by Jamie Leff
I am loving Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules – an Eater’s Manual! If you have not read it, I cannot recommend it enough. He is a man after my own heart – searching for ways to make nutrition simple. He tells it like it is, and weeds through all of the bologna.
In case you haven’t heard of the Happy Meal Experiment, I have done it. I have a Happy Meal that I bought back in October 2009. That means it is coming up on it’s 4th birthday! The thing looks just like this picture (which happens to be of a fresh one). Nothing has grown on it, the meat did not rot, the bread did not mold… there is something really wrong with that! Your food should not out-live you! In fact, I had to place it in a box because the bag it came in deteriorated thanks to the oil.
Why do I bring this to your attention? Because even well meaning moms can sometimes be a slave to fast food, drive-thrus and things in little packages that have a shelf life older than some of their children.
School is back in session, which for many of you means packing lunches quickly to get out the door on time, grabbing a quick lunch for yourself in the middle of the day in between mommy duties, or driving through the closest place you can find between school and soccer practice. More often than not, health takes a back seat to convenience. Do not let yourself get caught in the trap!
Here are some tips to help you get quick and easy meals, without having to sacrifice your health:
Burger Places: Most places now offer salads, grilled chicken sandwiches and turkey burgers. If you absolutely must get a burger, get a regular hamburger. Instead of french fries, opt for a side salad, yogurt or fruit.
Sandwich shops: Avoid mayo or items made with mayo such as tuna or chicken salad. Order your sandwich on wheat bread vs. white bread and ask for extra vegetables. Again, most places now offer fruit or yogurt in their value meals instead of chips.
Mexican Food: Avoid items that are fried or contain nacho cheese sauce, sour cream or the word “Supreme” in the title. Ask them to hold the cheese and add extra salsa.
At any restaurant, always order water or unsweetened Ice Tea vs. soda.
Starbucks: Instead of grabbing a scone or bagel, which can have around 700 calories, opt for the “protein plate,” which has a hardboiled egg, a whole wheat roll with Almond Butter, some grapes, and a few pieces of white cheddar cheese. Another option would be the oatmeal or the egg, spinach and feta wrap. Pass on the blended frozen drinks or flavored lattes and get a coffee with creamer instead. Bring your own Stevia packets from home if you need a little sweetness.
Another option is to keep snacks in your car or pack a cooler the night before with things you can grab in a hurry. This is an easy way to make sure you are getting adequate nutrition from whole foods throughout the day, without having to worry about where your next meal is coming from.
These snack ideas are great for kids too!
Fruit: I’ve said this before… wash fruit the minute you unpack it from the grocery bag. The faster you can grab it in the morning, the more likely you will do it. Another option is fruit cups with fruit that is packed in water vs. syrup.
A final option … organic baby food! Hear me out… have you seen those pouches where your kids can just squeeze and suck the fruit right out? For the ones I’m talking about, if you look at the ingredients, it should just say organic fruit and vegetables. True story, I was waiting in line at Babies R Us to purchase a baby gift for a friend. I was starving and happened to look over and they had about 10 different flavors of this organic baby food in those easy squeeze pouches! I picked up the
sweet potato pumpkin and sure enough, the only ingredients were organic sweet potato and organic pumpkin.
Let me tell you, it was delicious and totally held me over until I got home!
Nuts: You can now get pre-portioned packs of nuts, or just buy snack baggies and make them yourself. Nuts are a great thing to keep in your car or purse for those emergency
situations when hunger strikes and the only thing for miles is a Taco Bell.
String cheese and Apple
Cut up Vegetables: Try celery with peanut butter or raw sugar snap peas
Peanut Butter and Jelly or Turkey sandwich: Or whatever sandwich you decided to put in your child’s lunch that day. When you are packing their lunches, make an extra one for yourself!
All it takes is a little prep work and a conscious thought to make healthier choices when you are out and about, but it is possible to get fresh and healthy foods on the go. Don’t get stuck eating something that goes against nature!
Cookies and chocolate and pie – oh my! Eggnog, champagne and wine – divine! The holiday season is officially here! There is excitement, stress, and for most of us, lots and lots of eating. Many of you are traveling, or have at least departed from any sense of normal. As the majority of us know only too well, any attempt at healthy eating goes sailing out of the window during the holiday season. We tend to conveniently forget about our health and diet, and instead, take the opportunity to over-indulge in every way possible.
According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This is through pure over-indulgence and gluttony. Lack of time to exercise probably doesn’t help either. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises to go on a diet as soon as we ring in the New Year (as we shovel another brownie in our mouths).
It is not hard to understand why people fall into such bad habits during the holiday season. Everywhere you go there is somebody waiting to thrust a glass of wine or a box of chocolates in front of you. Surely it would be rude to refuse. Trips to the supermarket also turn into a tantalizing adventure of temptation as you find yourself in a maze of aisles displaying a range of colorful, tempting goodies that are excitingly packaged and screaming at you to buy them and eat them. All this, coupled with the huge dinners, parties, and festivities that make maintaining control a huge challenge. For the better part of the year, many of us make healthy eating a habit. Yet, as soon as Thanksgiving rears its over-indulgent head, the obsession swings the other way as we indulge in eating as much unhealthy, rich food as possible.
Despite all this, with a little good planning, it is possible to avoid being part of that swelling statistic and maybe even still fit into that little black dress you were hoping to wear to the holiday parties.
Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Just maintaining your weight during this time of year can go a long way.
Limit the liquid calories:
Soda, eggnog and cocktails can pack amazing quantities of calories, most of them devoid of nutrition. If you limit the holiday treat to foods, you will easily cut down on sugar and calories. Meanwhile, load up on water, tea, and other calorie-free drinks to keep well hydrated and feel fuller.
This is an obvious one, I know, but it is also obviously simple to blow off during holiday season. It comes down to being committed. You have to commit in your mind that exercise will be a priority. Plan it and put it in the schedule. You might not always be able to do your normal workout routine, but if you at least walk or do some strength moves at home daily, take stairs rather than elevators, dance to holiday music, play outside with the kids, it will help release stress, improve immunity, minimize and maybe even eliminate weight gain.
Tame your appetite before the party:
One of the worst things you can do is to starve yourself the day of a party to bank calories. Not eating can severely mess with your metabolism (as in, slow it down) and your hunger will likely send you straight to the buffet line to overindulge. Instead, eat a high protein snack like a handful of nuts, a few rolls of turkey, a spoonful of tuna or some low fat cheese. You should also drink a full glass of water before every meal to stay hydrated. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger and can cause snack attacks. At the party, load up on veggies and high protein dishes. Limit the carbs and greasy fare to a minimum.
Use healthy substitutes for holiday fare. Instead of whole milk products, use low fat or non-fat variations. For example, use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make your favorite holiday dips and consider other healthy dips like salsa and hummus.
Limit holiday splurges:
Write all the holiday parties and gatherings in your calendar and then commit to limiting splurges to those special events. Your greatest source of extra calories is probably from the daily intake of cookies and other goodies that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year. If we give ourselves license to go off program the entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the results could take months to undo. It takes far more effort to lose a pound than it does to gain one. Unfortunately, it only takes one big meal to send the scale soaring for most of us. In between holiday splurges, fill in all the other days with regular healthy meals and careful planning.
Dining in a group causes the average person to eat almost double than he or she normally would eating alone. Keep a mental checklist of how much you’re consuming and if you feel yourself accepting every passed appetizer, it’s your eyes telling you that you need more food, not your brain. Take a second to look at every bite before you eat it — maybe even take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table.
Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season – and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to indulge a little, enjoy a healthy glass of red wine, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet. Imagine starting the new year feeling your best and getting back on the path to a healthier you rather than having to begin the race again ten pounds behind the start line.
The holidays are usually about family, fun and food…lots and lots of food! Last I read, the average person gains about 7 pounds over the holidays (the “holidays” being defined as Thanksgiving to New Year’s). However, this does not need to be the case. Studies have shown that if you indulged on only those three days (Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukah/ Kwanza, and New Years), you would not gain weight. The problem is, when people start eating on Thanksgiving and eat their way until New Years. Between the office parties, holiday parties, family gatherings and yummy holiday treats popping up at your favorite coffee shops, it’s a nonstop, all you can eat, time of year!
Here are some tips to help get you through the holidays, without derailing your healthy lifestyle habits, and causing you to make the dreaded New Year’s Resolution of “Lose 10 Pounds!” Now is that really a positive way to start the year?
Plan your day.
If you know you have a holiday party after work, and you know you are going to indulge, plan to eat a healthy breakfast and a light lunch. Eat something high in protein, such as an egg white omelette for breakfast, a salmon salad for lunch, and then enjoy half of your steak and a few bites of the chocolate soufflé at dinner. Top it off with one glass of wine versus a sugary cocktail drink. Again, plan what you are going to eat at the party, and stick to your plan.
Do something active before a big holiday meal.
Take a morning walk with your family, schedule some time at the gym, or sign up for a holiday race. Many towns have a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5k. It is a fun event to get you into the holiday mood. Plus, it gives you something to train for, so that you establish a fitness routine as you enter the holiday season. Check out www.active.com for a race near you.
Have a healthy snack like vegetable soup before the meal.
The worst thing you can do is go into a meal starving. You’ll be more likely to ignore your internal cues, and overeat. There’s nothing worse than enjoying a meal, but then walking away from the table feeling sick, regretting the last few bites you ate. By eating something light before the meal, you curb your appetite without extra calories, and prevent yourself from eating too much.
Wear your tightest pants to the meal!
I know this may sound strange and frankly uncomfortable, but you’ll end up feeling fuller faster. This will allow you to indulge in your favorite foods, without going over board. Furthermore, it will keep you reminded of your goal and commitment to yourself to get to or maintain a healthy weight.
Before you indulge, ask yourself, “Do I really want this? Is it really worth it?”
My personal example of this is the rolls on the buffet table at our Thanksgiving dinner. They are nothing special – just plain, white rolls. Not even the good ones they serve at restaurants that are hot and crispy on the outside. Every year I walk by the rolls and I think, “Sorry, you’re so not worth it. I can have you anytime I want. I’d rather have my mom’s famous sweet potato casserole and Aunt Mary’s delicious stuffing, since I only get those once a year.” The holidays are the perfect time to be picky and turn up your Holiday Eating Survival Guide nose at foods that just really don’t excite you. Do not feel compelled to eat something just because it’s there. If your Aunt Mildred insists you try her green bean casserole, take a small bite, tell her it was delicious, but unfortunately you are full.
Don’t keep leftovers in the house.
If you are a guest in someone’s home, decline the doggy bag. If you are the hostess, either send the leftovers home with your guests, donate them to a homeless shelter, or toss them in the trash! As painful as that sounds, you will feel a lot better about them being in the trash than on your waist line. Take notes and remember how much was left, then vow to cook a little less next year.
Plan meals for the days after the holiday and have healthy snacks on hand.
Don’t wake up the day after Thanksgiving with nothing but pumpkin pie for breakfast. Get right back on track with your usual healthy eating plan.
Indulge ONE day. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the month long spirit, but try to keep it to a minimum. Be selective with your food choices. Don’t get stuck in the holiday trap of eating just for the sake of eating because “you are in the holiday spirit” and someone has painted a snowman on it or put it in a Hanukah tin.
Remember what the holidays are really about.
They are about having family and friends around and enjoying being together. Start nonfood related holiday traditions, like volunteering at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving, or going caroling on Christmas Eve. Give movie tickets or Lotto Scratchers as holiday gifts instead of boxes of chocolate or tins of cookies.
If you choose to stay mindful and be aware of what you are putting in your mouth, plan ahead, enjoy when it’s appropriate and really focus on nonfood related holiday cheer, you can get through the holidays without the gift of extra weight!