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I have a list of quick tips that I use with patients when they ask about eating healthy. Often this is simply for people who are otherwise healthy and want to avoid the creeping weight gain that many people experience. It is also an easy place to start for those who want to lose weight.
1. Take half of your restaurant meal home with you. Because the portions in restaurants are so large, and you likely need only half of what you have been served, put the other half into the doggie bag. Hmm... that leads us to number two:
2. When you eat out, ask for a doggie bag right away. Order whatever you wish, but again, take half home with you. By putting what you are not going to eat in a doggie bag first then you can eat everything that remains on the plate. And that leads us to number three:
3. Make your lunch the night before (or eat the leftover from your doggie bag). When you are cooking dinner plan to use the extra rather than eating everything you've made. For instance, you can double a recipe that makes two servings and have four 1/2 servings for the next two day's lunches for yourself and your mate. You will save time because not only is fast food not any good for you, it's not really all that fast any more.
And eating lunch out is expensive. If you spend $6.00 on lunch at the fast food joint (instead of the $1.00 or so making your own) that's $25.00 per week. You'll save $1,250.00 per year on lunch alone! That's enough for your gym membership with money left over for a trip to the islands and a week of R&R.
4. Embrace food. Ask yourself every day, "What's for dinner tonight?" Think about what you really want to eat rather than eating whatever is in the house. Find a simple recipe, make a shopping list, and get the ingredients. Consider the meal that you are going to cook and make sure that is something that you love.
After you have the hang of this, begin planning further in advance. Go grocery shopping for the week on Saturday and purchase the ingredients that you need to make your favorite recipes during the week (see Number 3).
5. Always have snacks in the fridge that you like to eat. The best things to snack on are fresh veggies and fruit. Plus, if you have something in the house that you can eat as much of as you want, you won't snack on what you were planning to use for dinner.
I have patients who say all the time, "I don't like fruit," or "There aren't any vegetables that I like." When I begin making a list for them of different fruit and veggies they're amazed how many they not only like, but love. Keep celery, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and radishes on hand. Fruits that are great to cut up and eat, like apples, pears and melon work well too.
6. Read everything that you can. Read recipes in magazines and online. Look at the ingredients and then check the nutrition facts to see how many calories are in that meal. Don't make a dish if there's no nutrition information available with the recipe.
Look at every package of food or ingredient that you purchase and read the Nutrition Facts label. Over time you will learn what is in the food you are eating.
7. It's not a diet. Make changes in how and what you eat (see Number 4 about embracing food).
By trying silly fad diets over and over, most people just end up not liking what they eat. There's been dozens of research studies to show that this sort of dieting doesn't work, including a recent research article out of Scandinavia that proves this once again.
Don't diet -- eat great healthy food.
8. A little chocolate goes a long way (and so does an apple). In a recent study women were studied after snacking on chocolate, an apple or nothing. Both the chocolate and the apple helped reduce huger and elevated mood. While the effects of the chocolate lasted longer than the apple, some did feel guilt when eating the chocolate (some also experienced a joy that they did not with the apple).
Planning to have snacks when you want them is an important part of eating healthy. Choose great quality chocolate and have it occasionally--and at other times eat the apple. It's clear that both are satisfying. The key is to eat small snacks and to eat them when you feel good.
9. Eat nuts. Like apples, nuts make fantastic snacks. Many studies have shown that snacking on nuts is good for your cholesterol and other blood markers associated with heart disease. The majority of the research shows that when you eat nuts in place of other snacks, you won't gain weight and you'll be very satisfied.
10. Eat breakfast. Simple as that. There's great research that has shown that eating a healthy breakfast with a complex carbohydrate like whole wheat bread or whole grain cereal, along with a protein like an egg or milk, helps you to lose weight and maintain what you have lost.
Add one of these tips to your life each week and ten weeks later you'll be eating healthier without even having to think about it.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Last updated: July 17, 2006