Eating Habits – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Are you the type of person who shovels snacks into your mouth while at the computer or TV, barely noticing the taste or amount of the food you’re eating? Do you still believe it’s a crime not to finish everything on your plate? I call this the starving kids in China syndrome. My dad used to say this quite often. Then as we got older, he changed it to “waste not, want not”. I heard this all my life… actually as recently as last week.

Some eating habits make it impossible to take off those extra pounds, because they are so ingrained you aren’t even conscious of them.

The good news: You can absolutely learn to break these old patterns and substitute better ones, which is a key ingredient to a successful diet. Even better news: In time, these healthy routines will become such a part of your life, they will be second nature. So not only can you lose the weight but you can keep it off, too.

1) Declare a No-Food Zone. Decide on the eating places in your house—just your dining room table, for example—and declare other places No Food Zones. If you have a habit of eating in your car, in front of the television, or while you’re at the computer, make those No Food Zones—even for healthy snacks. If you train yourself to eat only in very specific situations, you will learn to control food consumption outside of normal meal times.

2)  Make rules and stick to them. To keep calories in check you can simply establish a rule for yourself. For example: At work, never eat anything unless you bought it, brought it, or asked for it. You won’t have to torture yourself every time someone brings cupcakes to work, not to mention birthday parties, goodbye parties, Valentine’s Day, Girl Scout cookie season, Halloween… Or another rule might be that you can only eat carbs if you have exercises for at least 30 minutes. (And by carbs, I mean healthy carbs of course)

3) Put the whole meal in your hand. If you want to lose weight, one of the most important elements is how much you eat. People don’t realize the volume of food they’re eating and the speed at which they’re eating it. To figure out how much you should be eating, put your hand over your plate and see how many palmfuls or fistfuls of food you have on it. A serving size of meat, fish, or poultry is about the size of the palm of your hand; your closed fist is the volume of one cup of veggies, pasta, or rice — your own personal measuring device with you everywhere you go. Tip: Try to let least twenty minutes pass between the start and end of a meal—even if you have to get up and leave the table somewhere in between first and last bite.  

4) Eat mindfully. Mindful eating is when you’re aware of what you’re choosing to eat, how much you are eating, and when you are starting to feel full. It’s difficult when you’re grabbing what you can and gobbling it in front of the television before running out the door. Another source of overeating is the hectic pace of life that afflicts us all. We get geared up, and eating becomes an afterthought; so it is easy to grab things (usually unhealthy things) along the way. So set aside a half an hour of calm, focused eating for each meal.

If you are thinking that a calm, focused 1/2 hour is hard to come by several times a day, I call bull sh** (as my husband would say). You are not making a healthy diet your priority. If you really want to, you can set aside a 1/2 hour or even just 20 minutes for each meal to ensure you are eating mindfully all day long.

Consider these tips and start to incorporate them into your routine. Before you know it your good eating habits will far outweigh the bad and the ugly ones.

Cooking Healthy – Swaping the Good for the Bad

It was trendy in 2011, and it will continue to be a trendsetter in 2012 — Simple substitutions for healthier meals.

Cooking healthy meals is really not rocket science. But because of old habits or lack of experimenting, we often fall into a rut with cooking methods and staple dishes. And get this; our taste buds are wired a certain way, which can make it tough to go two days without craving the very foods we need to banish from our lives.

One key way to dropping inches and pounds lies in being able to control these cravings. I am not suggesting to ramp up your willpower, but use simple substitution. It’s a great way of ensuring that you feel fulfilled with an old family favorite, but you can be satisfied that you’re eating healthy.

There are so many ways to swap out the bad for the good, so to get the most comprehensive list that not only includes basic substitutions (like milk for cream), but it also has a ton of creative and surprising ideas from some of the smartest people I know when it comes to nutrition. Click here and substitute your way to a fit and healthy you.  Happy New Year!

 

Making Healthy Choices – The Fewest Ingredients Wins

Is it just me, or does it seems like there are more contradictions than ever about diet and nutrition? Milk is the new super food. Milk, public enemy number one. Eat more protein. Eat less protein. Fats are bad for you. Fats are good for you. It’s making my head spin trying to keep track of it all.

There is one way to make sure to “do it right”, and that is to eat foods in their natural state. We talk about this at the dinner table quite often with the kids. We play the “which is healthier game”. For example, which is healthier a banana or a granola bar? When they are not sure, I tell them to count the ingredients. The one with the fewest ingredients wins… every time. I try to make sure and always compare a fruit or veggie to something else, so the winner is always the item with only one ingredient.

I know how easy it is to choose the processed stuff, since this type of food product has been modified to last longer, manufactured to distribute easier, and is more convenient to store and use. As moms, having access to processed foods can be a life saver.

However, we may want to re-think the way we use processed foods. Take apple juice as an example. Even the simple act of removing the pulp to make apple juice detracts from its value for both health and weight loss. A medium size apple contains just 72 calories and over 3 grams of fiber, while 8 FL Oz of apple juice contains 120 calories and no fiber at all. And I’m talking about pure, “healthy” apple juice.

What if we start using processed and pre-packaged foods more for emergencies only? For ourselves and for our kids, when we have a choice to make (and we have more than 20 seconds to get out the door), choose the apple. You will never go wrong by choosing the apple.

 

Food Labels – How To Keep Your Facts Straight

Get the Facts on Food Labels

There is a lot of press right now about food labeling and advertising. It can be overwhelming and confusing, to say the least. But, if you want to eat healthier it is critical to become a smart shopper by reading food labels to find out more about the foods you eat. The Nutrition Facts panel found on most food labels will help you:

1. Start with the Serving Size

• Look  for both the serving size (the amount for one serving), and the number of servings in the package.

• Remember to check your portion size to the serving size listed on the label. If the label serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.

2. Check Out the Total Calories and Fat

Find out how many calories are in a single serving and the number of calories from fat. It’s smart to cut back on calories and fat if you are watching your weight!

3. Let the Percent Daily Values Be Your Guide

Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help you evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan:

• Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5% DV means 5% of the amount of fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day would eat.

• Remember: percent DV are for the entire day — not just for one meal or snack.

• You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For some nutrients you may need more or less than 100% DV.

4. The High and Low of Daily Values

• 5 percent or less is low — try to aim low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium

• 20 percent or more is high — try to aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber

5. Check the Ingredient List and then check it again

Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. Effective January 2006,manufacturers are required to clearly state if food products contain any ingredients that contain protein derived from the eight major allergenic foods. These foods are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

6. What Health Claims on Food Labels Really Mean

FDA has strict guidelines on how certain food label terms can be used. Some of the most common claims seen on food packages:

• Low calorie — Less than 40 calories per serving.

• Low cholesterol — Less than 20 mg of cholesterol and 2 gm or less of saturated fat per serving.

• Reduced — 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product.

• Good source of — Provides at least 10% of the DV of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving.

• Calorie free — Less than 5 calories per serving.

• Fat free / sugar free — Less than 1/2 gram of fat or sugar per serving.

• Low sodium — Less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

• High in — Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving.

• High fiber — 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.

New food labels may be arriving soon. Here are two links that describe the new and improved labels.

http://berkeley.news21.com/foodlabel/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/designing-a-better-food-label/

Low Calorie Cocktails – Welcome to Summer

If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. Don’t drink your calories.  Well, I actually don’t mean never ever. If you like to socialize over drinks, but don’t want to blow your diet, you should know which cocktails make better friends than others. Beware of margaritas! Sweet and sour mix plus a couple shots of liquor, no matter how delicious, yields a calorie explosion. Avoid cocktails made with dark liquors, sour mixes, cream, and high quantities of liquor.  Clear or light-colored liquors, such as vodka or rum (about 65 calories per ounce), with low to no calorie mixers are the best way to go.

 One of my favorite finds is a drink called the Stoley Doley.  I had one, or two, no; maybe it was three, at the Capital Grille bar.  The bartender was nice enough to share the recipe.  It is kind of complicated, so you may want to take notes.

 

 

Ingredients:

Vodka – the good stuff

Fresh pineapple spears

Recipe:

Arrange pineapple spears in a jug, jar, or pitcher

Pour Vodka over pineapple spears. Put in fridge for 2 weeks.

 Okay, maybe not that complicated, but talk about a low cal cocktail.  So in the spirit of welcoming summer vacation, we have planned a vodka tasting party.  Each couple will be bringing their own infused vodka.  We have had ours brewing in the fridge for the past two weeks.  On the menu is also lime/raspberry and cocoa/espresso.  Except I have just gotten word that a taste test of the lime/raspberry went awry, and that vodka is all gone. 

So I am hoping that this is the solution to low cal cocktailing… instead of low cal mixers, no mixers at all.  At the very least it is a great excuse to get together with friends. I will let you know how it all tastes next week.

For more GREAT tips, check out The Greatist guide to healthy drinking.

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