Simple Nutritional Planning for a Healthy Diet

By Janet Luhrs,

Living a fit and healthy life is something that takes proactivity and planning.  However, sometimes… well…ok, quite OFTEN our busy schedules make  planning for our meals a bit of a challenge.

So let me swoop in and make it easy for you, by showing you how to pare meal planning down to the basics. Pay close attention here because if you make this easy, you’ll be way more likely to make healthy choices and keep it up.

Here’s a big factor that torpedoes a healthy diet: looking at food options as a long list of do’s and don’ts.  Too often this restrictive approach leads to negativity around food and erratic success. Unless you have allergic or other health reasons to restrict certain foods, adopt an approach of balance and wisdom. Here are some easy tips:

Eat Fat! Yep, you read that right. Make sure you choose good fats that are heart healthy such as polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. These fats are found in olives, almonds avocados, pumpkin seeds and oils such as olive, peanut, and canola. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in trout, salmon, flaxseed and walnuts.

Protein: the most basic building block of the human body and essential to our immune systems, hormones, tissue repair, and building muscle is protein. Animal proteins are fish and poultry. Red meats are good protein sources, as well, but take care to limit those due to higher levels of fat to protein ratios that can also raise cholesterol. Again, no need to put steaks on the forbidden list, just stay in moderation. Consult the USDA recommendations for how much protein for your age, sex, and activity level.

Carbs, carbs, and more carbs!  Yes, they are ok!  Again, consumed in moderation and make sure you choose good vs bad carbs. Your body needs carbs to burn for energy. Chose those that are nutrient rich such as whole grains and complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Stay away from processed “empty” carbs such as desserts, white bread, and rice, and fruit juices. (Eat a piece of fruit instead of juice.)

The other factors to consider are adequate vitamin and mineral intake, keeping sugars to a minimum, and consuming enough water.  Regarding vitamins, make every effort to consume most of your vitamins through the unprocessed, healthy foods you consume. Supplements should be considered…supplemental, not the prime source. Make sure you are consuming the 13 essentials for optimal health.

All sugars, natural (such as honey and fruit sugars) are metabolized the same in your body. Fruit sugars and honey are a better choice for your tea or other drinks due to the added nutritional benefit. But too much is still too much.

Too much sugar intake weakens your immune system and provides the best environment for bacteria to grow which promotes inflammation and weight gain.

Keep these simple facts in mind as you make informed choices about your nutritional plan and you are well on you way to a full and vital healthy lifestyle.

Featured photo source:

Hydrating Foods to Support Fitness and Weight Loss

Hydration is extremely important for a healthy diet and for safety during your workouts. When you are healthily hydrated, your body is able to carry important nutrients throughout your body, flush toxins from vital organs, and maintain an appropriately moist environment for your throat, nose and ears.

Drinking enough water can be difficult – the Institute of Medicine lists the adequate fluid intake at 13 cups per day for men, and nine cups per day for women. For some people, that’s a lot! However, getting enough hydrating fluids doesn’t have to be difficult. There are several hydrating foods with plenty of water to boost your daily intake and support your health. As an added benefit, eating foods that are water-rich helps reduce hunger and encourage weight loss, since they fill you up with fewer calories.

  • Cucumbers: It’s probably not a surprise that cucumbers have the highest water content of any solid food – they’re more than 96 percent water!
  • Celery: Great for snacking, and only six calories per stalk; celery has more than 95% water content. It’s also high in fiber, folate, and Vitamins A, C, and K for some power-packing nutrition.
  • Tomatoes: A single serving of tomatoes is just 27 calories and packed with good-for-you nutrients! They are also highly hydrating, made 94 percent of water.
  • Green Peppers: All bell peppers are very hydrating, but green peppers are the most so, at nearly 94 percent water content (red and yellow peppers are closer to 92 percent). They are also rich in antioxidants.
  • Spinach: Get ready to stuff your salads with this great green. Spinach has only seven calories in each serving, and is 92 percent water.
  • Cauliflower: The top nutritional benefits of cauliflower lie in its help lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer, and supplying important vitamins and phytonutrients. Additionally, they are slightly more than 92 percent water.
  • Strawberries: Almost everybody loves this sumptuous berry… and it’s 92 percent water, so it’s a great serving of hydration. A serving of strawberries is only 50 calories and has the added benefit of giving you more than your daily serving of Vitamin C.
  • Watermelon: (Of course) At 91.5 percent water content, this fruit is delicious and hydrating. It is also one of the richest natural sources of lycopene, which is a cancer-fighting antioxidant.
  • Broccoli: With only 20 calories per cup and lots of nutrients (fiber, potassium, Vitamin A and C, to name a few), broccoli is also one of the most hydrating foods – it’s 91 percent water!
  • Grapefruit: Lower your cholesterol and enjoy the weight loss benefits of grapefruit, which fuels fat burning and stabilizes blood sugar.

Featured photo source:

It’s Not Rocket Science! 5 Ways to Revamp Your Diet for Better Nutrition

By Janet Luhrs,

I’m guessing you’ve tried many times to get on a clean, healthy eating plan. But sometimes the complexities and detailed food prep, not to mention the endless list of forbidden foods is overwhelming, isn’t it? Add to that the need to consider high protein, low carbs, good carbs/bad carbs, vegan, Paleo, GMO, and… well, don’t you sometimes just want to curl up in a ball and eat popcorn? Hold on – start with my simplified list of what’s good for you:

  • Eat Clean: Simply put, no to very little processed foods. Begin phasing those out in favor of foods in their most natural, fresh condition with few or no ingredients added
  • All carbs are not evil: Learn what “Skinny carbs” or “resistant starches” are and add them to your diet to help you get the important fiber needed for digestive health and also increase fat burning.
  • Water, water, everywhere: So DRINK it! Keeping your body well hydrated is the key to good internal health for many reasons. Icing on the cake is that drinking plenty of water is key to weight loss and a good metabolism.
  • Something is fishy: Get your omega-3 fatty acids, but get it safely. Seafood lower on the food chain is lower in toxic mercury, so focus on these: shrimps, wild and Alaska salmon, scallops, domestic tilapia, oysters, and domestic squid. Avoid farmed fish of all kinds.
  • Get nutty: Nuts and seeds are a great source of power-packed vitamins, calcium, vitamin E, minerals, protein, and fiber. Make sure to stay away from oil roasted and salted. Top on the list are almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp, and sunflower seeds. Avoid peanuts as they tend to be high in the carcinogenic mold, aflatoxin and also are notoriously high in pesticides.

It doesn’t need to be that complicated to make a few changes and get you on the path to a cleaner, leaner you.  Adopt these 5 basic guidelines to start with. And DO think of these as guidelines, not rules or restrictions. Let us know how your changes are going and tricks you have found to give you success.

Featured photo source:

Healthy Eating is more than Counting Calories or Fat

Developing an effective and healthy approach to diet and nutrition can sometimes be a challenge when we may have decades of diet fads and imbalanced approaches still lurking in our thinking.

For years counting calories or counting fat took the forefront in approaches to diet and weight loss.  Nutrition science has now debunked much of that and replaced it with a more holistic, balanced approach.  Yes, consuming more calories than what your body burns will result in weight gain.  But the simplistic approach to just focusing on the calories will tend to leave healthy meal decisions behind and can result in an unhealthy diet plan that is low in calories, but lacks certain necessary elements such as enough fiber or omega 3 fats.

Another negative result of focusing on calorie counts is that it can lead to binging and restricting rather than paying attention to when you are truly hungry or satisfied. Individuals who have been successful at weight loss learn to eat when hungry and stop when full.

People who count calories tend to get a bit obsessive about food. This system requires planning acceptable food substitutions, what and when you are going to eat next, and if cheating during this meal can be made up for the rest of the day.

Calorie counting can be successful in the short-term, but is rarely sustainable long term.

So what is the answer? There is no one answer. Learning to make lifestyle changes and attitude changes around foods are two of the places to start.

Your lifestyle should include activities that boost your metabolism, cutting back or completely out of processed sugars and foods, learning emotional triggers around foods and having strategies to address those.

Let yourself enjoy the foods that are healthy and even those treats in moderation.  Base your diet on your preferences and goals and you will learn that your food choices are YOUR choices and you are not limited, nor enslaved.

Increasing your activity output not only brings you pleasure and stress relief (both which factor in appetite control), but it will turn up your metabolism.

In short, challenge yourself to change your perspective around food and you will find the freedom to make the choices that support your goals rather than being driven by numbers.

Let us know what kind of new strategies you have found effective over the years that have resulted in true lifestyle changes around food.

Featured photo source:

Understanding “Good Fats” vs “Bad Fats” in Your Diet

For many years, now the accepted school of thought is that fat in our diet is bad, lean is good. More and more studies in recent times are providing evidence that carbohydrates, not fat, is the root of an unhealthy diet. Fat is a necessary part of a normal, balanced healthy diet. Hold on to those two words: “Balanced and healthy”. Rather than avoid fats altogether or blindly consume low fat options in our diet, it is important to understand the various forms of fat and how our bodies metabolize them.

Understand that when food manufacturers provide low-fat versions of peanut butter, salad dressing, etc., they are usually adding sugars, additives, and salt to make them taste better. Don’t trade less fat for more sugar and processed ingredients. For example, margarine contains lower calories than butter but is high in trans fat. Margarine is manufactured using hexane, hydrogen gas, emulsifiers, bleach, and synthetic vitamins and colors. Call me crazy, but a bit of butter seems healthier on my toast than lower calorie margarine.

The healthy fats include omega 3 and omega 6 which are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help increase the good HDL cholesterol in your blood and combat the bad LDL. LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis. LDL cholesterol deposits in the artery walls as early as childhood and adolescence. White blood cells increase to protect the blood vessels and convert the LDL to a toxic, oxidized form of cholesterol. Soon a low level inflammation is occurring in the artery wall, creating plaque.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats not only help lower your bad cholesterol levels, but also tend to be high in vitamin E, which is deficient in most people’s diets and essential for your bodies’ development of cells and healthy skin

Examples of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, tea seed oil, macadamia nut oil, and sunflower oil
  • Nuts like almonds, cashew, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pistachios
  • Olives
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grain wheat
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Examples of Polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Cereal grains and pasta
  • vegetables and vegetable products
  • Fruits and whole fruit juices (non-pasteurized is best)
  • Nuts and seed products
  • Legumes
  • Finfish and shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Dairy and eggs

While these good fats contain more calories, they also help you to feel more satisfied, less likely to continue to consume more low fat options higher in sugar. But don’t load up on peanut butter and real butter; just use them in moderation.

Saturated fats comprise of more than two dozen different kinds and they are not all the same, nor should we approach them all the same. Until recently, the school of thought was to avoid all saturated fats.   But many sources of saturated fats are also really good for you in many other ways.

A 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there was not enough proof linking saturated fat alone to either heart disease or stroke. People had been replacing animal fats for vegetable oils and refined carbs, which caused triglycerides to go up and good HDL cholesterol to go down. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that people on a lower-carb diet shed more weight faster than those on a low fat diet; even the low-carb group was consuming more fats. Likely because fewer carbs release less insulin, control hunger and reduce storage of fat. All of this helps to keep cholesterol at healthier levels.

So the question is not which saturated fats are acceptable and which aren’t but keep your entire fat consumption to no higher than 20-25% of your daily intake. Avoid saturated fats that are highly refined due to the additives, sugars, and chemicals involved in the process. If you have to choose between “low cal-low fat” trans fats such as margarine, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and vegetable shortening, or natural, saturated fats (in moderation, of course) then choose saturated fats. Keep your saturated fats as low as possible, but choose from sources of “good” saturated fats such as:

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic Peanuts and other nuts
  • Regular 100% peanut butter instead of “low-fat” options
  • Wild Salmon instead of farmed
  • Butter instead of margarine
  • Organic, grass fed meats instead of grain and hormone fed (also avoid meats that are cured, processed with nitrates and other preservatives).

Understanding the wide variety of saturated fats and how they are metabolized is a detailed subject that we encourage you to explore before you just blindly toss all saturated fats out of your diet. The key is moderation and balance in all things. Know your fats and you will make better, healthier choices for your life. Please share with us your experiences with changing fats in your diet and what has worked for you.


Featured photo credit Flickr user Jaanus Silla.

Why Most Diets Fail

While many things unite us as Americans, one factor is not to be proud of… Americans are struggling in increasing numbers with body weight.  We are not just talking obesity, but just plain old being overweight. The statistics do not look good for us:

  • According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 35.7% of American adults (aged 20 and older) are obese (BMI 30 and above) — up from about 23% in the early 1990s.
  • Two thirds of Americans claim they are on a diet, yet less than 20% achieve not only successful weight loss, but also fail to maintain the loss
  • Over the last 50 years, Americans went from 24.3% of the population classified as overweight, to over 35% currently.

Elizabeth Kolbert writes an excellent article in The New Yorker examining the why’s of how we all got here and how we have changed culturally, as a result of all this weight gain.  One subject that sells more books, supplements, and nutrition programs than probably all others combined is our collective desire to lose weight. We can look at all the reasons we are gaining weight, and Kolbert’ s article does a good job of that. But for our purposes here, we are going to understand why we tend to fail to keep the weight off.

In a very simplistic nutshell, we gain weight when we consume more calories than what our bodies’ burn off.  There are many contributing factors that make that process more of a challenge for some than others such as thyroid issues, genetic predisposition, and life style factors.

In order to be successful at weight loss, it is critical to pinpoint your pitfalls and be determined in your strategies for a successful approach. Examining our lifestyle habits and how those detract from a successful weight loss program is important to success. When we understand how metabolism works then we can make choices to improve that. Let’s examine some of the top reasons why most diets fail:

  • Looking at a diet as a temporary short term solution to a weight issue.  Those who succeed at weight loss do so with a lifestyle approach for long term health.  It is key to make dietary changes to support good health long after the weight is off
  • An inaccurate view on activity and calories burned: In order to lose 1 lb. per week, cut your calories by 500/day. Achieving that by exercise alone or diet alone is not only unrealistic, but defeating and can be dangerous. Increase both your moderate and vigorous types of exercise, track steps with a pedometer to help you take more of them, and also reduce your calories consumed.
  • Adopting too drastic or strict of a diet that triggers headaches, mood swings, irritability and brain fog.  Feeling cruddy is an indicator of a poor diet rather than a healthy one which is going to yield a lifestyle change.
  • A diet that actually lowers your metabolism: Drastically cutting back on calories and also teaching yourself to “go hungry” slows your metabolism down and throws your body into fat storage mode. Light snacking or smaller, healthy meals every two hours is a more successful approach.
  • Simplifying a diet approach to just “consume less calories”: Caloric consumption is the place to start, but failing to understand how sugars and fats impact weight gain, understand complex vs simple carbs, and not boosting your metabolism and you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Emotional eating: this is a very complex topic, but check out this article to gain an understanding of how we subscribe emotional cues to foods can be the most powerful factor in attaining weight loss success.
  • Getting inadequate sleep: People with fewer than six hours of sleep at night increase the body’s production of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which leads to weight gain.

Identify the “diet fails” that tend to get in the way of your weight loss success, implement strategies to counter act those, and you are on your way to success…and a fitter, healthier YOU!

Michelle Boyd’s Story of Overcoming Obesity

2013 is the year I lost 92 lbs. on a rigid low calorie diet and Omnitrition supplements. 2014 is the year I decided to get physical.



I’ve been a morbidly obese woman my entire adult life. I did not do any exercise except for swimming. I had long been in denial of my poor physical health. My idea of exercise was to park in the second row at Walmart. I had severe knee problems and difficulty going up and down stairs. In addition to suffering from Fibromyalgia, arthritis, and daily migraines; my most debilitating “illness” was my negative self image about the obesity. I saw someone who would never be loved or accepted. I never looked in full length mirrors, hated shopping because I had to buy huge clothes to fit my bust and thighs, leading me to special Plus-Sized shops. I even gave up wearing makeup. My self-hatred festered over and over as negative experiences replayed in my mind and self-hate verbiage constantly played.

In 2013, an opportunity to care for a terminally ill friend changed my life. Prior to her death, we shared a special moment in my truck as we took in the view of the beach. She was wheelchair-bound and commented that she really missed walking, hiking, and camping. That year, I lost 92 lbs. on the Omnitrition nutrition plan and went from a size 28 (XXXL) to size 12/14.

Even though my measurements completely changed, I still saw myself the way I used to be. Something needed to change.

In January 2014, our conversation kept playing over and over. I decided it was ridiculous that I wasn’t doing anything physical or healthy. So I challenged myself one day at Redondo Boardwalk. I learned that it was approximately 1/2 mile long. My first walk took over 40 minutes on a casual walk. The next day I decided to try 2 miles, which took over an hour. Two days later I increased it to 3 miles.

After a couple months of walking 3 miles 2-3 times per week, I noticed 3 miles did not make any difference in my body. So I pushed it up to 5 miles, 4-5 times per week. I really pushed that last mile and my legs were really sore. . After a couple months, I decided to try to jog 1 mile very slowly, to protect my knees. Success! Now I jog with my knee braces to provide extra strength.

Michelle Boyd after


I’ve strengthened my knees up to 3 miles jogging and 2 miles walking. My walking stance is short so it takes more steps to complete a mile. But I am determined now to get my 5 miles in each day. I’ve had issues with blisters and sore feet, which have impacted my consistency, but good footwear is now making the difference.

I can walk 5-7 miles without pain. I can walk upstairs like a normal person. It is not a speedy process, but when I do it, I feel better about me. When my knees hurt, I wear the braces and I still try.

The most astounding change occurred last week when I registered for my first 5K for brain tumor research in July in Portland OR. 5K is just a little over 3 miles and I know I can do it!

I am not giving up and I refuse to listen to 35 years of self-hate tapes. I look forward to walking to clear my head, making positive affirmations, and changing my mindset. I never would’ve believed this was possible. If I can do this, so can you!

Congrats, Michelle! And thank you for sharing your story with the Fit After Fifty community!

Throw Away Your Scale


OK, this isn’t me. But  this picture helped me realize I had been measuring my success all wrong. Photo credit:

There is a Bible verse that says something to the effect of “do not despise the day of small things.” I have been trying to remember that as I have struggled the last month to see some results.

Any results. Talk about “small things!” Read more

italy family eating

When Food Is “Love” – Overcoming Family Patterns


Photo Credit: Eat Mediterranean

About a month ago, I wrote the second installment in my fitness saga, and was very encouraged that one of the benefits of exercising and eating healthier was that I stopped even wanting the rich foods I previously craved.

Ahem. Over the last month, an irresistible force began to reassert itself Read more

World Physical Activity Day: Lead by Example and Prevent Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity can be prevented.
Fit After Fifty recently discovered some very alarming statistics: Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. If the current trend continues, more than 85% of adults in the United States will be overweight or obese by the year 2030. Read more