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Race Day September 22, 2018

Healthy Living Expo September 20-21, 2018

Food Choices DO Make a Difference!

, by Chef Joan Cunningham

An interesting experiment took place inadvertently in my house over the course of 18 months. Seven years ago, before I enrolled in my nutrition-based culinary program and began a new career in food, I left for Canada for 13 months to work for a dear friend of mine in the educational technology industry. My husband, Rich, was reluctant to pick up and follow me. Instead, we maintained two households and one or the other of us traveled to see the other almost every month, or we met somewhere for a long weekend.

To help manage the house while I was away, a young friend of ours, Jake, moved in with Rich. Jake helped with Lulu, our sheepdog, and provided some household stability in an otherwise chaotic time. The flip side was a not-so-healthy change in Rich’s dietary habits - much more meat, grilling, ice cream every night - you get the picture!

Rich had been seeing a cardiologist for several years for a few issues. He is naturally athletic and has always maintained his weight and exercised regularly, but his cholesterol levels were a bit iffy and there were a couple of other question marks. Quoting the drug commercial, Rich has always put the blame on his genes, rather than his eating habits. But an interesting thing happened when I arrived home. He paid another visit to the cardiologist and his blood profile had changed pretty radically – the cholesterol number jumped 20 points, despite being on a statin! Of course, my comment was to ask if he still thought that what he ate had no bearing on his health, and though he was loathe to admit it, he finally agreed that perhaps his food intake over the previous 13 months had aggravated the situation.....

Fast-forward 18 months to September 2013. Another visit to the cardiologist and another lipid panel. Rich’s cholesterol level had been consistently dropping since I had been back in the home kitchen, despite his manic travel schedule. Renewed awareness about food choices affected what he ate on the road, and on his next visit to the doctor, the numbers were amazing! In 18 months, his cholesterol level had dropped from 215 to136! His triglycerides were a very healthy 47 (I don’t have the earlier data on this, but the doctor was happy). Wow! Clearly, food choices DO make a difference.

So, what changed for him when I returned home? We eat mainly a plant-based diet, and while I am a definite non-meat eater, Rich does eat some meat. Sometimes I prepare a roast chicken for him at home, and of course, he can choose meat when he’s on the road. However, he has become much more aware of how eating meat makes him feel, and when he does indulge, he keeps the portion size in check. We are both keenly aware of the dangers of refined, processed foods and hidden sugars. There are no processed foods in our home; I make almost everything from scratch. The focus is a whole foods based diet, with nuts, good fats, whole grains, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables making up probably 95% of our diet.

It's not rocket science - it’s just the way nature intended us to eat! Find out more at The Intentional Kitchen,, or contact me, Chef Joan at

Tags: weight loss,health,nutrition,fitness,weight loss challenge,wellness