Keeping Healthy with H-E-B: Food-First Philosophy Rooted in Science

Food-first philosophy, food-first philosophy… say that five times fast! It may be a silly tongue twister, but it’s true that focusing on what you put in your body really does make a difference in your overall health. 

We got to play host to Painkillr‘s Work in Progress Austin event in March, and dieticians Irene Vielma and Amaris Garza from your friendly neighborhood H-E-B stopped by to help us all learn a little bit more about crafting a balanced plate, eating mindfully, and staying hydrated in the hot Austin summer.

Here’s what they had to say ⬇️

Balanced Plate

When it comes to fueling your body, it’s important to build meals and snacks that include a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and fats, all of which play essential an role in keeping our bodies strong and healthy. Carbohydrates provide the main source of energy for the body and brain – think fruits, like strawberries and apples, vegetables like broccoli and spinach, and grains like pasta and rice. Proteins are important for maintaining and repairing muscles – think chicken, tofu, turkey, lentils, that kind of thing. Fats, like avocados and tree nuts, help regulate body temperature and aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

When planning your meals, keep MyPlate in mind. Try to fill half of your dish with fruits and veggies and the other half with whole grains and lean proteins. Don’t forget about dairy!

This is especially important for you active folks. And before you ask, no, doing a bicep curl to put a taco in your mouth doesn’t count.

Three-four hours before you exercise, eat a meal that’s high in carbs, moderate in protein, low in fat, and low in fiber. This could look like mixing a tablespoon of peanut butter into your oatmeal and topping it off with fruit, or making a peanut butter sandwich with banana slices.

If you had a tough workout – like mowing your lawn at 4pm in August tough – aim for a balanced snack within an hour of your activity. Be sure to hydrate, too, but more on that later. If your workout was gentler, aim for a balanced meal 3-4 hours after your activity. You could whip up a chicken fajita bowl with brown rice, black beans, lettuce, salsa, and avocado, or try a bagel sandwich with avocado, scrambled eggs, and spinach.

Mindful Eating

Mindfulness is more than a new age buzzword; it’s an intentional focus on what thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations are coming up in our present moment. When we’re mindful, we focus on being aware of – rather than reacting to – our circumstance and choices. Couple that with our food habits and we get mindful eating.

Eating mindfully encourages us to make choices that will be satisfying and nourishing to our bodies. It discourages judging any eating behaviors. We’re all a little different after all, so why wouldn’t we have different types of eating experiences? As we become more aware of our eating habits, we may take steps towards behavior changes that will benefit not only ourselves, but also our environment.

7 Tips to Make Mindful Eating Part of Your Norm:
  1. Prepare to eat: Emotions are tied to eating, so try to recognize them and how they affect your food choices.
  2. Breathe and relax: Sit comfortably, take a few deep breaths, and take a moment to be thankful for the food you’re about to eat. This prepares the body for the rest-and-digest phase.
  3. Notice what is on your plate: Not paying attention to what you’re eating can lead to eating past our fullness queues. Notice the colors, textures, and volume of food on your plate. Pay attention to the smell, taste, and texture of your food as you eat.
  4. Chew thoroughly: Chew slowly, chewing each bite of food approximately 20 times. Enjoy the bursts of flavor in your mouth. Think about how the food makes you feel.
  5. Eat slowly: Enjoy what you eat and improve digestion by not rushing through your meal. Digestion begins with chewing. Chewing and swallowing are the only parts of the digestion process you can control.
  6. Stop when you are full: It takes the brain about 20 minutes to recognize that you’ve had enough— another good reason to not rush through your meal. Remember… you are not obligated to clear your plate!
  7. Make eating a separate activity: Eating while working, reading, or watching TV can cause you to overeat and make poor food choices. Feel free to forward this to your boss next time they ask you to work through lunch 😉

Water maintains our body temperature and helps transport oxygen and nutrients in our bloodstream. When our hydration levels drop, our body temperatures rise, it becomes harder to get oxygen and fresh nutrients to our cells, and our cognitive abilities begin to get dull. A 1% drop in your hydration status can cause cognitive impairment! And we don’t even start to feel thirsty until dehydration dips to 2%. All the more reason to sip on some water throughout your day, not just when your mouth gets dry.

On a normal day, we should all aim to drink about 1 oz of fluid per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 180 lbs, strive for 180 oz of fluid — that’s almost 1.5 gallons! And that’s just on a regular day; if you do activities where you sweat, you’ll want to add even more water to your routine, plus some electrolytes. Electrolytes carry (you guessed it) an electrical charge that help our muscles move. When we sweat them out, it becomes harder for our muscles to move our bones. Whether you spend a Thursday evening with us at The Drop-In or bust your 🍑 upping that garden game, staying hydrated is paramount!

Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the mindful eating and hydration icebergs! To learn more and get expert support, check out H-E-B’s Nutrition Services. An H-E-B Dietitian will talk through healthy lifestyle practices and even help you with your grocery shopping. H-E-B Wellness Primary Care and Nutrition Services offer in-person or virtual services. It might even be covered by your insurance!


At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

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