Healthy Eating Basics

Personal insight from Pete Petersen, an Idaho Department of Health & Welfare employee who has maintained a 115 pound weight loss for nearly 7 years!

I was morbidly obese most of 30 years and obese most of my life.  Partly due to predisposition, I faced a number of severe health crises.  However, I lost over 115 lbs about 7 years ago, and have kept it off. 

Throughout my health journey I often heard people say, “It’s too expensive to eat healthy.” But is it?  What really constitutes eating healthy or “food security?”

According to the World Health Organization, there are now more people in the world who are malnourished due to being overweight than malnourished from being underweight.  How can that be?  If you were to eat two gallons of mac and cheese every day, and nothing else, you could be considered malnourished because you are not getting important vitamins and minerals from nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables.  Before long you might even accumulate additional medical costs or lose work time.

Food security is not about getting enough food to eat, it is about getting enough of the essential nutrients and fiber your body and mind need to function well.  It is the foundation for health. The MyPlate graphic can help you choose combinations of food to get those essential nutrients.  It’s a pretty simple visual representation of a healthy, balanced diet and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

MyPlate is a reminder to find your healthy eating style.

Let’s start simple (my economical variation): if you include at least one serving of fruit, two servings of vegetables,  two servings of whole grains, one serving of dairy (or the nutritional equivalent) and one serving of protein every day, you will be doing much better than most Americans. 

For better health results, aim to eat a variety of plants.  While I am not vegetarian, I do not eat a lot of meat.  Most of my protein comes from plant based foods.  Beans and brown rice are a complete protein when paired together.  Quinoa is a complete protein by itself.  Brown rice and old fashioned rolled oats are great sources of whole grains.  They are easy and quick to prepare, and very inexpensive, especially in bulk.

I also avoid refined or simple carbohydrates and sugars as much as possible.  They are usually more expensive, more addictive, and detrimental to both physical and mental health.  On the other hand, complex carbohydrates, like oats, sweet potatoes, and brown rice, are an essential piece of our foundation for better health.

When I lost weight, I was familiar with the starvation diets that had been around for years.  I knew that would not work for me.  While I am not at all vegan, I love a quote by one who is: “Here’s the secret to weight loss: It’s all about crowding out, not cutting out.” Kathy Freston

As a last piece of humor, I’ll share something I recently read on social media: “I want to lose weight but don’t want to get caught up in one of those “eat right and exercise” scams.”