The majority of the emails I have received in the last week have asked me the same question, “What exactly do I eat? I have read your recommendation for a Mediterranean or DASH diet, but what do I eat?” This is a fair question.
Even if you have read “Mary’s Nutrition Guidelines” in our Topic section you would be asking me the same thing. Simple question, complicated answer. What you eat is dependent upon on so many factors but most importantly, how you feel at the moment. Are you preparing a meal and don’t know where to start? Are you laid out on the couch just returning from chemotherapy? Did you just come from a Zumba class with Alessandra? Do you live alone and you are preparing a meal just for one person or do you have a family of 5 picky eaters. Lots of scenarios to work with. I will try to help sort this out. Lets start with a food pyramid.
I was on Dr. Low Dog’s Facebook page and saw her version of the food pyramid. This is the most practical pyramid that I have ever seen. This is what your day should look like. When you look at your day this way then you can make choices that will fit every lifestyle. Click on the picture to make it larger.
To use myself as an example, here is what we ate on Sunday. My husband worked and I worked outside in the garden. We wanted something quick & easy for our meals. Breakfast; poached eggs on sprouted bread toasted and a banana. Coffee with a splash of 1/2 & 1/2. Lunch; homemade Waldorf Salad (I add grated carrots, celery, apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, red cabbage & Vegenaise; a vegan mayonnaise) and a few potato chips ( I was craving them so limited myself to 1 serving = 14 chips) and water. Snack at 3pm; A big naval orange & later a cup of herbal tea. Dinner; Whole grain vegetarian patty (I love Hilary’s Adzuki Bean Patties), sprouted bread with slices of tomato & onion, Veganaise, mustard, and spinach made into a sandwich. Waldorf salad, water. Evening snack; herbal tea with one square of 85% dark chocolate. If you look at the pyramid, even this simple day hit each level. Maybe we fret too much that we aren’t eating a balanced diet. I think if we put together what we consider a healthy meal it will end up being balanced by the end of the day and that is what counts.
Our NUT Elf, Suzi, sent me links to 2 books she bought on Amazon for her Kindle. I looked at them and ended up buying both for my iPad. They are also available in paperback.
The first book, The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners: The Complete Guide – 40 Delicious Recipes, 7-Day Diet Meal Plan, and 10 Tips for Success This is a lovely book with good information. Here is what Amazon has to say about it.
“The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners offers a complete guide to the Mediterranean lifestyle, which emphasizes healthful living through delicious, fresh foods prepared with total well-being in mind.
The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners is the complete guide to a new way of living:
- Wake up on the Spanish coast with a Mediterranean Omelet, or take a trip to Tuscany for lunch with a Fresh Tomato Pasta Bowl–40 delicious recipes will whisk your palate away.
- The 10 Tips for Success ease your transition to a Mediterranean diet by presenting simple, attainable techniques that help you learn how to eat as much as what to eat.
- The 7-Day Diet Meal Plan is about enjoying food, not depriving yourself. Planning a week’s worth of meals is easy with not only helpful hints for buying the freshest ingredients to prepare at home but also tips for ordering Mediterranean-diet-friendly dishes while dining out.
- The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners also helps you understand why the Mediterranean diet is so good for you. Its nutritious, low-fat foods are rich in disease-fighting, heart-healthful antioxidants and omega-3s.
The Mayo Clinic calls the Mediterranean diet the “heart-healthy diet,” and it’s considered among the healthiest ways to eat on the planet. Through the 10 Tips for Success, a 7-Day Diet Meal Plan, and 40 delicious recipes, The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners takes you step-by-step into this transformative way of eating and living.”
The only “con” that Suzi & I shared about this book is its heavy use of dairy products. That is easily remedied. Don’t use them or use them in moderation.
The second book is: The Dash Diet for Beginners: Essentials to Get Started by John Chatham. A great book for those of you who would like to follow the DASH diet. Here is what Amazon says about this one.
“It’s simple: The DASH diet is an easy and sustainable tool for creating a healthful lifestyle.
Based on research by the National Institutes of Health, and chosen by U.S. News & World Report as its #1 choice in Best Diets Overall, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, and Best Diabetes Diets, the DASH diet rises above the noise of other gimmicky weight-loss plans. The DASH diet was created as a way for people with high blood pressure to enjoy the foods they love while working to reduce or correct their hypertension. With a DASH diet, finally you’ll be able to get healthy and lose weight, while still eating the foods you enjoy most.
The DASH Diet for Beginners will show you how to use a DASH diet to effectively lose weight, improve your health, and reduce your risk of heart disease, with:
- 40 delicious DASH diet recipes including low-sodium versions of your favorite foods, from Creamy Spinach Dip to Beef Tostadas and Blackened Salmon Fillets.
- DASH diet guidelines with detailed explanations of the health benefits and scientific studies surrounding the DASH diet
- DASH diet food list featuring all of the top foods recommended on a DASH diet
- 7-Day DASH Diet Meal Plan, an easy guide to jump-start your health and weight loss
I prefer the Mediterranean Diet as a healthy all around way of eating. But that is my choice. The Dash diet is very healthy too and the guidelines in this book are easy to follow. Both meal plans are what my grandsons call “no brainers”.
What about those of you who are in treatment and having side effects from the chemo/radiation therapy. The bottom line for you is to maintain your weight and a healthy immune system. Eating what you can get down and keep down is important at this point. Here are some ideas.
Eating small meals/snacks 8 to 10 times a day helps get those calories in. Make each one nutrient dense and high in calories and protein. The pyramid and books above can be used as a resource for you or your caregiver to get ideas for these healthy small meals. Put together several “grab & go” snack bags to carry with you to appointments or for that long chemo day.
- Whole grain crackers
- String cheese in one serving packages
- Baby Bell cheese in one serving packages
- Cut up veggies: carrots, celery, avocado; high in fiber and nutrient dense.
- Fruits: apples, oranges, pears, berries; all are high in antioxidants, fiber & are nutrient dense.
- Whole grain cereal: remember doing this for small children when on an errand?
- Nut butter that comes in small one serving packages for those crackers & veggies.
- Stay Hydrated!!! Very important. Bring water with you, always have it on hand. Coconut water, vegetable juices, herbal teas are great. No fruit juice as it is high in sugar without the fiber.
Under Topics on this website, I have written an article “Nutrition Tips During Chemotherapy”, which will be helpful. It is organized by side effects for easy reference.
Now you should have many options & resources to answer that question “EXACTLY what do I eat!” Click on our Recipe page for a new recipe I added; Quinoa Enchilada Casserole. I am planning to make this soon! …..Mary