Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eating Out WITHOUT Getting Fat

If I had a dollar for every person I've heard blame their overweight issues on eating out, well lets just say I'd have enough dollars for a very nice meal or two :). Eating out is lots of fun (not to mention convenient) and almost every social event seems to revolve around food, but the excess portions and calories that usually accompany a meal out can quickly make it not worth it when you're trying to be healthy or loose weight. It is possible, though, to eat out and even indulge occasionally without sabotaging your health and your diet. As long as you prepare and inform yourself ahead of time you can avoid the guilt and frustration and not be afraid of your scale the next day.

At the very most basic it always goes back to being aware of what you're putting in your body. Most restaurants make nutrition information available either on their website or upon request at the restaurant itself. This is a good place to start, it's helpful to know that the soup or salad you thought was so healthy is actually loaded with calories and/or fat. Most of us are not as good at estimating the nutritional value of foods as we think we are. It's also a good deterrent to see that the cheesecake you're thinking about eating all by yourself is over 1,000 calories with 40 or more grams of fat most of which are saturated. Know what you're putting in your body! (I know I sound redundant but I want it embedded in your brain) Even if you are purposefully indulging(and in my opinion that is totally ok on occasion) it should be planned, if you know you're going to binge on a 1,500 calorie dinner it's a good idea to save some calories earlier in the day, be extra careful that week, or at the very least be prepared that you won't be happy with your scale for a couple days or longer. You also need to know that you can indulge in food that tastes amazing (and isn't great for you - yes I know it never tastes as good if you know it's "healthy") without putting unnecessary processed or chemical junk in your body. Many bakeries are using all natural ingredients to make delicious sweet treats and you can find other kinds of all natural "junk" food at almost any grocery store these days.

Along those same lines, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to make a healthy choice if you decide what you're going to eat before you ever get in the restauraunt. When you show up unprepared and spend time looking over the menu you are setting yourself up for failure. Apetizing smells all around you and wonderful descriptions of savory fried or buttery deliciousness will tempt you to make the wrong choice, especially if you're very hungry. So plan ahead, know what you can eat that won't wreck your health and you won't have to spend time looking at the menu when you're hungry and tempted, you'll already know what you want. Even deciding ahead of time that you will only eat one breadstick (or roll or whatever they bring to the table) will strengthen your willpower and help you keep your hands out of the basket.

Here are just a few places I like to go that I know have healthy vegetarian and/or vegan options:
Ramsi's Cafe on the World - on Bardstown Rd. in Louisville is representative of one of the many reasons I love Louisville, amazing local restaurants. They have a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes and the food is amazing.
North End Cafe - another local favorite on Frankfort Ave. in Louisville. From their website "
Panera - here you can download a list with basic nutrition information for all menu items or click on the nutrition calculator which will give you both the nutrition information for your meal and the ingredient list. My favorite here is the low fat garden vegetable soup with basil pesto and a whole grain baguette. With the pesto (which contains some romano cheese) the entire meal has 320 calories, 4.5g fat, 9g fiber, and 12g protein. Without the pesto it is vegan(with the exception of honey in the baguette-the french baguette has no honey) and has 290 calories, 1.5g fat, 9g fiber, and 12g protein. I will note that the sodium in this meal is a little high, but other than that I think it is a good choice for a healthy meal out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

It has been longer than I had hoped since my last post. Though there has been a lot on my mind I have wanted to share, there has been a lot on my plate to keep me from sharing it! Busy as I have been I have still been able to stick very closely to my new "vegan" diet. It will have been a month tomorrow since I started it and I must say that it has gone much better than I ever could have hoped. I have lost 10 pounds in 4 weeks, this weight loss is mostly reflective of my change in diet since I have had little time for exercise, I'm anxious to see how my weight loss changes once I am exercising more regularly. I have "cheated" and included dairy on a handful of occasions (for example: sour cream on a kid's naked grilled veggie burrito at Qdoba with no cheese or a veggie delight sub at Subway with cheese) and had a diet coke out of a fountain(my very favorite!) one time per week since I decided to "give it up" almost altogether. I can't really call it cheating though, for one thing it is premeditated and never an impulse decision, and for another it doesn't come with the guilt that typically accompanies cheating on a standard "diet". I must also note that I eat chocolate every day. You read that right. I control portions of course, and I'm careful about what kind of chocolate I eat, but most afternoons during a few minutes of quiet time while the kids are resting or napping I indulge. Newmans Own organic dark chocolate is my favorite, it is vegan and they use evaporated cane juice to sweeten rather than processed sugar. Rich healthy chocolate awesomeness :)

Another important difference I have noticed is an increase in energy. I used to start most days exhausted and stay exhausted all day, drinking at least 2 cups of black tea(I've never been a coffee drinker) and then 2 diet cokes or more in the afternoon. The caffeine would help momentarily but I would find myself feeling tired again in no time. Now I start my day first with a hot cup of green tea, then fresh fruit or a smoothie whenever I begin to feel hungry. I still, of course, occasionally feel tired due to lack of sleep or stress, but not nearly to the degree I did before, and sleepless nights are much easier to tolerate the next day.

The "fruit only for breakfast" plan started after reading SB. They shared the theory that fruit digests best by itself and should be eaten that way, either completly alone until your next meal or at least 30 minutes before eating anything else. There is (and always will be with any theory) research that contradicts this, but I found an interesting article on digestion that supports it that you might consider here. They make the same point, that fruit should be eaten alone 30 minutes before anything else and 3 hours after a meal(which, incidentally, makes breakfast the perfect time since you have been "fasting" overnight). As with everything else I've read there are things I agree and disagree with in this article, but our bodies are pretty good at telling us what is going on inside and my body seems pretty happy with the way I've been treating it. If I'm in a big hurry I'll just grab an apple or banana on my way out the door. I keep raw almonds on hand all the time so when I get hungry before lunch (which happens a lot) I can eat a quick healthy snack without being tempted to have something I shouldn't. If I have a little more time I'll make a smoothie which is a little more filling and satisfying. I've yet to find any research to tell how adding a little soymilk and peanut butter to the fruit and blending it affects the "optimal digestion process" of eating just fruit, but I know I don't really feel any different than when I eat just fruit aside from it taking just slightly longer to feel hungry. As soon as I find anything I'll be sure to share it with you. Meanwhile, here is my favorite smoothie recipe:

1/2 fresh banana
1/2 cup each frozen blueberries, strawberries, and peaches(or whatever frozen fruits you prefer, mixed berries are also good)
1/2 cup light plain soymilk
1/2 cup juice (I like Sambazon antioxidant trinity - it contains acai, pomegranate and blueberry juice, all three excellent sources of antioxidants and in the top 6 of a top 10 list of disease fighting antioxidants published by the University of California, LA.)
1T natural peanut butter

Combine all ingredients in your blender and let it sit for 20-30 minutes so the frozen fruit can soften enough to blend smoothly. Blend starting on the lowest speed and gradually increasing speed to blend smoothly and evenly to your prefered consistency. This may be a completely personal preference, but I prefer to drink smoothies through a straw.
And, for what it's worth, my two older kiddos love this smoothie as well. I can double it, put theirs in a cup with a lid and a straw and be out the door 30 minutes soon than if I have to fix them each breafast and wait for them to sit at the table and eat it, and more importantly they are getting something healthy rather than greasy unhealthy drive thru junk or toaster pastries.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that every legitimate "diet plan" you've tried has encouraged you to eat breakfast every day. I'll have to reiterate, it has more benifits than I can list here from mental to metabolic, so if you take nothing else from this post, please start eating breakfast! Something healthy is obviously going to be the most beneficial, even if you don't subscribe to the "fruit only" plan, whole grain toast or cereal, even egg whites and turkey bacon if you're still against the vegan or vegetarian route.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Food for Thought

I need to start this post by saying something you probably (or hopefully) already know. Don't believe everything you read. I've said before and I'll say again that I am no expert(and even the ones who are get it wrong sometimes). I have been doing research and reading books on diets and fitness and nutrition for years. As much as Skinny Bitch motivated me change some of my eating habits and the way I think about food, my knowledge it is a culmination of things learned over time. Many things they recommended were things I already knew and did to some extent. I don't smoke or drink coffee (not that an occasional cup of coffee is severely detrimental to your health, but depending on it daily for energy should be a sign in itself that it's not a healthy habit - more about that later I hope). I exercise regularly, or at least try to amidst the business of raising three children 4 and under which is a form of exercise in itself. When cooking at home and sometimes when eating out I try to maintain a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, monounsaturated fats and, until recently, lean meats. Most of this is common knowledge I think, if you ever turn on the news there are segments almost daily about ways you can take better care of your body. And of course the Biggest Looser has brought to light for millions of Americans the problems a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits can cause for you health at the most extreme. There are also the recently popular "doctor" shows filling in spaces along side Oprah, Ellen, and Dr. Phil. Dr. Oz and The Doctors seem to be trying to make taking better care of our bodies more accessible to the average American without a MD.
That said, if you're a stay at home mom, a working mom, or just a working woman trying to get in better shape and take better care of your body it can be so overwhelming and time consuming to try to find out what's good for you and what fads won't work in the long term. How can you get back into your skinny jeans or yes, even a bikini, after 3 c-sections? How can you counteract the seeming aging effects of caring for you children and balancing a career or managing a home? Don't get me wrong, there is no perfect diet that will keep you from aging forever, but why not take the best care of yourself in the process and maybe slow it down a little? So rather than bore myself writing blogs so few and far between about the monotonous but never boring day in and day out of raising my 3 children who I adore far more than I could ever expect you to, what if I share with you some of the things I've learned along my battle with weight loss and baby weight and trying to take better care of my body for the sake of teaching my children to do the same? Then maybe I can feel like my brain has more purpose than just memorizing songs and nursery rhymes and who's turn is it to push the button on the elevator or pick out the story, who needs to go to the doctor and which child needs what medicine when. Even if no one ever reads it, it will be a good outlet for my mental energy I think.

One quick thing to consider today, as I read SB I found myself comparing it to prior knowledge about nutrition and weight loss. The diet they recommend for optimal health and maintaining a healthy weight is a vegan diet. For those of you who don't know, this basically means you only consume things that grow out of the earth and not animal products (no meat fish, eggs, or dairy). They eat fruits, vegetables, all kinds of whole grains(bread, pasta, rice, etc) beans, lentils, nuts, and the like. The first thing that came to my mind was not a diet or nutrition book at all, but the book of Daniel. A couple years ago I did Beth Moore's Daniel bible study at my church, it's probably one of my favorites. Near the beginning of the study we spent some time on Daniel 1:5-16. Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine and devised a 10 day experiment with the official in charge and some of his friends to see if eating vegetables and water would be healthier for them than the royal food and wine. Short story shorter, Daniel was right, at the end of only 10 days they looked healthier and better nourished than the others. Beth Moore explained that the word translated vegetables in this passage actually meant anything that grew from the earth. Daniel was a vegan. Please be clear, I AM NOT SAYING THE BIBLE SAYS WE SHOULD ALL BE VEGANS. God provided quail in the dessert for Moses and the Israelites, vegans and vegetarians don't eat quail. All I'm saying is that it worked out well for Daniel, he was "healthy and well nourished", and that's an example I'm more than willing to follow. Just food for thought.
I'll leave you with one last thing before I end this very long post...If you're anything like me it's your attitude about food and eating that decides how healthy or unhealthy(or how skinny or fat) you are. We look at the word diet all wrong, we think we're being deprived or that we "can't" eat the foods we love. Yes, I love food too, eating is, and should be, a pleasurable experience, but that is not it's primary function. Primarily food is fuel for your body to do the things you need it to do to make it through the day, fight off illnesses, grow, and heal. I think the most powerful thing I learned from reading SB is this basic truth that seems so obvious I can't believe I didn't figure it out on my own. You are (most likely) an adult and, most importantly, created with free will. You CAN eat or drink whatever you want. Nobody is telling you you can never again eat a greasy slice of cheesy pizza, or some rich delicious chocolate dessert. You can also choose not to. Think about what you're eating before you put it in your mouth and weather you really want it or if grabbing a piece of chocolate out of the candy dish at work is something you do out of habit or because you really want to sit down and enjoy a good piece of chocolate.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Are What You Eat

I don't think I've ever met another woman who wasn't concerned on some level about her appearance. Even those women you see eating greasy fast food who look like they might blow away with the next strong breeze worry that they're too skinny. While I was working at GNC during college I used to be amazed at the number of women who would come in wanting to know how they could put on a little weight. It's easy to say you'd rather have that problem than the frustrating extra 10 pounds you've been trying to get rid of forever, but I'm sure they would just as quickly trade as you would. No matter how perfect a woman may look on the cover of a magazine or in a perfect pair of jeans, she is, in fact, human and not as perfect as you think. I think we've all heard the stories about the beautiful actress or model seeing herself on the cover of a magazine and not recognizing her own picture or wishing she looked like that.
There are about a million different fad diets and theories about the best way to loose weight, diet supplements, gyms on every corner (right next to the McDonalds), personal trainers, group classes, weight and cardio machines, cardio theaters (my personal fav), and an endless selection of exercise videos and home gym equipment. So why is America among the top 10 fattest nations in the world?? I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think it's pretty safe to say that if you put garbage in your body you will either feel like garbage, look like garbage, or both.
Because I'm not one of the lucky(or unlucky depending on your perspective) ones with a freakishly high metabolism who can eat whatever I want and still fit into a size 2, I have spent most of my adult life learning about the best and worst ways to loose weight and take better care of my body. Until recently being "skinny" was the priority and I either just assumed or ignored for a long time that being skinny was equivalent to being healthy. In reality though, that is not the case. There are plenty of really unhealthy ways to loose weight. The Atkins diet for one. I hope I don't have to explain how a diet that won't allow you to eat whole grains and fruit but will allow you to eat bacon and other meats high in saturated fat is supposed to be healthy no matter how much weight you loose. Again, I'm not a doctor, but I'm not an idiot either and I'm proud to say I never fell for that one. I do know some people who lost weight on it, but they gained it all back so if that's not proof enough... The problem with "fad" diets like Atkins is um...they don't work. Americans, well overweight people everywhere I'm sure, are so bent on finding a way to loose weight that will allow them to still eat whatever crap they want that they'll believe anyone who makes that promise without using their own common sense or doing a teeny bit of research to find out how it will affect their body. There are plenty of other unhealthy ways to loose weight besides the atkins diet. I have tried some that I am now ashamed to admit. Diet pills and not eating top the list. I at least had done enough research to know that the basic formula for weight loss is calories in-calories out=weight loss or weight gain. Easy enough, I started eating 500 or less calories a day and excercising for several hours. I did loose weight, but the lack of any real nutrition and rapid weight loss let to a handful of other health problems (thankfully not permanent). I've tried other things in between, some worked and some didn't, but what I finally learned is that weight loss has to be a side effect of getting healthy and making permanent changes in order to last. Getting skinny by whatever means necessary does not make you healthy. My most recent research has led me to a total lifestyle change I never thought I would even consider embracing. After 2 weeks though it has stuck (so far), and while it hasn't been easy it hasn't been impossible and I finally feel like I am taking good care of this one body I have been given.
A couple weeks ago I happened acroos the book Skinny Bitch. I tend to be pretty old fashioned, so I was a little offended by the language in the book and there were some things I didn't agree with, but aside from that it was really interesting. I try not to believe everything I read, so I plan to continue to do furter research (which I hope to share with you as I go). But I did decide to do a few things right away. I'll explain a little now and elaborate later...
I gave up diet coke. I used to drink 2 or more diet cokes a day. I knew they weren't necessarily "healthy" but I was sort of in denial about how unhealthy it really is. More about that later...I have had one fountain diet coke per week the last 2 weeks and it hasn't been nearly as hard as I expected.
I stopped eating meat. I thought this would be much harder than it actually has been, but I can't think of one time in the last few weeks I've even felt a little tempted.
I'm not eating any other animal products either, at least mostly. Ok I'm not joining PETA or anything. This is primarily about taking better care of my body and secondarily about poor treatment of factory farmed animals. It will probably be a long while before I master the art of eating nothing with eggs or dairy in it, I may never. But I have been very careful, primarily staying away from eggs, cheese, and milk right now.
Buying organic - I actually started this several months ago. If you buy nothing else organic for whatever reason, you should at least consider buying all organic animal products, then, if you're so inclined, check out these links for the dirty dozen foods you should buy organic and top ten foods you don't need to buy organic. Again, I'll try to elaborate later
Limiting or cutting out refined sugar - cutting it out altogether is hard, but more because it's hard to find products that don't use it than because I crave it. Natural sweeteners are just as satisfying. I must clarify that I have not given up chocolate!! I have found several organic dark chocolate bars that use no milk fat or refined sugar that are ammmmazing :) And I have a little almost daily :)
I feel great, I've lost 7 pounds in 2 weeks, and I know I'm putting things in my body that are beneficial (even the chocolate has monounsaturated fats and, believe it or not, fiber). I think the most important thing I have gained from reading this book is the mentality that I am choosing to give up (or limit) things that are bad for me because it's what's best for my body rather than having the attitude that I am "not allowed" to have certain things because I'm "dieting"
I really hope I'm able to find the time to share more of what I'm learning with you, but based on my incosistency with blogging in the past I will make no promises :)