02 Jan 2013

Keep your food resolutions: Tips for making good on new year promises

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Eat less, eat better, lose weight, get healthy.

These are the resolutions many of us make every year as we gobble down the last of the Christmas ham and sugar cookies so we can start the new year with a clean slate.

By Valentine’s Day, we’re back to daily chocolate and jumbo sodas and wistfully saying, “Maybe next year …”

It’s easy to get derailed when bad habits are easier, more convenient and, let’s face it, downright delicious.

Abstract resolutions, such as “lose weight” or “exercise more” are harder to keep than resolutions with specific tasks and goals. With an all-or-nothing attitude, a minor infraction can make you throw it all away.

And we tend to think about the things we are giving up instead of what we’ll gain.

When it comes to eating healthier, or eating less, it doesn’t have to be 110 percent. You’re trying to improve your health, not win a role in “Les Miserables.”

So here’s some advice from local experts about easing into those resolutions and thinking of success as a reward instead of deprivation.

Make it meatless

Maybe you want to give up red meat, or all meat, or just try Meatless Mondays.

Whatever your scale or motivation, there are plenty of ways to help you push meat off your plate for one day a week or forever.

While many people still believe you need meat to have enough protein in your diet, that is “totally not true,” said Kate Scanlan, marketing and membership services manager with Ever’man Natural Foods in Pensacola.

“You can do a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet and get the protein you need,” she said.

Beans, soy, quinoa and other vegetables like brussels sprouts contain low-calorie, easy to digest proteins.

“There are a lot of meat substitutes that are high protein and meat-free,” Scanlan said. “If you love chicken or beef and want to simulate that, Gardin is a brand that makes really nice beef tips and chicken piccata and other dishes that are really delicious.”

Buy a vegetarian cookbook and check out vegetarian restaurants to taste meatless done right. Explore meatless dishes from other cultures — don’t think you’re going to get healthier by eating mac-and-cheese and cold cereal for every meal.

Making sure you have a balance of protein will help you stay fuller longer, rather than believing no meat limits you to a garden salad.

While you are considering cutting down meat, think about making a move to healthier meat when you do decide to go carnivore.

“If you still want that meaty texture, think about going with more fish,” Scanlan said. “Look for grass-fed beef; free-range, organic chicken; and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) products. Look for USDA organic meat.”

More fruit, veggies

The most difficult part about eating more fruits and vegetables is making it easy.

Making fruits and vegetables accessible and simple is the first step, said Dorothy Lee, family and consumer science agent for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences for Escambia County. It doesn’t have to mean a cooking revolution, Lee said.

“Have fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat,” Lee said. “By keeping some fresh fruit on hand for snacks and desserts, or ready-for-snacking celery and carrots, when you have that urge you don’t go to the crackers or the chips.”

Cut and clean a week’s worth of celery, peppers, carrots and other produce and have it ready to grab and go in the refrigerator. Making them as convenient as an Oreo will increase their appeal.

“Add a variety of vegetables to salads. Add extra vegetables to soup,” Lee said. “Add them to dips using lowfat versions of sour cream and cream cheese or fat-free mayo.

“I think also shopping in season is an economical way of getting some extra produce in your home and diet,” she said.

It’s not about just cutting out the bad, it’s about adding something good.

“You are getting that nutrition and a lot of fiber important in the diet and a lot less calories than eating desserts and snacks with lots of calories and fats,” Lee said.

Giving up soda

It’s a hard habit to break. Soft drinks are everywhere, in huge and bottomless abundance. They become a part of our daily routine, even though we know they are bad for our teeth, weight and overall health. A recent Gallup poll revealed that half of all Americans drink soda every day! Whether you are in it for the taste, the caffeine or the bubbles, cutting out soda — or limiting your intake to weekends only — can be great for your health and your wallet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest reaching for water when you are thirsty. It’s the best way to rehydrate during a regular day. The CDC also suggests ordering water only at restaurants, since it is usually free; keeping soda out of the house to prevent daily temptation; carrying a refillable water bottle to have a beverage on hand and to avoid impulse soda buys; and drinking calorie-free seltzer with a twist of lemon or lime or a splash or juice as a soda substitute when what you crave is carbonation.

Also realize that while sports drinks or sweet tea may not technically be soda, you are still taking in loads or sugar and calories.

Cutting sugar

Cutting sugar and processed foods out of your diet can be as simple as giving up that afternoon sweet tea or candy bar, but if you still need a sweet fix, the alternatives have come a long way from simply choosing the pink packet for your coffee.

Stevia and agave are two popular choices for people who have decided to give up processed white sugar, Scanlan said.

“Or try sweetening with local honey, which can also help prevent seasonal allergies,” she said.

Replace impulse sweet eating with healthier options — fruits or baked goods containing fruits or vegetables instead of sugar and oils.

Stay on track

If you fall off the wagon for a meal or a day, “don’t beat yourself up over it,” Scanlan said. “Everyone does. We all strive to be as healthy as we can, but everybody falls off the wagon at some time.

“If you ate half a chocolate cake, pick yourself right back up and go on,” she said. “It’s a balance philosophy. If you give up after a slip and binge all day, you’re going to wake up the next morning — and firs t of all, you’ll feel awful — and then you’ll make the decision to start over. So, get back on — make that decision to go on a little sooner.”

“Goals and diets are going to differ for each person,” Scanlan said. “Consult your physician before any diet change, then try to eat the most clean, wholesome, natural food — as much as you need and can get your hands on. It’s a great way to live. You want balance in everything, so do what works for you.”

Article found on pnj.com.  Written by: Jahna Jacobson, News Journal correspondent

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