Five Things I've Learned While Trying to Lower My Blood Pressure

Several weeks ago, I took my blood pressure and discovered it had creeped up to a somewhat concerning level. Since then, I've been working to get it back down to normal by trying to lose weight and watch the types of foods I eat.

So far, I've had some success, though I suspect my doctor will want me to do more when I see him next week. Along the way, I've learned a few lessons.

There is a surprisingly high amount of salt in food. Not everything. I can keep the salt under control if I make the meals from scratch. However, I tend to get busy during the week and can't always make a meal from scratch (or pre-make one to be warmed up later) and I've found it's very hard to find a convenient option that doesn't have a lot of sodium in it.

One food, in particular, that caught me off guard as far as sodium content goes is Chef Boyardee products. After reading the labels closer than I've done in the past, I was shocked to discover there was almost as much sodium in those products as a package of ramen noodles. And, you literally pour salt onto ramen noodles. I won't let myself starve, but it does make me think twice about purchasing something in a can or box.

While we're on that subject, nutritional labels are somewhat useless. The biggest issue, in my opinion, is many assume everyone has a measuring cup or scale when describing what counts as a serving size. I usually have neither handy and mostly find myself eyeballing it.

Truthfully, I don't know how that situation can be resolved. Other than maybe more companies choosing to sell their food in single-serving packaging? I'd buy a lot of that.

Protein is my friend, especially at breakfast. When I first started my new "healthy" lifestyle, my plan was to go with things like fresh fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. This didn't work for me and, now, my breakfast consists of eggs and (turkey) bacon most mornings.

On the surface, this may seem like it is the opposite of what I should be doing. However, I discovered a higher protein breakfast makes me feel fuller for longer and, because of that, I'm much less likely to feel the need to buy a much-less-healthy breakfast sandwich at the convenience store up the street from my office. I do, however, still try to mix in some of the fruits and grains with other meals to balance itself out and have found oatmeal (while a bit gross in my opinion) makes an OK afternoon snack when I know I'll be eating a late dinner and need something to hold me over.

It helps to have a routine. I am big on routines and have found sticking to one as part of my diet/exercise efforts has made a huge difference. This includes planning when I have my meals (other than dinner, which is always a bit of a crap shoot because of the kids' extra curricular activities), take my walks and even when I go to the store (to ensure I don't have a hungry stomach making my food purchase decisions).

At minimum, having a routine has cut down on my mid-meal snacking. I still have snacks, but since they are on a set schedule now, it's much easier for me plan them and make sure they are healthy.

Bananas are better than I remember. I've always liked bananas but it was a fruit that never seemed to make it on my shopping list until recently. Now I buy them multiple times each week.

In addition to the health benefits, one of the best things about this particular fruit is the price. I can find bananas for as little as 29 cents per pound, a fraction of what I would expect to spend on pretty much any other type of fruit. Plus they are much more convenient than other fruits when it comes to transporting them and eating them in my office.

I wasn't the only one who discovered this. My oldest daughter started eating them on a regular basis again too and that child rarely eats fruit.


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