As a nutrition communication consultant I occasionally write about topics related to the food industry clients I may serve, but my blog topics, thoughts and opinions are my own.
I introduced you to my opinions on the proposed changes for the Nutrition Facts label. Now let’s take a look at what those changes could be.
There are a few changes to the nutrition label that I do support: Realistic serving sizes; highlighting calories; and changes in fat labeling. A good example of currently flawed serving size labeling is a 20-ounce bottle of soda that lists 8 ounces as a serving. The majority of folks who purchase a 20-ounce bottled beverage are going to drink the whole thing, so the proposed labeling changes would require the entire bottle to be labeled as “one serving”.
I’m also okay with the new label proposal to remove the “calories from fat” line, as this information was never too useful, but Total Fat, Saturated Fat, and Trans Fats will continue to be on the label. Finally, making Calories more prominent will hopefully help cue consuming reduced portions of calorie-dense foods.
Sugar is one of the big three changes to the label. As opposed to the current label that lists Total Carbohydrate and Sugars, the new label proposes that an additional line labeled “Added Sugars” be included.
If I were to ask you: Which foods have added sugar in them? Perhaps – cookies, candy, soft drinks, juices, and bakery items would come to mind?
So you already have a pretty good idea which foods have added sugar right?
Sugar is sugar; even critics of the soft drink companies acknowledge that. The calories in soft drinks are from sugar. Thus, the sugar in them is actually expressed in a more meaningful and prominent way through the calorie labels, which is already in place.
Forcing companies to list sugar as many as three times could also mislead consumers about how much sugar is actually in a product (not to mention the carbohydrate and sugar that’s already on the label anyway). As mentioned, there’s no question products such as regular soda provide sugar, but overall sugar intake is decreasing. CDC data shows added sugar from soda is down 39% since the year 2000. Sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 6% of calories in the average diet, according to government data. The proposed Added Sugar labeling is almost intentionally trying to leave the impression that products contain far more sugar than they do, and also draw attention to products with some added sugar that really aren’t playing a significant role in harming your health.
Finally, what will we do with this Added Sugar information? We’ve been down this road. The guidelines regarding how much sugar we should consume daily are fuzzy. The American Heart Association recommends only a maximum of 100 calories of added sugar daily for women, and 150 added sugar calories for men. The Institute of Medicine recommends that no more than 25% of your calories should be comprised of added sugar.
As a nutrition professional, I can’t recommend a one-fits-all strict guideline without considering age, size, medical history, and activity levels.
In my opinion the only thing that will come from adding the words “Added Sugars” to a label is more hysteria over sugar in the diet, leading to more disordered eating and perpetuating more nutrition misinformation (via misinterpreting a food for a dietary pattern).
So I leave you with this question:
1. Will the Added Sugars line on the label help you reduce the sugar in your diet, or are you already aware of the sources of added sugar in your diet?
The ingredient and nutrition information on food product labels has evolved over the years. In 1990 the Nutrition Facts label was created and food manufacturers had to comply with this new labeling system that identified calories, serving sizes, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrate, protein, and some additional specifics in regard to fat in the food. I remember at that time having to spend a lot of time with my patients – explaining the information on the label and helping them understand the differences between total fat, saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Fast forward 24 years and we are revising this food labeling system. Thinking back to the 1980s and 1990s, our attempt to highlight fat on labels, in order to help people reduce the fat in their diets, backfired, as food portions became larger, and new calorie-laden, fat-modified foods were created which saturated the market. In the end, we ended up a more obese population.
Yet the FDA claims that this new label will allow ‘greater understanding of nutrition science’.
Hmmn? Unless you want to read a lot of scientific journals and textbooks, the food label itself is not going to provide you with a greater understanding of nutrition science. One on one education from a registered dietitian could provide that, more instruction in elementary and secondary schools could provide that, but a nutrition label will not.
As the opening statement in this CNN story reads: “Choosing healthier foods in the grocery store may soon be a little easier.”
Really? Will the learning curve and a new food label make your grocery shopping easier promising you a healthier diet?
News flash: I can offer you three easy steps to choosing a healthier diet:
1. Buy and eat more whole foods – foods that are-what-they-are – fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, fresh meats, beans, fresh fish, milk, oats, rice, barley and other natural grains.
2. Choose some slightly processed foods to round out life – pasta, whole grain bread (but not too much), and wholesome dairy foods like yogurt, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and other cheeses. Fruit juice, canned or frozen fruits or vegetables.
3. Choose desserts, candy, sugary drinks, drink mixes, alcohol, chips, crackers, and other snack foods in moderation (as in ≤1 serving daily with occasional splurges on weekends, holidays or birthdays)
Real food is what should fill your kitchen and pantry and body, but you can also make room for some treats too – cookies, donuts, soda, juice, chips or crackers and packaged food for occasional convenience.
A new food label is not going to help America choose healthier foods. Packaged foods have been labeled for years, and it hasn’t helped reduce obesity or disease, which are in fact both increasing.
The DASH Diet isn’t just beneficial for lowering blood pressure, but has been ranked the number one diet overall for weight loss and health. One of the key principles of the diet is adding a wider variety of vegetables to your diet, and some nuts and seeds. I think for most folks, the reason they may not eat enough vegetables is that they don’t think they taste good. This is why it’s really important to get into the kitchen and start experimenting a little bit. By themselves, many veggies are sort of blah. Who wants to eat food that’s not tasty? Nobody!
Healthy add-ins give vegetable dishes a unique flavor and texture. Of all nuts, walnuts are the highest in the essential oil ALA (alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid), and they can really add great flavor and crunch to your salads and veggie dishes! An ounce of walnuts contains 190 calories and 4 grams of protein. Eat them fresh, and there’s no sodium.
Even if your schedule doesn’t allow a lot of prep time during the work week, try to set a goal to cook up something really good over the weekend. And, it doesn’t always even involve cooking! Here are some easy ideas:
- This salad made from grains, greens and walnuts from the California Walnut Board sounds delicious doesn’t it? And it’s so easy. You may not be familiar with Quinoa, but pick up a box or pouch of it the next time you’re in the grocery store. It’s in the rice section. It cooks very quickly, not only making it super-easy, but also a great quick weeknight side dish. If you don’t like it on it’s own, try blending it into other dishes, like this salad, or one of your favorite pasta salad or rice recipe.
- Make a large casserole one night, and then pack it for lunch the next. My heart healthy brown rice casserole is based on this old recipe from the American Heart Association. I used kale and onions this time, olive oil, and ricotta instead of cottage cheese. You can create your own version using walnuts and spinach, or substitute barley for the brown rice.
- Pack up a small bag of walnuts to take to work with you. Enjoy them as a mid morning or afternoon snack. Better yet, mix a batch of these sweet and spicy walnuts on Sunday, and enjoy all week!
- How about a quick comfort dish during the week – nothing says “quick and easy” like pasta. Try mixing your favorite veggies, a few toasted walnuts into some bowtie pasta, and a one-dish meal is created!
- A lunchtime favorite – tuna salad – can be “DASHed” up with some extra veggies, fruit, and nuts! Walnuts add a great crunch in addition to celery, and finely chopped apples add a little sweetness. Try this recipe or create your own.
It’s really not so hard to add these DASH-friendly foods into your week, it just takes a bit of thought (grocery list) and planning. Enjoy eating well!
Do you feel tired, have high blood pressure, get short of breath doing daily activities, have high cholesterol or triglyceride levels? If so, it’s time to check in with your doctor. This is the time of year to assess your health, and start taking action to manage any risks or issues you may be having.
I want you to feel empowered - listen to your body and become aware of how life’s changes take their toll, and how to adjust to things as best as you can. Aiming for improved heart health is twofold. First, you have to figure out what your current risks may be. Secondly you’ll work on lifestyle changes.
Risks factors to discuss with your doctor
- Your weight. Do you know what you actually weigh, or “around” what you weigh? Get the specifics and get on a digital scale. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for heart disease. Talk to your doctor about your weight and ask to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian to set goals. You don’t have to be “the perfect weight”, but a dietitian can help you set a healthy weight goal.
- Tobacco Use. Quit smoking and/or using all tobacco products. Talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program for support.
- Your family history. You have no control over this, but it’s good to know what you may be up against.
- Age. As you get older, obviously your risk for disease increases. If you are over 40, it’s a good idea to schedule an annual check up with your doctor to review and evaluate your health.
- High blood pressure and high blood lipids. Sometimes this is hereditary, but there are certainly some lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your profiles. Medicine alone is not the answer, and should be combined with proper dietary therapy.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Once you see your doctor for approval, get moving. If you haven’t been active in a while, start with something simple such as a walking program or some simple floor exercises.
- Salt. Use less salt and reduce the use of high sodium foods. Check labels. Get a copy of my Restaurant Calorie Counter For Dummies® to find out how much sodium is in common restaurant menu items.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. I’m a broken record on this one, but I have to work at this daily too! Add fruit to your oatmeal. Choose fruit for your snack time, add more vegetables into your weeknights dinners. Put out a bowl of raw veggies to munch on when you are short on time. Add fruit to dinner if you are pressed for time and can’t get a fresh vegetable prepared.
- Include 3 servings of low fat dairy daily: 8 ounces 1% or non-fat milk or yogurt counts as a serving. Get out the blender and try a smoothie made with low fat yogurt and frozen berries to cover a fruit serving and a dairy serving!
- Choose smaller portions of foods that you love. For instance, choose lean meats, trimmed of most fat. You don’t have to limit yourself to fish and poultry; you can include lean cuts of beef and pork. About 6-8 ounces total a day is adequate and will keep saturated fat in check.
- Try something new. You may not like the idea of “vegetarian”, but choosing a bean burger once in a while for lunch, or going for a veggie stir fry, may be quite enjoyable. It’s not about all-or-nothing, but variety.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Do include 4-8 ounces of fish every week. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids. Add other healthy fats – like olives, olive oil, nuts (walnuts, almonds) and seeds (flax, chia) to your diet.
Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies® shares lots of information about blood pressure and dietary therapy, in addition to providing tasty new recipes that supports heart health. Rather than go on a crash diet or exercise program this winter, take small, but consistent steps to improve your heart health. Sustainable lifestyle habits are the key to your long-term health. In a few years, you will find that taking small steps each year results in new healthy habits that help you feel better over your lifetime.
Steamed Broccoli Picatta
from Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies®, copyright 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- 1 large bunch broccoli, cut into stalks
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1. Place the broccoli in a steamer basket over 2 inches of water in a large saucepan over high heat. Cover and steam for about 5 minutes (you can also steam in the microwave. Place broccoli in glass baking dish with tight-fitting lid, cook on high for 4 minutes)
2. In a small skillet, heat the butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the garlic is tender. Add the grated lemon zest.
3. Drizzle the sauce over the steamed broccoli.
Per serving: Calories 41; Fat 3 grams (saturated 2 g); Cholesterol 8 mg; Sodium 33 mg; Carbohydrate 3 g (dietary fiber 1 g); Potassium 130 mg
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I try to dispel myths and switch the focus to learning how to eat in a healthy way (balance, variety, moderation, enjoyable) versus obsessing over any one ingredient, food or food group.
Recently I enjoyed an afternoon with a group of women. The topic of using pre-shredded cheese came up: “I don’t buy pre-shredded cheese. You should always just shred your own.” I, and the other registered dietitian in the room, exchanged glances, knowing we were both thinking: “Why would you avoid this product?”
“Because it has cellulose in it.”
We told them they shouldn’t worry about it. Two things -
- If you want to always shred your own cheese, fine. Go for it!
- But don’t make choices based on an unwarranted fear of something on an ingredient label. Instead, start asking yourself: What is this ingredient really, and is it harmful? Is using this product going to help me eat a better diet overall (perhaps allow you more time to cook a meal at home, or allow you the ease to have ingredients on hand). Is avoiding this product going to significantly improve my dietary intake and health?
As registered dietitians we’re trained in food and nutrition, but also continue to read, review, and take courses to stay up to date on the many aspects of our food supply, human eating behavior, and the applications of clinical nutrition. This information is delivered to our inbox every day. Some critics think we’re all in bed with the food industry (I’m not sure I even know what that means since we our training includes study of “food” and nutrition) but the bottom line is – people eat. It’s our job to know what’s in food, and help consumers understand the potential benefits or harm from eating too much or too little of various foods.
So let’s take a look at a typical package of shredded cheese and its ingredient list (packaged shredded cheese is a staple in my refrigerator – or freezer. I’m a cheese-lover, and also always have bricks of cheese as well, and sometimes shred that – but for busy weeknight tacos or quesadillas, or as quick flavor booster, or for a quick-I-have-to-be-at-at-basketball-game-in-30-minutes-lasagna, – pre-shredded works for me):
Sargento’s 2% fat 4-Cheese Italian Blend: Reduced fat low moisture mozzarella cheese, reduced fat smoked provolone cheese, asiago medium and/or asiago fresh and Romano cheese, potato starch and powdered cellulose (to prevent caking), natamycin (a mold inhibitor)
So this packaged shredded cheese contains – cheese; and two or three other ingredients that may scare you for no good reason: Potato Starch, Cellulose, and Natamycin.
Why would a food company want to add the anti-caking ingredients? Well, to provide customers with a consistently good product that doesn’t clump and therefore can stay in your fridge longer (for folks who don’t have time to run to the grocery store every other day).
Now I realize where this fear comes from. When you do a search for “cellulose” all sorts of insane posts come up: “18 Grossest Ingredients” (never believe something to be true from anyone who identifies something as “gross” or “yucky”), or “Companies that sell you products with wood”.
Cellulose is actually naturally occurring ingredient, and like the potato starch clearly suggests, it is also a starch (which is a complex carbohydrate).
Natamycin, also safe, is an antimicrobial that prevents mold and yeast growth, and thereby enhances a product’s shelf life. It’s reliable and safe to the human body.
I can’t understand why there is all of this food-fear mongering going on. I don’t see what true purpose it serves. Unless you want to completely make everything you eat from scratch (bake your own bread, make your own butter, grow your own vegetables and grains – and if you do, please invite me over for dinner!), a few packaged foods won’t kill you. The ingredients used are safe, and have a purpose (the whole idea of utilizing some packaged food is not just the time-savings, but also the ability to keep things on the shelf for longer periods). Ingredients, such as cellulose, help allow this. They may prevent caking, attract liquid (prolonging shelf life and improving quality of the product), improve texture, or prevent crystallization.
Most people are quite challenged to the follow the healthy diet recommendations made by the experts. People’s lives are busy, they don’t have time to cook dinner, they may not know how to cook dinner, they have stressful jobs or personal lives; but yet they really do want to improve their diets and health. So for this reason, utilizing some convenience foods may help support your big-picture goals.
I’ve said many times: There is no one healthy diet.
I’ve also quoted my former Food Science teacher: “Food is chemistry.”
Don’t fear food
I do not keep a list of foods that I absolutely would “never eat”. I have a list that I may not like or enjoy, but not a “Don’t eat that. It could kill you!!” sort of list. Nothing is forbidden. Nothing. I don’t view food that way, and I don’t think anyone should. Can you eat too much of something? Absolutely. Would it be a bad idea to sustain yourself on gummy bears and toast? Sure. But don’t demonize food in general.
So what do you think? Are you still afraid of pre-shredded cheese? Or is it the least of your worries?
My team isn’t in the game this year, but I’d have to say I’m cheering for the Broncos (sorry Seattle). Superbowl Sunday is a party waiting to happen for most folks, whether they are football fanatics or not. Heck, I’m looking forward to the Arnold commercials, and all of the others!
As you go grocery shopping for your party goods this week, consider adding some healthier ingredients to your cart. Don’t be sucked in by the typical fare that will be lined up in prime zones (aisle end-caps, front of produce and deli department, at the front entrance) at the market with the intention of enticing you to put it into your cart [Typical fare = wings, chips, meat and cheese trays]. Instead, create your own healthy and delicious, crowd-pleasing menu! For instance:
SUPERBOWL PARTY MENU
Carrot and Celery Sticks
Sweet Potato canapes
You can try this recipe, or top those sweet potatoes with just about anything. What a great nutrient-packed alternative to a cracker!
Another idea – use premade pizza shells (such as Thin Crust Boboli, or check your local bakery for a whole wheat crust) to top with something different! Last week I caramelized some onions, added some frozen butternut squash (you can buy this frozen in cubes in freezer section. Mine was frozen from our summer garden). I topped the shells with a few tablespoons of pesto, the onion-squash mixture, some sliced cooked chicken sausage, and some grated Fontina cheese. Yum. You can cut the whole round into small squares for a party.
Keep in mind, that as you plan a menu, feel free to include one tried and true (maybe-even-not-the-healthiest) recipe, but add veggies and some fruit to the spread. If you don’t want to bother with kabobs, just wash some strawberries and grapes and put them into a bowl, and on the table in front of the TV. I promise they will get picked on throughout the game! Eating your veggies doesn’t mean you skip dessert however, so treat yourself to some homemade brownies, or chocolate covered strawberries.
Use these 3 tips as you modify some of your old recipes:
- Using light sour cream, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, low fat cream cheese, or reduced fat shredded cheese, can lighten up your favorite party recipes
- Include one high fat food to enjoy, and balance it out with fruit, vegetables, and a lower fat dip or dish (load those nachos with veggies!).
- Add more beans to dips, stews, chilis, toppings. Beans are loaded with fiber and B vitamins.
Finally – Dude, don’t gorge yourself! Slow down.Tomorrow is another day of healthy eating.
As a nutrition communication consultant I occasionally write about topics related to the food industry clients I may serve, but my blog topics, thoughts and opinions are my own.
Sometimes I enjoy a diet cola. I’m not the type of person who is brand loyal, I buy what’s on sale. I may have one or two a week, max, but when I feel like having one, I have no problem enjoying it. Recently, CNN posted an article advising you to give up diet soda. On what grounds you ask? Well, shaky ones. It’s sad, but not surprising, that mainstream “news” channels are pushing sensationalized topics that grab headlines which they think people want to read about. Blaming the citric acid in the soda for ruining your smile? Citric acid is a common ingredient, and too much of any soda or fruit juice could have negative implications on your teeth.
Sadly however, consumers lose since what they may assume is a factual, reliable news source, turns out to offer falsified, sensationalized information. I’d give them a break if perhaps they reported the information in an investigative way – delivering the report about a recent study, but then interviewing experts that can analyze the research and offer professional views. Instead, they simply used a misleading headline, and provided “fluffy” information without questioning another side to the story. Terms such as “chemical cocktail” are misleading, and are used solely to create hype around a topic.
Like most things, artificial sweeteners should be consumed in moderation. The fact that something is “sugar free” doesn’t mean you should go overboard. They can serve as an effective means to reduce calories, or reduce sugar, especially for people with diabetes. They should not however be substituted obsessively to all foods or beverages. An occasional diet soft drink is one thing, but using non-nutritive sweeteners in every instance may not be necessary when simply eating a smaller portion of a food can control both calories and blood sugar levels.
Some recent research has suggested that sucralose (the sweetener used in Splenda®) causes blood glucose to rise, and therefore an insulin response in obese subjects. The research is still preliminary, and it does not speak for all non-nutritive sweeteners, nor the overall moderate use and safety of non-nutritive sweeteners.
Other than water, fruits and veggies, you should limit most things in your diet. Moderation is a concept that you need to continue to understand and achieve in your diet and lifestyle.
In a perfect world, everyone could eat what they want and live forever. But really, who wants to live forever? How about just learning to enjoy all foods, and limit portions of high calorie, high fat, high sugar, high sodium ones?
It continues to amaze me how humans are drawn to the quick fix, or the easy way out. The old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it is” always applies. Look for red-flag terms such as “quick”, “revolutionary”, and question anything that makes claims with no understanding of human physiology, such as “prevents sugar from turning to fat”. Another flag is any celebrity-endorsed “miracle diet”. Stay away from those false claims. It’s incredible how quickly folks will lay down their hard cash for these “promises-to-be-easy” methods, yet they balk about the out of pocket expense of long-term nutrition counseling from a professional registered dietitian.
Here’s a rundown of a few crazy fad diet trends that seem to resurface year after year in January:
- Cleansing. Why anyone would choose to drink an unsavory beverage instead of chewing food in the morning, is beyond me. The fact that said beverage is not going to offer you any long-term health benefits at all, makes it all the more reason to skip the cleanse. The human body is a complex machine. Our kidneys and liver do a good job at removing toxins every single day (your kidneys pump out about 2 quarts of waste and water through urine each day). There are habits that can reduce your liver function (heavy use of alcohol and street drugs, as well as overuse of OTC medications or prescriptions) but if you are generally healthy, then your liver and kidneys are working just fine to do their jobs. These “cleansing products” and regimes use pseudo-science messaging to make a sale.
- Detox Diet. A sister to the cleanse, a “detox diet” promises to remove toxins from your body so you can lose body fat and boost energy. While there is some value in skipping junk food, reducing sugar, reducing sodium and fat – the idea of “detox” is misleading (and there are even registered dietitians who use the term to sell books or get attention – in most cases, their form of ‘detox’ is simply eating wholesome food). It may sound good when you read “remove the toxins from your body for quick and easy weight loss!” but it’s bullcrap (see previous note on our livers and kidneys doing their job, and add that your colon works hard every day too). There is, and never will be, a “quick and easy (long-term) weight loss”. It’s long-term lifestyle management that promotes weight control.
- Vinegar shots. What? Vinegar is a healthy ingredient to include in your cooking and eating, but why in the world would you want to do a vinegar-shooter? Apparently there are some celebrities who do this in the name of weight control (note – you will not look like Megan Fox afterward, and BTW, I don’t think Megan ever took a human physiology class). Instead, why not just use vinegar to make a salad dressing. Or toss potato wedges into an oil and vinegar mixture and bake them at 425 for 45 minutes for delicious baked steak fries.
- Misinformation. The biggest enemy is nutrition misinformation. Consumers tend to prefer hearing what they want to hear, as opposed to learning the science behind it. Make a resolution to fact-check. Know who your sources are and if they have evidence-based information to share about “why” something works or not. Research is rarely flawless, but it’s a huge step beyond guessing, and properly evaluated, is useful. There’s also some good research that’s been done, and repeated over the years, that does bring us scientific evidence.
Instead of searching for a “cleanse” (that won’t work) or a 6-week starvation diet, how about working on eating sensibly. Adopt an eating plan that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Take the pressure off the month of January! Just eat less of foods you enjoy! Don’t deprive yourself at every meal, and obsess about food or your weight. Don’t let a little belly fat ruin the journey of life. If you aren’t making a living as a supermodel, a little belly fat is normal, and okay. Count your blessings.
Skip the fads and craziness, and learn how to stay active, and simply enjoy eating good food.
Shameless plug: According to the latest report, the DASH diet is still number one. I wrote a cookbook that outlines DASH eating for lowering blood pressure and staying healthy, and will be publishing another one this year that will help you dig in to the DASH diet lifestyle as you continue your life-long journey for healthier eating and living. REMINDER: A book only costs you $10-20, and promotes thoughtful, personal goals toward real change for a lifetime. A “cleanse” that lasts a month can cost you $60 a day! Think about it.
I’m sure you want to be well this coming year. Preventing disease is one of the best strategies for maintaining health. Of course you only have so much control, but you can try to alter some factors in your diet and lifestyle. “Wellness” can be defined as the active process of becoming aware of your habits, and making positive changes to impact your well-being.
Before actual behavior change can take place, you have to be ready. Which stage of change you are in?
• Precontemplation. At this point, the individual has not yet acknowledged that there is a problem behavior that needs to be changed.
• Contemplation. This stage there is acknowledgment that there is a problem but the person is not yet ready or sure they want to make a change
• Preparation/Determination. This is the ‘getting ready’ stage of change
Change can then begin and be sustained during these stages:
• Action/Willpower. At this stage, the individual is actually changing behavior
• Maintenance. This stage involves maintaining the behavior change.
• Relapse. This is a stage in which a person may return to the older behaviors and abandoning the new changes.
You’ve got to be ready to take real steps toward your ultimate goals. Many of us may spend a lot of time in the contemplation and preparation stages; but thinking about what you need to do, and why you need to do it, is still an important step. Since one stage leads to the next, you may ultimately get to the action stage.
Of course maintenance is often the most difficult area. It is also quite typical for people to go back and forth between each stage while working toward a goal. Ideally, once action is taken, maintenance will take over, and relapse will be avoided.
Changing behavior is difficult, and takes time. Start with a few small steps to get your new year off to a great start!
The holidays will come and go, and often revolve around a lot of food. We can say “take the focus off food” or “don’t use food as a reward or to handle stress” but the fact is, this happens sometimes.
Some of you may have said “I’m off my diet this week”. The problem with the word “diet” is that people often misconstrue the term to mean something that is a temporary practice. That is, “I’m on a diet”; “I’m off my diet”. In reality, we are all on a diet every day of our lives. Our “diet” is what we eat and drink. If you are concerned about your health, then you should be “on” a weight management program for life. Even those who have never been obese are on their own version of a weight management program; otherwise they would add themselves to the growing obesity statistics.
This is a time of year when we are faced with special challenges in our weight control efforts. During the holidays, you may eat out more often, choosing higher calorie foods. You may also drink more alcohol or other high calorie beverages. Your exercise routine may change or by non-existent (even though I often recommend getting more exercise, the fact is, time is at a premium right?).
Eating challenges during the holidays are similar to those when you are on vacation or handling other special occasions (e.g. a family wedding). Your regular meal patterns and exercise patterns change.
So what can you do? Well, certainly we cannot stop life from happening; that would not be any fun, nor is it realistic. You can maintain your weight while you enjoy all of these special occasions; it simply takes a bit of planning.
Tips to help you maintain your weight when “on holiday”:
1. If you enjoy dining out for dinner, plan light breakfast and lunch. If there is a breakfast buffet that you want to enjoy, you either have to choose to eat lower calorie items from it, or enjoy it as a “brunch” and eat very lightly for lunch.
2. If you want to just sit and relax, that’s fine. This is the purpose of vacations! But, if you also want to enjoy food and beverage, then you have to balance it out. Sure you burn some calories just sitting there, but if you work in a little bit of activity, you can really enjoy the fine dinner you will be having in the evening. So try to plan to move slowly in the morning and plan an activity for mid afternoon. Perhaps just take an after-dinner walk, or do some sightseeing on foot.
3. Buy some healthy snacks. Even if you are in a hotel room or your sister-in-laws spare bedroom, stop at a local grocer and purchase some apples, nuts, pretzels or low fat crackers to keep on hand when hunger strikes. You are bound to get hungry, so if you have some good choices on hand, you will likely make better choices than if you were only to resort to the vending machine or snack bar.
4. Alcohol can overload your calorie limit. If you enjoy a cocktail, be sure to limit the quantity, and drink water or club soda in between. For instance, have one cocktail and one glass of wine with dinner.
Don’t feel guilty about eating or splurging. Just keep working on balance and moderation, and continue to find ways to increase physical activity, and eat less.