Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I can remember being at a New Year's Eve party when I was in high school. I had my New Year's resolution all ready to go when the last gong struck at midnight. It was the one I always made: I was going to lose weight. Diet, strictly, until I finally looked good. No goofing off: this was my year to do it. But, I still had time before the ball on Times Square fell. Until then, I stuffed my face with Lays chips and sour cream and onion dip. I mean, after midnight, that stuff would be no more. I ate crackers, cheese-- all sorts of nibblies that would soon be forbidden. Then, it happened. The last gong sounded. The diet was on! But the party was still going on, and I was so tired, and other people were still eating. I did it. I ate another chip. It was all over. I destroyed my entire resolution for that whole year. That fresh, new opportunity was gone. I was a failure once again. So, what the heck? I kept on eating...until next year...

Every year I
tried to set a New Year's resolution: I resolved to lose weight. I always failed. In retrospect, I know I was trying to lose weight because it was the time I was supposed to do it: everyone made New Year's resolutions. I think I may have been resolving to lose weight for the calendar, in a way, but certainly not starting then because I was ready to do it for me.

As you face the new year tomorrow, think before you make a resolution to make those big, dramatic health change promises to yourself. If you can make the resolution with the understanding that becoming healthier is a goal that requires traveling a path with lots of bumps along the way, and you know in your heart that this is goal is for you, not for the calendar, that's great! Set up your resolution and reach for it! Accept slips as you learn your new healthier habits.

But, if you know that your idea of a resolution is an all-or-nothing/do or die approach, or you know you are doing it solely because of the calendar, don't even go there. You are setting yourself up for failure. Love yourself enough to know what your real intentions are. To succeed in reaching any health goal, you have to be willing to endure ups and downs in changing your behavior: learning to forgive yourself is a critical part of this process. You aren't ready yet for a big sweeping goal. Just start, one day at at time, making small changes in your behaviors that will result in changing your long term health habits. One small step at a time. Keep on kicking, don't every give up! (See the Frog blog post :) I, unfortunately, took many, many years to learn this key to my own healthy success.

To Your Health in the New Year and Always!

Setting Yourself Up for Success

I received an SOS email from a reader up to her elbows in leftover holiday goodies that have taken control of her. A little cookie here, a few handfuls of Chex mix there, and her old habits are back and she can't seem to make herself pick up an apple any more. She wants help getting herself into the healthy eating groove again because she's starting to feel "like a bloated, lazy whale."

First of all, you are certainly not alone! I know many of you are feeling the same way right now. No matter how good our intentions are, sometimes old habits sneak back in and like to keep us hostage: those nasty old habits, just when we thought we had them beat!

At times like this, the key is to take care of yourself from the outside in--your surroundings. Think baby-proofing. When a baby first starts to creep and crawl, parents immediately race around covering stairways with gates, using plug covers, and making sure all dangerous glass objects are out of reach for that baby. Why? Not because that baby isn't smart, but because the parents love the child and want to protect him. The baby just isn't ready to make good decisions about his actions yet.

You need to love yourself enough to acknowledge that at this point, you aren't able to make good decisions about your food choices. You aren't stupid, a failure or anything else negative. It's just that, right now, that's where you are. You need a little extra care and love.

Take a survey of your entire environment: kitchen, living room, candy dishes, purse, backpack, car, office, everything. Safety first!

Clean up time!! Get rid of the foods that are giving you trouble that are sitting around in dishes and on counters. Pack them up and hide them at the back of the cupboard, freeze, give away, throw away or dump them down the garbage disposal. Whatever works best for you. If you want a little support with this, these foods are stale now (work with me here!) The more hands that have been in these foods, the more germs lurk within---totally yuck! You already know what it tastes like, so eating more will do absolutely nothing positive for you. Out of sight they go, deal?

Bring on the Healthy Foods! Hit the grocery store. Stock up on all your "old" favorite healthy snacks--go for the colors! Make sure you have plenty on hand and readily available. When you open the refrigerator, healthy snacks should be right at eye level: carrots, low fat yogurt, apples---not that leftover pecan pie!

Set Out Your Healthy Choices. I filled a pretty glass dish with my favorite Archer Farms organic 100% fruit leathers yesterday. It was a hit! Make a beautiful fresh fruit bowl for the kitchen counter. Pop some 94% fat-free microwave popcorn when you play a game with the family.

The key here is to recognize that even if you are still at home and in the snacking mode, you can encourage yourself to reach for the "happy body" choices.When you just can't seem to find your way back to healthy eating, it's all about safe guarding your surroundings. Once your environment is supportive, you will find it so much easier to start behaving like that healthy, svelte, buff person you are striving to become!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dinner Party

My husband and I were invited out for dinner last night at the home of one of his work colleagues. I just want to share with you what an amazing dinner this hostess presented for us as far as taste, health and nutrition, and her ease of putting it together. Granted, these folks had never met me before but they did know I was a nutritionist. That can make some people really uneasy until they really get to know me! I'm sure she was a bit worried about what to serve, though I wish people knew I never pass judgement. (I just control my own portions if things are a bit rich for me...)

For hors d'oeuvres, she had nuts, olives, some warm brie cheese, crackers and fresh cubes of cantaloupe. If you think about that, it was very simple to do, but a very nutritious and an attractive offering: the olives and nuts are very high in mono-unsaturated, heart healthy fats, the cantaloupe so rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Warming up just a bit of high calcium cheese for fun with some crackers---easy, nice, delicious. Easy to nibble on and visit around. Perfect.

Dinner was baked salmon with a homemade pureed vegetable topping, brown rice mixed with asparagus, and a cold veggie blend with tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers. The variety of deep colors were there--lots of healthy antioxidants (see previous post,) the whole grain from the brown rice provided great fiber and more antioxidant power, and the salmon was loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids which are a mother lode of health and nutrition. Fantastic.

Dessert included a few decadent sweets cut into tiny pieces that we could choose if we wanted to, served with tea. Small pieces help here. I chose a tiny sliver of the cheesecake flavor I wanted the most and stopped there. Yummy! Satisfied. Really, really nice.

This is what it's all about. Many of us need to learn that it isn't too difficult to put on a dinner party that's healthy. Offering nutritious foods can be easier than you think. Open those jars of olives and nuts, cut those melons into cubes. Focus on ease of preparation and lots of color add variety of textures and temperatures...and do as much as you can ahead of time...leave time to visit with each other! Two thumbs up!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's Chili Time

It's time for a bowl of wonderful hot chili! Chili is so good and filling-- just perfect for this time of year. I am going to give you two recipes. The chicken chili is incredibly easy, absolutely anyone can make it. It's a favorite of many teens, too. The veggie chili is our family favorite and our go-to meal when we need some really filling food for not too many calories. For this one all you need to do it chop! Both are so packed full of health, nutrition and all sorts of wonderful flavor. And, both are very good for the slow cooker.

Easy Chicken Chili
2 chicken breasts, cubed
24 oz. jar salsa (choose your level of heat)
48 oz. jar Great Northern beans (or mixed beans,) drained and rinsed
1 tsp. cumin, optional

Combine all ingredients. Cook until chicken is done, and chili is thicken, 1 hour on low heat on stove top, or 4 -8 hours on low in crock pot.

Vegetarian Chili

2 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoon chili powder

1 1/2 cups yellow onions, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 jalapeno peppers, minced (seeds, opt.*)

2-15oz. cans diced tomatoes

1-2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice

2-15oz. cans black beans, drained

1 pound portobello mushrooms, cubed

1-15oz. can tomato sauce

2 cups frozen corn

1 cup vegetable stock

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Cooked brown rice, accompaniment

Chopped green onions, garnish

Light sour cream, garnish

Franks Red Hot sauce

1. In small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper, and set aside.

2. In large Dutch Oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, red pepper, garlic, andjalapeno peppers, and saute until soft.

3. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and corn, and cook, stirring, until vegetables give off their liquid (about 5 minutes) .

4. Add the spice mixture, stir well to coat all of the vegetables. Cook for 1 minute.

5. Add the tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock. Stir well and bring to boil.

6. Simmer on low heat for one hour.

7. Remove from heat, and stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasonings, to taste.

To serve, place 1/2 cup brown rice in bottom of each bowl. Ladle one cup of chili into the bowls over the rice. Top each serving with 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream, and garnish with chopped green onions. Add hot sauce, to taste.

(*For the faint of heart: seed one or both of the jalapeƱos before mincing)

Bon appetite and Good Health!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Story of a Frog

Two frogs fell into a can of cream, or so it's be told,
The sides of the can were shiny and steep, the cream was deep and cold.
Oh, "What's the use?," said number one. "It's plain no helps around."
"Good-bye cruel world, good-bye my friend." And sadly, he was drowned.

But number two, of sterner stuff, doggy-paddled in surprise.
This as he licked his creamy lips and blinked his creamy eyes.
"I'll swim at least awhile," he thought, or so it's be said.
"It really wouldn't help the world if one more frog were dead."

So he kicked and swam and kicked some more,
And not once did he stop to mutter,
Then out he hopped on the island he'd made,
Out of fresh, churned butter!

Moral of the story: Just keep on kicking---don't you ever give up. Be the frog!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In the Candy Aisle

Yesterday, I was standing in the candy aisle at Target with my husband. We were searching for some holiday colored wrapped chocolates. In the process, we found ourselves having a very odd conversation about which candy to buy. The kids were coming home, and we wanted to have just a few holiday candies, but instead of getting what anyone loved, we talked only about what would be a problem for us and what would be "safe" to bring home! Amazing. We left all the M & M's at the store. Snickers are downright dangerous for him. After much debate, we came up with little dark Dove chocolates (go antioxidants!) and Butterfinger bells. The dark chocolate has such a strong, rich flavor that neither of us eat more than one of those, so good choice there. Butterfinger, well the kids will like those just fine, and they don't call to either one of us. This is not how we've ever shopped for candy together before...

I have been married to this guy for over 30 years. He used to love to bring me any type of chocolate if I "needed" it: peanut M & M's, Hershey bars with almonds, and he was always very willing to make a run to buy more if the moon was right. I guess in a way he was an enabler, but I would never hold that against him. I never said "no" to the chocolate either! He lost his own 60 pounds this past year. He asked me for help, so I provided it. You see, I knew I could not do it for him. He could only do it when he was ready, so I waited. Until January. That was when he found out his blood glucose levels were a bit high, and that was that. Now, he's totally on board with me whenever we make meals together, go grocery shopping, or are eating out.

It was really cool in Target. And it was even more wonderful when we got home, unpacked and realized there were no voices calling to us from any of those bags of candies!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Putting the Power in Shopping and Cleaning

I'm so tired! There is just really no time for a real work-out in my life right now. I did walk the dog this morning with my husband in the snow covered park which was a fun trek, especially for the dog! Why do dogs love newly fallen snow so much? I'm sure he used three times as much energy as we did prancing from bush to bush.

The rest of the day was running around from one shopping errand to the next---making a list and crossing it off. If I ever lose this little spiral notebook I'm using for my zillion lists, I'm going to be in big trouble. Oh, and I have kids coming home from college and my house still needs to be cleaned and.... Oops, I remember what one of you told me once. Don't sweat the small stuff, and a messy house is the small stuff. Thanks for reminding me!

I also need to remind you and myself that it's OK if we use shopping and cleaning as our exercise right now. Really. We don't need to feel guilty for not doing more, especially when life takes on the crazy pace like it is for many of us right now. And we need to remember that we are doing something active, we just need to think about taking advantage of the activity, put a smile on, and use a little more muscle power if we can. Attitude is everything, and every little bit helps!

Putting the Power in Shopping:
  • Wear your running shoes for power shopping.
  • Make frequent trips back to the car with packages.
  • Balance shopping bags equally between hands.
  • Park as far away from the store as you can (as if we have a choice right now.)
  • Traffic light? Hold your stomach in (keep breathing!) and count to 30. Repeat until light's green.
  • Stretch your head side to side, roll shoulders, etc., when standing in lines.
Power Cleaning:
  • Move that vacuum! Use full motions to work that body.
  • Take advantage of household cleaning: put power into making the beds, cleaning tubs!
  • Own every trip you make up and down the stairs, it does a body good.
  • Each time the phone rings, do stretches while sitting or standing.
At the end of the day, slip your feet into some warm fuzzy socks, have a cup of green tea, put on a favorite movie, and just simply relax..............

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Power of Antioxidants, Part II

Now that you know just how awesome antioxidants are, its time to figure out how to find them. This field is just bursting all over with research, so news is constantly streaming in. My job will be to make this easy for you. OK?

Think deep, rich vibrant colors. The deeper the better: more colorful, the richer the antioxidant level. Red, orange, purple, yellow and dark green fruits and veggies are loaded with the Free Radical Fighter--FRF-- (see yesterday's post :) antioxidant beta-carotene. Try apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green, yellow and red peppers, kale, turnip & collard greens, nectarine, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon. See the splash of color?

Remember when your mom made your drink your orange juice every morning? Well that OJ is full of another FRF antioxidant Vitamin C. Other sources are berries, broccoli, clementines, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, mangoes, melons, oranges, papaya, peppers of all colors, spinach, sweet potatoes, tangerines, tomatoes, and more. Notice the color here, too!

Vitamin E is our next FRF. You'll find rich amounts in nuts and sunflower seeds (be careful if you are trying to control your weight. A few is perfect...too many give you lots of calories.) Also try broccoli, carrots, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, papaya, red peppers, and spinach.

Selenium is mineral that has proved to be a wonderful FRF antioxidant. Fascinating, but Brazil nuts are loaded (again, lots of calories here) beef, chicken, turkey, tuna, whole grains and breads that are fortified with selenium.

I know when I was a life guard (no, not Bay Watch by any means!!) the only way I knew zinc was in the zinc oxide we used to rub on our noses to prevent sunburn. It turns out that zinc is also a cool FRF. Red meats, turkey, chicken, beans (like black or kidney,) seafood, oysters, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals and dairy products.

We have still have phytochemicals (there's your red wine, tea) and a kazillion flavonoids (can you say, "dark chocolate?") they have identified so far, but that's enough for now.

How about taking antioxidants in pill form instead? No (unless your doc says to.) The food source is always better. The FRF's are more readily absorbed from the foods, and you are getting lots of other wonderful things in the whole food instead of the supplements. Too big a dose of some of these antioxidants can be toxic, too. Bad news.

Moral of this post? Eating a big variety of deep rich colorful foods isn't just a good idea, it's a way to stay healthier, feel better, and who knows? Maybe you'll even live longer... Back off you evil Free Radicals!

The Power of Antioxidants, Part I

Antioxidants are the super heroes that do amazing things like possibly reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. You know they've reached the status of being wonder foods when you start seeing foods labeled, "Loaded With Antioxidants," or when the manufacturers start adding them to the foods. Yes, antioxidants have certainly achieved star power in the world of nutrition. So, what are these magical little minions?

You are 6 years-old. Without you knowing, your big brother took your little red wagon on a joy ride, scratched it up, and hid it from you. A week or more later, you finally find it behind a clump of trees in the backyard. In tears, you find it has all sorts of brown stuff around the scratches: it had rusted, or oxidized.

I want you to imagine the cells in your body are made of metal (they aren't, of course, but go with me on this...) There are some evil-dude cells that belong to the Free Radical gang. They have red horns on them and carry little hammers in each hand, just floating around and up to no good. They LOVE to attack perfectly healthy, happy good-guy cells with their hammers---sneaking up and pounding on their poor metal shells until the outside is damaged, sometimes so much that the wall breaks all the way through. That cell's brain (DNA) is open to permanent damage. Oxidation takes place around this banged up area and the cell begins to rust (not really, but its fun to imagine.) Once the cells are damaged, a very rapid chain reaction growth occurs, and diseases like cancer can begin. Or, in my words, the brain-injured good-guy cell now thinks he's bad and starts growing little red horns and goes over to the dark side and joins the Free Radical gang and goes on to damage another cell---wreaking havoc in your neighborhood. If you don't watch out, the FR gang can quickly take over and create nasty diseases.

Free radicals can form from environmental pollutants, from by products of our own metabolic processes (what normally occurs inside of us,) infection, radiation, smoking, as well as other things. Some of these risks we can minimize, some are harder to do.

What would have prevented that red wagon from rusting in the first place? Rust-o-leum (rust proof paint!) What will help us fight Free Radical gang's damage to our cells? Spray painting our cells is not an option. But, research has found that all sorts of ANTIOXIDANTS kind of rust-proof our cells. Some antioxidants put a super-hero strength protective shield around the cell so the hammers cannot damage the shell. Other antioxidants have the super power ability to freeze FR gang members in their tracks. These zap-men halt the chain reaction growth of those free radicals in their tracks. Pretty cool, huh?

Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, selenium and so many others. Tomorrow, I will delve deeper into antioxidant rich foods. Stay tuned for Part II!! Until then, eat some extra vegetables, fruits, whole grains and a few extra nuts...

Prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Be healthy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When You Eat and Eat and Eat...

Something would set it off. It was as if an alien force was taking over me...I'd go into the kitchen. I wasn't hungry hungry, I just wanted FOOD! Sometimes, I would start with baby carrots and crunch on those. When that didn't cut it, I'd try an apple. Nope, that didn't work either. Then, I'd grab a box of crackers and munch on those for while. I was then on to the next level: cookies, ice cream, chocolate. It didn't matter. Nothing could stop me now: I had started the decent down the slippery chocolate slide into the deep, dark abyss of the peanut M&M pit.

Do you ever have times when you eat like this and just can't seem to stop? That used to be me so frequently. It does still happens occasionally, but I have identified the emotions that trigger the chocolate slide in me: when I'm both really tired and stressed. Now I carefully stay on alert when I'm in my danger zone and keep the food triggers out of sight.

The question that was emailed in: how do you stop once you are in the midst of that uncontrolled eating mania?

  1. Recognize that you have lost control.
  2. Stop. As Nike says, "Just Do It." This takes practice.
  3. Time Out. Promise yourself you will not eat for 10 minutes. I usually drink a couple of big glasses of water at this point. The goal is just like when we give a child a time out: try to get a grip on your behavior and think about changing it.
  4. Change your action. After the time out, immediately start doing something else. Walk it out, call a friend (especially one who is good support for you) and talk it out, write it out on paper, read, go online.
  5. Forgive yourself! This took me forever to learn, but until you do, you may go through these cycles where you lose control eating, eat too much, feel guilty, eat more because you feel guilty...a miserable cycle.
  6. Practice this until you can do it!
Changing a habit like this doesn't come easily. Love and care for yourself enough to keep working at it. Anything worth having is worth working for: your health!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Non-Food Rewards

Anne's comment about her teenager receiving candy bars as "way-to go!" prizes in high school reminded me that my kids got candy rewards in school, too. It always bothered me, but I never said anything to the teachers because I was afraid of making waves for my children. And, of course, the kids did love it. So, what's the problem? Every time this happens, the message is reinforced that when the child behaves well and/or does a good job on a paper or test-- bring on the candy!

I do understand where the teachers are coming from, and I have to give them lots credit for the intent. They have one of the toughest jobs and they deal with so many kids to keep challenged and motivated. And candy is universally loved, inexpensive, and an immediate reward. I don't suppose carrots would be a big hit?

As an alternative, one of my kids had a teacher with a treasure box that was filled with an assortment of little prizes--rings, erasers, odds and ends--and the kids got to choose from the box when they earned a reward. I really liked that, though it probably wouldn't go very well in high school. Anne mentioned that some good praise goes a long way, too. Nothing but benefits, there! What else would work in high school?

How are you doing with your own reward system? Listen to yourself this week. If you hear yourself thinking you need an ice cream sundae because you got a big project completed---beware. That's using food as a reward, which is not good for the head or the body.

When you do something that deserves a reward, what are some good choices?
  • reading time
  • gaming time
  • extra time to chat with a friend
  • down load a song or a new CD
  • new book
  • bubble bath
  • new scented candle
  • fresh flowers
  • stickers
It's true. I like to put those metallic brightly colored smiley-face stickers in my day planner when I've exercised, so I can see how many smileys I can accumulate in a week. I exercised, I get a sticker. It's a game, a motivational tool. I realize it's at a rather kindergarten level, but it works for me :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Little Gift List for a Healthier You!

I don't know about you, but I have been getting lots of questions lately as to what I want for Christmas. Yes, I know many of you are already done shopping, but my husband and kids usually wait to get in on all the fun and excitement of the last minute shopping for just the right gifts, probably due to a good dose of busy schedules and procrastination. Of course, I do the shopping for most everyone, and they just shop for 1 or 2 people, but let's not get into that!

It occurred to me that it would be good to come up with a list of gifts that would make reaching our health goals easier, or at least more fun. I will definitely need your help on this one. I'll begin the list, and you send in your ideas. Ready?

Wish List of Gifts For A Healthier You:

For Fitness...
  1. Pedometer
  2. Pedometer or heart monitor watch
  3. BPA-free water bottle
  4. Nintendo Wii
  5. Wii Fit, Wii Fit Plus
  6. Fitness Video
  7. Yoga mat
  8. YakTrax---ice traction slip-ons (Mine work great!)
  9. Work out journal
  10. Hand weights
  11. Gym membership
  12. Sessions with a trainer
  13. IPod or other MP3 player
  14. ITunes gift card
For Nutrition...
  1. Healthy cookbook
  2. Potted fresh herbs
  3. Spices/spice blends
  4. Special vinegars
  5. Nice olive oil
  6. Good knives
For Food Intake Control...
  1. Food journal diary
  2. Colored pens to write in your diary & stickers for encouragement
  3. Food scale (digital ones are best)
  4. Colorful measuring cups and spoons
  5. Body weight scale
Simply for Your Mental Health...
  1. Gift certificate for a massage
  2. Gift certificate for pedicure/manicure
  3. Gift certificate for facial or any other spa treatment
  4. Gift certificate for baby sitting
Remember, the greatest gift you can give yourself is the Gift of Caring for You...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

If You Don't Behave...

It's happening again... The hairs on the back of my neck and arms begin to rise. I get this feeling that starts at the base of my spine and slowly rises until it reaches the top of my head: little bumps rising up as the shiver arrives at the top. My head starts to throb a little--I'm mad. Well, frustrated at least...I want to say something, but I don't.

Once again I am in the grocery store. As I turn into aisle 7, I see an angry mother scolding her 4 year-old girl as they stand next to their cart. "If you don't stop that, you won't get a candy bar!" Arrrrgh!!!!! As a mom of three grown children, I know that seems like a quick behavior fix in the heat of the moment, but parents, this is wrong on so many levels.

First, it teaches the child that food is a reward. A reward for good behavior. A child learns: if I am good, I get to eat.

In this case, as is the case most often, it imprints on young brains that sweet treats are the best reward. This give sweet treats even more power: cookies and candy go on a pedestal. A child learns: I have done something good, therefore I am good, so I deserve ice cream. That sad message often follows him/her for life.

Correcting a child's behavior (or your own, by the way!) should not be done with food. If you need a reward, how about a page of stickers, a pencil, cute pad of paper, or something else fun but not too pricey and non-edible? Or you could promise to play a game together. With these rewards we aren't messing up the future generation's heads when it comes to food.

When my daughter was growing up, we had a great adventure every time we hit the grocery store. We both enjoyed this game from the time she was small enough to be riding in front of me in the grocery cart, until she was checking off our list. She was allowed to pick out one fruit she wanted, all by herself, just for her. She didn't have to share it with her two older brothers, mom, or dad. She loved it! She got to look over all those fruits. Sometimes it was a starfruit or a kiwi. But, often she'd end up choosing one fun colored plum. Our "Fruit Game" was never tied to her behavior. And I am positive she enjoyed that plum she chose herself much more than any candy bar at the checkout! Long term benefits were many: love of fruits, awareness of the variety of fruits, quality time spent with mom, and great memories by the plum bins!

Try for 2 or 3 fruits today! Fruit: The Happy Sweet!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Party Line: Buffets

'Tis the season to be eating down the party line: the buffet.

Fa, la, la, la, lookout! There are parties at school, at the office, at your friend's, the family's and you're even hosting one of your own next week. With the festive atmosphere and plentiful food, we run the risk of diving head first into the buffet table if don't take a little time to plan ahead and get our heads on straight.

Buffets are the most popular serving option out there. Unfortunately, dangers lurk between those lines!

Evil that lurks within the buffet lines:
  • Lots of food. Studies have shown the bigger the serving bowl, the more we tend to eat, so we have to hold the reins, dear, on how much we eat.
  • Wide variety. It's a party, so let's try it all, right? Bigger variety, we run the risk of turning into a food inhalation machine.
  • Hanging out by the table. It's fascinating to watch people at these parties, but so much of the meeting and greeting and all that party stuff goes on right next to the food table. Result? Too easy to reach for a refill of Chex mix or just one more mini pecan tart. Sometimes if you get really involved in a conversation, you won't even realized you've eaten more!
  • Lots of unhealthy food/not much healthy food. It becomes tougher to balance your treat choices with a nutrient-dense choice.
Our Buffet Line Battle Strategy:
  • Have a snack before you go. You'll hear this often from me: keeping your blood sugar level steady is key to managing your food! A small low fat yogurt or something from your survival stash is great.
  • Get a beverage in your hand when you get there--it gives you something to do with your hands instead of nibble. Water, diet soda, coffee or tea would be great. A small glass of wine, light beer, or one shot of alcohol with juice or sugar free mixer would be fine, too.
  • Scope out the buffet. What are the two yummiest looking things on the table? What are your healthiest choices? Note the location of the fruit and veggies!
  • Fill half you plate with fruits and veggies first. This leaves less room for less healthy foods, and increases the nutritional balance of nutrition on your plate---pretty tricky, huh?
  • Now add your top two picks--what you want the most--in small servings.
  • Tiny servings of anything else you want to taste goes on the rest of the plate. Don't take foods you can get at any time, unless you really want it. You are more special than that. Don't deprive yourself, but don't go overboard, either. We don't want pain afterward.
  • You should be able to see the plate when you look down from the top! This prevents overlapping heaps of foods :)
  • Now, sit down if chairs are available. If not, move yourself AWAY from the table. You need to stay well out of arm's reach of those goodies.
  • Fill your plate only once, unless you want extra fruits and veggies: first bite tastes as good as the last!
  • Grab two beverages if you catch yourself still wanting to nibble (coffee and water, for example, not 2 beers!) You may be called a two-fisted drinker, but it's really hard to dip into the bowl of chips when you have both your hands full. This trick has helped me with control so many times.
If you are the one giving the party, remember to include at least one beautiful tray of veggies and low fat dip, and another one of fresh fruit on toothpicks with a fun low fat dip.
A great fruit dip:
1 cup fat free (sugar-free, too if you'd like) vanilla yogurt
1 cup crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained well
1 cup fat free Cool Whip

Anne wrote in to mention that she made mini-fresh fruit kabobs at her annual party and lots more were eaten this year. Great idea! How about other ideas on what you serve for healthy dishes on your party's buffet line?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oreos and the "Old" Me

We rarely had "store-bought" cookies. I always made them with my two sons who were at that time 2 and 6. They loved doing that, but this was a different kind of special. We were in the grocery store, all three of us happy as could be because we had entire package of Oreos in our shopping cart. They were on sale and I had a coupon. Money was really tight since both my husband and I were in graduate school---need I say more.

When we got back to our apartment, we made a big production out of our Oreo treat. The boys sat down at the table and I poured milk into cute little mugs. They both totally got into the dipping, twisting, licking and munching their Oreos and slurping the milk, which by that time had turned to a light speckled brown color. I, like usual, didn't sit with them, but flitted around doing other things in the kitchen while they ate. I'm sure I ate a couple cookies while flitting, though that memory isn't as clear. When I cleaned up the plates, both of them had a part of a cookie left on their plates (they always left part of a cookie...they were full! What does that have to do with a COOKIE??) so I quickly popped those bits in my mouth before placing them into the dishwasher. Pre-rinse cycle, you know. I placed the Oreo package in the cupboard where they remained quiet and safe for the rest of the day.

After taking the boys to school the next day (well, one to his Mother's Morning Out program) I went back to the apartment. Then, I started to hear voices...They were calling to me from the cupboard. I was drawn to the kitchen. I couldn't help myself! I stood there and started eating Oreos. I put them back and walked away, thinking, "bad girl, these are bad for you, how stupid to start eating these." But I kept coming back to them. The Oreos had a force of their own. I was overpowered. In the end, I stood there at the kitchen sink looking at the empty package of cookies thinking only one thing: I have to replace these before the boys find out they are gone.

I headed back to the grocery store, wishing I had more money so I could buy a bunch more groceries so no one would notice me buying a package of Oreos. I headed to the check out. The shortest line was the same gal that checked me out the day before, so I chose a longer line. I mean, what if she remembered I bought Oreos yesterday, and was coming back for more today?

I sped back to the apartment. I didn't have much time before I had to pick up the younger one. I stood by the counter once again, and looked at the bag. I realized I had one more job to do. You see, my boys were really bright, so I had to take every precaution. I quickly cut open the bag and ate Oreos until the bag was back to the same level of emptiness it was before the dark side took over earlier that morning.

Can anyone relate to me? That was a long time ago. The boys are now almost 26 and 30. Have I changed? Yes! I can proudly say, now when I have cookies, I sit down and enjoy 1, 2, and on a rare occasion even 3, preferable with a glass of milk. I really let myself taste them instead of spending the entire time feeling guilty that I am eating them. And, I actually eat them in front of people! You know something? Life is so much better like this. I can control food....It doesn't control me anymore.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Safe Snack Survival Stash

One of the most powerful things you can do to keep your nutritional needs cared for, especially during the holiday food frenzy, is to set up your safe snack survival stash. Keep one at home, one at work or at school, one in your car and carry a tiny one with you in your purse, briefcase, or backpack. Your goal is to keep these snacks at the ready, so if you start feeling a bit hungry, you can grab something to eat quickly. Keeping a steady blood sugar level throughout the day helps both mental and physical performance. You certainly don't want to take an exam or make any major decisions when you haven't eaten for awhile, and if you play that basketball game with low blood sugar there is no way you'll play your best! Very important to note: we all have a tendency to lose control of what we eat and how much we eat when we get too hungry--look out M&M's! It's always a good idea to grab one of these little snacks before you go to a big dinner or party, to take charge of your hunger before it takes charge of you!

Safe Snack Survival Snacks need to be:

1) At least somewhat nutrient dense/healthy
2) Portable
3) Non-perishable
4) Fill you up and stabilize your blood sugar (higher in fiber and/or protein is great here)
5) Taste good---let's not waste time trying to tell ourselves to eat it because its good for us when we don't like it. We'll go for the chips every time.
6) Single servings

Here's the survival stash that works for my husband and I:
  • Kashi TLC dark chocolate coconut fruit and grain bars
  • Archer farms 100% fruit organic fruit leathers, pomegranate
  • All Bran multi-grain crackers---1 ounce portions packed in sandwich bags
  • Emerald almonds, 1/2 ounce packages, plain and I love the cocoa covered!
  • Wheat Thins, multi-grain--1 ounce portions in bags
  • Dried Cherries, 1 ounce in bags
Remember, it's survival of the fittest...
Let us know what's in your safe snack survival stash!?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Treat Overload Survival Guide

They're everywhere... you can run but you can't hide! Red and green M&M's, chocolate Santas, bells, special edition peppermint ice cream, and caramel corn. The aroma of warm spiced nuts at the mall. Everyone's talking about their wonderful, special traditions and foods, and they keep bringing in all these treats to work and school! Eating a few of these is just fine. Eating too many and calling it lunch or dinner is not. If you do, your body will fight back and make your more tired, irritable, sluggish, and you'll be hungry sooner than if you had a healthy balance of food. Wrong fuel: car pings....and so it is with you!

Many of these foods only come around once a year, making us want to eat even more of them since we won't get them for another whole year. We are so tired and stressed out, it's even harder to choose wisely. Then, there are the sensory overloads: see the pretty fudge, smell the fudge, taste the fudge---we even hear the fudge call our name! It's time to make peace with the holiday foods.

So, here's a game plan for holiday treat overload survival:

1) Take a deep breath, and breathe out slowly. Repeat until relaxed.
2) Make eating your choice-- don't let someone else force you to eat it because they made it or brought it. Tell that evil food pusher that you are not hungry. If that doesn't work, throw out a medical excuse like a food allergy. I used that a few times while I was learning to say "no," and it worked like a charm. (It was partly true, I was going to break out in fat!) And try not to let the spiced nuts decide for you that you are going to eat them, if know what I mean. You stay in control of your decisions.
3) When you have that holiday treat have something healthy along with it-- milk or an apple to balance it out.
4) Sit down and treasure every bite. Don't grab, stand and pop it in your mouth.
5) The first bite tastes the same as the last! That line was golden for me as I learned not to deprive myself, and that I did have the ability to stop after one brownie. I didn't have to finish the entire pan so they wouldn't bother me anymore, like I used to. Amazing...

Remember, if you feel like you are being bombarded by masses of treats and you are starting to indulge weigh too much, you can stop the holiday food train and start making your own choices. Fire up you guys, you can do this!