A few weeks ago, I blogged about the New American Plate (NAP) Challenge. I do love a good contest, especially one I know I can win. So I signed up for this 12-week challenge to work on healthier eating and getting more exercise, to reduce my risk of cancer. The NAP challenge is sponsored by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), and if you sign up through their site, they will send you weekly emails with healthy recipes and exercise tips to help you meet the challenge goals. There is also an online community to provide extra ideas and encouragement.
Here’s an update on my progress:
Week 1 – the challenge was to fill up at least 2/3 of my plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains beans and nuts, and no more than 1/3 of my plate with lean animal proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy. By the end of the week, at least 5 of my 21 meals had to meet the goal. In addition, they recommended using a smaller plate (salad-size plate for dinner) to reduce portion sizes and eat fewer calories. I love this suggestion, because using a smaller plate makes you feel like you are eating a massive amount of food. If you need a great portion control plate, you can order one here.
Eating more plant based food is a great goal for all of us, because the typical American diet is way too high in meats like steak and burgers, and high fat dairy like the cheese on our Friday night pizza, cream in our coffee, and ice cream for dessert. These foods not only add excess calories, but the unhealthy fats in them can also increase the risk of many different types of cancer. Plant based foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains are naturally lower in calories, and high in cancer fighting antioxidants.
How did I do? OK – I am a nutritionist, so it would be pretty horrible if I failed at this one. I am happy to report that almost all of my meals met the goal! I even snapped a few shots to prove it. I will admit I missed when I made my Strawberry Tiramisu (I can’t keep sweets in the house because they turn into meals for me), and when I had a excellent meal with my family at Gibbet Hill Grill, a fabulous farm-to-fork establishment in Groton MA. My meal that night consisted of several slices of their home made bread and sweet cream butter, followed by potato crusted haddock on a bed of corn and bacon chowder. Oh, and I had more than one glass of wine. I did split a salad before… Amazingly delicious, but definitely didn’t meet the NAP goal. Here are a few meals that did though, and some tips for how I made it happen:
Breakfast is pretty standard for me – oatmeal or granola with fruit, nuts and yogurt. I upped the fruit a bit more than usual to fill 2/3 of the plate. If I’m out of oatmeal, I might opt for Cheerios instead. If I’m feeling especially creative, I might spring for a scrambled egg, with some type of fruity, nutty whole grain bread I found at the grocery store, and some fruit.
For lunch, I’m not a big sandwich girl, unless I’m eating out and my sandwich includes a delicious mayo based sauce and maybe some bacon. Lucky for me, I rarely eat lunch out, so most days it’s usually turkey or chicken breast, with raw veggies, hummus or dip, and whole grain crackers, maybe some cheese.
I find that if I stick to the same few foods for breakfast and lunch, it helps me to stay on track in terms of calories, and it makes it easier to work in several servings of fruits and veggies earlier in the day, so I don’t have to worry about eating my 5 servings at dinner – too much even for me!
For dinner, I always try to make 2 veggies, or a fruit and vegetable, and instead of rice of pasta for starch, I prefer potato, sweet potato or corn because of the fiber and extra vitamins. Protein is usually chicken breast, fish, or beans, but I do have to cook for my men who love a steak or burger occasionally. I try to sub out a veggie burger for myself, and stick to an ounce or two of lean sirloin when grilling steak.
Week 2: – the challenge was to get more exercise. They recommended getting an extra 10-15 minutes or 500-1,000 steps each week.
How did I do? Even though I work mostly at home, I can still spend hours in front of the computer most weeks, and then there is laundry, vacuuming and so on…so I like the rest of the world, I have to remember to schedule in my exercise. To push myself, I sighed up for Charity Miles, which tracks your walks, runs or bike rides and then donates money to the charity of your choice for each mile you do. I did manage to walk or run 3 days, and get to they gym to do some strength training 2 days. I also tried to park farther away when I had to run errands (it all adds up!), and squeeze in some yard work on Saturday.
I’m finding that keeping journals on what I what I eat, and tracking my exercise with Charity Miles is helping me to stay focused on my goals – Journaling is a strategy I recommend to all of my clients who want to improve their diet or lose weight. Overall, I’m loving the NAP challenge, because it makes me focus on doing things that are good for me. If you haven’t signed up – check it out and let me know how you’re doing!