Lifestyle Nutrition :: Suzanne
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!
Last week we heard from Shaylea Brown, co-founder of &Company, and this week I have the privilege of introducing my beautiful mother-in-law, Suzanne, who you will shortly find has been living and eating healthfully since before my husband was born! I found her thoughts to be both helpful and profound ::
What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
I enjoy breakfast so there are a lot of foods I like to eat! Greek yogurt with granola & berries. Oatmeal with berries. Whole grain toast with almond butter. But when there is more time I like a scrambled egg with a little cheese in it, or an omelet with spinach in it.
What are some good snack foods to keep around?
Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and you might as well have a little dark chocolate to go with all those nuts. String cheese and those little baby bell cheeses. Fresh fruit. Baby carrots. Hummus, celery, crunchy rice crackers.
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?
When I was pregnant with my first baby I read the book Nourishing Your Unborn Child. I realized that what I ate was important for the baby, not just me. So I enjoyed learning how to eat more fresh food and fewer processed foods. A few years later when we had three children, the oldest was often sick with ear infections, asthma and then he had pneumonia. On the advice of a doctor friend, we started intentionally eating less sugar, and shopping with a natural food co-op. This healthier diet really did help our son, so we all ate that way for years. Now that we are at a different stage of our lives, my husband and I struggle to eat a healthy diet and we go out to eat more often. We keep renewing our commitment to eat healthy so we can feel better and actually be healthy.
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?
It helps me to think of food as something that feeds and nourishes my body and brain rather than thinking of it as something that entertains me! And it helps me to think of adding healthy food to my meals each day, rather than just removing something less healthy! For example: for awhile we were trying to eat less carbs and it seemed like a losing battle. But when I read about the importance of protein and fiber, I decided that an occasional slice of bread that had high protein & fiber was a good thing! So I can still eat a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast, but I’m buying different KINDS of bread and cereal. And eating a smaller portion.
If you could cut one thing from everyone’s diet, what would it be?
Wouldn’t it be great if there were no foods with unnecessary additives and harmful chemicals in them? I mean, if our food could just be real food, that would be wonderful.
Where do you like to shop for your groceries?
I love Whole Foods. But I shop all over the place, at Costco, Target, Walmart, Kroger, Sprouts, Fresh Market, Aldi. I have my favorite healthy foods at each store.
Is it more expensive to eat healthy food? If so, how do you manage your budget?
It is more expensive to buy prepared or partially processed food that has better ingredients in it. Fresh meat, dairy, eggs, fruit & veggies from a local source or Farmer’s Market can be more expensive than a regular grocery store. But often buying fresh fruits and vegetables and cooking from scratch is less expensive than processed food, especially if you watch for sales. I don’t mind paying more for better food. But when I need to save money, I buy the store brand, for instance, even Whole Foods has a bargain label brand on lots of foods. And Costco is great for stocking up! But when my kids were growing up the best way to buy groceries was the Food Co-op. Several friends would buy food together and then split it up or share it.
Any tips for encouraging your family to eat well, too?
If you get your kids involved in helping you make fun, healthy recipes or just cutting up simple fruit salad, they will also enjoy eating it. And talk to them about how awesome our bodies are, and that God gives us good food to feed the incredible creation He made! This will rub off on your husband, too.
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?
This is one of the most difficult parts of eating healthy, especially with kids. When our kids were small, we had rules and tried to follow them because we were doing it for specific health reasons of children. But now we are much more relaxed and we want to focus on enjoying being with people at food gatherings! I think you can quietly eat the healthiest food being offered without making a big deal out of not eating something. At this stage in our lives, we will focus on eating healthier during the week because we know that on the weekend there will be a dinner with dessert, etc.
What are your favorite resources for finding good information about nutrition and diet? Any books, websites, or experts that you recommend?
I was happy to find Wildtree, because they offer natural & fresh seasonings, sauces, oils, recipes, and a few convenience foods on their website. At a Wildtree workshop, you can get together with friends and create healthy freezer meals to bring home! (This is more affordable if you have a friend who sells Wildtree and offers specials!) For one year I subscribed to Emeals and loved it! They send you a shopping list and recipes. You choose from several healthy eating plans, either for two or for a family. I liked this because it helped me to cook at home more often. Recently I’ve been getting a e-newsletter from Mayo Clinic about a healthy eating lifestyle.
What do you find most challenging about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?
- Food is offered everywhere and often it is what we are trying to not eat. But I do this myself: I often bake for people and show hospitality by taking food to someone. My main objective is for it to taste good!
- Eating healthy can actually take more time. Cooking instead of going out, cooking from scratch instead of buying prepared food. I know how I want to eat and cook, but the time involved takes discipline. I try to find ways to cook in a healthier way even if I do need to occasionally use already prepared mixes or foods. For example, I add or substitute healthier ingredients like greek yogurt, oatmeal or flax into a bread mix.
What do you find most rewarding about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?
I feel better. I’m taking better care of my husband. And I really love looking at (and tasting!) a beautiful fruit salad and freshly prepared food,
Any other comments or tips you’d like to share?
You can care about nutrition and go about it in an obnoxious way that puts other people off. Or you can care about nutrition and do the best you can at home, while still enjoying your friends, family, and life!
One more thing to share about healthy eating—In the book Made to Crave by Lyssa Terkuerst, she said that she once struggled with using food to fill an emptiness in her life that God was meant to fill. When she overcame her food struggles, she didn’t feel deprived, she was empowered. And had peace in her heart. She realized: “Nothing tastes as good as peace feels.” I’ve always remembered that statement. And a healthy balance in all of life is a very good thing. We may not totally remove sugar from our diets or become vegans, but we can have peace knowing that our relationship with Jesus fills our deepest needs.