Okay! So you’ve been on a “more healthful eating plan” for a month. You’ve taken “energizing walks” at least five days each week. You’ve lost a few pounds, but something is missing…the sheer enjoyment of food!
If the above statements are true for you, then we are kindred spirits. I’m hoping that if you read to the end, you will find a renewed resolve and realize that patience is the key!
As I noted in an earlier blog, my husband and I received some less than stellar reports during our annual check ups. My husband had reached a point where medication for high blood pressure had reached its maximum benefits. Along with high blood pressure, his triglycerides were elevated, and his A1C (test for diabetes) was rising. Due to various bad reactions/allergies, he had no other medicinal alternatives. Our doctor suggested that losing some weight and cutting out salt might greatly improve his situation.
Though my hypertension was being well controlled (with medication) and I have not yet shown any signs of Type 2 diabetes, my triglycerides were elevated and the 20 pounds I had lost 3 years ago had crept back on.
With spring on the horizon, a good friend started a blog called “Fat Blasters” to encourage us all to get back on track with healthy meal planning, eating, and exercise. We began with enthusiasm and optimism. Four weeks down the road our enthusiasm is waning and, as my mother would say, the bloom is off the rose!
When considering our health issues and what needed to be done, we began the DASH diet. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” It is largely a low-sodium, high fiber diet. The DASH plan promotes eating significant amounts of vegetables and fruit (8-10 servings per day), with moderate amounts of low-fat poultry, fish, beans, and meat. Since we are also trying to lose weight that means 5-7 oz. per day. Notice I said low SODIUM not low SALT.
Sodium is in almost every food we eat, so the DASH diet promotes obtaining the sodium your body needs to function by eating unadulterated foods, minimally processed foods and no added salt. That means, when TV chefs say sprinkle on a little salt and pepper, you only add the pepper. When you are unable to cook from fresh, any canned product must be very low in sodium or sodium free. Our target is no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day. No, those soups that say “30% less sodium” don’t qualify because they still can pack a whopping 600 mg!
In this month, I have tried 40 new recipes, and have also tried to tweak several family favorites. My kitchen window ledge now contains several small fresh herb plants (parsley, thyme, cilantro and basil). I’ve bought organic fruits and veggies (they really do have more flavor) and I’m using infused vinegars, fresh lemon and lime juices in ways I never imagined.
Here comes the downside. I’ve only found one recipe I would serve to company and 5 or 6 I would ever serve again. Why? They have little to no flavor. Most recipes are either much too spicy for our taste or completely bland. One of the ways that the recipes try to make up for the lack of salt is to add lots of spices including black pepper, cayenne, chilies, and other veggies and seasonings that pack a wallop on the Scoville scale (the measure of spicy heat).
I was speaking to one of my best friends yesterday. The three of us are working on this as a team. She expressed our feelings perfectly, “we are eating for sustenance, but all the enjoyment is gone.” You have to understand, we were brought up in Polish/German, Italian, and Norwegian homes that regularly used butter, salt, olive oil, bacon, eggs, whole milk, sausage, pancetta, ham, and marbled meats. When our moms, and later when we cooked, folks walking in the door, raised their heads and said, “Wow! What smells so good? When will it be ready? My mouth is already watering.”
Today the smells may be appealing, but from the first bite, we can’t deny that “something is missing.” The “something” is enough fat, salt and/or sugar to linger on the tongue that one delectable moment, which spurs you on to take another bite and then another, until you are left with nothing but a memory of the delightful experience of a taste treat beyond compare. I recently made a vegetable lasagna with fresh basil and oregano, carrots, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, whole wheat pasta, a tiny bit of skim milk ricotta and mozzarella cheese. It was aesthetically nothing in comparison to my mother-in-law’s recipe! Her layers of delectable lasagna noodles, mouth-watering three meat sauce, rich Italian sausage, eggs, hearty whole milk ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses were pure culinary bliss!
The toughest part is that the new eating plan is WORKING! My husband’s blood pressure and glucose are staying in target zones. His BP has dropped from numbers in the 170/90 range to an average of 130/70! He has lost 12 pounds and with his current glucose ranges, I’m sure his next A1C will be much lower. I have lost some weight and my heartburn has improved.
Scientists, dietitians, and nutritionists say that it can take 90 days for taste buds to acclimate to the absence of salt. In a small way, I can honestly say we are trying to kick a bad habit or an “addiction” to salt, fat, and sugar. So we will remain undaunted! I am committed to face one day and one meal at a time! I will approach each new recipe as an adventure in new flavor profiles. I will persevere in my search for meals that are BOTH tasty and healthful.
For now, even though I am seriously tempted, I will not bash the DASH!