Picture this: You’re tired, hungry, and stuck in traffic driving home after a long workday.
All you can think of is your long to-do list which might include mailing out an outstanding bill, tidying up, and preparing dinner.
Overwhelmed, you pull into your parking spot and head inside, and make a beeline to the kitchen to grab a snack. Pushing open the pantry door, you come face to face with a choice: an orange or a handful of chips.
Of the two, you know the orange is the most heart-healthy option as it has a low-calorie density with plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Your Pritikin ICR Registered Dietitian (RD) would approve of this choice. But those chips are calling your name. They are the quicker choice…no peeling involved, no stickiness to contend with, and that salty crunch would be so appealing…so you grab a handful of chips and get to work.
Without curating a heart-healthy selection in advance, it’s easy to fall victim to decision fatigue. Constantly having to choose between healthy and unhealthy foods when you’re tired, or busy, you’ll likely end up reaching for the more convenient, often unhealthy food option which over time, will cause your health to suffer. Conversely, if your choice is between two healthy options such as an apple or orange, a heart-healthy selection is a no-brainer.
What I’ve just described is an all-too-common scenario that perfectly illustrates a key concept taught by our Pritikin ICR RDs in our “Mindful Eating” workshop. When we teach patients to control their environment during this workshop, our goal is not to harshly restrict their options but rather, to empower patients to set themselves up for successful lifestyle changes.
How to set yourself up for success
Before devising your plan of action, it’s important to consider where you are when you reach for a snack. Are you at home, on the go, or at work? That’s where you want to be prepared with heart-healthy options! Down below, I’ve outlined a few areas I might look for a satiating snack and how I’d go about ensuring each offered an array of good-for-me options.
Head over to your kitchen and apply the following steps to your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
Take everything out; wipe it down and make it shine!
Look at the contents and using what you’ve learned in cardiac rehab, divide everything into three piles:
- Trash: if the food is expired; close to empty – toss it out
- Foodbank: if the food is edible but has a high calorie density or sodium content, place it in a box or bag to donate to your local food bank or community refrigerator.
- Keep: Any foods that meet the low-medium calorie density/low sodium requirements, put back in your now sparkling clean fridge
Make a grocery list of supportive foods you want to buy on your next grocery trip.
- Here are some ideas for your refrigerator: baby carrots, mini snacking peppers, pre-chopped fruits, no salt added mustard, lemon juice, lime juice, non-fat Greek yogurt, salsa, hummus, grapes, berries
- Here are some ideas for your freezer: frozen bags of veggies to add to soups, chilis or, to quickly microwave with dinner sides; frozen fruits to add to yogurt or for snacking; edamame; frozen fish and skinless chicken breasts
- Here are some ideas for your pantry: ALL THE SPICES! (no salt added of course); no salt added chicken or veggie broth; no salt added canned veggies; no salt added tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes; a variety of cooking vinegars
On the go:
Once your kitchen is stocked with heart-healthy choices, I encourage you to turn your attention to healthy options you can bring with you on the go.
Pack a Cooler
If you are going to be away from home for a while, pack acooler and have it ready to take with you!
Here are some ideas for your cooler: Fruits, veggies, mini hummus cups, nonfat yogurts with disposable spoons, zero-calorie drinks
At the Office
If the breakroom at your office is full of unsupportive foods, come prepared with a variety of heart-healthy options. You can try and request healthier options, bring your own and even share supportive snacks with the crew. Who knows, maybe your new Pritikin lifestyle will rub off!
The more controls we can put in our various environments, the greater our chances of fully adopting a heart-healthy Pritikin Lifestyle so I encourage you to take on the challenge!