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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Do you have suggestions for eating healthy for those on Coumadin and with a busy lifestyle?

I work in Television / Film industry. We usually work a 12 hour day and have catered food. I'm not a meat or chicken eater and have trouble picking and choosing enough food to eat from the usual salad, fruit and vegetarian entrees (usually a lasagna with spinach), and a vegetable side that is usually mashed potatoes, or something with too much oil and fat.

I also have to watch my sodium and fat for cholesterol, so processed meats and cheese are out. I get frustrated and end up with bread and dessert and have gained weight. I need more than the [vitamin K] list I already have downloaded on my smartphone. I'm hungry, and the depression makes me hungrier. I don't have the time always to cook a whole recipe for myself. I need more variety in my grocery list besides carrots, radishes, zucchini and yucky iceberg lettuce. Coumadin is to me more a "life sentence" than a life saver! Is there a "keep in the pantry and fridge" shopping list?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Black Bean Chili - click for the recipe!

There are many jobs today that can be a challenge when it comes to eating healthy. Certainly in your industry this is true given the long hours. Such jobs often offer meals as a perk to compensate for the longer hours. Such food is generally not very good - or very good for you.

The key for you is to plan for eating great food. This means taking the time to make your own. I hear the same argument from patients all the time that "I don't have the time." This is far from the truth.

My industry often offers physicians the same perk. There is generally a physician lounge or dining room at hospitals, and the food is just plain awful. Keep in mind that the same folks making the hospital food are making the food for the doctors that staff them. For the most part hospital food is not only terrible - it's also not at all healthy.

I promise that I am just as busy as you are. I get up early and have a good healthy breakfast. I make my lunch and take it with me every day. Sure, it takes a little extra time - maybe as much as 30 minutes for me to make both breakfast and lunch - and it does take a little planning to have the ingredients in the house, but taking control of your health means taking control of your diet. This is true whether one is taking Coumadin® (warfarin) or not.

Taking the time to make a chili, soup or stew on the weekend can help with having leftovers on hand to take for meals. Here's an extensive list of Coumadin safe recipes.

For instance, making the Chick Pea and Chorizo Stew on the weekend can give you two lunches as leftovers. Having the ingredients on hand to make sandwiches for a few days leaves one day that you might have to eat the catered food. With time you'll build a wide variety of foods that you can have on hand to take and eat. Even taking a convenience meal can help.

Use the following list to help guide you as to which ingredients in those convenience meals to avoid (manufacturers don't put Vitamin K levels on their meals):

It doesn't matter if you work in the entertainment industry, are a doctor or nurse, work in an office or even a restaurant. The key is planning, planning, planning.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan M.D.
Dr. Gourmet