Lifestyle Nutrition :: Cindy

I’ve recently started exercising regularly and eating a more nutritious diet. Honestly, the biggest change I’ve made is to think of healthy living as a lifestyle and less of something that I’m going to do for 30 days or until I hit my “ideal weight” (whatever that is!).

While I feel very confident and happy about the changes I’ve made, there are days when it’s difficult to make good decisions and I could definitely use some encouragement. Because of this, I decided to seek out women I know who have maintained a healthy lifestyle for years and to ask them how they do it. I hope what they have to say is as encouraging to you as it was to me!

We’ve already heard from Shaylea, Suzanne, Amber and Debbie and this week I have the joy of interviewing Cindy Danielson. Cindy lives in Kerrville, Texas with her husband David, is the mother of five adult children and grandmother to two granddaughters. I wanted to ask Cindy about her eating habits both because she’s been eating healthy for years, but also because when she cooks for you, she serves the most delicious, healthy meals. She makes healthy eating seem like something you could and would want to do.

What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

For breakfast I generally make a smoothie from Almond milk, blueberries, ground chia/salba, with an emergenC tossed in for good measure. And coffee with half-n-half, known affectionately in my house as “have-to-have”. Honestly, some days breakfast is a handful of almonds, depending on how busy I am or if I remember to eat before leaving the house.

What are some good snack foods to keep around?

Healthy snacks that I always have around the house are almonds (lightly salted with sea-salt), brazil nuts, Trader Joe’s Simply Almonds Cashews and Chocolate Trek Mix, some form of dark chocolate, apple with almond butter. Guacamole and hummus are also favorite snacks, but I can inhale these in one setting, so I have to be cautious about keeping them around.

Have you always been a healthy eater? Was there a moment in your life when you decided to prioritize nutrition? If so, what caused it?

My mom says I was a healthy eater from the get-go, gobbling up vegetables that most kids don’t like, but I remember seriously considering the role of nutrition when I became a mom. Then amping it up a bit when our fourth child had nutrition issues that affected her behavior and skin. In the last ten years or so thyroid/hormone issues have caused me to delve in a little deeper and eliminate foods that are detrimental to my energy level and emotional well-being.

I’ve found that when I start eating more healthfully, it’s often for a certain amount of time (e.g. no sugar or caffeine for a month, Whole30, etc.). How were you able to shift your mindset from dieting to making nutrition a lifestyle?

I think the thing that helps me make healthy choices the most is this thought: If I eat this now, how will I feel later? Will this increase my energy, or make me feel sluggish and lethargic? Also, I have a sensitive stomach, and I’m very in-tune with how foods affect me, so if I eat lots of dairy, sweets, gassy vegetables (gasp), fried foods, and pasta, I will generally feel uncomfortable pretty quickly.

If you could cut one thing from everyone’s diet, what would it be?

I don’t think there is one thing I would cut from everyone’s diet, because I think we are so individual, that we each need to consider the one thing that most negatively affects our health. If I had cancer, I would eliminate sugars, because they feed cancer. If I had food allergies, then I would cut whatever adversely affects my health the most (fish, peanuts, etc). I think the best thing to do is to tune in to your own body and be alert to what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad, and eat accordingly.

Where do you like to shop for your groceries?

I shop at HEB, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and a local produce market. We are also blessed to have friends that frequently give us fresh organic eggs, organic veggies, and venison.

Is it more expensive to eat healthy food? If so, how do you manage your budget?

Managing my food budget as an empty-nester is a breeze compared to how I had to manage it when I had five children at home. Back then, I did food co-ops, Sam’s, Costco, produce markets, and I made most things from scratch as opposed to eating out or buying ready-made dinners. The cost of healthier foods can be kind of relative, if you consider the cost that not eating healthy can produce in medical bills. That said, I realize what I consider healthy might not line up for others, like some of my friends and adult children who eat only organic, grain fed diets. (I tend to eat mostly organic, but not all.)

Any tips for encouraging your family to eat well, too?

From the above answer, you can see that some of my family actually encourage me to eat healthier, rather than vice-versa :) Of the two of us at home now, I tend to eat a lot healthier than my husband, so several days a week we will eat different things at the same time. He loves pasta and Italian food, so I will make a lasagna or pasta dish for him to eat for several days, and I will eat salads with chicken/avocado and a baked sweet potato, or other vegetables. We’ve just kind of discovered what works best for both of us. He also enjoys salads and vegetables, just not every day like I do. I also learned to make a pureed soup that is full of vegetables that he really likes. I cook a crock-pot full of zucchini, cauliflower, garlic, red peppers, onion, and tomatoes with lots of cumin, and then puree it to make a creamy base soup, then add chicken cooked with lots of cumin and some sea salt. It’s a really filling and nutritionally satisfying meal.

How do you handle special occasions like going to a dinner party or when someone gives you a box of chocolates? Do you have any rules you follow? Do you turn down unhealthy food when it’s offered to you? If so, any tips for doing this politely?

My philosophy on this is that if I manage myself and what I eat in my home, I won’t feel the need to manage what other people serve or give to me. In other words, when I go to someone else’s house, I eat what is offered. I have the choice to load my plate with vegetables and salad and go light on the meat, skip the bread, and nibble at my dessert, all the while graciously thanking the host for their great food and hospitality. But I come from a family of amazing cooks, so most holidays and vacations, I am all in on family meals!!! (Some years I do it more sparingly than others by choosing to skip desserts, breads, and snacks.) Also, included in our extended family and friend group are amazing cooks that also cook very healthy and delicious meals. So it’s a win-win situation.

What are your favorite resources for finding good information about nutrition and diet? Any books, websites, or experts that you recommend?

Christa Orecchio’s The Whole Journey is hands-down the most helpful and balanced information I’ve seen on nutrition and food as medicine. I follow whole30recipes on Instagram for good recipes and ideas. Helpful books I’ve read ::

What do you find most challenging about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?

The most challenging thing for me is staying ahead of the game. I find if I keep the house stocked with healthy food, and do some prep work it’s easier to eat well.

What do you find most rewarding about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?

I think the most rewarding thing is feeling good.

Any other comments or tips you’d like to share?

One tip that I do that might be helpful to others is to always have some chicken cooked up. Sometimes we grill up a bunch of chicken breasts to eat for several days, but mostly I’ll throw a bunch of frozen chicken breasts in the crock-pot, drizzle with olive oil, and season with Herbs de Provence and poultry seasoning and cook all day. Having this moist yummy chicken ready to put on top of a bed of romaine or make into chicken salad or add to any recipe helps so much.

Chicken also tastes good with brown rice cooked with organic chicken broth in place of water—a quick, wholesome meal ready with little effort if the chicken is cooked in advance.

And if you are baking sweet potatoes, go ahead and cook extra! A sweet potato is just as good warmed up the next day, and you’ve got something nutritious for a quick meal, snack, or even a “dessert” if you add a little ghee and cinnamon. Yum!

And stay hydrated! I’m amazed what a change a big glass of water can make if I’m struggling with exhaustion, the blues, or even brain-fog.

Thank you so much, Cindy!


Posted by Aanna on Friday, June 10th, 2016


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