A friend lamented, “You guys are skinny. You have no idea what it’s like.” From his perspective, because we are healthy and fit, we must not understand what it’s like to be in love with food, to eat too much, or to be unhappy with our weight.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, seriously, have you ever shared a meal with my wife? Andrea loves food. Whatever you put in front of her, she’s gonna eat. And, when she’s finished with her food, she’ll likely lean over to you to ask if you’re done with what’s on your plate, hoping she can eat that, too.
The fact is, Andrea and I are “skinny” because we have figured out how to make good food choices. Over the last five years, we have made slow, steady changes to WHAT we eat, HOW MUCH we eat, WHERE we eat, and WHEN we eat. Because the adjustments we made were small and incremental, they became habits. Now they are so ingrained in our daily lives, we feel bad if circumstances prevent us from eating healthy.
We compiled a list of many of the things we do regarding healthy eating because we think you, too,* can change your approach to eating. It’s a long–potentially overwhelming–list, but we have added them to our daily routine over a long period of time until they have become habits (not just till the class reunion, or some weight loss goal). In future blogs, we’ll explore each one of these individually. Meantime, pick one or two from the list and commit to incorporating them into your daily routine (and that of your family) for the next 30, 60 days…or however long it takes to make them second nature. When you’re ready, come back to the list and pick a couple more. And so on.
- Eat smaller portions (main course, like chicken, beef, fish, etc., should be no bigger than the size of your fist or a deck of cards; share meals in restaurants or have the server bring you a to-go container to put half your entre in before you begin eating)
- Drink (and finish) a glass of water with lunch and dinner (this doesn’t mean trying to choke down six 12-oz glasses of water every day, just make it a habit to drink a glass of water with every meal)
- Eliminate pop/diet pop altogether (diet pop is a chemical-laden menace to be avoided at all costs)
- Choose low-fat/non-fat dairy (we prefer cheese, ice cream and mayo with full fat content, but that’s just us and we’re careful with other foods)
- Avoid high-fructose corn syrup (Surprise! HFCS is found in ketchup, some yogurt, baked goodies, and lots of other foods you’d least expect)
- Read labels; chose products with shortest list of ingredients, and ingredients you recognize and can pronounce
- Eat breakfast, such as an all-natural, high-fiber cereal with fat-free (organic) milk and a handful of fresh blueberries and/or raspberries
- Eat protein (like eggs) for breakfast
- Drink protein smoothies for post workout recovery meals, or any other replacement meal
- Incorporate whey into your diet (no way, yes whey!)
- Add flax seed for omega-3s (to smoothies, meatloaf instead of bread crumbs, over ice cream, mixed in oatmeal)
- Get insoluble fiber
- Eat yogurt (because Yoplait has HFCS, we prefer Breyer’s non-fat yogurt, but it has asparteme…choices, I guess)
- No prepared meals (boxed or frozen)–ever!
- Eat as many vegetables and 2 to 3 servings of fruit each day (after all, no one ever got fat from eating too many of these foods)
- Eat multiple small meals throughout the day (breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner) and do NOT skip meals
- Pack your lunch rather than eating in restaurants
- Bring fruit and veggies with you to snack on during the work day–and commit to finishing what you brought (Andrea sometimes finds herself finishing off her food in the car on the way home)
- Stay out of restaurants (because you can’t control the ingredients and the portion-size is way too much)
- Stay out of fast food restaurants (because the ingredients are likely highly processed)
- Cook with olive oil (not butter, not vegetable oil)
- Avoid breads and pasta products that begin “bleached, enriched” on list of ingredients
- Choose whole wheat bread, pastas and crackers (look for whole wheat or whole grain, don’t be confused by “multi-grain”)
- Remember: “bran muffins, the silent killer” (No, not really, that’s just one of Andrea’s favorite jokes, but bran muffins are not as healthy as you think); and save donuts, bagels, croissants, pastries, etc. for extra special occasions
- Eat your spinach, Popeye. Put in salads, on sandwiches; or toss in boiling water with pasta during the last 60 seconds
- Choose turkey, tuna or chicken for your protein as often as possible
- Indulge, if you must, in dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate
- Cook meals from scratch (learn a few healthy recipes; plan a week of meals on Sunday, buy necessary ingredients)
- Enjoy Breyer’s ice cream (1 scoop = ~140 calories) as a delicious snack before bedtime
- Buy unseasoned frozen or canned veggies
- Eat fresh fish at least once a week, and it should be wild-caught, not farm-raised
- Avoid rice and noodles as a side dish (substitute with veggies!) unless, of course, you’re carbo-loading
- Chew sugar-free gum first, when you’re craving a mid-afternoon snack; if you still need something sweet, turn to grapes (that you packed in your lunch) or a couple squares of dark chocolate
- Eat oatmeal. Steel-cut is great on the weekends when you have more time. Instant oatmeal is a terrific, easy-to-make mid-morning snack at work. Top oatmeal with sliced almonds, dried or fresh fruit.
- Grab a handful of nuts as a snack
- Look for ways to incorporate Omega 3s / good oils into your diet (wild-caught salmon, fish oil supplements, flaxseed, some eggs, olive oil)
- Add beans and legumes to every meal
- Get protein through peanut butter (especially “natural”)
- Choose low-sodium soups and broths
The thing is, we haven’t made sacrifices, we’ve made choices. We still get to eat, and we get to eat food that we love. It’s just that we eat more appropriate servings of foods that are better for us.
*I am not a doctor and this advice is not intended to replace consultation with your medical professionals. As always, you should discuss your diet, nutrition and exercise habits with your doctor (and, in some cases, your pharmacist) to ensure that there are no negative implications based on your personal health history (or the medications you take). As examples, if you have IBS, you would need to take care on the consumption of insoluble fiber. If you’ve had breast cancer, like my wife, flax seed should be avoided. If you have gluten allergies, wheats and whole grains are going to be a problem for you.