Most of my life, I would say my eating habits have been fairly healthy. While I am mindful that things like Cheetos should never be in my vicinity “My name is Ranae and I am addicted to Cheetos” for the most part, I practice what I preach, Choose MyPlate and the current dietary guidelines that go along with the model.

I recently celebrated my 10th year of teaching basic nutrition and current dietary guidelines to families in my county. I have always believed in leading by example. I will tell you, I have gotten caught at the local grocery store the day before the big Nebraska Husker football game with a portion of my cart containing wine (fruit is in it!), Cheetos (I am sure there is cheese in this!) and a variety of other assorted “once in a while” foods. I am human, so you will catch the local crazy food lady consuming “once in a while” food. Having “once in a while” foods in moderation, is acceptable and normal.

In July, our world was turned upside down. One Friday, I finally convinced the love of my life to go to the doctor, as we approached the clinic, my husband said, please keep driving to ER. This just got real! After a battery of tests, it was determined a heart cauterization was in order. A procedure that was to last for 45 minutes turned into 2 hours. The doctor came out looking very serious and my heart sank. “I am still not sure why this happened, but when we began the procedure, your husband’s heart stopped, we had to shock his heart. Once we dealt with that, we found two arteries 80% blocked and one 90% blocked. He has several others that are 40% to 50% blocked but we do not stent them until they reach 70%.”  I also remember hearing the nurses and anesthesiologist say to my husband, “Jesus was in that room with you, and we like it when Jesus comes!” This just got real!

As you can imagine, my head was spinning! The logical, knowledgeable nutritionist began formulating a plan of revamping menus, weight loss and exercise. Wait, we do eat healthy! Low on the fat. What else am I missing? I began to read labels (gee, I tell consumers to do this!) everywhere I turned, sugar, sodium. Recently, a study came out that revealed that sugar is a main contributor to heart disease, not fat as we have been taught to believe. I began to process this and you know, it makes sense! One of the factors in all chronic disease is obesity, what causes us to be overweight? Well, not eating the right things, eating processed foods and all of the processed foods contain sugar and sodium. Light bulb moment.

If I had one piece of advice before you have a reality check happen in a catastrophic way, be mindful of what you are consuming. If you cannot read the words on the label and know what they mean, you probably should reconsider putting it in your mouth. Follow the Choose MyPlate guidelines and have balanced meals.

Does this mean no more Cheetos? No, it means for the majority of your diet, consume less processed foods, more whole foods and increase your fruits and vegetables. Keep your heart healthy and exercise daily. If you need motivation, sit down to eat with your beautiful family, and think how it would look to have one less member there.

I am so blessed that we had wonderful doctors. I hug my husband a little more every day and gently remind him we are on this road of health together. Thank you Jesus for being in that hospital room that day! I love you to the moon and back Dan Aspen! Here is to our health!

Ranae Aspen

Ranae Aspen lives in the middle of Nebraska in the heartland of America. She shares her home with her husband Dan, and teens Daniel and Leslie. Sunset Acreage is home to fruit trees, chickens, cats and rescue dog Sampson. Ranae is passionate about sustainable living and sharing her life’s journey to help others thrive in this crazy thing called life. She loves writing!  You can connect on Facebook at  You can also find her blog all about Sunset living at .