I’m often asked for my opinion on various diet and training programs. “Is this diet healthy? Will I lose weight? Will this exercise give me abs?” Continue reading “The one question to ask before starting a diet”
Imagine you’re in your car, driving along on a bright and sunny day. Things are going well, until all of a sudden when you hear a loud “bang”, soon followed by “thump, thump, thump”.
You’re able to pull over and get out of the car to take a look. Just as you expected, you’re dealing with a flat tire.
So what do you do? Your car is temporarily out of commission. Your day has taken a hit. Perhaps you’re a bit shaken up too. That appointment you were right on time for, is now out of the question.
You’re feeling frustrated, hopeless, and disappointed. Your plans for the day are “ruined”. You let your emotions get the best of you and quickly decide to take out your pocket knife and slash the remaining 3 tires.
Huh? Does that make sense? One tire is down, why would you destroy the rest?
So often I use this analogy with clients when talking about diet. It usually has to do with the same type of scenario….”I’ve already messed up, so **ck it, I’m going to blow the rest of the day/week/month…off”. A classic example of “all-or-nothing” thinking. “I overate at breakfast, I’ve blown it, I might as well just eat what I want and start back fresh tomorrow”.
This kind of thinking is all too common and I’m quite familiar with it myself. I used to approach my diet with such ‘black and white’ mentlity and every so often I still find myself contemplating the urge to finish off the box of oatmeal cookies just because I’ve enjoyed one too many. Yet today I’m much less inclined to slash the tires or say “**ck it”. When I’m in a situation where my diet is less than optimal or I’ve strayed off plan, my motto is “Do the next best thing”. What’s been the difference? Learning more about nutrition and metabolism, cutting myself some slack, a greater sense of self-acceptance, and ultimately realizing that it is consistency over time, not one day/week/month of off-plan meals that has the biggest impact on my progress. Changing my perception of the “perfect diet” has allowed me to adjust my mindset, and ultimately my success.
This week I asked myself to “do the next best thing” on multiple occasions. Today is an example for #WhatIAteWednesdsay.
Meal 1: Power Coffee (Coffee, whey protein, coconut oil, almond milk)
Meal 2: Egg & egg white omelette, sautéed bell peppers
Meal 3: Out of chicken, so another omelette with roasted asparagus while at work
Meal 3.5: One of mom’s homemade butter tarts & coffee. (Not planned, but really craving)
Meal 4: Greek yogurt & almonds
Meal 5: 5-grain oat cereal, whey protein & SF syrup
Meal 5.5: Brussel sprouts & almond butter (strange, mindless snacking, again off plan)
Meal 6: 2 Carb Master yogurts with 1/2 oz walnuts (not shown)
I had a couple extra ‘treats’ today that I had not planned into my macros. I could have used either situation as a reason to go off the deep end, but rather I did the next best thing, which in both cases was to get right back on track. I didn’t restrict for the remainder of the day either, I chose to continue fueling my body right. I took good care of the remaining three tires and decided I’d better learn how to fix a flat!
It’s been a very busy couple of months over the holiday season. Between shopping for gifts, decorating the house, traveling (including a trip to NYC for NYE!), and attending family get-togethers, I haven’t had the chance to sit down to write much. Or rather, I’ve made blogging less of a priority during this time.
Following a structured meal plan was also made less of a priority during this time. Intentionally. My opinion is that the holidays and the good food, family and celebration that come with it are meant to be enjoyed. This year for me, it felt right to stay from macro counting. I didn’t go crazy and eat everything in sight, but rather enjoyed some treats on a few occasions.
Now that we can officially say the holiday season has come to an end and the New Year is well underway, I’ve gotten back to making my nutrition a priority. I’m tracking my intake much closer with the intent of leaning out over the next 16 weeks. I’m currently following a macro-based approach and aim to meet certain numbers for protein, calories and fat each day rather than following a set meal plan. This is allowing me to maintain variety in my diet. Some days I have eggs for breakfast, others its chicken or Greek yogurt. I’m enjoying the same variety with my carb and fat sources too. In fact, I had reduced-sugar ice cream with my mid-morning snack the other day simply because I wanted it.
Here’s a look at what I’m eating today- Scroll over each photo for a description.
What makes you chose the foods you do? According to consumer research, taste is the deciding factor when it comes to selecting one food over another. Nutrition is important too. Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways of achieving and maintaining good health. Fortunately there’s no need to sacrifice good taste when it comes to preparing healthy meals. Here’s how you can enjoy the taste of eating right.
Eating Right with Less Salt
Salt is the common name for sodium chloride. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, everyone should aim to limit their intake of salt to 2,300 mg or the equivalent of 1 tsp per day. Adults over the age of 51 years, African Americans of all ages, and those with diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease should further restrict their intake to 1,500 mg daily. Yet, salt is so often used as means of enhancing the flavor of our food. With some creativity and time in the kitchen, you can learn to prepare flavorful meals without having to rely on the salt shaker.
Make Fresh Foods the Focus in your Kitchen
Fresh foods such as vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, poultry, dairy and whole-grains are naturally low in sodium. They also tend to be the most nutritious, containing plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Rather than picking up a box of chicken nuggets, which tend to be chock full of sodium-rich preservatives and flavorings, reach for a package of fresh chicken tenders and use one of the salt-free seasoning blends described below to add flavor. You can further reduce the sodium content of your meals by limiting the amount of added salt used during cooking. While a recipe may call for salted boiling water, it isn’t required and can be omitted. See this as an opportunity to eliminate close to 1 tsp of salt.
Caution with Canned Goods
Canned vegetables can serve as a convenient and budget-friendly alternative to fresh varieties, especially when it comes to enjoying out-of-season produce year-round. Look for labels stating “no added salt”, or “low-sodium”. You can further reduce the sodium content of canned vegetables, beans, and legumes by rinsing them under cold water for a few minutes before heating or adding to recipes.
Become a Leery of Labels
Foods otherwise considered healthy such as whole-grain bread and crackers, processed cereals, and canned soups often contain significant amounts of salt. Get used to label reading and looking for the value listed next to sodium. Aim to select low sodium foods, or those with 140 mg or less per serving. Compare brands and learn which varieties meet this criterion.
Experiment with New Flavors
Herbs, spices, lemon juice, and vinegars can be used to enhance the flavor of foods without adding salt. Unsure of how to use them? Prepare a batch of the following salt-free seasoning blends for use in your next recipe. They’re great for flavoring chicken, burgers, fish, vegetables, omelets, stir-frys, casseroles, and homemade pizzas.
Mixed Herb Blend: Mix together ¼ cup dried parsley flakes, 2 tablespoons dried tarragon, and 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, dill weed and celery flakes.
Italian Blend: Mix together 2 tablespoons each of dried basil and dried marjoram, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder and dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons each of thyme, crushed dried rosemary and crushed red pepper.
Mexican Blend: Mix together ¼ cup chili powder, 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin and onion powder, 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, garlic powder and ground red pepper and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.
Allow Time for Your Taste Buds to Change
At first you may notice a difference in the taste of your foods when reducing your sodium intake. Allow your taste buds a few days to get used to less salt. Over time you’ll find that you’ve acquired a taste for low-sodium foods.
Paleolothic, Caveman Diet, the Hunter-Gatherer Diet. A few terms used to describe the most commonly referred to Paleo diet, a way of eating that is touted to best resemble that of our ancestors. The Paleo diet has gained widespread popularity over the past couple years, most notably with the rise of the Cross Fit exercise craze. The two appear to go hand in hand like bacon and eggs or steak and potatoes.
So what does a nutrition professional think of the Paleo Diet? Are we all better off going back to our roots and living off the land? Here’s the inside scoop.
The theory behind the Paleo diet is that emphasizing pre-agricultural revolution foods is the optimal way of eating to prevent “disease of civilization” such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. By eliminating refined sugars, dairy, legumes and grains, Paleo advocates believe that we can live a disease-free life and lose a few pounds too. The diet includes plenty of grass-fed meat, poultry, fish and seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, and plant-based oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut).
As the description states, the Paleo diet emphasizes many healthful foods. Most anyone would benefit from a diet rich in whole-foods and low in processed foods, specifically refined carbohydrates. Concerns arise in the sustainability of the Paleo diet. Paleo diet resources including the website and book offer countless meal and recipe ideas, however if one can’t get over the idea of saying goodbye to pancakes, bread, and pasta, it may be a challenging feat to take on. Enjoying a meal at most restaurants can be done with ease by sticking with meat, chicken or fish and vegetable sides. Just say “no” to alcohol, coffee, and most condiments; our ancestors didn’t have access to them, so nor are they Paleo-approved. A nice feature of the Paleo diet is the inclusion of up to three “cheat” meals per week, so you can have your cake and eat it occasionally too.
Another concern of the Paleo diet is the lack of guidelines with selection of protein-rich foods. Saturated fat intake can become a concern if too many eggs, steaks or slices of bacon are consumed. However when consumed in moderation with a healthy mix of leaner cuts of skinless poultry, pork, and fish, the Paleo diet may provide cardiovascular benefit, particularly with the elimination of sugars and refined carbs. It tends to be naturally low in sodium thanks to the focus on whole foods.
A protein-rich diet like that of Paleo is good for those who don’t like feeling hungry while on a diet. If you’re looking to lose weight, however, there does have to be a limit on the bacon. Following a Paleo diet, or any whole foods diet for that matter will not produce weight loss unless a calorie deficit is achieved.
Other nutritional concerns arise when one eliminates grains and dairy, good sources of B-vitamins and calcium. However, with a high intake of meat, poultry, fish and vegetables on the Paleo plan, B-vitamins shouldn’t be a challenge to consume in sufficient amounts. Research on the calcium intake of Paleo dieters shows that there isn’t much difference in comparison to the typical Western diet.
So what does the RD think? I believe anyone can thrive on a whole foods, I mean, Paleo diet. Replacing processed foods, many of which tend to be grains, with whole, natural plants and animal proteins is a good thing. If it just happens to align with Paleo, then so be it. Will the occasional whole grain cause harm to ones’ health? Not likely, so go ahead and have that bread-rich sandwich once in a while
One of my favorite Paleo approved breakfasts.
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Heather Petraszko MS,RD
As a Registered Dietitian (RD), I’m often asked about what I think of the latest trending diet. Some of my responses are quick and simple, ie “No, I certainly don’t recommend limiting your intake to nothing more than herbal teas and a lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup concoction.” Most often though, I find myself providing a more detailed response. This is because most of the popular diets do offer benefit, some more than others, but at least some.
I thought I’d post a series on my professional opinion of popular diets. Today, I’m starting with a diet that more closely resembles my own nutrition philosophy. Here’s my take on the Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet and has the research to back it. Multiple studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet is effective for reducing LDL cholesterol, also known as the “bad cholesterol”, as well as increasing HDL, the “good cholesterol”. Furthermore, improvements in blood sugar levels and blood pressure are associated with this way of eating.
The premise behind the Mediterranean diet is that it is high in vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, legumes and olive oil. Moderate amounts of low-fat dairy, fish, and red wine are recommended. What’s encouraged in limited amounts is red meat.
Much of heart-healthy benefits attributed from the Mediterranean diet stem from its high content of fresh produce, plenty of vegetables and fruits providing fiber and phytochemicals including antioxidants, shown to reduce the damage caused by free radicals. Olive oil, nuts- particularly almonds, and avocados are emphasized in the Mediterranean diet. They provide a source of monounsaturated fats, a type of beneficial fat shown to increase good cholesterol.
Is the Mediterranean diet sustainable? Most likely. The Mediterranean diet incorporates foods from all of the food groups- meat and beans, vegetables and fruits, dairy, and fats and oils. While red meat is limited, it’s not completely off limits either. In fact, red meat can still be enjoyed a couple times a month. Those who love a daily burger may have trouble adhering to the Mediterranean plan, but otherwise, it shouldn’t be considered a very challenging diet to follow.
The fact that most restaurants also cater to the Mediterranean diet makes it more likely that people will adhere. A salad or steamed veggies with grilled chicken breast or salad are typical restaurant meals that meet the Mediterranean diet criteria. Even pizza, when prepared with a whole-grain crust, veggies and a light layer of cheese can part of the plan.
Alcohol, something most diet plans restrict, if not eliminate, is a component of the Mediterranean diet that offers appeal. Moderate amounts of red wine are encouraged for its cardiovascular benefit. The key is limiting red intake to no more than one glass per day for women, two for men.
So what might a typical day on the Mediterranean diet look like? How about breakfast of oatmeal topped with a dollop of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, a handful of berries and a few tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Lunch might include a meal- sized salad of spring mix and an assortment of vegetables, topped with a grilled chicken breast and edameme, finished with a light drizzle of olive oil. Dinner may feature a fillet of salmon with sides of quinoa and steamed broccoli, and balsamic vinaigrette for dipping. Snacks through the day could include a piece of low-fat mozzarella with whole-grain crackers, or a handful of almonds and an apple.
As a registered dietitian, I recommend the Mediterranean diet for anyone looking to improve their heart health as well as anyone seeking an overall healthy diet. The research is clear in that the Mediterranean diet helps to reduce risk factors associated with heart disease; improvements in cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure have been shown. However, the benefits of eating plenty of vegetables and fruit, lean proteins, nuts and seeds extends to overall improvements in health, especially when these foods replace the processed meals and snacks so abundant in the typical American diet.
For more information on the Mediterranean Diet, check out Oldways a food nutrition education organization.
One of my favorite meals- roasted veggie and goat cheese pizza on an egg white crust is Mediterranean Diet approved!