Monday, February 18, 2013

Splurge a Little

Want to know the best way to “cheat” on your diet?  The secret is realizing that cheating is OK because everyone needs a little splurge every once in a while.

Nobody’s perfect and that’s especially true when it comes to eating a healthy well balanced diet.
Nutrition experts say you have to plan for occasional splurges as part of the long-term plan. Atlanta personal fitness trainer, Beth Lewis, offers empowering psychological advice to her clients who need a boost, “Don’t mistake set backs with failure.”

Success in meeting your fitness and nutrition goals means allowing yourself to skip an exercise class or eat a few too many potato chips and then get back on track. Being a goody-toe-shoes all of the time is just so boring. 
So, since February is National Heart Health Month with Valentine’s Day chocolates still hanging around (and Lent for a lot of folks!) , I thought we should give ourselves a little love and understanding when it comes to setting and keeping goals to live a healthier lifestyle. 

Choose dessert first
Yes, that’s right. Life is uncertain so think of dessert first. I didn’t say eat dessert first! This strategy helps you plan the rest of your meal around the rich dessert you really crave.  

At a restaurant, the waiter may think you’re weird asking to see the dessert menu first, but you need information on your destination before you can map out the meal. You’ve got to have a destination in life; you’ve got to know where you’re going. 

Best shared with three friends.
So, if you know you’ve just got to have the chocolate cheese cake or coconut cake with pineapple ice cream then you will make sure not to start with the fried calamari appetizer or the creamy New England Clam chowder!
At home you may have your eye on a slice of  chocolate cake or bowl of caramel crunch ice cream, or both.  So plan for it and skip the cheese and crackers before dinner and forgo the extra ladle of gravy. Save yourself for your true love, dessert!
Maybe you crave the savory, not the sweet. You still have to plan for a splurge. 

Picture This
A food diary or journal can help you keep track of your intake, so you won’t be caught going over your daily calorie limit. Research shows the most successful dieters do it and do it daily. 
If you bite it, write it....down. 
Your journal notes don’t have to be super detailed, but do include the types of foods, estimate amounts and write down where you were and perhaps how you felt. This will give you an insightful snapshot of your relationship with the foods you love. No place or no time to write it down?

Text yourself a message or easier yet, take a photo of your meal with your phone’s camera. Registered Dietitian and nutrition researcher, Rebecca Reeves, of Baylor University’s Diet Modification Clinic says even the simplest notes scrawled on the back of an envelope are often enough to boost self awareness of diet habits and support successful weight loss.  Keeping track of what you’re eating will help prevent the mindless munching on chips while driving or gobbling candies while at your desk. Now you’ve got room for the treats you’re really craving.      

 Accessorize Sensibly

As fashionistas know, accessories can make or break a look; too many baubles, bangles and beads can ruin an outfit. 
Less is more when it comes to adding rich accessories. Thank you Audrey and Lauren. 

The same goes for smartly dressing your dinner plate. For instance, think of blue cheese and bacon crumbles as accessories. They add flavor and flare to a dish, but too much just piles on unnecessary fat and calories. So, it’s not necessary to totally avoid the butter, gravy, cheese sauce and full fat salad dressings; just learn to accessorize sensibly. (Especially if you want to wear those skinny jeans.) For a sweet dessert or snack, add the nutty crunch of granola cereal as a topping for yogurt and fresh fruit.

Seek Thindulgences
If it’s a punch of flavor you're looking for to liven up a salad or grilled chicken and fish; learn to identify very low calorie ingredients, sauces and sides that perk things up (such as salsas, hot sauce, steak sauce, citrus, vinegar, herbs, spices) while keeping calorie counts down
Accessorize a bowl of strawberries for dessert? Did you know chocolate syrup has only 15 calories per teaspoon? 

And why not seek out delicious foods that just happen to be nutritious? Chewy and crunchy granola bars are a great choice. Choose granola bars that are portion controlled and serve up healthy whole grains. Sunbelt Bakery’s tasty granola bars are made with whole grain oats and most varieties are less than 140 calories. They’re all made without preservatives or high fructose corn syrup so you can feel good about splurging on these sweet treats.  
My favorite flavors include Chocolate Chip (140 calories each)  and Oats & Honey (120 calories each)

Savor Flavors

If you’re going to splurge you should enjoy it! Choose really fine chocolates so you only need a few decadent bites. It’s quality, not quantity that counts. SunbeltBakery’s granola bars, granola cereals and fruit and grain bars are delivered to communities each week so you can savor their bakery-fresh taste.

A diet study conducted at the University of Rhode Island found that women consumed fewer calories and were more satisfied when they ate at a slower pace. Nutrition researchers theorize that it takes time for your body to process fullness signals so slower eating may allow time for fullness to register in the brain before you’ve eaten too much. Bottom line: By eating more slowly the women ate 70 calories less and said they enjoyed the meal more.  Whether your meal is a race or a ritual is just one facet of eating behavior that might impact food consumption.

So, slow down and let your body and soul appreciate small portions of big tastes.
Now go ahead and find your favorite splurge food and work it into your plan for a healthy lifestyle.

 Disclosure for this post: I am thrilled to serve as the official Registered Dietitian for Sunbelt Bakery. Though I am compensated, all views and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own, and are based on my knowledge and experience as a Registered Dietitian. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seeing Red for Happy Hearts

Seeing Red in Healthy Foods

Red is the color of the month with the hearts and roses of Valentine’s Day and the American Heart Association’s annual Go Red For Women campaign to coax us to be good to our hearts.  

Heart Smart Fashions for Go Red for Women National Heart, Lung and Blood Gala in NYC 

So as long as we’re seeing red in February here’s a taste of the reasons why choosing foods that are naturally red are a good choice for good nutrition.

Red Hot Healthy
From blue to green to red and orange pigments of foods are indications of the nutrients that lie within. (This does not include the many colors of M & M’s.)  The color map to good eating applies principally to plant foods. Individual pigments offer visual clues about various health promoting plant compounds called phyto-chemicals. Phyto is the Greek word for plant. That’s why you may have heard you’re supposed to eat a rainbow of colors.  
Red is easier to say than Anthocyanin and Lycopene

By eating a variety of fruits and vegetables from each color group, you have a better chance of getting a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other healthy compounds.
When you see red in fruits and vegetables it’s a sign that these foods contain the compounds lycopene and anthocyanin. These dietary good guys, classified as antioxidants, are associated with promoting heart health, protecting cells from damage, improving memory function, aiding blood sugar control and a lowering risk of certain cancers including prostate cancer.

More Than 50 Shades of Red
 Reddish orange tones in foods such as red peppers and tomatoes are an indication that beta-carotene, another potent antioxidant, is also in the healthy mix. Generally foods with darker pigmentation are richer in antioxidants. So, a ruby red grapefruit would be higher in antioxidants than a yellow colored grapefruit.   
All Citrus is Healthy but Red Color Means More Antioxidant Concentration 

Anthocyanins are also found in reddish blue foods such as grapes, red cabbage, radicchio, red onions, red skinned and purple potatoes. So enjoy all the shades of red.
The Produce for Better Health Foundation offers a lot of great information on the health benefits of enjoying fruits and vegetables. In fact, researchers estimate that there is up to 4,000 different phytochemicals in plant foods and only a small fraction have been studied closely. 
So much tastier than a vitamin pill

That’s why, for example, it’s better to bite into a strawberry, which is an excellent source of vitamin C (even a dark chocolate covered one on Valentine’s Day) than to swallow a vitamin C supplement. Strawberries contain so many more healthy nutrients, some not yet even identified.
While we think about eating raw fruits and vegetables as the ultimate healthy snack, the red hued phytochemical lycopene is actually better absorbed after it’s cooked. 
Cooking tomatoes ups the betacarotene bioavailability 
So marinara sauce, stewed tomatoes, tomato soup and even ketchup contribute to a heart healthy diet.

Red Hot Shopping List
Red apples
Blood oranges
Red grapes

Red peppers
Red potatoes

A Nutrition Note on Red Meat

Lean beef is redder in color than heavily marbled cuts with streaks of fat throughout. That means lean beef cuts such as filet mignon, sirloin and flank steaks are lower in saturated fats, total fat and calorie content and therefore a better choice for heart health.  There are 29 lean cuts of lean beef.