Less Les 3: What’s On The Plate?

Continuing on with Les when we had the opportunity to meet at his truck stop in Hayward, CA, one of the most important things I felt we needed to do was establish a bit of a baseline for his journey, as well as for his understanding of WHY we might choose certain foods or actions. We spoke about him going to his doctor to set a baseline weight (his on-the-road weigh-ins were fluctuating around 313 at the time) – something official that we could chart over time. We spoke about setting other baselines – including blood pressureblood sugar, and tests to determine whether or not he was showing any deficiencies of essential vitamins (many people these days are deficient in vital D and B vitamins). These would be important – and while I am a health coach, I am not a doctor, and so it’s important to be in partnership with a doctor as we head out on this journey! Les would head to the doctor as soon as he as back in Minnesota.

As far as helping set the tone for WHY certain foods, as a coach, it’s super important that I avoid assuming most people know the basics. As Americans today, the sad reality is that most of us either DON’T know them, or we know them, but we have been neglecting them for so long that we need to be reminded. So I started by drawing a plate for Les – like the one below.
The idea of the plate was really to help give Les an idea of what percentages of different foods should be on his plate at each meal, and to help him begin to JUST THINK ABOUT THESE CONCEPTS. As he is out there on the road, I know that it’s not always easy to find quality and nutrient dense food – at least at first glance. So giving him an opportunity to begin thinking about this, and thinking about where he could source quality food, was important for our overall success.
50% Green Vegetables and some fruits
25% Whole Grains
25% Protein (preferably, plant-based)
To me, having seen some of the images Les had posted on Facebook in the weeks prior to this meeting, it was really quite important that I discuss the significance of greens. Before meeting in person, he had already begun a bit of this effort on his own.  He had been following along to many of my clean eating posts on Facebook, and had started to learn a bit.  But I remember one night, Les posted an image of a dinner plate at a truck stop restaurant. While I knew he felt this might be a healthier option than some of his prior choices, there were still some challenges. On his plate there was a piece of fish (that may have had some challenges as far as the amount salt and types of fats used in cooking), mashed potatoes AND rice pilaf, and he was frustrated that the mini-iceberg lettuce salad (in highly processed dressing) cost extra. While there are a number of issues with this plate, the main one that stood out in my eyes was that there was nothing GREEN to be found… And even when there were so-called ‘greens’ available, they were the sparse, provided very little useful nutrition – iceberg, while crunchy and fun, is lacking in any real nutritional value, and they came at an added charge!
Greens are the most nutrient dense foods we can eat. They provide the essential vitamins and minerals (including more than enough calcium), as well as the fibre our human bodies require in effort to function properly today, and in order to prevent longterm issues (and healthcare bills). Why in the world should it be so challenging for a truck driver to access quality, dark, leafy greens? In fact, after I saw that picture that Les posted, THAT was the exact date that I became over anxious about finding a way to help. In fact, it started keeping me up at night!
So while meeting with Les in Hayward, I showed him that getting to his goals needed to start to be including greens as a dominant part of his meals – dark leafy ones, and that half of his plate should, more often than not, be made up predominantly of greens, and then other colorful (non-starchy) vegetables, and then a few fruits (high in sugar content, so we would look to eat fewer of these). Our goals are around being healthy from the INSIDE OUT – remember – Les indicated it was important for him to avoid cardiovascular disease so that he could be around for his kids and grandkids for many years to come; and weight loss is a component of that, but feeding the various systems of the body, the blood, the cells, and the organs so that they function properly, is even more significant. As we begin to do that, the weight loss will happen.
On the other half of the plate, I broke this in half. One half, or 25% of the plate would be whole grains – so important for the nervous system, the digestive system, brain and heart health, amongst other key bodily functions. Now this was also a very important lesson. Many Americans think of whole grains as the whole wheat bread we can buy in the supermarket (there are so many marketed products with that ‘heathy whole grain’ packaging – remember, food companies are there to sell you what they make – so buyer beware!). Well, here’s an interesting little factoid: did you know that a bowl of peanut butter, jelly and table sugar, has a lower glycemic index than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the whole wheat bread you can buy in a typical supermarket? We’re looking to reduce sugar in our everyday diets since high blood sugar is a significant contributing factor to diabetes and heart disease, inflammation, as well as other ailments.
So I explained to Les that there are some amazing grains we should start to look for in our efforts to build a healthy lifestyle. Now, this would require a little extra effort, especially at first (such as learning to make these in the truck, prepare them before a trip and warming them up, or just being Internet savvy enough to look for places where he can buy them on the road). These grains are:
Brown Rice
Quinoa (Keen-wah – remember the Eagles fan in the NFL advertisement in 2013? By the way – the quinoa depicted in the ad is NOT what quinoa really looks like or tastes like; here’s a GREAT recipe using quinoa that can be used as a delicious whole meal)
Now the first 4 on that list are naturally gluten-free whole grains, very high in protein – in fact quinoa, millet and amaranth have all 8 essential amino acids in them and are considered a whole protein) – and are typically not genetically modified.
I had seen pictures Les had posted with white rice before. And while I let him know that if he had a choice between a white potato and steamed white rice, he should always go for the rice, there was a reason we wanted to look for brown rice instead. White rice and brown rice are essentially the same. The difference is that white rice has been stripped of all its nutrients and fibre. Again, our human bodies need the nutrients and fibre to run properly, and to help prevent disease. So we would look more often for brown rice.
While oats can be a GMO plant, they are a nutrient-dense whole grain, and they can be easily accessed and prepared on the road (with water, fresh berries, and raw honey or stevia to sweeten a bit of necessary).
I am not quite thinking that amaranth and millet are going to be to grain of choice, but the idea here was to help educate Les about the power of whole grains, the best, most nutrient-dense grains, and the misconceptions about ‘carbs’, or what is a truly healthy grain.
Then we spoke about protein. Protein is very important, but often we eat much more than we need in this country. We also choose heavy animal-based proteins more often than not. Now I need to be realistic. While it has been clinically proven that plant-based diets are significantly healthier in thwarting disease and longevity, my plan is NOT about turning Les into a vegan. It is to educate him so that he can make healthier choices on his own. We spoke about protein-rich green vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, spinach, brussels sprouts…), and we previously spoke about protein-rich grains. To add to those, we spoke about legumes (beans) and nuts – both very high in protein, and when mixed with protein-rich grains and greens, make up a whole protein. No need for animal protein there. For the purposes of a trucker, beans (black, garbanzo, pinto, white, peas) are easy to store (buy them organic and in cartons), and can be eaten on their own, in salads, or mixed with grains.
How many world cultures can you think of where animal protein is not cost-effective, and the people eat predominantly plant-based? More than not.
And before you ask, how many of the world’s strongest and most powerful creatures are, in fact, VEGAN? Elephants, bulls, stallions, gorillas…
As far as animal-based protein, we would look for a little fish (preferably wild to avoid the mercury and potential artificial colors), and organic chicken. Organic eggs could be a good choice too. When choosing animal-based protein, we would go for no larger than a fist-sized portion.
And so you say – we’ve covered the entire plate, right? Well, technically yes. But there was one thing left to cover. I had drawn one circle right next to the plate, and that circle represents WATER. Another vital life source of fueling our bodies. Our body is made up of 75% water, and we need to consistently replenish it in order to flush toxins out of our body, and keep ourselves going! The next time you have a headache – ask yourself, how much water have I had to drink today? Chances are, not enough. Over the months ahead, water would be our drink of choice.
I remember when I was a kid living in the East Coast, I grew up, sadly, drinking a LOT of diet soda.  That’s what we had! This was probably the worst thing I could have been drinking, but I didn’t know at the time – and many of us don’t think twice. Full of chemicals, and absolutely nothing to nourish my body. I went off to live in Italy at 19 for a while, and quickly found that there would be no soda, and especially not that cold soda that I, at the time, craved. It was all about water in L’Aquila, Italia. And while it took a month or so for me to get used to it, little by little my cravings went away. I haven’t looked back. (As they say, give yourself 21 days of anything and new habits can be formed – this has been proven time and time again).
So on the water – I told Les that we would be drinking water from now on, like it was his job. He proceeded to pull out something from the truck, and he asked me, “Can I put this in my water?” What he pulled out was a sleeve of Crystal Light – lemonade flavor – he said that he just loved lemonade. I looked at the label, and said, “Well, probably not the best idea, because it’s full of chemicals and aspartame. Lets see if we can find an alternative.” And we’ll talk about what we found and how we found our sponsor, Amazing Grass, in the next blog.
Before we finished our visit, the last subject we spoke about was exercise. Now let me be clear: the key is NOT what type of exercise he is doing; it’s that he IS doing SOMETHING. In a very sedentary job like trucking, Les would have to start to consciously find ways to get up and MOVE. Get outside and find times throughout the day to WALK, get fresh air, breathe… but MOVE! If he is at a rest stop, walk around the truck a few times! I told him that the last thing we would focus on to begin with was going to be – HOW CAN WE GET OUT THERE AND TARGET 10,000 STEPS A DAY? I knew how tough this would be, but the key was to just focus on moving his body and avoiding being sedentary.  A great tool to help with that is getting a pedometer of some sort – which Les would do.  Another heart-healthy part of this journey! And I’ll write more about this in a future blog.
So our in-person visit would now come to an end, but this was really just the beginning of what is starting to be an amazing Trucker’s Journey to Health! Stay tuned to hear what happens next!



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