...

I'm right there with you!! I love this style of eating and I never feel deprived. it's sustainable and yummy!

Kathryn Sheard said...

We've switched to a similar diet these past months & like you we've not felt we're missing the things we thought we'd miss. You didn't mention dairy. Am I right to assume that, by it's exclusion from what you do eat, it's something you now choose to avoid?

Heather Scholten said...

I love that you are sharing your journey. I don't always comment, but I always read. Keep it up darlin! You look amazing and you are an inspiration! xoxo

Judith Stephens said...

Erica, no one can be deprived on those foods. When my hubby developed AMD, I looked up the highest foods for the important nutrients for that condition. Kale was it so I now add it and/or spinach to the daily smoothies. But all of the carotenoids need a little cooking in order to get 100% of the value in them rather than 60% so I always zap them in the micro for 2 minutes to maximize what I've paid for in terms of better results. Within 2 months we had doubled the thickness of his macula. Food IS medicine if you figure out the best ways to make it work the best for you. Glad you've figured that out. There's so much freedom and feeling of accomplishment in that.

Stephen Chavez said...

Bread. I want bread every day and for ever meal. I know that a low-carb lifestyle is the way for me to go for health reasons. I just can't seem to have the self-discipline. I applaud your conviction. We even put up your mantra on our refrigerator, "This food will either make me healthy or sick." Unfortunately, we are still choosing foods that will make us sick, mainly bread and tortillas and not enough vegetables and too many fruits. Again, congrats! So proud of you.

Erika Kerekes said...

Thank you for the kind words, everyone!

@Kathryn cheese is listed under "fat" but no, I don't eat a lot of other dairy. I prefer unsweetened almond milk to cow's milk, and I just don't like yogurt. I do occasionally add cream or sour cream or cream cheese to recipes, though.

@Judith I had no idea you could affect the progression of AMD with dietary changes! Good to know.

@Stephen I am humbled to know that my words are on your refrigerator. For me, I had to actually get to the point where the numbers were definitively on the wrong side of the line before I was willing to make big changes - "getting close" wasn't enough motivation, unfortunately. Wishing like hell I'd been this determined 10 years ago.

Mary Burris said...

sounds like you are on a great path. Congrats and I hope you have plenty of success with this.

Jingle Jangle Jungle

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