Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Eating Habits- 5 quick tips to start you off right!

First, I'm no type of nutritionist, doctor, licensed anything..well a lawyer, but I don't claim to have any specialized knowledge about diet, exercise etc. I just share on this blog things that have worked for me, why I make some of the nutritional decisions I do, and what changes I've made to lose over 50 pounds and successfully keep it off for 5 years now. That's my disclaimer, folks, so if you don't agree with me, have a different opinion etc...go nuts, you should do whatever works for you to keep yourself healthy, maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

So, here we go.....I'm sure most of you have as one of your New Year Resolutions....lose weight..but where do you start? Should you get a nutritionist, blindly join the gym, hit up a Weight Watcher's meeting? You should do whatever works for you and your lifestyle. For me, I needed to be accountable for what I ate and what I was doing. I tried WW online at first. It educated me, but I fell off the wagon. I soon went to WW meetings. The accountability kept me on track and through WW, I successfully lost all the weight. So, here are some tips I've picked up and what's worked to keep me on track the past five years.

1. Kick your soda habit and drink water.

Water. Water. Water. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it. There's no way around it. Now, here come the excuses. You don't like plain water, it makes you pee alot, or you don't like to chug it down. Peeing is good for you, cut up a lime or lemon and keep in your fridge. I fill my Nalgene bottle in the morning and throw a few slices of lemon. It jazzes up plain water and makes it a bit more interesting. Water is good for you, your skin will look better and you'll feel better. Lots of times you probably graze and snack thinking you're hungry, when you're probably really thirsty. If you feel the urge to snack, drink a full 8oz glass of water, wait 10 minutes and then see if you're still hungry. It's a great way to get your water in and deter a bad snack snap decision as well. You can also find something to replace your soda. Mr. Allan and I easily polished off a 12 pack of diet cola a week. Now, I opt for Vitamin Water Zero. If I don't want plain water, I grab one of these instead.

2. If you put it in your mouth, write it down
Food that is, get your mind out of the gutter. But..keep a food journal. It's amazing how many times at the end of the day I'll think to, I had this for breakfast, that for lunch and healthy dinner, I didn't do too bad today. Then I'll remember the snack I had, the candy I snuck in after lunch etc. If you write down what you eat, you'll make better decisions. You'll probably be floored at how the little bites here and there add up. When I followed the WW points program, lots of times I'd write down what I expected to eat or planned out my entire day in the morning. Then I had an allotted snack and chose when to eat it vs. just mindlessly shoveling in food at my desk. Keeping a food journal is another way to keep you honest and accountable. You can probably download an app on your phone or create a notepad. We're all way too attached to our cell phones and smart phones, so use it to your advantage.

3. Portion Control
When I make dinner every night, I try and create meals that are 50% vegetables. That is, half my dinner plate is vegetables, the other 25% a lean protein, and the other 25% a whole grain of some type. For example, last night, half my plate consisted of roasted broccoli, the other half was a piece of salmon (yeah for trying fish!) over a bed of brown rice. If you're making a pasta dish or something that contains little to no vegetables, then opt for a salad first. I always try and eat my vegetables first, since I know they're the healthiest thing on my plate. I fill up on those, then eat the other items in an effort to get myself full on the good stuff first. Our society has inflated portions so much, it's actually quite disgusting. I remember when Mr. Allan and I moved into our house. Our first Christmas, we asked my mom for some dishes since we were eating off of Mr. Allan's non dishwasher safe spider cracked blue plates from Walmart. She bought us a set of the new square Corelle dishes. I was flabbergasted at how big the dinner plate was and how gigantic the bread plate was. So, go back to basics, a meat portion should be the size of a deck of cards, a portion the size of your fist is approx. 1 cup etc. Even better, look at your nutrition labels and measure out what a serving is to get a feel for how big your portions are. If you're a big cereal eater, chances are when you dump some Kashi into your bowl, you're probably downing more than a 1 cup serving. Whip out your measuring spoons and educate yourself on what a serving of your favorite food is and what that looks like once its in your bowl or on your plate.

4. Get Back to Basics and limit processed foods
Back in the day, our grandparents probably would have been amazed at the stuff we eat now...yogurt in a squeezable container, mini stacks of meat and cheese in a to go Lunchable, cheese out of can, god knows what you can find in bar form now get the picture. So, bring your diet back to basics. Focus on whole grains, vegetables, and lean meats. I went on a big Clean Eating kick last year and Mr. Allan and I have really brought alot of the clean eating principles into our everyday diets. It's amazing at how many items I had never tried. We really opened our eyes to some new stuff...couscous, Bulgar, wheat berries, quinoa and the list goes on and on. I was a bit amazed that i didn't have more recipes with these ingredients and surprised at how easily they could be swapped into recipes to make things healthier. For example, instead of eating a cup of white rice, swap in some whole wheat couscous. Instead of making your pasta salad with white penne, maybe try some quinoa.

The second half of this is to limit processed foods. Michael Pollen wrote a great book called Food Rules.

 Just a couple examples of Pollen's different rules:

#19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.

#36 Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.
This should go without saying. Such cereals are highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates as well as chemical additives.

#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. There is nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods, pastries, even drinking soda every now and then, but food manufacturers have made eating these formerly expensive and hard-to-make treats so cheap and easy that we're eating them every day. The french fry did not become America's most popular vegetable until industry took over the jobs of washing, peeling, cutting, and frying the potatoes -- and cleaning up the mess. If you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they're so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you're willing to prepare them -- chances are good it won't be every day.

I love these rules because they were so common sense yet eye opening.
One of my favorite rules: Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
What is this telling you...limit your processed foods. Become a label's eye opening. I've really really tried to limit processed foods, but once you read labels, its amazing at what you thought was healthy is really just a substance made with an awful lot of chemicals. One example was my morning yogurt. I thought I was doing ok, buying a lowfat blueberry yogurt, keeping my fat and calories in check. The list of ingredients that I couldn't pronounce was astounding. I think the only thing I could pronounce on the label  were live active cultures. So educate yourself, bring yourself back to some basic meats, grains, and vegetables, and limit your processed foods.

5. Only Eat Your Meals at Your Dinner Table
If most are your meals are eaten on your lap, sitting on your couch while watching tv...probably not the best place to dine. Why? If you're balancing your dinner plate on your lap or better yet holding it at chest level as you shovel in your dinner as you watch the news, you're mindlessly eating, not enjoying your food, and you'll probably be snacking 30 minutes after you've finished your dinner. In one of Tosca Reno's book about Clean Eating, one of her challenges was to eat every meal and snack at the dinner table. Things you should never a meal on the couch, eat a meal in the car, eat a snack standing up, eating a meal at your work desk, eating a meal infront of your computer, or eating a snack or meal in bed...not really sure who does that!?! The whole point of this is that if you try and follow this simple rule, you'll think twice about just grabbing a snack or just downing your food. It will make you savor and enjoy your meal more if you're focused on your food and not your Facebook feeds on your laptop or cellphone or the latest episode of 16 and Pregnant. If you force yourself to sit down at the table for a snack, it might make you think twice about whether you're really hungry or not or just eating out of boredom. When Mr. Allan and I were preparing to get married, we had a few premarital counseling sessions with the minister who would eventually marry us. One piece of advice she gave us was to make dinner time sacred. She said every night we're able to, we should prepare our meal and make it "our" time. No cell phones, no television on in the background, no newspapers, magazines, etc. She told us so many couple are distracted by so much of this nonsense that they seldom spend time together where it's just them, with no television on or phone ringing. So, making your meal time a special time can maybe nurture your relationship and make you focus on your meal as well!

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