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Healthy Tip: Meet Your Health Goals

yogurt I read a lot of health-related information in blogs, newsletters and magazines. I bet you do too. I'm always reading about something that interests me and I make a mental note to add it to my diet. For example, I read about omega-3 fatty acids and think: "I need to make sure I get those." I learn about probiotics and I tell myself to get a daily dose. And when I see a piece about fiber, that goes into the mental hopper as well. Where do all those mental notes go? Well, I have to admit that my memory cells just aren't firing the way they used to. What's a well-intentioned woman to do? Make lists! I know...lists aren't for everyone. Some people like living dangerously (in my opinion) and wouldn't write a list if their life depended on it. I say: "Good for you, Ms. Flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. I hope that works for you." For me, I'm going to write a list. In fact, I write lists for just about everything. You may not want to be as "structured" as me - totally makes sense (my husband and daughter would probably agree). But, if you find that you are consistently missing out on the foods that will help you meet your health goals, then a list is a pretty simple way to make a difference. guide-grains First, determine what your nutritional or healthy eating goals are and get them down on paper. Different people have different needs, so you'll want to do this part on your own. Your overriding goal should be eating a well-balanced diet that includes mainly plant-based foods. Many of your health goals can be met by eating mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. You'll see how that works as we get into the examples below. While the goals on your list will be personalized, we'll use these basic ones for the purpose of this blog post:
  • Omega 3s - 1 source
  • antioxidants - 3 sources
  • Fiber - 2 to 3 sources
  • Probiotics
Once you have your goals, create a simple chart so you can check off your accomplishments (and see where you might need to work a bit harder!).
Nutritional Goals Sun Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat
Omega-3s - 1 source
Antioxidant - 3 sources
Probiotics - 1 source
Fiber - 2 to 3 sources
As you go through your day or in the evening, check off what you ate and what goals you filled in the process. For the goals where you need more than one source of a nutrient, use tally marks or divide the box into sections. Filling in this list will help you figure out what you need to eat more of to meet your goals. The area under your check-off chart is a great place to put reminders about your favorite sources for the nutrients you want to make sure to eat. That way you can easily see: "Oh, I haven't had enough fiber today. I'm going to have some whole grain crackers with fresh fruit for an evening snack." Here's a "food source" sample for the four goals we are using as examples: flax-seedsOmega-3s: ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, salmon, sardines, walnuts, eggs from chickens fed Omega-3s, microalgae (Learn more about omega-3s.) Antioxidants: dark leafy greens, fresh or frozen berries (blueberries and cranberries are excellent choices), canned tomato products and pasta sauces, extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, dark colored fruits such as mango, papaya and pomegranate. Probiotics: yogurt with live cultures, kefir, raw milk cheese, unpasteurized miso, live cultured veggies, kombucha tea, supplements (Learm more about probiotics.) vegetablesFiber: Fresh fruits, dried fruits, fresh and frozen veggies, whole grains, legumes (dried peas and beans), nuts, seeds (Learn more about boosting your fiber.) Checking off the boxes helps me see that I'm doing my best for my health. And if I miss a few boxes, then I know to double my efforts in the days ahead. I don't use it as a tool to beat myself up. That would be counterproductive, right? Okay, so now you know how my mind works on this kind of thing. Tell me what works for you.

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Food Makes Fun Fuel says …

I always keep a mental note on making sure I've got those things, but I never thought of actually putting it down on paper, which sounds like a great idea. I aim for 2 sources of probiotics a day, at least 1 vegitarian meal, fish if I can get it, and flax either straight or in a fortified peanut butter

NancyStam says …

This chart is brilliant. Weight Watchers poses the same model to monitor food intake based on calories (or what they conver to their "points" system.) In our extremely busy lives today, it is hard to remember our daily schedules, never mind our daily, healthy nutritional intake. (There are a multitude of vitamins in my house, do I remember to take them every morning???) Thanks for this new perspective on how to keep track of my family's diet. I will put this to good use.

Kate says …

<strong>Off Topic</strong> I use the money I used to spend at Whole Foods every week to buy all the same things and more at my local food co-op. Sure am glad I'm not supporting that guy Mackey anymore!


I am stumped. I am a vegan... just celebrated one year and I run about three miles every other day. I have not lost any weight. I eat all natural. No refined carbs. my thyroid came back normal... What is going on with me? I'm 5'4, 169 lbs, 37years old. Being moderatelt active, as I am, how many calories should I eat per day to LOSE 20 lbs? Also, do you have any other suggestions for me?

David says …

I think the trick is to make sure that your hobbies involve going out and getting exercise. I also eat vegetarian, and don't worry about this eating mumbo jumbo according to some diet gimmick.

Sue says …

Stephanie, it's not possible to fully answer your question because your metabolism may be different from mine or someone else's. I lost 15 pounds a year ago, and I've maintained the new weight for a year. Even healthy foods can put on pounds if the quantity is excessive. I think the only way anyone can lose is by taking a painfully honest look at consumption, and then eat less. The evidence is that most people eat more than they realize -- a nibble here, a second portion there. The French are thin because they eat small portions and don't snack. Michael Pollan's mantra is useful: Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.

Shelley says …

To Stephanie: I'm a physician who practices holistic medicine. Thyroid is very misunderstood among traditional docs. Often they will say it's normal when it absolutely is not. Most of the time they just check a TSH and no other paramaters...which is okay if you have no problems. But if you are eating normally, exercising, etc and packing on pounds or if you have other hypothyroid symptoms (dry skin, constipation, fatigue, body aches), then you may want to investigate further! Shelley

Teresa says …

I love list - someday I will have so many lists that I will be found buried under them. Saying this - I like your list and I will make one that fits my needs. Go lists!

Michelle says …

Stephanie: I am not a vegan; however, I too was overweight &amp; weighed 161 lbs 6 months ago (I am also 5'4"). I have since limited my calories to 1200/day (1500 MAX) and work out at least 5 times a week with an hour cardio &amp; half hour mat/yoga/pilates workout. It has helped me lose 22 lbs in 6 months &amp; I know you can do it too. I came to the realization that my metabolism was not like others (unfortunately) &amp; that I have to work harder than most to lose the weight. I have also lost inches, which helps clothing shrink, too! Good luck.

Midori says …

I love this idea! Too often I cook mindlessly and regret it later. My chart includes colors of fruits and veg plus fiber and omega 3s. I think for now I'll try to get several servings from each category each week, rather than trying to fit everything in every day. Thanks for the tip!

Terri Holm says …

I was looking for guidelines to change my eating habits to be sure i have my daily requirement. Great article..thanks..

Jessica says …

Wow, what a great idea but how do I know what is my nutritional or healthy eating goals are? Figured I just eat the proper serving recommended by the ever evolving food pyramid recently updated by the government.

Brian says …

Great for promoting a mainly plant-based diet! The only thing I'd add is to keep it mostly raw too, as cooking destroys the nutrients in almost all foods.

Joann says …

To Stephanie: Shelley is right. It could be Thyroid. One way I test mine is to get a bottle of Iodine at the drug store. I read this some where years ago. Place some iodine on the hip or thigh about the size of a sliver dollar. Wait 24 hrs. If its still there the thyroid is probably o.k. If its gone then repeat every 24 hrs until it stays on the skin. Then check every 2-3 months.

Jann says …

Here's a research report that indicates the skin patch test for iodine levels is not reliable. http://www.optimox.com/pics/Iodine/updates/UNIOD-02/UNIOD_02.htm The author says the iodine/iodide loading test is more accurate. Too bad the skin patch test is not accurate since it is less expensive and easy to do.