Simple Switches to Eat With Your Lights On

How many times have you eaten and not even realized what you ate or better yet, how much?   As a student of eating behavior, I encourage people to “eat with their lights on” (and that means someone is home).  In the dark crevices of your day there may be a mini-candy bar or two, a handful of jelly beans, a half-bag of Sunchips and a dollop of heavy whipped cream in your coffee.  It all creates an excess…and that can mean one thing: weight gain – if you are not actively burning up the extra energy.  So turn the lights even in the smallest of eating moments…

Let’s face it food takes us to a different place, at least temporarily.  That’s not always a bad thing — as rekindling that feeling of grandma’s brownies or mom’s apple pie or family meals is perfectly life enhancing.  It’s when, we eat often without intention or purpose that weight and health can spiral out of control. 

Here are some simple switches you can flip to create a more mindful, well-lit eating path for life.

  • Allow eating to hold special, sacred moments in your day — carve out time when you eat only (and don’t do other things like watch TV or work on your computer or talk on the phone).
  • Sit down and savor.  Use your eating time as a break from standing, walking and running to/from places.  Create a kitchen nook, a work place table or window side seat for a nutritious respite in your day.
  • Choose what you eat like you choose other important things in your life.  Think about your most prizes possessions, i.e., your car, home, clothes, shoes, or spouse.  What you eat reflects your personality,style and health intentions –  so choose your food with respect and love for yourself.
  • Break bread together.  Share your favorite food with family, friends and your community.  Research has shown that when people cook, eat and enjoy food together they live happier, healthier and longer lives.   

So whenever you want to eat in the dark, at least light a candle — it will spark some good eating intention.

Mind Over Munching Takes Practice

The brain is powerful thing, especially when it comes to eating.  Faced with food choices all day long, the power to forego needless calorie foods takes practice.  In fact, research published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found from brain scans of successful weight loss maintainers (kept 30 + pounds off for at least three years) that their brains are more “in control” when it comes to inhibiting implusive eating behaviors, whereas obese participants were more likely to act (eat) when food is put in front of them. 

What an exciting revelation to think that healthy, low-calorie eating doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes practice to master overeating.  Like Malcolm Blackwell talks about in his book, Outliers, mastery of anything takes at least 10,000 hours of practice.  With 365  24-hour days in a year, that’s  8,760 hours in a year (however, the time is cut in half when you consider that we are only awake half of those hours).  So that’s more than a year of steady practice.  So it’s no wonder that these brief  on-again, off-again diets don’t work.  The consistent practice of balancing calories in with calories out and eating whole, unprocessed foods for snacks and meals is never truly mastered, if you don’t put in the practice (and train your brain) to eat well. 

Practice eating well today – it’s a brain-altering step in the right direction…

My Gourmet Heart Sings For Supper

What is it about gourmet grocery stores that makes my foodie hairs stand up on the back of my neck?  With the excitement of new culinary discoveries while approaching the doorway to exotic, tasty and nutritious eats, my heart begins to pitter patter and my gastic juices flow in anticipation.  There is something about neat, clean and well-organized rows of vegetable oils from avocado to sunflower to extra-virgin olive; bottles of vinegar with delicate hues ranging from deep black to red t0 orangey-brown to clear; buckets of large, small and stuffed olives from different regions of the world wait to be scooped out and taken home for a fabulous heart healthy accompaniment to your next meal. 

Food is a universal passion for patrons of gourmet markets.  As I was admiring the wall of marvelously stinky cheeses and vats of olives at this fabulous urban gourmet grocer, I chatted it up with a food-loving, locavore couple with a similar passion for fresh, local and delicious tasting food for their family and community.  It is amazing how an appetite for good food and the search for new tastes and flavors brings people together – even if for a brief moment.  We are all part of this gastronomic human condition that appreciates the smell of freshly baked artisan breads, the sight of colorful fruit-filled tarts and flavor-infused chocolates and the possibility of creating culinary combinations that both nourish and sustain our well-being.  In our world of abundance sometimes tasting isn’t even necessary – imagination is the only thing required, especially when you are immersed in a fabulous food environment. 

Does where you buy your food make a difference to you? I’d love to know….

An Apple A Day ….

apple-a-dayI love September; it offers a fresh start with back-to-school time, wardrobes being revamped and comfort foods taking center stage. Who doesn’t savor the flavors of warm apple crisp, homemade pumpkin bread and creamy bean soup at this time of year?  Celebrate the season by making healthy foods a priority for the next month.  Check out your local grocery store or food coop for some new and exciting selections.  Aim for adding one new fruit, vegetable or grain every week for the next four.  Keep a log of the new foods and highlight which ones you liked, didn’t like and why.   If  you have added at least four new foods to your life – that’s a good thing.  

  

SEPTEMBER LIVINGWELL LESSONS:

  • Fiber It Up: Add more fiber to your meals and snacks by choosing whole foods whenever possible.  So add whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds to your day.  Counting grams of fiber does not have to happen (you know you need about 30 grams a day) if you are always choosing unprocessed foods – so say goodbye to white bread, white rice, and white flour products and your body will thank you later.
  • Drizzle It On:  Think of how sleek and sophisticated it is to drizzle – specifically when we talk about olive oil.  Olive oil, particularly the cold-pressed extra virgin variety, imparts a delicate, succulent flavor to everything from salad greens to pasta to seafood.  The unsaturated fats found in olive oil are full of heart-healthy properties that when eaten regularly have been shown to improve the quality of people’s lives. So indulge in this liquid lipid – not too much as there are120 calories per tablespoon, and savor the flavor of health.     

Featured Food of the Month: Apples

My favorite thing to do in September is to pack up my kids and go apple picking.  With a whole host of delicious apple varieties to choose from we are not at a loss for mouth-watering creations.  From Rome to Honey Crisp to Golden Delicious to Jonagold, the possibilities for chunky apple sauce, cinnamon-baked apples, crisp apple tarts to caramel apples make me smile.  Not only will it be good for your taste buds, but research has shown that an apple a day can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease and stave off certain types of cancer.  So enjoy the harvest of the season – it’s for good reason!   

Have any fun, healthy lunchbox ideas?  I’d love to blog about YOU.

 

Budding May Flowers: Take the Time to Smell Them

Hopefully, your world is blooming with May flowers – and more importantly, that you are taking notice.  With so many stressors in life today, this is the time to take some time for yourself….and find out what truly relaxes you.  Whether you find it relaxing to read, write, garden or do yoga, the key to a healthy mind and body is alleviating the stress that can so easily cause both physical and mental breakdown.   The Mayo Clinic reports that practicing regular relaxation techniques can improve how you physically respond to stress by slowing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, slowing your breathing rate, increasing blood flow to major muscles and reducing muscle tension.  Plus, adequate relaxation will alleviate emotional responses from anger and frustration.  In my work, I have seen how relaxation can thwart overeating.  Stress is a major factor in overeating and it’s certainly a big cause in today’s society.  So find your own quiet corner, where you can recharge your batteries and smell the flowers along the way!

 

MAY LIVINGWELL LESSONS:

  1. Start a daily relaxation ritual.   Have a “YOU-dulgence” once a day to relieve stress.  For example, your daily ritual could be visualizing you in your favorite vacation spot or enjoying a walk with your pet or listening to your favorite music with your eyes closed.  The best part is no one else has to know — there’s no planning, organizing or texting involved…..it’s about me-time, and that’s it.
  2. Do not use food as a relaxation tool.  In his new book, The end of overeating, David Kessler, MD, highlights the fact that high-sugar, high-fat foods have been found to “relieve pain or stress and calm us down” – however the danger lies in the desire to want MORE.  When we eat foods that are “hyperpalatable” – aka yummy – it strikes a part of the brain that desires that taste over and over again.  Basically, that is why it is so difficult to stop at one scoop of Rocky Road ice cream or take only one homemade chocolate chip cookie – and the calories and fat grams can add up fast! 

 

Featured Food of the Month: Basil

May is the perfect time to plant basil on your windowsill or backyard planter box and watch it take off.  What better aroma to add to your meals than fresh basil leaves – not only does it smell fabulous, but basil contains flavonoids and antioxidants that can stave off cell damage, and it has been found to improve circulation and prevent heart disease.  Since basil only lasts for a few days in the fridge, here’s a storage tip from Chef Ryan Hutmacher of Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago, “The more humidity the faster fresh herbs will wilt.  Take a paper towel and sprinkle a couple of droplets of water on it.  It should not be dripping wet.  Gently bundle the herbs inside a damp paper towel.  Place the wrapped bundle into a transparent container and replace the damp paper towels every 3 – 4 days.”    There are a bevy of culinary possibilities for basil – my faves are pesto, brushetta, and caprese salad, but you can also add it to salad dressings, pizza, fish, shrimp, and chicken dishes, too. 

Bon appétit!   

 

How are you relaxing today?  I’d love to blog about YOU. 

Spring Is In The Air – It's Time To Shed Those Old Habits

Finally, spring is in the air and it’s the time for new beginnings and renewal!   Not only do we get to shed our sweaters, coats and boots, but hopefully, we can lose some of the unwanted pounds and/or inches that may have crept up over the winter.  The average weight gain is 1 – 2 pounds per year and before you know it, that’s another notch on your belt.  A recent survey by the Mintel Group found that 80 percent of dieters are trying to shed pounds their own way – by combining different weight loss approaches to fit their own lifestyles.  The laws of weight loss are always the same – calories in versus calories out, but becoming smart to how you live, what foods you enjoy and how to expend more calories (i.e., move your body) throughout the day – will keep your expanding waistline at bay for life!

APRIL LIVINGWELL LESSONS:

  1. Make one or two small changes in your diet or lifestyle and you will see the difference immediately.   For example, set the table with smaller plates and do not go back for seconds; portion out all snacks by measuring out beforehand in small baggies; forgo the candy jar on your co-workers desk – you be saving hundreds of unnecessary calories.
  2. Drink more non-caloric fluids.  Steer clear of soda, juices and watch the alcohol!   Studies show that we do not compensate for liquid calories by eating less solid foods.  Soup, is a liquid exception in that we tend to eat less after we’ve eating soup – choose the broth-based versions as the creamy ones are typically higher in calories and fat.      

 

Featured Food of the Month: Cucumber

With the spring upon us, freshness is the number one priority.  Whenever, I want a cool and refreshing flavor, my go-to is a cucumber.  Ok, so they are not very high in any particular nutrient, except water – however, they are so low calorie (20 calories per 1/3 of a medium cucumber) that you won’t even notice them.  Cucumbers are so crisp and clean that I enjoy dicing and tossing some cucumber into a salad with tomatoes, red onion and tofu and drizzling it with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a hint of Dijon mustard or adding a couple of paper thin slices to cold water for a spa-like refreshment.  Lastly, I mince a small cucumber into Greek yogurt with garlic and dill for a tzakiki dip that tastes out of this world!  I use it as a dip with whole grain crackers or as an accompaniment to grilled salmon or veggie quesadillas. 

How were you gearing up for the warm weather shape-up?  I’d love to blog about YOU. 

  

 

 

'Tis the Season to Watch Your Waistline

The holidays are here already!  For all intensive purposes, this should be the busiest season for dietitians, however, the sad truth is the most people will forego our sage advice until the post-holiday season.   The reality is that recent clinical studies have shown that the average weight gain is only about 1 to 2 pounds over the holiday season (from Thanksgiving thru New Years Day).  The problem comes in when those couple of extra pounds never come off and continue to accumulate over the years.   Holiday weight gain has been implicated as a culprit in midlife weight gain (for both men and women) over time. 

What can you do about it?  Of course, you don’t want to be a scrooge and bann holiday parties all together.  In a recent presentation to a group at Agency.com in Chicago, I targeted mindful eating approaches to combat overeating during the holidays. 

First of all, become a “Mindful Party Goer” by:

– Keeping a safe distance from the food table

– Use smaller plates and put food on it and walk away

– Try a little of your favorites and don’t deny yourself or you will overeat later.

– Savor the food – taste and enjoy flavors, scents and textures

– Make food less of a priority – have a snack before you leave the house so that your can spend time socializing and not eating the whole time.

Secondly, become a “Mindful Party Thrower” by:

– make healthier/lower calorie foods available, such as vegetable crudite, vegetarian appetizers, bean dips, hummus stuffed cherry tomatoes, cumin guacamole with whole grain pita chips, avocado salsa, etc….

– concoct non-alcoholic mocktails (alcohol contains 7 calories per gram – which can add up fast), such as sparking fruit punch, apple cider martinis and fruit smoothie shots.  The are tasty and a fraction of the calories of their spiked cousins. 

– Circulate and enjoy your guests’ company instead of hanging back in the kitchen and sneaking bites here and there (the calories can add up fast!)

Lastly, whether going or throwing holiday fetes, get your regular workouts.  You may even need to compensate for excessive calories with more exercise than usual.  Be willing to put the time in during the season and you will feel better when the New Year emerges.

If you’d like, fill me in on your favorite holiday recipe(s), I’d be happy to offer a healthy makeover option — so that you can enjoy your faves without all of the fat and calories…..  

All the best this season –

Vicki 

   

 

 

The Art of Food Logging Is Not Dead — It Really Works!

Although it is part of my life’s work and professional responsibility to encourage people to keep daily food/activity logs, I have to admit that it’s one of the toughest parts of my job.  After pleading, prodding and bribing my clients to jot down every single morsel of food and drink that they consume on a daily basis, it is so reassuring to see that it really works.   A recent study of 1,700 overweight and obese individuals conducted by Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, OR found that people who kept daily records of what they ate over the course of 6 months lost double that of non-dairy keepers – 18 lbs (8 kg) versus 9 lb  (4 kg)!  If you ask me that’s pretty significant….then why do people resist this task that is a sure-fire road to success?  

I’ve been given so many reasons by my clients:  “I forget to bring the log with me”, “it’s too time-consuming”, “if I am eating badly, I don’t want to write it down” (isn’t that the whole point!?), “I am not a detailed person”, “I am embarrassed to show you what I really eat”, “my dog ate it”, I left it on my desk at the office” (coincidentally everytime we meet!), etc…..

The list of excuses is endless, however the results are clear cut – if you write it down, you become more aware of your eating behaviors and drop pounds!  If mindful eating is your goal – a handful of this, gulp of that and forkful of the other will become part of our conscious calorie intake and not brushed aside as inconsequential. Afterall, it all adds up (or not!) on our waistlines, hips and/or thighs.   And less could mean the difference between developing a chronic disease or not.     

I challenge you to start writing down what you eat today.  It will be eye-opening and life enhancing, for sure!  

    

Pregorexia — Obsessed with Not Gaining Baby Weight

There’s a new disordered eating epidemic out there called “pregorexia”!  Yes, it is what you think and it’s scary.  Pregnant women are sacrificing their unborn baby’s health, as well as their own health, to keep their weight in check during pregnancy.   With images of supermodels carrying little bumps on svelte bodies and magically shedding any extra pounds practically in the delivery room, pregnant women are becoming obsessed with how much they gain.   The number on the scale has become prominent for pregnant women, which could lead to low-birth weight babies and harm expectant mothers.  Nutrients are leached from mother for baby (for example, calcium is leached from the mother’s bones if the baby needs more).  This is why extra nutrients and calories are essential during pregnancy. 

As far as the guidelines, the average weight woman should gain between 25 – 35 lbs; underweight women between 28 – 40 lbs and  45 + lbs for multiple gestations.   

If there’s any message I can give to pregnant women, now is not the time to restrict calories.  It may seem enticing to keep the extra pounds at bay, but as a mother of two, I can attest that the weight comes off –especially during the toddler years!

Check out the recent CBS News article at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/08/11/earlyshow/health/main4337521.shtml

 

 

 

     

 

 

       

 

By not eating enough calories — they are risking giving birth to

Naked Calories In NYC

The ruling finally passed in the ‘Big Apple’ – fast food and casual-dining chains have to list the calorie values of all foods on their menus as of Friday, July 18.  With NYC being the first city to enforce restaurants to become naked to consumers, the hope is that will curtail calorie-loading, especially at lunchtime.  The city is not joking as it’s a $$ TWO-Grand fine for non-compliance. 

A city-wide study done last year found that more than 30 percent of people ate over 1,000 calories just at lunch – Wow!!   Let’s hope that this new ruling is an impetus to help people make informed (i.e., healthier) decisions.   Whether or not it will, we have to do something!   I am optimistic that this will push people in the right direction.  No one is going to be perfect and forego their favorite foods everyday – even if 2 out of 5 lunches out are ordered differently (with fewer calories and fat) than there is value to this health code provision.   

If you knew that a burger, fries and drink were over 1,000 calories would you order it?  I’d love to hear what you have to say…..