Today was my last day on the heart healthy diet. I learned a lot nutritionally and psychologically in the last few weeks. I’ve summarized my take-aways into 4 main points:
- Limiting sodium was (mostly) easier than I expected. At first, things are a little bland and it seems like there are a lot of things you “can’t have,” but over time I saw that I had several days well under 2,400 mg so I started adding a sprinkle of salt to bland food and found I did have a little room to add some sodium. You do also get used to needing less salt for flavor. I learned some tricks for adding flavor without salt, too. Be careful, though, because certain foods can blow almost your entire sodium budget in one fell swoop…*cough* seafood fettuccini *cough*.
- Limiting saturated fat was quite a bit harder than I expected. Those saturated fat grams are sneaky little suckers! I went into the heart healthy diet assuming sodium would be my biggest challenge and I quickly learned that saturated fat was much more difficult to keep within my 12 gram per day limit. Saturated fat is primarily from animal sources like butter, lard, dairy fat, and meat fat. The way I generally teach people to limit saturated fat is to eat oil-based spreads (instead of butter), low-fat or nonfat dairy, and lean meats and fish. I figured since I mostly eat that way I wouldn’t have to worry much about saturated fat on this diet. I was wrong! More often than not, halfway through the day I would check my saturated fat consumption and find it well over halfway through the budget. I now know that if patients are committed to limiting their saturated fat within recommendations, they probably need more specific guidelines and tips to keep that in check.
- Having dietary “restrictions” is a nasty mind game. It makes your inner petulant toddler come out: What do you mean I can’t have it? I want it! Suddenly I want lots of it! It’s a tricky thing to navigate when educating people about how to properly care for their bodies and live a life worth living.
- Fish is expensive. Very expensive. And I rarely get 2-3 servings per week. Unless you’re eating tuna all the time, getting in 2-3 servings per week racks up the grocery budget awfully quick-like.
Overall, I pretty much broke even on every outcome I was measuring, which didn’t really surprise me because I wasn’t eating in a drastically different way from how I normally eat. I did much better this week on my own than I did last because I made a more concerted effort to keep my saturated fat down.
|Heart Healthy Goal||Week #1||Week #2||Week #3|
|# of days nutrition recommendations met||7||6||4||6|
|Average calorie intake||<2000||1831||1571||1581|
|Average sodium intake||<2400 mg||2064 mg||2033 mg||1972 mg|
|Average saturated fat intake||<12 g||10.2 g||13.7 g||11.4 g (I left out the outlier of date day)|
|Weight change||-1 lb||0 lb||+.5 lb|
|Blood pressure change||-5/-6 mmHg||-2/-4 mmHg||+8/+2 mmHg|
|Grocery Budget Change||+75%||-65%||0%|
So that about wraps up my experience on the heart healthy diet. What diet will I be doing next?