Beward of these red flags, pseudoscience, and fear mongering 'sells' to try to get consumers to pay big bucks for less-than-data-backed info. The science of nutrition is constantly evolving because it is such a young science. That said, please vet your healthcare professionals!
I have written on this overarching topic before (not even referring to Part I which was posted on Monday!) because I think that it’s important for people to understand that as RDs, we face the same challenges as you do daily. Well a big part of my food philosophy and personal food rules is to establish very basic healthy habits to employ daily. Here is my everyday routine:
I have coffee with one of a few breakfasts in the morning (whole wheat toast with peanut butter and chia seeds, a chia charger and piece of fruit, oatmeal with ground chia and/or flax seeds, a high fiber cereal with a piece of fruit). I try to eat a nice, big salad for lunch most days; my only other alternatives might be a sandwich (1-2x/week) or cup of soup. I try to have a piece of fruit or small snack around 4PM so I don’t snack while I’m cooking dinner. And then with regards to dinner, I generally make well balanced meals using whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat couscous) and incorporate at least another 2 servings of veggies.
As you can see, setting up my daily routine to be healthy allows for a few things: 1. I’m not making decisions on the fly and am not tempted to have something less healthy. 2. Eating healthful real foods and lots of fruits and vegetables makes my meals very volume-satisfying while not being energy dense. 3. I’m getting in plenty of fiber and protein that lasts me between meals. 4. I have identified a problem area (snacking while cooking dinner) and set up a strategy to avoid it (4PM snack).
Less Decisions, Less Problems
The way I see it, I have 21 meal opportunities weekly to eat healthfully, so if I can make my daily routine healthy enough that each week I eat at least 15-18 healthy meals without really thinking about it or putting too much effort in, then I might have 4 or 5 meals decisions left in my week. The point isn’t to stray too far when I’m out of my routine, in fact I usually don’t because it doesn’t feel good to eat ‘poorly’. The point is that if I do go out for a nice meal, or decide to make pizzas with friends or munch on a cheese and crackers platter, I don’t feel bad about it and I’m not compromising my health for those meals because my routine and daily choices remain intact. This is where nutrition becomes about the lifestyle choices and not dieting.
As a dietitian I am often asked about how I eat and if I follow a vegetarian (used to), vegan (wouldn’t be able to – I love cheese and wearing leather), pescetarian (also used to), or paleo (no thanks, I like the encouragement of real, whole foods but too much meat for me) diets. Well while I subscribe in pieces to many different diets, these are my personal food rules that I live by:
- Mostly choose water. I genuinely feel refreshed drinking water and I don’t want to waste any of my precious energy needs on sugary and calorie-filled drinks. They are not worth it to me. Plus staying adequately hydrated helps curb the appetite.
- Keep at least half of meals plant based. I do 1-2 meatless days per week, eat lean red meat about once a week, and keep the rest of my protein sources to chicken/turkey/fish. I tend to pick out an animal based protein source for 1-2 meals per day (on my non-meatless days). All I can say is: mmmn, seafood in New England…
- Save butter and cream based products for special occasions. I only cook in oils and I use the healthier spreads on toast (usually Smart Balance or Olivio).
- No pastries, minimal candy/sweets. I am one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I’d rather have a nice glass of wine with dinner instead of dessert any night of the week. This eliminates a lot of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pastries, pies, etc. The only two things I will say I like are real chocolate (nothing waxy) and gummy candy such as Swedish Fish (in fact, I request these instead of cake for my bday every year).
- No late night snacking. I’m rarely even tempted to do so because I have a good dinner.
- No eating out of the boxes/bags. I always serve myself snacks in a small bowl to stay cognizant of portions. I also tend not to buy snack food items because I don’t want to have it around.
- Fearlessness with trying healthy cooking modifications. I always put extra veggies in dishes, and I’m not afraid to try making substitutions in dishes such as using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. One of my best tricks is to buy the 97% lean ground beef and add (per 1 lb of meat) 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water.
- Make my everyday routine healthy. [Stay tuned for Thursday’s Blog Post!!]
I hope this gives some insight to the food voyeurs out there (present company included) that like to understand what others’ food choices are. Do you have any food rules you live by?
A Healthy Journey
I was recently able to give a talk to about 30 Rotarians here in CT, and with nutrition as a topic there was a wide array of possibilities for me to discuss. I decided to focus on the concept of making nutrition part of a healthy lifestyle. The term dieting can be quite scary for people, and I think that the negative connotation exists that it means deprivation for a specific period of time.
Well nutrition and health doesn't work that way in my mind, and I have found that when the positive impact of nutrition is the focus of discussion people are better able to connect the dots and feel encouraged. The next step becomes creating action steps to make it a little bit easier in the day to day to be healthy.
Healthy Living Tips
Right when you get home from the grocery store, cut and store fresh vegetables and fruit in the fridge so that they're ready to go. This way next time you are reaching for a snack those healthy options are no "work" at all. Thoughtlessly easy!
At time of eating:
Drink plenty of fluids! Hunger and thirst cues in the body are very similar and often hard for us to differentiate. Staying hydrated is key to reducing unnecessary calories in the diet. Drink 1-2 cups (mix in some lemon for flavor) before dining out and it may just help you slow down on the bread basket.
Enjoy the experience of eating and conversing with your family and friends. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but with our busy schedules don't let food become something that is meaningless. You deserve better than that!
Tell me about your nutrition philosophy... I feel that integrating healthy choices into your everyday is going to make for improved energy balance and mood. Nutrition and healthy living should be a positive experience, not a state of deprivation! Please tell me what you do to make your everyday healthyful and nutritious. Share some of your tips below!