Practicing Environmental Control: Restaurants

Controlling our environment in order to successfully manage our weight and health is not always possible, but we can arm ourselves with a strategy. Unplanned, unstructured eating leads to eating out more which ultimately ends in weight gain and unhealthy habits.

Here are some tips to try when eating out:

  • Eat something healthy before you go. If you go to restaurants when you’re hungry, you’re more likely to snack on higher calories appetizers and bread and less likely to order healthier food options.
  • Carefully choose which restaurant to go to; some restaurants are more supportive with health goals than others.
  • Have a plan before you go of what you are going to eat.
  • Be direct in asking for your meal to be prepared with less or no oil. Restaurants are often not accustomed to special, low-fat request, though they are generally willing to accommodate them.
  • If ordering take-out, be very clear about your request for lo-fat preparation.
  • Avoid fried foods, ask for baked, broiled or grilled, instead.
  • Many vegetables including salad, can become high calorie with added dressings, sauces, and condiments. You can potentially save hundreds of calories by asking for low or no-fat sauces or condiments and always ask for it on the side!
  • Given that many side orders of vegetables are small, you may need to order several or make a request for a larger portion. (Remember your #plategoals)
  • Be the first in your group to order your food, so as not to be deterred by what others are ordering.
  • Remember why you are eating out, is it for a celebration or is it just a Wednesday evening?

 

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!

 

 

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!  

The key to post-workout fuel

Recently, I was asked about the importance of recovery snacks after a workout and if they help with weight loss. Refueling after a workout is important regardless of your exercise or fitness goals and in some cases, it may be the difference between making huge gains in the gym or not. Whether your focus for working out is on weight loss, muscle building or even improved body composition, a post-workout snack can complement all of these goals.

Refueling after a workout is important regardless of your exercise or fitness goals and in some cases, it may be the difference between making huge gains in the gym or not.

 

 

Why is it important to eat after a workout?

While we know how important exercise is for fitness, many of us are unaware of how significant the recovery process is for health and weight loss. It is important to re-nourish your muscles and metabolism following a workout as this will allow you to
A) refuel your engines and repair muscle tissue and
B) obtain the capability to exercise just as hard for your next workout.

Think of your body and muscles in terms of how you treat your car. Eating frequently throughout day is equivalent to making pit stops and refueling your gas tank. Just like your vehicle, constant refueling keeps your metabolism going. You wouldn’t run your car out of gas, so why would you run your body out of fuel?  When you exercise, you are revving up your metabolic engine and this can cause your body to burn up gas even faster. Missing that opportunity to refuel post-workout puts you at risk of draining your metabolic gas tank. Remember, it doesn’t matter how expensive, how brand new or how many options your car has. A car without gas is useless to you. Unfortunately, the same can be said about our metabolisms. Lack of fuel and drained metabolic gas tanks can lead to decreased functioning and performance.

If you’re a science nerd like me, you’ll want a more in-depth explanation. Having a greater understanding on what happens to our bodies on a physiological-biochemical level can help motivate positive dietary behaviors. When you work out, tiny microscopic tears occur in the muscle tissues as a result from repeated muscle contraction. Exercised muscle tissue is constantly adapting, meaning it is breaking down and rebuilding itself. Having a post-workout shake or snack can help initiate the repairing process. Ideally, this snack should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing your workout, when your “metabolic window” is at its peak. During this time, one experiences increased blood flow to muscles, creating a faster delivery of nutrients. Insulin sensitivity and enzyme activity required for rebuilding and refueling tissue are also heightened after exercise.  Consuming your post-workout snack during this increased hormone and enzyme-activity time frame will ensure you are properly refueling your body.

What makes a perfect post-workout snack if you’re trying to lose weight?

Regardless of your goal, the best type of snack to have post-workout is a lean protein source with quick digesting carbohydrates. The combination of the two preps your muscles to act like a sponge so they more properly absorb amino acids (proteins) and glucose (carbs). Amino acids will help rebuild and repair your muscles and glucose will refuel them with energy. Protein shakes make great post workout snacks for this reason. One could also focus on whole foods such as egg whites, lean meats or other desired lean protein source coupled with fruit, sweet potatoes or preferred starchy food. While fat is incredibly important in the diet, your post-workout snack is not the time to take a lot of it in merely because of the fact that it slows down digestion and can hinder the rapid absorption process needed to initiate protein synthesis after a workout.  

Should you modify your next meal because of the post-workout snack?

Yes and no. Your first actual meal after your workout should contain a higher amount of healthy carbohydrates as compared to your other meals throughout the day. This is when I would recommend eating items such as rice, sweet potatoes and squash or whatever your favorite starch is with your protein and veggie sources. Save the salads and lower carb menu items for meals that are farther away from your workouts. In terms of calories, there is no reason to cut nutrients away from your meals to save up calories for your post-workout snack. I know it sounds counter-productive to eat what you technically just burned off, but properly re-nourishing your muscles and body will help keep your metabolism lit up all day long. Remember, a healthy metabolism is one that burns more calories overall than one that is being underfed.

Amanda  Figge

Fresh Veggie Noodles

I did it! I jumped on the zucchini noodle bandwagon and bought a spiralizer.  I thought, let’s see if I’ve really been missing out. Well, I have been missing out.  What a fun tool and my kids love to watch me make noodles too. So I’ve learned there is a lot you can do with a spiralizer and so much more nutritional benefit from using one too. 

Fresh veggie noodles

 

How did I get started?

I purchased a spiralizer that attaches to my Kitchen Aid Mixer, this spiralizer includes interchangeable blades to create skinny angel hair noodles, flat ribbon noodles or medium to thick spiral noodles. Now, I haven’t used all the blades yet, but I’m working on it.  But do you need all the different blades? Most certainly not, a hand-held spiralizer (looks like a pencil sharpener) works just as well with usually 1-2 different blades. Plus with a hand held, cleanup is quicker and is portable and less expensive.

I started with zucchini and used these ‘zoodles’ to make spaghetti and am slowly working my way through different vegetables AND fruits. Let me share some different vegetables and fruits you can use and what can you do with them.

Veggies

Zucchini: spiralize zucchini to your choice and sauté in olive oil and seasonings for 3-4 minutes, then put in strainer to strain moisture. Serve with favorite pasta sauce

White or Sweet Potato: spiralize the potatoes to your choice and make chips or fries that are baked in the oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Carrot: spiralize the carrot to your choice and roast at 425 degrees for 5-10 minutes, sauté in a little olive oil for 5-10minutes or boil for 2-3 minutes. Then serve as chips/fries, pasta mixed with favorite sauce, or in a salad.

Fruits

Apple: spiralize the apple to your choice and sauté for about 5 minutes, roast in oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or serve raw in a wrap.

Pear: spiralize the pear to your choice and roast at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or serve raw in a salad or as is for a snack.

These fantastic fruits and vegetables that you are spiralizing are naturally lower in calories, carbohydrates, fat and sodium and higher in fiber.  You don’t even realize you are eating vegetables when mixed with a delicious tomato basil sauce. Thus, you just got your servings of vegetables in while consuming ¼ of the calories with as much, if not more volume. Plus, if you’re gluten free this is a great way to still eat ‘pasta’ without the wheat.  

I didn’t even scratch the surface as to what you can noodle with. I urge you to go and have fun experimenting with both raw and cooked noodles.  Just remember, there is a learning curve anytime you try something new, but before you know it you will be noodling and zoodling away!!