Practicing Environmental Control: The Grocery Store

Managing environmental cues or as I like to call it, practicing Environmental Control, in the grocery store may seem easy, but is actually quite challenging. A basic misconception is that food-related decisions are consciously and deliberately made. The reality is, food choices are often an automated response. Sometimes choices made may even be the opposite of what the person would consciously prefer. How, you ask? Let’s take a look at a prime example: food placement traps.

Practicing Environmental Control: The Grocery Store

End of aisle location accounts for about 30% of all grocery sales. Vendors pay special fees for these spots and placement which can increase sales by a factor of five. Research using eye tracking equipment shows the attention drawn by special displays has more to do with the display itself rather than the goals of someone who selects them. Furthermore, people who lack the capacity to fully control eye-gaze and look the longest will be more likely to purchase those items.

So, how do we go about practicing environmental control in the grocery store?

  • Have an awareness that marketing is focused on selling foods that are not necessarily good for you.
  • Make a plan
  • Make a grocery list
  • Be aware of the ‘bad’ food placement traps
  • Don’t shop hungry
  • Do NOT under any circumstance ‘window shop’ junk food – don’t venture or gaze into the difficult areas.
  • Purchase fruits and/or vegetables at every grocery store visit
  • Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables if you have a plan for immediate use, otherwise look for canned or frozen variety.
  • Don’t read labels in the stores – this can be too taxing and cognitively stressing. Study labels thoroughly at home, so when you need to compare in the store you know what you are looking at.

To help you get started on the right track, I encourage you this week to go grocery shopping and make a plan that includes a specific list for vegetables and fruits and a more specific plan to substitute a new fruit or vegetable for any usual white carbohydrate item you purchase. Happy Shopping!

Your Diet and your Job: A perfect marriage or recipe for disaster?

When it comes to relationships (with people, food and even health habits), we are greatly influenced by those closest to us. In fact, many experts believe that our habits are shaped by the five people we spend the most time with. This illustrates how powerful of an impact social influence and our environment has on our daily decisions. We cannot blame all our poor decisions on others or our work setting, but I completely understand how the influence of others and demands of our jobs can make it difficult to stay on track with healthy eating. Here are some common traps and possible solutions to help get you through your 40-hour workweek, healthy and guilt-free.

Here are some common traps and possible solutions to help get you through your 40-hour workweek, healthy and guilt-free.

Problem: It’s Andy’s Birthday and that means cake, cookies and other Pinterest-inspired sugar villains.

Solution:Learn to confidently say “no thanks”.
Normally I say it’s perfectly fine to indulge on special occasions; however, special occasions such as birthdays, retirements, Fridays happen every week. In fact, we create special occasions such as “national eat chocolate for breakfast day” to justify eating sugar-rich foods. Try to separate work celebrations and personal celebrations and save those yummy treats for your own milestones. Here’s another trick I like to practice. Stand up tall and turn your head all the way to the left, now look all the way to the right and repeat this motion four more times. As silly as it sounds, remember it is perfectly fine to politely turn down sweets brought into the office.

Problem: Lunch meetings.

Solution: Become a savvier diner.
It is very common to go out to eat for social or business purposes during the week. You could always stay behind and eat your lunch by yourself, but where’s the fun in that? Learning to spot out the healthier items on a menu or give less-healthy menu items a makeover is a much savvier way to enjoy your lunch break. You can never go wrong with lean proteins and veggies. It’s also a good idea to make sure you do not have multiple starches on your plate. This may mean removing the buns from a chicken sandwich or swapping out fries for an extra serving of seasonal vegetables.

Problem: That 3:00 slump.

Solution: Prepare for the inevitable.
It happens every single day, so why do we repeatedly torture ourselves with blood sugar crashes followed by poor vending machine decisions? Packing a protein-rich afternoon snack will keep your tummy happy, your focus off the clock and get you through to dinner time without a starving metabolism. The downfall of pretzels, crackers, baked chips and granola bars is that they contain very little nutritional value and zero amounts of protein. In fact, it’s difficult to find a protein-rich snack from a vending machine or office snack bar. Always keep nuts or protein bars at work or pack some extra cheese, meat, cottage cheese, low sugar Greek yogurt, eggs or a protein shake in your lunch bag. One ounce of peanuts, 2 ounces of turkey and 1 ounce of cheese together provides almost 30 grams of protein!

 

 

Put Your Best Fork Forward

National Nutrition Month is an educational campaign celebrated each year in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme “Put Your Best Fork Forward”, serves as a reminder that small changes toward a healthier lifestyle can be made with each bite!

Mealtimes are the foundation of your health and nutrition and it’s important to incorporate a variety of foods. Try including…

Mealtimes are the foundation of your health and nutrition and it’s important to incorporate a variety of foods. Try including…

  • a vegetable at every meal, focusing on dark green vegetables like leafy greens or broccoli and orange vegetables like carrots.
  • a lean protein source with each meal, such as chicken and turkey.
  • fish, like salmon or tuna twice weekly to increase healthy fat sources.
  • plant-based protein sources such as beans and lentils throughout your week.
  • a variety of grains at each meal, such as oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa.

Don’t forget adequate hydration from water is essential to living a healthy lifestyle! Aim for at least 40 ounces of plain water daily!

 

For more information on National Nutrition Month, check out http://www.eatright.org/resources/national-nutrition-month

Key Messages of this year’s theme:

  • Create an eating style that includes a variety of healthful foods.
  • Cook more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
  • How much we eat is as important as what we eat.
  • Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days.
  • Manage or lower your weight by meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. RDNs can provide personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle and health-related needs.

How to Make a Healthy Seasonal Transition

Spring is around the corner, but for now the days still seem short and it’s important to take note of how this affects your health and state of mind. Here are some tips I recommend to my patients to combat the dreariness of the winter season.

Here are some tips I recommend to my patients to combat the dreariness of the winter season.

  1. Transition physical activity from season to season, don’t abandon it!

  • Use inside equipment or a DVD; I like to recommend Leslie Sansone walking DVDs.
  • Find a friend or social component to physical activity.
  • Move more throughout your day – 10% (6 minutes/hour).
  • Invest in clothes to make it comfortable.
  1. Develop a repertoire of healthy, ‘hearty’ foods for the season.

  • Soups, stews, stir fries and roasted vegetables (check out my blog from earlier on roasted vegetables)
  • Choose heavier food, literally water based, not calorie dense food.
  • Choose/mix heartier, starchy vegetables (Yes, I said starchy vegetables) with lower calorie ones to satisfy your need for carbs.
  • If this is not your habit, practice it weekly.
  1. Get adequate rest and sleep.

  • Try to go to bed about the same time every evening.
  1. Stay hydrated.

  • Carry a water bottle with you to sip on throughout the day.
  • You don’t need to get all your water from drinks; you can also get it from water-rich foods.
  • Opt for steamed dishes, soups and herbal teas to keep you warm, because often cooler temps will decrease your natural tendency to drink.
  1. Find the Light.

  • Develop an awareness of how you may be affected by shorter, darker days.
  • Keeping your home or work place well lit with natural, window light and artificial light can help some people feel more energy.
  • Some invest in light therapy.
  1. Begin a conscious management of your food environment.

  • Try eating 6 times per day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack
  • Plate the food at the stove or in the kitchen
  • Use the #plategoals (1/4 protein, ¼ carbohydrate, ½ non-starchy vegetables) to plate your food
  • Eat a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables/fruits per day
  • Say not your ‘trigger foods’ (you know what they are!!)
  • Stop clipping coupons – they are mostly for highly refined snack products or high fat restaurant meals

Don’t let these short days defeat your goals and decrease energy levels; try to remind yourself daily what you are trying to accomplish. Remember, spring is just around the corner!  

Roasting Vegetables 101

Oh, the smell of winter is in the air. The colder temperatures, snow, ice, winter coats, skiing, sledding and root vegetables. Can you tell this is an enjoyable time for me?

No, actually it isn’t. I don’t like cold, I don’t like skiing, and I’m not a big fan of snow. Yeah, yeah I know, I live in Illinois, but I’m still not use to it! However, I do love root vegetables because you can roast these vegetables and they are fabulous to eat. They are like a guilty pleasure, almost too good to be good for you! Plus, it is super, super easy to do.

Click here to print off Roasting Vegetables 101

Optional: Stir/turn the vegetables 1 to 2 times during the baking process.

When roasting vegetables, go easy on the oil, which is high in calories and fat. You may also consider substituting oil for balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, tamari, lemon, lime juice, etc.

When done roasting, serve them as a side dish, pile them on a sandwich, inside a panini, or puree them to make soup. Happy Eating!!

Enjoy a Happy New Year!

New Year’s is a time where many people make resolutions.  “I’m going to lose weight,” or “I’m going to quit smoking” are two of the popular resolutions, but what about mental health?  Less commonly do people make resolutions for their mental health beyond a simple phrase such as “be happier.”  But, if you are one of the 43.8 million adults in the United States who experiences mental illness (NAMI, 1999), you might benefit from some resolutions toward improving your mental health. 

Mental illness is a difficult challenge for many people, but the New Year is a great time to make positive changes.

Here are some possible changes to pursue:

  1. Make sleep, diet, and exercise a priority.  Snickers has a popular series of commercials where a celebrity is acting in an angry, irritated, or frustrated manner until they are given a Snickers because they become emotional when they are hungry.  After taking a bite of the Snicker bar, the person returns to his or her typical self.  While I (and I’m sure our dietitians) would agree that sugar isn’t the answer, these commercials do have a point: our physical health impacts our mental health.  When we are tired, hungry, fatigued, or inactive, our mental health suffers.  Resolve to make simple changes to your habits this year: get more sleep, eat more fruits and vegetables, go on more walks.  Try to build on choices you make that are already healthy.
  2. Think positive.  This sounds cliché, but there is evidence to suggest that optimism improves our life.  The Mayo Clinic reports on their website that optimism has been connected to longer life span, decreased depression, decreased distress, reduced cardiovascular disease, and improved coping skills.  Unsure of how to start thinking in a positive manner?  Begin with creating a daily affirmation for yourself.  Waking up and saying “Today is going to be a good day,” can lead you to viewing the day in a more positive light.  If you have a specific stressor you are worried about, trying envisioning how that problem will go well instead of how it can go wrong.
  3. Seek help.  In 2012, ABC News reported that only about 60% of people with mental illness received professional help.  Professional help is available in a variety of ways, from counseling to medication to support groups.  If you are unsure where to go or what method is best for you, start with speaking with your doctor about the issue.      

Mental illness is a difficult challenge for many people, but the New Year is a great time to make positive changes.  Even if you aren’t dealing with mental illness, perhaps pursuing one of the above resolutions can make your 2017 a more positive and enjoyable year.