Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Step by incremental step...
But it's ever so slowly becoming more temple-like every month, as I add to my exercise regimen, or improve my eating habits.
This week I got the shock of my life when I was informed that there is sodium in Diet Pepsi. And a little bit of digging showed me that in fact, there is sodium in damn near everything. As a preservative and flavour enhancer, it's almost impossible to completely eliminate sodium from the diet (nor should we, because we need a certain amount of sodium to live). The thing is that I, along with many other people, consume way too much sodium on a regular basis.
I have never really focused on the sodium in my diet before this week. Oh, sure, I saw sodium figures reported in my diary, but my calories were generally good, as were my carbs, and I don't have high blood pressure, so why worry about sodium?
The reason to worry about sodium is the same reason we worry about drinking enough water and eating enough vegetables - - it's part of a healthy lifestyle. Just because I can consume too much sodium doesn't mean that I should.
So this week I have officially started to give a crap about the sodium in my food, and I have to tell you that it has already started to dramatically change my food selection set.
This evening I was in the kitchen heating up my dinner (peas, corn, half a baked potato and leftover steak - yum!) and I saw the Lipton Cup a Soup packets on the counter. There were days I would have a couple of these for dinner when pulling an all-nighter at the office. I can't ever recall reading the nutritionals looking at anything other than the calorie count. Today I took a peek at the sodium, and almost keeled over - - more than 600 mg of sodium per packet, or 29% of the total daily allowance. Keep in mind I would have a couple of these. No longer.
Those Mini Babybels in my lunches? They are relatively low in sodium, at "only" 160 mg of sodium (7% of the daily allowance). But I never had just one of those little guys, it was always 2 or 3. And that adds up quickly. Bye-bye little cheeses.
My "lazy girl" lunch of a can of Chunky New England Clam Chowder? Forget about it - - one can has 769 mg of sodium, or half of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. I wish I had enjoyed that can of soup more last week, because it's the last one I'll be having for a while.
I see lots of people in my office and on My Fitness Pal, for example, who are on sodium reduced diets to help manage their blood pressure. Trying to keep sodium levels below 1,500 mg per day is doable, and that's what I will try and aim for. That almost entirely eliminates prepared food from my diet, but I'll do it if that's what it takes.
As with any lifestyle change, I won't be able to make this change all at once. Step 1 will be to get my sodium levels within the Health Canada guidelines of 1,500 mg - 2,300 mg a day. Step 2 will be to try and reduce my sodium levels below 1,500 mg a day, consistent with CDC guidelines for persons in risk groups including diabetics (which is not me, but which could be me, left unattended).
Now when I am planning my lunches, I am going to try and build healthy satisfying meals that tick off the calorie, carb and sodium boxes. Being aware of the issue is the first step, and now that I know what to look for, I am reading nutrition labels with a fresh eye.
I will report back at the end of the week. So far, the first two days of the week have been on track, although I am the first to admit that it is early days yet.
On the good side, many smart people assure me that once my body becomes habituated to the lower levels of sodium in my diet, my food will taste just as flavourful and delicious as it once did. For now, however, it's just a tiny bit bland.
Ah well, no one said that the path to total lifestyle change was easy, or else everyone would do it...!