Yes, easier said than done.
Put a homemade meal in front of most people, and suggest they will not have an extra bite, let alone an extra serving – I think we can agree, that would be wishful thinking.
It is clear we live in an obesogenic world – food is readily available, cheap and tasty and there are plenty of commercials, ads, billboards and advertisements telling us we need their meal/snack.
However, we need to be able to moderate our portions and be attentive to what we are choosing to eat. Observed practices which have helped clients and myself include:
- Eat on smaller plates and eat most foods at home, composed of real food (i.e. meals don’t come out of a box). “For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly two extra pounds a year,” said Lisa Mancino, a food economist for the USDA. How many more calories a diner consumes out depends on the meal. Eating lunch out has the largest effect, adding 158 calories to daily caloric intake, compared to lunch prepared at home. Dinner out increases intake by 144 calories, and breakfast out adds 74 calories, according to the USDA.
- Eat a variety of foods. Our bodies require more than 40 nutrients and if we are deficient in one, guess what happens? We get hungry and we get cravings. Diversify your meals day to day and season from season. Most importantly, eat real, clean food. Need assistance understanding what that is, let me know.
- Attend to your gut. Yes that’s right. A healthy intestines, housing good gut bacteria, allows for an optimal and controlled appetite. With most clients I recommend a quality probiotic. When our digestion is off and you large intestines doesn’t have support from good bacteria, we can become at risk for infections and inflammation. With both, we get an increased appetite. A healthy gut also entails a good diet avoiding gluten, corny syrup, soy and in some cases dairy.
- Eat slowly, focus on the flavors, savor the food, chew your food, chew your food. Also be sure to chew your food (hopefully you got that). The digestion process begins in the mouth and helps you to be in-tune with your hunger/satiety. Data from a study out of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who took smaller bites and chewed for an average of 9 seconds vs 3 seconds before swallowing ate significantly less food.
- Do not stock your kitchen with nutrient-deficient “domino foods.” This can be a two part recommendation too; domino foods can be something that is good for us like dark chocolate, nuts, dried fruit. For example, I have a hard time moderating my portions of nut butters. Therefore, I make nut butter fresh with raw nuts, when I want it. Yes, nuts are nutrient dense, but I easily eat too much of it (too much of a good thing is bad) and therefore I control portions by making small amounts when I want and involve labor in fulfilling my desire thus reducing the likeliness of going for seconds. As for avoiding nutrient-deficient foods in your kitchen, no need to have goldfish, chips, candy, sub-par chocolate, etc in your house. Let those foods be eaten on an occasion and when socializing with friends. These are the type of things you will want late in the evening. Out of site, out of mind, out of kitchen, out of luck.
- Write what you bite. A food log/journal is such a cheap and useful tool. It keeps us accountable and aware of what we are eating on a daily basis. Starting each day, or do this the night before, jot down what your 3 meals and snacks will look like. I find writing my snacks down is very helpful, especially for the latter part of the day.
- Drink tea. Tea is great for us (especially herbal caffeine free versions and the process of heating water and seeping a tea bag, can be therapeutic. let along enjoying the flavors.
- Learn how to cope with stress. Since stress can be the biggest trigger for cravings and learning to cope with what you have at hand rather than turning to food, is the best thing for your health overall.
- Fulfill your craving with quality food. I often tell clients to make some treats out of clean food options. Examples of this is a frozen banana, Lindt dark chocolate, coconut cocoa treats and more.
- Eat square meals with plenty of fat (yes, we need more fat than most people think), protein and moderate carbohydrates. The golden rule I provide to clients is starting their day off with protein (20-30 grams) to prevent cravings and snacking later in the day and then follow-up lunch and dinner with a third of calories coming from healthy fat, a third from protein and a third from carbs. The other 10 percent = wiggle room.
- Get up and move. Activity can curb cravings and appetite up to two hours. Sometimes boredom and fatigue can be the reason we are hungry and some movement is the solution. This does not mean to skip your meals, but make activity a priority.
- Lastly, make your health a priority. Get up earlier to make a healthy breakfast, make homemade meals in bulk, be efficient with grocery shopping, errands, doctor/dietitian appointments, weave movement naturally into your day, etc. You know what you need to do and just do it. You deserve good health.
SCIENTIFIC STUDIES RELATED TO MENU LABELING. YALE UNIVERSITY RUDD CENTER FOR FOOD POLICY AND OBESITY
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