Having lost 60 pounds and maintained it, Lori Burkhart learned lots of SWAP-ing tips and tricks along the way.

Having lost 60 pounds and maintained it, Lori Burkhart learned lots of SWAP-ing tips and tricks along the way.

Besides piling on the veggies, she saves higher-calorie items for special occasions, portions out serving-size bags for snacking at work and enjoys discovering new “food finds” with friends and neighbors. She walks three to four miles five or six days a week.

“I love fruits and veggies and I’ve learned to keep the kitchen well-stocked with them,” says Burkhart. “Our local grocery stores have great produce so I’m able to keep all these wonderful veggies in the refrigerator just waiting for me. Weight loss and eating healthy is a journey, not a destination — and it’s a journey I’ll continue all my life.”

Burkhart’s journey

December 2, 2009, was a life-changing day for Burkhart. She had been working on losing weight for a couple of months by making changes to her diet, but she struggled with consistency. A friend and co-worker at New Ulm Medical Center joined Weight Watchers and referred her to the program. She literally said, “We need you! There are not enough people to keep the ‘Weight Watchers at Work’ program here without you.” Since that December day, three success stories blossomed together as Burkhart and her friends lost a combined 150 pounds.

Burkhart was already walking her dog and exercising more than 150 minutes a week – more like 300-plus minutes. Cooking, healthy food choices and the support of friends have been the keys to her weight loss.

“We share recipes, frustrations, ideas and struggles. It is been so important to have the support of friends and family,” Burkhart explained. “I resisted joining a ‘group’ that focused on weight loss. I am a nurse and I ‘know’ what needs to be done.”

Instead, joining Weight Watchers and having the support of friends and family are just what Burkhart needed to reach her goals.

“Don’t do it alone! I found a program to be very helpful — the food tracking, the accountability and a set program with guidelines to follow are a great combination,” Burkhart explained.

Additionally, Burkhart is making good decisions in the kitchen. She has adopted the lessons from Weight Watchers into her cooking methods and food shopping routine. The meals now SWAP vegetables and fruit in place of meat as the center of the meal. Burkhart has found that healthy eating is not more expensive and is enjoying adapting a variety of recipes to use less fats/oils. She is also learning about the nutritional value of foods and how to balance her meals.

“I haven’t given up things I like to eat, instead I’ve found SWAP-ing alternatives that are lower in fat. Cheese can still be a part of my diet as long as I eat the low-fat version. Paying attention to portions and the nutritional value of foods are small changes that make a big difference.”

Get inspired to make your own SWAPs at a free grocery store tour at Schutz Family Foods on Monday, Oct. 21 at 12 p.m.

Tours last approximately one hour and people should meet the dietitian at the front of the store. Recipes and tips will be provided. Register in advance at www.heartsbeatback.org. Under the “Brown County” tab, choose “SWAP IT to DROP IT” and then click on “Tours at Schutz Family Foods.”

The Heart of Brown County Project is a grant-funded initiative coordinated by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, Allina Health and Brown County Public Health.

Want to lose 10 pounds in a year? The Heart of Brown County’s SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign can help you do it. When you look at the SWAP IT campaign messages, just think of the word “substitute” and you’ll be on your way to making healthier choices. By reducing your calories by just 100 a day, you can save 700 calories a week, which could help you lose up to 10 pounds in a year. Or, if you’re already at a healthy weight, healthier choices can also help you maintain your weight.