Category Archives: Simple Weight Loss Steps

apple pie

Successful weight loss requires a large portion of this

What do your pieces of pie look like? Does it come with a large slice of resiliency?

I don’t mean that steaming, flaky, buttery-crusted, apple pie. I mean another type of pie – your personal pie chart that will get you and keep you to your weight loss goal. You can still enjoy a slice of that apple pie, but you should know first what makes up your pie chart.

I believe the process of losing weight and keeping it off requires equal emphasis on each of these four components: Resiliency if important for losing weight

  • Eating three healthy meals with adequate protein, quality carbs and some healthy fat to keep you full.
  • Curbing unhealthy snacking.
  • Exercising 5-7 days a week.
  • Developing resiliency.

If you eat 3 balanced meals but snack a lot on chips at night, the scale won’t budge.

If you are a workout warrior but follow it by a Big Mac, fries and a soda, that scale won’t budge.

If you exercise regularly, eat 3 balanced meals and control your unhealthy snacking but are not resilient, eventually you will get bored, your negative self-talk will take over and gradually you will be lured back to old bad habits.

Resiliency is essential to permanent weight loss.

Eating three healthy meals

ChooseMyPlate.GovThe simplest way to put together a healthy plate is to use the ChooseMyPlate.Gov developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Their simple graphics and website give recommendations on how to create a healthy plate consisting of slightly more than a quarter of your plate consisting of non-starchy veggies, another slightly more than a quarter consisting of grains, and the other two slightly smaller quarters containing protein and fruits. Each meal should be accompanied by a serving of dairy.

The key to staying full between meals is the combination of protein, fiber from good carbs, and a small amount of healthy fat. Following the Choosemyplate method will achieve that magic formula.

Here are some examples of each category to complete your plate. Start with a 9” plate and choose one from each column – it’s like putting together a puzzle but you get to choose the picture.

Food Group Examples

 

 

 

 

Examples of balanced, healthy meals

Breakfast ideas:

  1. 1 cup steel cut oatmeal topped with 1 tbsp chopped nuts and ½ cup Greek yogurt.
  2. Egg/egg white omelet stuffed with sautéed spinach and 2 pieces of Ezekiel bread.

Lunch ideas:

  1. Salad topped with 3 oz chopped chicken, ½ cup kidney beans, and ¼ cup sesame seeds with 1 tbsp balsamic dressing.
  2. Turkey sandwich in wrap with spinach, tomatoes and ¼ avocado.

Dinner ideas:

  1. 1 cup chili with side salad and 3” square of corn bread.
  2. 4 oz of salmon with ¾ cup brown rice, 2 cups roasted cauliflower, and ¾ cup apple crisp for dessert with a side of 1 oz of cheddar cheese.

If your plate seems skimpy, then add more veggies. People don’t gain weight from eating too many veggies and part of losing weight permanently is developing a cozy relationship with veggies 😊

Curbing unhealthy snacking

There’s not a soul on earth who doesn’t love those tasty refined, crunchy, salty snacks or soft, moist, sweet cakes and doughnuts. But losing weight is about a strong offense and a smart defense.

On the offensive side get to the root of binging on bad carbs. Determine the variables and triggers that lead to the splurge.

  • Is it not eating 3 square meals?
  • Is it stress or boredom?
  • What are your triggers? TV, idle hands, being with certain people?
  • Is it a reward for getting through another tough day?
  • Is it loneliness?
  • Is it not having a healthier substitute?
  • Is because you’ve just “always eaten this way”?

On the defensive side you must make your environment safe. If your favorite munchie is in the house, no matter where you hide it, it will find its way into your mouth. If you don’t live alone, and your housemate (s) is not on board with keeping junk food out of the house, then find foods that will satisfy them, but won’t tempt you – find alternative cookies or chips (I love Utz potato chips, but hate Fritos), different flavored ice cream, or a can of walnuts instead of peanuts.

Find a good substitute that will work – maybe fruit, a cup of tea or a 100% fruit bar.

Go to bed earlier. It’s natural to be hungry 4 hours after eating dinner. If you’re eating dinner at 6:30, go to bed by 10.

Build in one day a week where you can ease up and eat some of your old favorites.

Exercising

Starting around age 40 you lose 8% of your muscle mass each decade. Muscle mass is what determines your metabolism. An exercise regimen that incorporates both aerobics and strengthening will not only burn calories during the workout, but will raise your resting metabolic rate – helping you to burn more calories at rest. These are the American Heart Association recommendations:

AHA exercise recommendations

There’s also evidence that exercise decreases inflammatory proteins that lead to heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re not someone who likes to go to the gym, walking the hills in your area, taking yoga classes and even participating in adult education fitness programs can get your muscles more fit. Weather should never be an excuse; there are walking, aerobic and even dancing DVD’s to get you moving.

Exercise must become as necessary as the air you breathe. Honor the importance of it and you will find the time to make it happen.

Developing resiliency

Losing weight and keeping it off requires being open-minded and optimistic. It calls for a curious, inquiring mind with a willingness to let go of old unhealthy habits and develop new ones. It’s that old saying:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”

Start with the habits to which you have the weakest attachment and then either reduce the frequency, find a substitute or decrease the amount.

  • If foregoing a crunchy snack in the evening sounds like punishment, then try light popcorn and eat one kernel at a time.
  • If it sounds too onerous making a lunch on workdays, go to the salad bar at the grocery store.
  • If giving up the candy bar from the vending machine at work means missing out on a pick-me-up and mental break, then go chat with someone while you munch an apple.

Once you’ve addressed the low hanging fruit, move on to the areas where you have more resistance. Explore the reason you don’t want to change a certain habit and see if there is an area you should address first before making the bigger change.

Perhaps you hate to cook for just yourself but notice you make better food choices when you prepare your meals at home. One suggestion might be to cook a larger amount, but less often, and freeze the extra portions to eat on another day.

If you frame the new habit to replace the bad habit the right way, you will end up with a more positive picture.

Is your pie chart out of balance?

Too much snacking on junk food, despite regular exercise and eating 3 healthy meals

Low resiliency and weight lossIf your pie chart looks like the one to the left with a low-level of resiliency and a lot of unhealthy snacking, despite eating 3 balanced meals and exercising regularly, your weight loss may stall if your daily snacking consists of a bag of chips at night or a fast food excursion mid-afternoon. You’d have to sweat up a storm for hours to burn off those extra thousand calories. It raises the question of whether there is a larger emotional need not being met.

Not enough exercise or eating 3 balanced meals, but resilient and choose healthy snacks

Successful weight loss requires resiliencyThis is a great place to begin! Being open to change is half the battle.

Start small by gradually adding structure to one meal at a time. Start a walking routine by breaking it up into segments and find a partner or music to help you keep a good pace.

It takes a few weeks for a new habit to feel more natural. These changes will gradually feel less strained and you will start noticing your clothing is looser and the pounds are gradually coming off.

There are 3500 calories in a pound. Losing a half pound to a pound a week can take as little as cutting out one customary treat a day and walking a mile most days of the week.

Resiliency is as important as a balanced plate, exercise and curbing unhealthy snacking

The hardest part about losing weight is keeping it off. It requires flexibility in thinking and self-forgiveness. There will be days where you will make unwise food choices and that’s ok.  Get back on track the next day and don’t berate yourself.

Reconnect with why you wanted to lose weight and remind yourself how much you enjoy how you feel in clothes, your ease of movement and the pride of accomplishing what you did in losing weight in the first place.

Stay positive, be resilient and make sure your good habits are deeply embedded to your daily routine. Keeping to a schedule and finding ways to reward yourself without food is helpful.

Keeping lost weight off requires equal portions

Losing weight permanently requires a healthy meal structure, regular exercise and limiting unhealthy snacking. But the trait that keeps people on task for the long-term is resiliency. Flexible thinking, constructive self-talk and the ability to get back on track after derailment are the essence of resiliency.

Life happens, but how quickly you bounce back is the key to permanent weight loss.

Please share if you find this information useful.

 

 

This may be your best way to lose weight

You want to lose weight, but your insulin might not be working well. You’re not alone. Almost a third of our country is in the same boat.

Impaired insulin function is genetic. It’s the precursor to diabetes that may go undetected for years. It gradually damages the insulin-producing pancreas to the point it stops making enough insulin and blood sugars rise eventually to the diabetes range. In the early phase of impaired insulin function, the pancreas makes extra insulin. This extra insulin causes our body store more fat.

If you have a family history of diabetes, then there is a good chance your insulin levels are high. Diabetes is often not diagnosed. You may not think you have a family history of diabetes, however if you have a family history of stroke or heart attack, there was probably undiagnosed diabetes lurking in the background as well. Diabetes is a vascular disease, so strokes and heart attacks are complications of diabetes.

The best way to lose weight if you have high insulin levels

The best way to lose weight for people with high insulin levels, in addition to regular exercise, should focus on limiting carbs, getting adequate protein and fiber, and topping it off with good fat to keep you full between meals.

When it comes to eating this way, the best metaphor comes from a friend. If you’ve ever sat by a campfire and observed how different types of wood burn, you will understand.

If you don’t add any wood to a fire, the flames will fade away. Add soft wood like pine to the fire and “snap, crackle, pop” sparks will fly, the flames will roar and the wood will disappear in no time. Add hardwood like oak and you’ll get a nice even burn that will last much longer than soft wood.

Skipping meals is like not adding any wood to the fire. Your energy level will slowly fade away.

Eating a meal consisting of a heavy dose of simple carbs with little protein or fiber is like the soft wood fire. You may get a surge of energy but it will quickly flame out leaving you tired and ready for a nap. Examples of meals like this might be a few bowls of Corn Flakes or heavy portions of Chinese food with white rice or a bag of chips or pretzels with a soda.

But make your meals mostly “hardwood” and you will have more energy and stay fuller longer between meals. You will also keep your insulin levels lower which will aid in weight loss.

Getting your meal planning to burn like hardwood

Don’t worry, eating this way won’t taste like hardwood. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just do so in moderation and plan for it in how you combine your foods.

My recommendations are based on information from the American Diabetes Association, the 2015 dietary guidelines, the 2015 Protein Summit  and the Institute of Medicine.

The ADA recommends people with diabetes limit their carbs to 45-60 g of carbs per meal and carbs from snacks limited to 15 gm. Some of the people I worked with preferred eating even fewer carbs in order to avoid going on medicine to manage their blood sugars.

The 2015 Nutrition Guidelines recommend getting at least 130 g of carbs daily. Eating fewer carbs than this will zap your energy if you are trying to do any strenuous work or workout – carbs are the gasoline for your body, you just want to learn how to make them the premium carbs.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 10-35% of total daily calories come from protein. For a 2000 calorie diet that’s about 50 – 175 g.

The 2015 Protein Summit recommended a higher level of dietary protein, particularly in older adults, for improved muscle health and satiety and to aid in weight management. Furthermore, they suggest:

“Emerging science supports a protein intake for adults of 25–30 g/meal”

When you put all this information together your daily total of carbs, fiber, protein and fat should look like this:

daily carbs, protein and fat

Impaired insulin function?  This is your meal goal

You want each meal to burn like hardwood. That means you want to get the right amount of carbs, fiber, protein and fat each time you eat. Most people fail on getting adequate protein and fiber at most of their meals. Each of these components is essential not only for health, but for satiety. The goal is to slow down digestion so you stay fuller longer and reduce the demand for insulin.

Each of your meals should contain just a serving or two of carbs, no more than 60 g per meal. Your carb choices should be high in fiber to slow down the rise in blood sugar, decreasing the need for insulin.

Your protein goal at each meal should be at least 25 g per meal. An ounce of meat, fish and even an egg is about 6-7 g.

Since dietary fat takes longer to digest and helps with satiety, you should also try to get about 10 g per meal with the focus being on heart healthy unsaturated fat.

The ideal goal for each meal should look something like this:  

  • 50 g of carbs
  • 8-10 g of fiber
  • 25 g of protein
  • 10 g of heart healthy fat.

That’s the hardwood that will help you lose weight. Now, let’s look at the big picture at what kinds of foods will meet the “hardwood” criteria.

“Hardwood” foods

Some foods are combination foods. Quality carbs are also high in fiber. Whole grains, citrus fruit, and beans are all examples of quality carbs. Fatty fish is both an excellent source of protein and healthy fat. Other protein, like white chicken and fat-free Greek yogurt have little to no fat, so you will need to get your fat from other sources. And there are some foods that contain a small amount of protein, carbs, fiber and healthy fat. They are like “hardwood” bark mulch😊

This is how I breakdown food categories(it’s not a complete list – just some of my favorites). I compose my plate according to how much protein, fat and carbs a food offers. If one food is a combination of carbs or protein or fat, I would combine it accordingly. Most veggies, other than the starchy ones are free territory. Eating as much as you can will help blood pressure, brain function and health in general.

healthy food list

Breakfast

People with high insulin levels should stay away from cereal in my opinion. Cereal does not contain enough protein considering the carbs in a serving. Adding milk only increases the carbs – there are 12 g of carbs in a cup of milk. You are much better off eating your leftover dinner than eating a bowl of cereal. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Smoothie made with 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp chia or flax seed, 2 cups baby kale, ¾ cup frozen berries and enough water to blend.
  2. ¾ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup fresh chopped fruit, and 2 tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds.
  3. ¾ cup low-fat Greek yogurt sprinkled with ¼ cup Uncle Sam’s Cereal, 2 tbsp chia seeds and ¼ cup fresh blueberries.
  4. 2 eggs or egg white combination omelet with spinach and 1 slice of swiss cheese served with one piece of toast.
  5. ¾ cup bean salad with ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese.
  6. ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup chopped fruit and 2 tbsp chia seeds.

Lunch/Dinner Ideas

  1. Salad topped with chicken, beans and balsamic dressing and a piece of fruit.
  2. Turkey and arugula sandwich on whole grain bread with mayo and mustard along with celery and carrots and hummus.
  3. 6 oz Greek yogurt, apple and sliced cucumbers.
  4. Tuna and whole grain pasta salad mixed with chopped carrots, celery, cabbage, mayo, salt and pepper
  5. 1 cup lentil or some other bean soup with 2 celery and peanut butter.

Or make your plate look like this:

healthy plate

Emphasize vegetables and limit the carbs most of the time and you will lose weight. If you miss something sweet, then skip the carbs at dinner and have the dessert instead – ideally eating it right after your dinner so you can slow down the blood sugar rise with the fiber and protein from your dinner.

This is the hardwood that will help you lose weight by preserving your muscle mass and keep your metabolism at a steady even burn – even while you’re roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

reduce carbs to lose weight

Losing weight is not just about calories

A calorie is a calorie, is a calorie, right? Can’t you just lose weight by reducing calorie intake?

I don’t think it’s as simple as that and here’s why.

It boils down to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the body, particularly the muscle, fat and liver cells, don’t utilize insulin as effectively. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into the cells for energy. The body compensates for insulin resistance by making extra insulin, a condition called hyperinsulinemia.

If someone with high levels of insulin eats a diet high in carbs, then more of those calories are going to be stored in the body because insulin is the gatekeeper to the utilization of digested carbs. The more insulin in the body and the more glucose from digested carbs, the more will be stored in the body. This is my opinion, and it’s based on experience.

It reminds me of a person I knew who tried to lose weight by lowering her calories to 800 a day (way too low) and her diet consisted mainly of carbs. Her weight didn’t budge an ounce. Part of that may have been due to her body thinking she was in starvation mode, and really slowed down metabolism. But I believe the other reason is she also had hyperinsulinemia and all those carb calories were being stored. This doesn’t mean you should avoid carbs. However it does indicate, in my opinion, the importance of eating a balanced diet with adequate protein, healthy fat and fiber. I’ll go more into that in the next blog.

For a while the insulin-producing pancreas can keep up with the increasing demand for insulin and blood glucose levels stay in a healthy range. But eventually, the beta cells of the pancreas stop producing enough insulin and blood glucose levels start to rise leading to prediabetes, and eventually type 2 diabetes.

This period of hyperinsulinemia may go on for years before blood sugar levels rise. And what’s behind it is most likely a genetic component that makes someone prone to insulin resistance and a diet high in quickly digested carbs.

Genetics of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is thought to be due to the “thrifty gene”. Certain cultures historically were exposed to periods of food scarcity and their bodies compensated by slowing down metabolism. And then these same cultures over time were exposed to a higher carb diet with foods like processed grains, fried foods, and sweetened drinks. Not what you want to be eating when your body is on the slow burn road. According to the National Institute of Health, these cultures include Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Native Hawaiians, Asian Americans, American Indians and Hispanic or Latino.

Since genetics plays a role, ask your relatives about any family history of type 2 diabetes. Be aware, that out of the 26 million people in the U.S. with type 2 diabetes, there are 7 million who don’t know they have it. Indications that someone may have undiagnosed diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst – high glucose levels cause dehydration.
  • Frequent infections including yeast infections in folds of skin that are slow to heal.
  • Blurry vision that comes and goes – glucose and fluid collects in the lens of the eye when glucose levels are high causing swelling that distorts vision.
  • Extreme fatigue – glucose is not getting into the cells sufficiently to provide the body with energy.
  • Hunger – people with type 2 diabetes are constantly hungry, even right after eating probably due to changes in other hormones affecting digestion like Leptin and partially due to the cells “starving” for glucose.

Other indications you may have insulin resistance

There are other conditions that may indicate that you have insulin resistance. If you have any of these then you most likely have insulin resistance.

  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Were a large baby at birth, > 9 pounds
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Low (good) HDL and high triglycerides
  • Hypertension
  • Over age 45
  • Depression
  • Have a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans, dark, velvety skin around your neck or armpits
  • Overweight or carry excess weight around your middle

Symptoms of insulin resistance can be very subtle

Perhaps you may notice that you’re more tired and hungry than usual. Perhaps you’ve been a bit down and depressed. Maybe you’ve gained a few pounds. You might chalk it up to stress at work, but perhaps your body is shifting to a more insulin resistant state and you’re developing hyperinsulinemia. Maybe your just don’t want to think about that right now because you’ve got too much on your plate.

Danger of hyperinsulinemia

Insulin makes our body store more calories which contributes to weight gain.

The increased work load on the pancreas eventually exhausts the beta cells of the pancreas and leads to diabetes.

But most people are not aware of the link between high insulin levels and cancer. As I’ve mentioned many times before, insulin is like fertilizer to our body. It does get glucose into the cells for energy, but it is also feeds the “weeds” in our body, those cancerous cells our body is always making but not always destroying. Getting insulin levels down reduces the risk of cancer.

I’ll never forget a patient I worked with who developed type 2 diabetes and eventually used an insulin pump to better manage her blood sugars. Her A1c was at a healthy range, but she gradually gained weight. She was eating pretty much whatever she wanted, and doing an awesome job adjusting her insulin dosage, but over time she was requiring more and more insulin to keep those blood sugars under control. She gained over 30 pounds over that period, despite good blood sugar control, but she was requiring a lot of insulin. She ended up passing away not from complications of diabetes, but from cancer. I always wondered what all that insulin was doing to the other hormones in her body, setting herself up for cancer.

A calorie may be a calorie, but I believe the type of calorie counts

Losing weight is not just about calories. High insulin levels in conjunction with a high carb diet will make weight loss difficult. However, I also don’t believe in a ketogenic diet like Dr. Adkins; it’s a radical way of eating that isn’t sustainable and it omits a lot of vitamins, minerals and cholesterol lowering fiber that grains can provide. But I do believe reducing carbs, and making them whole grain and adding more enough protein and fiber will reduce your insulin levels, improve your insulin resistance, help you lose weight and ward off diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

If you enjoy my tips, please share with your friends and family. You can get healthy on your own with good information and a desire to live a healthier life. Please make a donation to the Saint Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen. They are in great need of your financial support while they provide over 10,000 meals a year to Portland, Maine’s neediest population.

fiber in fruits and veggies

The inside scoop on your poop

Your gut environment impacts your brain. Recent research links specific gut bacteria types with chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). Scientists at Columbia University’s Center of Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of Public Health have discovered that the type and amount of bacteria in your intestine is associated with ME/CFS. ME/CFS is a debilitating autoimmune disorder that causes extreme fatigue, body aches and even impaired thinking. It turns out that 90% of people with this condition also have irritable bowel disease (IBS), also a condition that has been linked with an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria.

Gut-brain connection

One would like to think that everything that ends up in the large intestine doesn’t have any other business with the rest of our body at that point. Mission accomplished, body nourished. But that’s not the case. Even worse, the contents of our colon, specifically the bacteria in there, still communicate with our brain even from the large intestine. Furthermore, the more impaired this gut microbiome or microorganism environment, the worse the symptoms of ME/CFS.

The bacteria in the gut affect normal metabolic pathways between the brain and the gut. Lead researchers in the Mailman School of Public Health study state:

“Much like IBS, ME/CFS may involve a breakdown in the bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut mediated by bacteria, their metabolites, and the molecules they influence”. 

In other words, the bacteria in your gut talks to your brain. Higher amounts of “good bacteria” leads to positive health outcomes while larger amounts of “bad bacteria” or insufficient good bacteria lead to negative health outcomes.

What’s in your gut?

Bristol Stool Chart

photo from Cabot Health

Your poop says a lot about your general health. The Bristol Stool Chart was developed in 1997 by Dr Ken Heaton from the University of Bristol in England to better understand diseases of the bowel and as a communication tool.  A healthy stool should look like type 3 or 4 in the chart. If yours doesn’t and you have no known digestive issues, then you might want to consider doing some housekeeping on your microbiome. You can even be part of the American Gut and have your stool sample analyzed.

Improving your gut microbiome

Jeff Leach, from the Human Food Project, in an NPR interview, states that even though understanding the gut microbiome is in the early stages of research, dietary fiber is very important. Dietary fiber feeds the good gut bacteria. Leach also recommends:

  • Eat garlic and leeks. These are high in a prebiotic called inulin which feeds the good gut bacteria. Garlic also may kill some of the bad bacteria.
  • Eat more vegetables. Leach believes that they are the best source of fiber and that they should be eaten as whole as possible.
  • Boost your dietary fiber to as much as 50 gms daily in order to really change the gut microbiome. If you decide to do this, increase it gradually and boost your water intake.
  • Increase your intake of fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and yogurt.

You are what you eat

The nutrients from your diet impact every cell in your body: their function, structure and integrity. And now we know that the bacteria in our body can turn on and off certain metabolic pathways. Boosting the good bacteria in your colon while limiting the bad bacteria through diet could prevent inflammatory conditions like ME/CFS and perhaps even improve symptoms in those with these conditions.

You have to wonder, are we creating these diseases ourselves by the foods we eat?

The cells in our body are constantly dying off and new ones are being made. Could it be that the overgrowth of bad bacteria is changing the DNA in this process of cell development and creating these inflammatory conditions which also include autoimmune disease like lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis? Could the 23.5 million people in the U.S. with these conditions improve their symptoms through their diet?

Could the answer to improving and preventing these autoimmune conditions lie in dietary choices? All I know is that if I suffered from pain, chronic fatigue, poor sleep and impaired thinking, I would much rather try to tackle it through what I eat than through a pill. Improvement of symptoms might not happen overnight, but I can imagine the battle going on in my gut. Now, I think I’ll plant my vegetable garden this week.

Fat Calories in common foods

Fat Culprits In Your Diet

Most people know the difference between good fats and bad fats but do they realize making even small changes in the amounts of the usual culprits high in fat calories can help them lose up to a pound a month with no pain?  Everyone thinks that eating a salad for lunch is going to move that scale needle southward.  But when you load that salad with nuts, olives, avocado, cheese and dressing, that healthy salad can deliver as many calories as a Big Mac with fries.

Fat Calories Add Up

Fat calories are twice as potent as calories from carbohydrates and protein.  There are 9 calories in a gram of fat versus only 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate and protein.  The chart below lists some common foods that people eat regularly that are high in the heart healthy unsaturated fats but calorie dense because they are high in fat. fat calories in good fatsEaten without attention to portion sizes, these foods can pack a lot of calories.  A salad topped with 10 olives, half an avocado, 2 oz of chopped nuts, a few slices of cheese and some dressing can deliver over 1000 calories, or more than the 930 calories in a Big Mac with medium fries.  And you salad eaters are thinking, “that salad didn’t even contain one carbohydrate, so it’s got to help me lose weight, right?”  Nope.  fat calories in salad dressing

Salad dressing is the big calorie kicker depending on the choice.  Two Tbsp of Caesar salad dressing delivers 165 calories, and that’s if you are measuring.  If you are getting your salad from the grocery store and pouring the dressing from those large containers, how do you really know?  I know the prepackaged servings of dressings at the deli near me is a 1/4 cup serving or 4 Tbsp.  That can be at least 290 calories.

What if you are adding extra “healthy ingredients” like artichokes or some of the other vegetable like the ones in the Whole Food’s salad bar that are swimming in oil; that adds additional calories.

Count Your Fat Culprits

The CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program focused on the total grams of fat in the diet with fat gram goals geared around an individual’s weight.  CDC Fat Gram GoalI always thought it was strange that a diabetes program would focus on fat and not carbohydrates, but truthfully it is much simpler to track just fats than total calories.  Furthermore, you get more bang for your effort by reducing total grams of fat since they are high in calories.  With 3600 calories in a pound, cutting out 15 gms of daily fat will mean a one pound weight loss in about 27 days.  That doesn’t seem like much, but that’s 14 pounds in a year and it’s painless with just a little awareness and a few substitutions.  low fat substitutioinsHere’s how you can find cut those fat grams in just your lunch salad.  Reducing the avocado to  one quarter will save 7 gms of fat.  Cutting the portion of nuts in half will save you another 7 gms.  Using fat-free Feta cheese, which is sharp and still has the consistency of cheese, will save you another 10 gms.  Being mindful of salad dressing portion sizes, or better yet making your own by using a 2:1 ratio of vinegar to oil (I like adding lemon juice and herbs to mine) will save you another 7 gms.  With just these suggestions you would save 21 gms of fat, 190 calories and a pound in 19 days.  That doesn’t even include making other small changes like switching to light mayo, or using mustard or hummus in lieu of mayo on sandwiches, or using fat-free Greek yogurt instead of mayo or sour cream in dips.

Your Culprits Are Calorie Dense

Often times I hear people being frustrated that they are not losing weight despite their best intentions of eating a salad every day.  Making these small changes are painless and yield big results.  It doesn’t take a radical diet to lose weight.  It takes knowing what your culprits are, making small changes that don’t lead to feelings of deprivation, and being mindful of portion sizes.  Losing weight gradually is a much healthier and more sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off.  That’s the healthy way to a happy weigh!

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word.

 

Sugar Baby, Let’s Get To 10%

The 2015 dietary guidelines are broad and nonspecific, emphasizing whole grains, eating  a variety of colors of vegetables, lean protein, nuts and oils.   The only specific recommendations are around keeping saturated fats and added sugars each to less than 10% of total daily calories.   For the average American that’s not much direction, but hopefully the next few paragraphs will shed some light.  My last post explained how to get to 10% on saturated fat; today’s post will focus on getting to 10% for those sugar babies.

Added Sugars

hidden added sugars

Added sugars

Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages through processing or preparing them.  It doesn’t include naturally occurring sugars found in foods like fruit and milk but it does include that syrup I just had with my pancakes this morning, the sugar in my French Vanilla yogurt and the sugar in the coconut cream pie I’m going to make for company this evening.  It also includes the tiny bit of sugar I put in my coffee and tea.

The biggest source of added sugars for Americans is from soda, sports and energy drinks. It’s also found heavily in the specialty coffees from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts – a Venti Caffe Mocha has 44 gms of added sugar.  Some not-so-obvious added sugars are found in cereal, sauces and soups, and even ketchup.  Keep in mind, this also includes other sweeteners that are popular today like Agave, honey and coconut sugar.  So how do you know what 10% of your total daily calories looks like?

Calculating Your Sugar

Using the Mayo Clinic calorie calculator and estimating calories for a 55 year-old woman who is 5′ 6″, weighs 160 pounds and is somewhat physically active 2-3 times a week, her daily calorie recommendation would be around 1850 calories.  If you were to take 10% of her calories, based on the 2015 dietary guidelines, she should limit her added sugars to about 185 calories a day.  To convert this into usable information you need to understand that there are 4 calories in a gram of sugar.  Dividing 185 by 4, it leaves her with 46 grams of sugar with which to titillate her mouth for the day.

What’s In Your Sugar Bank

It’s all about choosing wisely by knowing where the hidden sugars are, while also learning how to find good substitutes for favorite foods that are high in sugar.  A 20 ounce serving of coke pours 65 grams of sugar down your throat.  Four pieces of that Godiva Milk Chocolate bar yields 21 grams.  My coconut custard pie calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Divided over 8 pieces that is still 38 grams of sugar.  My favorite yogurt, Cabot’s Low-Fat French Vanilla has 28 grams of added sugar in one cup!  Youser.  That was an eye opener when I first saw that.

I’m always on the search for a low sugar tomato sauce and even at 3 gms of sugar in half a cup, Muir Glen has much less than most with some containing up to 13 grams of sweetener in their sauce.  I know what you’re thinking, I used to think the same way.  You’re saying,  “tomatoes are good for you with all that lycopene, right?”  So next thing you know that pasta is hidden underneath 2 cups of sauce and 52 gms of sugar.  Why not wash it down with some coke and follow that with a nice brownie – the all American favorite.  And I know what tends to happen with that brownie mix.  I’ve thought this same way.  It goes into a 8″ x 8″ pan and cutting it into 9 brownies looks so much better than cutting it into 16.  A 2″ brownie, really?  Is that a dessert or just a nibble?  Now that 18 gms of sugar has turned into 32.  Combine the pasta sauce, the coke and the generous brownie and voila!  You’ve consumed nearly 150 gms of added sugar – more than 3 days worth!

You Can Make This Work Sugar Baby!

Ahhh, I love my sweets too, I understand.  This is how I’ve made it work for me;

  1. Save your desserts for the end of the day and have just one paying attention to portion size and take small bites, savoring each one.  Let it dissolve slowly in your mouth.
  2. Instead of sodas, try seltzer water.  I bought a Soda Stream and I add a natural, calorie free flavoring.  Or as a transition try mixing regular soda with diet soda and limit your soda as much as possible.
  3. Stop the energy and sports drinks.  If you are thirsty, have water.  If you really need a little flavoring then add some fresh lemon or lime to your water or a tablespoon of 100% orange juice.
  4. Eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  It has far less sugar and delivers more of the heart healthy flavonoids than milk chocolate.  Eat it mindfully, knowing where your other sugars are going to come from in your meal and over the day.
  5. Move away from artificial sweeteners and sugar-free sodas if possible.  They just raise your sweet thermostat in your palate and make you want added sugar in your other foods.
  6. Read food labels, become informed and get smart.  You would be surprised how much sugar is in everything we eat.
  7. Make more of your desserts with fruit.  My Blueberry-Rhubarb crisp is delicious but you can substitute with any fruit.  Even frozen mango makes a delicious crisp!  Fruit crisps have less fat and carbs than a pie and are a delicious way to get some whole grains while controlling the sugar.
  8. Cut sugar in recipes by a third.  You won’t notice it.  I made my last coconut custard pie by reducing it to one cup and added some extra vanilla extract a touch of nutmeg to enhance other flavors.
  9. Stop eating cold cereal for breakfast or have just steel-cut oats with a tsp of honey or sweeten with about 25 raisins (dried fruit is concentrated with sugar since the water is removed).  Whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a smoothie or even low-fat cottage cheese with some fruit, is a fabulous breakfast.
  10. Make fresh fruit your dessert.  Some fresh in season cut up fruit tossed with some lemon or lime or some cinnamon does satisfy the sweet craving, delivers crunch as well as a boat load of vitamins and fiber.  We need to look at fruit differently.  It needs to be elevated to dessert status and not just a box to be checked off.

Some might ask what is the big deal about sugar.  The bottom line is that it comes to emotional and physical health.   We know big swings in blood sugar leads to mood swings and impairs sleep.  Eating too much sugar also raises triglycerides, leads to weight gain and puts added stress on the pancreas.  With 29 million people in the United States with diabetes and 8 million of those not even aware they have it, isn’t it worth knowing what’s going in your mouth so you won’t be caught by surprise?  And who knows, you might find that following a few of these suggestions are no big deal.  Now that’s a nice payback!  Please forward this to the people you care about.

 

 

Mole Hills, Not Mountains

This is the continuation in the series looking at the emotional side of the logistics of losing weight.

For some people anticipation is worse than realization.  The anticipation of starting a diet might as well be like climbing Mt Everest.  And in here lies the problem.   First of all, don’t think of it as a diet.  The word “diet” implies a beginning and an end.  You’re not heading for a destination; you are on a lifelong journey.  Secondly, if it feels like you are climbing a mountain, then you need to start back at the mole hills.

Get The Right Focus

Any change starts with a decision.  If the change is just for a destination, like looking nice in a bathing suit or for a wedding or for a reunion, then chances are one of two things will happen.  You will either not meet your goal or you will be like the 80% who regain their weight.  But what if your decision is not to reach a definitive destination but rather to feel better in your clothing, have more energy throughout the day and to take of yourself.  Imagine that, doing it just because you are worth it.  Shifting the focus from losing weight to eating healthier changes the perspective.  Making lifestyle changes to lose weight implies giving up and taking away, while eating healthier implies adding more and taking care.

Start And Stay With The Mole Hills

mole hillsThe second mistake that people make is taking on too much at once.  In my training as a health coach the emphasis was always on making changes based on the areas where a client feels most ready and confident to begin, and to start with small, action-oriented changes.  These are the mole hills that will take you down the path to taking care of yourself, while incidentally losing weight.

Examples of Mole Hills

What are some mole hills you could easily summit along your journey of taking care of yourself?

  • Find a buddy who will support you.  Spouse, friend, daughter or son, anyone who will take the journey with you and keep you energized and focused.
  • Start grocery shopping with a list and don’t shop when you are hungry.
  • Bring color to every plate through fruits and veggies.  Try to get at least 3 different colors on your plate.
  • Use a smaller plate, even a salad plate if you are not someone who likes fruits and veggies.
  • Drink at least 2 liters of non-caloric, non-diet fluids a day.
  • Shift to whole grain crackers, pasta, brown rice, and cereals.  If that’s too much to do all at once then go half and half.
  • Cut back on eating out.  This means being aware of how many meals you purchase over the week and reducing that number.  Instead, make a date night with a fun menu at home where you can control the salt and fat.
  • Wear a pedometer.  They do make people move more.
  • Keep your treats to the end of the day.
  • Watch TV less, read more.  Choose your shows and then turn the TV off.
  • Reflect back at the end of the day and recall what went well with each day.
  • Go to bed at a set time each night and get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Any of these steps will help you to take care of yourself.  You will notice a difference in how you feel.  You will notice a difference in your energy level.  You will gain more confidence as you realize that you are worth it and that it doesn’t have to be this huge production or insurmountable mountain.  Even these changes will help boost your immune system with its daily fight against cancer cells, reduce the workload on your heart, and help your mind think more clearly, more positively.  Now that’s a mindset that will take you on lifelong journey, not just a destination.

 

 

 

Candy Cravings On Your Mind?

These next couple of blogs are part of the series of common nutritional and emotional mistakes people often make in the logistics of losing weight. Today’s focus is on candy craving.

There are times during the day when the brain just stalls and candy cravings call.   It gets fixated on something or quits making any creative breakthroughs.  That’s when the ole candy dish starts to look mighty fine….and if you grew up on the 70’s you might hum that jingle “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t” and reach into that bowl for something chocolotey, coconutty and chewy.  Maybe some of you have been disciplined enough to still have some of your Halloween candy (or maybe you just stocked up when they went down 50% the next day).  So you open that piece of candy either from home, at work or in your car and you pop it in your mouth.   Mmmmm.  Can you taste it?  Bursting with flavor, little crunchy, little chewy, little chocolatey.  All kinds of sensations and textures filling every corner of your mouth.  You’re in heaven.  You just got that initial pick-me-up feeling.

Mintel’s report on Snacking Motivations and Attitudes US 2015 found that many people are snacking in order to satisfy a craving or improve work focus.  But what you choose to snack on can either be a pick-me-up and keep me up, or a pick-me-up followed quickly by a put-me down kind of feeling.  My goal is to help you see how eating soda, cookies, candy or some other sugary snack is just a short-term fix, only for that mouth-filling moment, and then poof, it’s gone and you’re tired.

Candy Cravings, A Pick-Me-Up or Put-Me-Down

Feeling tired or unproductive at work is a frustrating feeling.  Add time pressure and boredom with a task and you have a magic recipe for a candy craving.  It seems logical that candy does rev us up, giving us all kinds of energy immediately, but you have to understand what comes next.  All that extra sugar tells the pancreas to make extra insulin which then causes our blood sugars to crash.  Soda, cookies, fruit snacks and other sweets do the same thing.  That’s what makes us tired – the fluctuation in blood sugar – especially from a candy craving.

Discretionary Calories, Not Much Room For Candy Cravings

A day's worth of food

Nutrition Action Healthletter visual

Discretionary calories are the “fun” calories we should only eat after we’ve eaten the nutrient rich foods our body needs.  For a 2000 calorie diet it amounts to about 200 calories for a sedentary individual a day.  They include the sugar in coffee, the wine with dinner, the candy for the afternoon pick-me-up.  The governor in our brain should say, “hold on, will your day’s worth of food look anything like the menu above?”  Are your candy and cookie choices using up the calories your body really needs to deal with the daily attack by cancer-causing cells,  building the good HDL to fight off the artery-narrowing bad LDL, wearing out your pancreas and leading you to type 2 diabetes, or aggravating inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis?  How is that short-term candy craving fix really serving you?  If you really want that candy, save it as a reward after you’ve eaten what your body really needs and then go for a walk.

Cravings Pass And There Are Better Foods To Improve Focus

That afternoon lull might really be a sign of boredom, tiredness or need for brain stimulation. Changing your scenery, talking to someone, doing a brain teaser or doing a different task might be what your brain really needs.  If you need a pick-me-up to really improve focus, choose something from the menu example above to check off some of those nutrients your body really needs and save those discretionary calories for later.  If your mouth still really wants that candy delay it by then first get a cup of tea, talking to someone and then see if you still really want that candy.  Cravings pass and will power gets stronger, one craving at a time.

 

Eat These Instead, Part 2

Lunch and snack time are one the biggest opportunities for making healthy choices.  Most people want something quick and convenient to eat at these times without having to think about the health impact on their decision.   You can still enjoy your soup and crackers, your cracker topper, your carbonated beverage and your chips and eat healthy!  Comparing similar foods will help you apply this knowledge to other similar foods.

Eat These Instead:  Health Valley Soups Over Campbell’s or Progresso

Campbel'ls soup Vs Health ValleyFirst of all when you compare any label you want to make sure you are looking at similar serving sizes. All these soups are based on 8 oz, even the Campbell’s because it is condensed.

One of the most important things to consider with canned soups is sodium. Canned soups tend to be really high in sodium and the USDA recommends people over 51, with diabetes or high blood pressure not exceed 1500 mg of sodium in a day.  Even though the Campbell’s soup says 25% less sodium than their other brands, their serving still contains 660 mg of sodium.  Most people would have that whole can for lunch, which means nearly 1700 mg of sodium – and that is supposed to be low!  Don’t think that Progresso is looking much better.  If someone were to eat a whole can of the Lentil soup, even with its respectable 320 calories, they still would be getting 1620 mg of sodium.  But if you look at the Health Valley, even eating the entire can or 2 servings, would still give you only 60 mg of sodium, 240 calories, 52 grams of carbs, a whopping 16 gms of fiber, and a respectable 18 gms of protein.

Eat These Instead:  Triscuits Thin Crisps Over Cheez-its or Ritz

healthy crackersEating crackers are a great opportunity to eat some heart healthy whole grains filled with fiber that will keep you fuller longer.  And there is evidence  that the fiber from whole grains improves insulin sensitivity for those who are insulin resistant (think metabolic syndrome or prediabetes).

Not all crackers are the same.  When choosing a cracker you want to look at the amount and type of fat per serving as well as the ingredients. The labels above consist of different serving sizes.  Since the size of the cracker is different the best way to examine the servings size is to look at the grams or weight of each serving.  The Triscuits and Cheez-Its servings are both 30 gms, while the Ritz label is based on 16 grams, essentially half of the weight of the other two per serving.  In fairness to the Triscuits and Cheez-Its the food nutrients on the Ritz need to be doubled in order to compare similar serving sizes.

With this is mind, 10 Ritz crackers will have 8 gms of total fat, with 2 coming from saturated fat making it equal to 27 Cheez-Its crackers.   While 15 of the Triscuits Thin Crisps only have 4.5 gms of total fat with only .5 gms coming from saturated fat.

Since crackers can be an opportunity to get a serving of whole grains, you need to look at the list of ingredients.  If the first words under the ingredients is the word “whole” or “100% whole”, then you know the cracker is made from the whole wheat berry – the bran, the germ and endosperm, in their proper proportion if it is processed in any way – cracked, rolled, etc.   Triscuits have the first word “whole” under ingredients while the others don’t at all (take my word for it).  Often times the packaging might say, “contains 12 whole grains” but not have the first word “whole” in the ingredients.  So 12 different grains may have been used but only part of those grains are contained in the food item, and usually mixed with white flour.  Because the Triscuits are made with whole grains, they also have more fiber – 3 gms per serving compared to none and 1 gm in the other crackers.

Eat These Instead:  Low-Fat Cheese over Full-Fat Cheese

Comparing Food Labels in Cheese

The biggest thing to be concerned about with any dairy, which includes cheese, is the heart clogging saturated fat content.  Even keeping cheese to low-fat, doesn’t mean you can eat all you want.  The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 5-6% of your daily calories come from saturated fat.  Based on a 2000 calorie diet that amounts to about 130 calories and if you divide that by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) that amounts to about 13 gms total per day.  That can easily add up if you are not careful and would be less if you were eating fewer calories.

When comparing full fat cheese to low-fat cheese you want to make sure you are looking at similar servings sizes.  Cabot’s label is based on a 28 gms serving, while Sargento’s label is based on 21 gms or one cheese stick.  So to be fair to Cabot, we would need to reduce the nutrient values by 25%.  Even after adjusting, you can still see that for the same gram weight, the Sargento cheese delivers 4.5 gms of total fat with 3 gms coming from saturated fat while the Cabot cheese delivers 7 gms of total fat with 5.5 gms coming from saturated fat.  With 13 gms being the recommended daily limit on saturated fats, (and that’s not including the saturated fat found in meat, crackers, chips, chocolate and other dairy), even one cheese stick gets you a quarter of the way there.  At least cheese sticks reduce temptation with the individually wrapped portions.  Personally, I eat hummus for the most part.  I love it and it has no saturated fat.  But I’ll save that topic for the next blog.

Drink These Instead:  Seltzer Over Soda

Seltzer bs CokeI know it is really hard to give up strong bubbly flavors.  For a long time I drank Diet Pepsi thinking it was much better for me than regular soda. Then I realized that all the chemicals in the diet soda were not really helping my body and there is evidence that diet soda can alter the gut microbes – probably those same microbes that enhance insulin sensitivity.  So what is a carbonated lover to do?  Switch to seltzer water.  Seltzer now comes with noncaloric natural flavors that satisfy that need for flavor with your bubbly.  It has zero sugar, no carbs, and no calories unlike a 12 oz serving of coke that has 55 gms of sugar making up the 55 gms of sugar-spiking carbs and 200 calories.  We all need a little pick me up at times, but why not get it from some ice coffee or better yet, a stretch and walk around the office instead.

Getting Healthy One Step At A Time

Becoming healthier doesn’t have to happen overnight.  It starts with gradually switching to healthier foods by looking at the labels of some of your favorite foods and slowly making better choices.  Choosing the recommended food item over the alternative will help reduce your daily consumption of sodium, saturated fat, unhealthy carbs and increase your dietary fiber.  No one is expecting perfect, but moving along the continuum of making healthier choices will pay you back in the future.

 

whole world in your hands

How To Start Eating Healthy

I hear the comment often, “I don’t know how to eat healthy”.  Packed between those words after exploration are fears of being overwhelmed with the idea of EATING HEALTHY as if that means suddenly having to transform into a Jedi Knight with the Force giving strength and determination to conquer the late night munchies, the afternoon nibbles, the morning Stars and Dunks.  Making changes in how you eat does not have to require this monumental overhaul.  There are steps you can take to make it easy but first there are some preliminary things to consider to help you have success at eating healthier.

Eat Healthy For The Right Reason

Knowing why you want to eat healthy is the first question.  Is it your desire to eat healthier to lose weight or for better health?  Are you doing it to look better or to be healthier?  If the desire is more about appearance, then the barometer for success is only the scale, not the improved blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, energy level and improved relationships as you gain confidence from your effort.  Furthermore, losing weight only for appearance tends to lead to expectations for rapid weight loss, usually from a fad diet.  And losing weight this way can lead to complications and regaining of weight once the diet is stopped.

Not that appearance can’t be part of the reason for eating healthier, but isn’t it more compelling to eat healthy in order to feel better and be healthier?  Having lab numbers, waist size, blood pressure and energy level become the barometer for success, not just the scale, sound a lot more convincing?

Expectations

Make sure you have realistic expectations.  I don’t know of anyone who has said to themselves that today he/she was going to start eating three balanced meals with lots of veggies, lean protein, no refined carbs, no sweets and start exercising for 60 minutes every day.  Maybe I should qualify that, I’ve known a few who have attempted it, but they did not sustain it for long and it only added to their stress.  Eating healthier is not the same as going on a diet.  “Prescription” diets like the Blood Type, Cabbage Soup, and Master Cleanse are designed to lose weight quickly.  Even the Adkins diet and the Paleo diet will help you lose weight but can you eat that way for the rest of your life?  Once people quit eating the structured meal plan, weight is most often regained.  Furthermore many fad diets are lacking in key nutrients for health.

Knowing you are in this for the long haul will help you to have success.  Learning how to live a healthier lifestyle should be a gradual series of small changes.

Make Your Environment Safe

Where you live and work can be toxic.  The prefrontal cortex controls our inhibitory decision-making.  Parts of the prefrontal cortex are stimulated when people exhibit control over food urges.  Research in this area has shown that some people have better self-regulation because of more stimulation in this part of the brain.  If you find that you are someone who can be easily tempted by unhealthy foods, then make your environment safe.  Clear tempting foods out of your house.  Take different routes home from work.  Get your coworkers on board with keeping healthier foods around so that you can reduce temptation.  It’s better to go out and splurge on a single serving than it is to buy a larger amount (hate those 2 for 1 chip sales!) and bring it home.

Know Your Causes For Unhealthy Eating Or Overeating

Are you not making good food choices or overeating because you are stressed, bored, eating out of habit or need to decompress, or just eating mindlessly?  If any of these reasons sound familiar then you need to start here first.  Food fuels our body, but it can also alleve stress, anxiety, boredom and become an unhealthy habit.  Addressing the stress in one’s life, through time management, conversation, delegation, planning, exercise and even counselling may need to happen first.

Food Cravings

Food cravings can happen from big swings in blood sugars.  Look at your style and pattern of eating.  Are you eating too many refined carbs at lunch from white rice with the Chinese meal, white flour from the pizza or white flour and sugar from cakes, cookies and chips and notice you get hungry and have food cravings in the mid-afternoon?  That sugar spike from all those “white” refined carbs will hit you like a ton of bricks a couple of hours later making you reach for any candy lying around or that leftover donut or slice of pizza to make that feeling go away.  Looking at your hunger level and how it fluctuates during the day will convince you to try eating differently or reinforce what you are already doing well.  It may also convince you to reach for a cup of tea or go for a walk instead.

How To Start Eating Healthy

Where to begin all depends on what you are currently doing.

  • If you eat most of your meals out:   Begin by making better choices at those restaurants or switch to restaurants that will give you healthier choices.  Getting a turkey sandwich with lots of veggies and little mayo on a whole grain roll at Subway would be a much better choice than going to Burger King and getting a Whopper value meal.  The next step might be to decrease the frequency of eating fast food and stopping instead at the grocery store to buy a rotisserie chicken and hitting the salad bar (put the dressing on the side and skip the cheese and mayonnaise-packed salads)
  • For the breakfast skipper:  Begin two days a week and try eating something small like:
    • a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit
    • a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread
    • a low fat Greek yogurt topped with walnuts
    • a half cup of low fat cottage cheese with diced fruit
    • a package of old fashioned oatmeal  topped with walnuts                                                                                   

Notice that each of these meals includes some protein, fiber and some fat.  These are key nutrients for fullness.   Dietary fat should come from the heart-healthy fats like nuts, canola and olive oil, avocado and fish, rather than from animal fats like red meat, whole fat dairy and palm oil.  Take notice of how you feel on those days you eat breakfast.  Do you have more energy?   Do you eat less the second half of the day?  Do you think better at work?  Do you have fewer cravings?  Listen to how your body talks to you.

  • For the person who does not like to plan meals:  Plan just two healthy meals for the week with enough for leftovers for two other meals.  Write down the list of ingredients and take with you when you go shopping.  Include on the list some quick things you can take for lunch like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whole grain crackers and pre-cut fresh veggies.  The next step might be to make foods on the weekend or days off that you can eat during the work week.  Use this cooking strategy to save you time and stress.
  • For the person who does not like to cook:  Try grilling chicken or fish for several meals and eat with lots of fresh produce around will keep it simple.  Soups and crock-pots also reduce food preparation time and can contain a whole balanced meal.  check out some of the soup recipes like my chili or chicken soup on this website for ideas.
  • For the person who does not have time to prepare meals:  If you can’t get help from family members then buy prepared veggies or frozen veggies.  Buy a rotisserie chicken or meats that are already cut up.  Buy canned beans or grains that are already cooked.  When you do cook grains, make extra and freeze.  Brown rice and other grains like bulgar and barley freeze well.  Pre-prep some of your meals on your day off.  Use a crock pot so you can get up a bit early in the morning or prepare the night before so the meal can cook while you are at work.
  • For the night snacker:  Start by eating breakfast.  Research shows that when people eat a breakfast with focus on healthy protein they remain fuller during the day and eat less at night.  Then make sure you are eating a dinner with a good amount of protein, some healthy fat, lots of non-starchy veggies and a fiber-rich starch.  Here are some ideas;
    • 4-5 oz of chicken, 1 cup of brown rice, 2 cups of broccoli or salad, and healthy fat from canola oil or olive oil on the veggies or maybe some nuts stirred into the rice or sunflower seeds topped on the salad.
    • 4-5 oz of salmon grilled or baked in the oven (salmon and other oily fish contain a lot of the heart healthy fat which will also help with fullness), 1 medium baked sweet potato, 12 asparagus and one piece of fruit
    • 3 egg omelette with 1 cup of spinach, onions and mushrooms, 2 pieces of whole grain toast(the first word under ingredients should be “whole” or 100% whole) and topped with 1 tsp each of whipped butter, and a side salad.  Try using salad spritzer dressings instead of pouring a high fat dressing on the salad.

Night snacking goes hand and hand with watching TV.  Try turning off the TV, play a game, read, go for a walk.  Even try brushing your teeth after dinner.  If you really must have a little “something something” start first with a cup of tea, seltzer water or just water and see if that hits the spot.  If you still need something then keep it to a serving by putting the food on a plate.  Do not eat out of the box!

  • For the person who does not like veggies:  Hide your veggies.
    • put them in a blender and add to soups
    • make mashed potatoes with half steamed cauliflower
    • double up on what you do like
    • puree them into tomato sauces
    • mix spaghetti squash with your pasta
    • make zucchini pasta
    • try new ways of eating them like roasting potatoes with onions and peppers in the oven
    • try seasoning them or dipping them in yogurt dips
    • try making dips out of them like salsa or a kale, berry and olive oil dip made in a blender
    • try them in a  smoothie

Forming New Healthy Eating Habits

Gradually incorporate some of these ideas into your routine.  If the changes seem unnatural then you are making changes too fast.  In general, it takes about three weeks for a new habit to feel natural.  Start with the above suggestions that you feel more confident about.  If you are telling yourself that you “should” do something, then you’re probably not ready to take that next step.  Focus on what you don’t mind doing and branch out from there.  Over several weeks and months you will begin to notice that some things are easier to do and don’t require as much thought.  This means you are ready to tackle more.  And as you take on new habits, continue to notice how your body feels.  Not only will you start to have more energy, but if you are overweight, you will lose weight as well, naturally.  No pills, no cleanses, no diets.  Just learning how to nourish and fuel your body like a Jedi.  Before you know it, these changes will become less forced and you will have the Force with you as you become that Jedi Knight on the way to conquering the world!