Tips for Nutrition Success: The My Heart Challenge Play at Home Edition

By Kary Woodruff

So you’re taking on the My Heart Challenge: Play at Home Edition. Good for you! During the next few months you will truly be able to see changes – you can lose weight, increase your fitness, improve your heart health, feel better and have better energy – it just takes time and consistency. Here is some advice for success to help you with your heart healthy goals.

tips-for-nutrition-success
Track your nutrition and your exercise  There are numerous forms of tracking your nutrition and exercise. You can choose to track with pen & paper, such as with the Habit Tracker, and/or electronically with websites such as myfitnesspal.com & livestrong.com. Either way is fine, whichever you’re most likely to utilize!

Keep in mind the tracking websites also have corresponding apps which can make tracking on the go much easier.

Track everything.  It doesn’t do us any good if we just track the healthy foods we eat and exclude some of our less-healthy snacks. Everything that we eat and drink (other than water) has to go into the tracker!

Speaking of tracking everything, we need to know correct portion sizes to make sure we’re capturing everything. It’s hard to look at a bowl of pasta and estimate how much it is – if you track it as one cup, but really it is 2 cups, that will really change your information. So get used to measuring things out, it makes a significant difference. 

Don’t wait until the end of the day to track everything. We just aren’t able to remember everything – we may remember our meals, but we tend to forget some of the add-ons, snacks, drinks, handful of M&M’s, etc. So check in with the tracker throughout the day

Make exercise part of your routine! Meagan Kline from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute will talk more about exercise, but I always recommend individuals schedule it into their time – we’re much more likely to do it if it’s on our schedule!

Meal plan! This is one of the most crucial steps towards achieving our goals. We can want to eat healthy, but if we’re not planning for it, it won’t happen. Here are some meal planning tips:

  1. Plan out all, or at least some, of your meals for the week.  If you know you’ll have some busy nights, plan to make extra for leftovers on the other nights so you already have dinner planned when you have less time to cook.
  2. Use recipes from healthy websites such as eatingwell.com for ideas for healthy meals.  Eatingwell.com also has lots of delicious 20 minutes or less recipe ideas – yes, eating healthfully can also be quick and easy! We just have to make sure we plan for it and have the ingredients on hand.
  3. Have a grocery list when you go to the store! This helps manage our grocery bills as well as make grocery shopping more efficient.
  4. Part of your grocery list should include good, healthy staples we have on hand including healthy snacks.  Ideas can include but are not limited to:
    • Greek yogurt
    • Fresh fruit
    • Fresh veggies
    • Hummus
    • Low-fat string cheese
    • Nuts/seeds
    • Low-fat cottage cheese
    • High fiber granola bars (such as Kashi Granola Bars)
    • Dried fruit (no sugar added)
    • Peanut butter/almond butter
Avoid going more than 4-5 hours without eating.

 Break up long periods of time in between meals with healthy snacks. What is a healthy snack? 100 – 200 calories, and ideally combines some carbohydrates for energy (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and some protein (nuts, seeds, whole grains, low-fat/nonfat such as yogurt and string cheese, hummus). See above for ideas you can mix and match.

Spread your calories evenly throughout the day. The typical American skips breakfast or eats very little, often will eat lunch on the run, and then sits down to a large dinner. At the very least, try to avoid eating more calories in the evening. Getting a good breakfast and moderate lunch can help avoid over-eating in the evening

Speaking of which…  Eat Breakfast! Breakfast really is an important meal and can help prevent us from overeating later in the day.  It is also a great opportunity to get important nutrients we need for the day, such as whole grains, fruits & vegetables, and lean protein (egg whites, low-fat/nonfat dairy, nut butters, etc).

Use the plate method for meal planning.  This means aiming to have all of your meals be comprised of:
  • ½ Vegetables and fruits
  • ¼ whole grains & starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squashes, peas, corn)
  • ¼ lean protein - This includes turkey/chicken white meat, fish, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes, low-fat/nonfat dairy, pork tenderloin, 90-95% lean beef

Finally, refer to the My Heart Challenge blog – there are weekly nutrition tips and blogs about how to continue to improve your heart health. Keep checking in to see what has been added!