The complete diet makeover

Find out how Cora Coady, winner of our Vichy Best Health Challenge, is getting her nutrition on track with the help of registered dietitian Sue Mah

The complete diet makeover

Source: Best Health Magazine: October 2010; photo by John Cullen

Cora Coady is committed to changing her life one healthy habit at a time. And she knows a thing or two about change’earlier this year she became a first-time mom, to daughter Beatrix. A desire to get back to her pre-pregnancy shape prompted her to enter the Vichy Best Health Challenge. And as our winner, she’s making good pro­gress, with the help of celebrity personal trainer Bruce Krahn. He designed a home workout plan for Cora. Now, with advice from registered dietitian Sue Mah, she’s tackling her nutrition issues.

Cora, 29, put on 40 pounds during her pregnancy, and in the first few months after Beatrix was born, she lost half the weight. But then the scale stopped moving. ‘I don’t understand why,’ says Cora, who is breastfeeding. ‘I have these skinny friends who eat junk food, and I don’t!’ Now, weighing 150 lb. (she is five feet six inches), Cora would like to lose 10 more pounds. And she has another reason to fight the bulge. ‘Being partly aboriginal on my mother’s side, dia­betes is always a concern’most of my aboriginal relatives are diabetic.’ Her mother was diagnosed about four months ago.

Before their first consultation this summer, Sue asked Cora to start keeping a food journal. ‘While she does eat fairly healthily, the food diary told me Cora wasn’t eating enough from all four food groups,’ says Sue. ‘This is probably why she lost the initial baby weight but then stopped losing: Her metabolism slowed down. Eating healthy, regular meals more often will rev up her metabolism, give her more energy to exercise and help her shed a few more pounds.’

Cora was a little skeptical when Sue told her she had to add calories to her diet; typical weight-loss plans come in at around 1,500 calories daily, but Cora’s food diary showed she was consuming less than that. Not surprisingly, she was hungry. ‘I have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and an hour later I’m hungry again,’ says Cora. Sue encouraged her to add protein to all her meals and snacks, to provide satiety.

Sue also turned Cora’s attention to Can­ada’s Food Guide. Not only was Cora not eating enough from each of the four food groups, she was falling especially short in milk and alternatives, and vegetables and fruit. ‘I do like vegetables; I just think the prep’washing, cutting, peeling’is time I don’t have,’ says Cora. But she does love to bake, and often indulges in the fruits of her labour. ‘I bake because it’s one of the things that relaxes me,’ says Cora. The down side? She often skips lunch in favour of a few of her fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies. ‘Even when I was at work, I’d often skip lunch and have a bag of chips and a pop on the run.’

Sue wasn’t concerned about Cora’s baking, because there are simple ways to make it healthier. ‘I’d like her to switch some of the recipes’ butter to applesauce or non-fat yogurt, and add more fruit and grated vegetables to her baking,’ says Sue. ‘She needs to get to the point where she’s baking healthier foods instead of too many high-calorie cookies. As she trades her cookies for healthier options, Cora may find she’s actually eating more food but the same or even fewer calories.’

Sue was concerned that Cora was regularly skipping lunch. ‘Unless we have leftovers, I normally don’t eat lunch,’ says Cora. ‘My fiancé, Dave, and I used to cook together before we had Beatrix, making food to eat all week. Now we’re busy, so we cook one meal at a time. I don’t have time to cook like I used to.’

Sue suggested Cora try to have a ‘date cook night’ where she and Dave make batches of food’such as lasagna and stews’that she could divide into portions and store in the freezer for easy, healthy lunches and dinners. And if there aren’t leftovers, Sue encouraged Cora to have carrot sticks, peanut butter on toast and a glass of skim milk for lunch. ‘Healthy meals are about making nutritious choices’and getting the most nutrients from every calorie,’ advises Sue.

‘What about french fries if we go out to eat?’ Cora wanted to know. ‘Absolutely,’ says Sue. ‘I employ the 80/20 rule to eating for weight maintenance: Eat well 80 percent of the time and allow the other 20 percent to be ‘play time.”’ If you’re trying to lose weight, ‘be more picky with your food choices, but don’t beat yourself up if you slip now and then,’ she says. ‘However, eat out only on special occasions’food you don’t prepare at home often has more calories, and portion sizes are huge these days!’

Most importantly, Sue stresses the fact that healthy bodies come in all shapes. ‘Weight isn’t the best indication of good health,’ she says. ‘You can’t see bad chol­esterol or high blood pressure’the only thing we see is height and weight. If Cora sticks to a healthy eating plan, I wouldn’t be surprised if her next physical shows she’s healthier than her skinnier friends!’

Register for the Vichy Best Health Challenge to find more tips on how to live your healthiest life.