We were looking for a polite way to bring this up, but we’ll use Dr. Scott Schreiber’s assessment instead, “Good eating habits are essentially gone!”
Schreiber, a chiropractic physician and dietitian in Newark, N.J., says that nutrition and rehabilitation (or traditional good health) are intimately related.
And we can’t think of anyone who would argue the contrary. So why does eating healthy sound like a punishment instead of a great decision for a longer better quality life?
“The bottom line is that we do not eat for nutrition, we eat for taste,” he explained via email. And sadly, he proclaims that “Our tastes have developed into the recipe for obesity, health disease, diabetes and certain cancers. All chronic diseases have a dietary component, which society is overlooking.”
OK, so now that we’ve established that the sky is falling, now what?
It’s a new year and a good mental excuse for a fresh start. But instead of overreaching and trading your burger and fries in for a soup diet, juice fast or raw food cleanse, think baby steps.
Almost any nutritionist or dietitian will confirm that small changes can make a big difference. And even better, small changes typically last longer and have a better chance to become healthy new habits. The goal is to develop a new way of eating, not a quick fix.
“People have to change their mindset,” explained dietitian Reshaunda Thornton of Better Vessel Nutrition and Fitness in St. Louis. “This is not about jumping in and making some huge change.”
She said that the best way to stay on track is not just to have a goal of this many pounds but to have a health goal where you decide that eating better is more important than a double chili cheeseburger with fries and a large soda. And she suggested that people think about “getting your money’s worth” differently. Do you want to leave the table so full you can hardly move or do you believe that health trumps a high caloric feast that keeps you from your ultimate health desire?
“People give up before they even start,” Thornton said.
So we’ve compiled some motivation and tips from a variety of health professionals. Before you read their advice consider, here’s one caveat: Don’t attempt to do them all.
Most professionals suggested that you adopt two or maybe three things to work on. Strengthen your willpower with subtle changes, so you’ll have the confidence to do something more drastic down the road.
Thornton says that a good place to start is eating out. Thanks to changes in the way Americans eat, we consume most of our calories dining out.
Bloomberg News featured this headline in April: “Americans’ Spending on Dining Out Just Overtook Grocery Sales for the First Time Ever.” And it states that according to Morgan Stanley Research, millennials are leading the charge.
Dining out is problematic for a number of reasons. Restaurant portions are big. Then, it’s usually accompanied by peer pressure to eat more, order cocktails and have dessert.
Thornton said it’s best to take a look at the menu before you arrive and before you’re hungry. Figure out some healthy options even if you have to ask for a substitution and then you’ll have a game plan once you arrive. Every time you eat, you don’t have to “reward” yourself with something rich with empty calories. Your reward is better health.
“The trick is to take small but relentless steps,” explained John Vespasian, an author of seven books about rational living, including “When Everything Fails, Try This.” He warns, “You should not underestimate the massive psychological bias that exists in our culture in favor of unhealthy food.”
Anyone who’s embarked on a healthier eating regimen has probably noticed the tacit-bias in friends who celebrate your announcement of eating a generous portion of fried chicken with “good for you” and “that sounds delicious” versus the crickets you hear when you explain how delicious your vegetarian lunch was.
Which brings up a great observation from Shari Portnoy of FoodLabelNutrition.com, “No one wants to hear you say you are on a diet.”
You don’t have to announce what you’re doing to get the benefits. Just ask your questions, make your order and shut up about it.
Water please. Almost everyone we asked said skip the pre-dinner drinks. Enjoy a full glass of water before the meal and then if you’re so inclined have one small glass (no refills) of the beverage of your choice.
Ban the bread basket. Say no to idle eating, Thornton suggests, or you’ll start your meal with 300 to 500 calories you don’t even think about. Others said at least wait until your main meal is served and then have one piece. And don’t let them leave the basket on the table as temptation. Same with chips and salsa. If you’re sharing with a table, grab one small handful and put it on your bread plate and that’s it.
SOUPS AND SALADS
Slow down. Your stomach isn’t as large as you think, if you slow down enough you’ll notice you’re full before you’re stuffed. But if you’re going to overeat, do it with veggies, Thornton said.
Improvise. Not everyone loves a traditional salad. Who says you can’t order the “side dish” of steamed broccoli, carrots, sauteed kale or Brussel sprouts as an appetizer?
Broth is best. Go for soups that are broth- not cream-based. But if you really can’t resist the chowder, order a cup, not a bowl, and savor it.
Sauce on the side. “An oldie but goodie. Salads can have as much fat as ice cream if it is dressed,” said Shari Portnoy of FoodLabelNutrition.com.
Family style. It’s not sexy on a first date, but among friends sharing is a great alternative. Otherwise ask for the doggie bag early and have them cut your portion in half before it hits the table. Various studies have reported that adults typically eat at least 90 percent of the food placed in front of them.
Hold the fries. “Make a conscious effort to choose a salad or other vegetable as a side instead of the potato/fries/chips that come with many meals,” says health coach Emi Kirschner of Pennsylvania. And she notes, “Filling half your plate with vegetables is a good way to not overeat.”
Hold the meat. You don’t have to be vegan, vegetarian or any kind of special protected class of eater to order a vegetarian meal. It doesn’t make you a vegetarian, it just makes you conscientious. Try it once; you might like it.
Extras are not bonuses. Resist the lure of “would you like bacon, Parmesan, sour cream or what-have-you on that.” Whatever you’re ordering is probably enough on its own. The extras are really just extra calories.
Shut up, and chew. “Put the fork down between bites and take three breaths,” said, Lisa Lewtan, a health life coach and author of “Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed!” The more you chew, the better you digest and the less you’re likely to overeat.
Tea time. Before you order dessert, order a hot tea. Green tea is often cited as having appetite suppressing qualities, and it might be soothing enough to dissuade you from the tiramisu.
Divide and conquer. You do not need your own dessert, but if your sweet tooth doesn’t relent, split a portion with one or more companions.
Skip the low-calorie options. Thornton said that it seems counterintuitive but if she has the option of no-fat, no-sugar, low-carb desserts, she advises you get the regular version and split it with someone. “Fat-free ice cream is not free,” of calories or weight consequences, she said. “The only thing free is water.” Or naturally low-calorie fresh fruit is also an option.
Don’t whip it. No whip cream, please.
Apple test. If you’re really hungry, an apple/pear/grapes should sound delicious. Otherwise something else is likely driving your impulses. Are you bored, lonely, tired, angry, anxious, procrastinating … all of the above? Take note and make changes. Set a timer when you have your first impulse and wait 30 minutes. Start with a five-minute walk around the building where you work. Go outside if you can. Have a glass of water or tea. Try a handful of pretzels before you answer the siren call of a vending machine.
Cook. Michelle Dudash wrote the book, “Clean Eating for Busy Families” ($13.81 at Barnes & Noble) and includes simple, kid-friendly recipes like chicken nuggets and maple-Dijon dip that advocates oven “frying” skinless chicken breasts with panko breadcrumbs. Full recipe below.