Category Archives: Weekly Healthy Habits

Weekly Healthy Habit #3: Portion Control

Now to one of the important benefits of eating all of those vegetables–it should be a bit easier to reduce the portion sizes of the foods that you can’t eat with abandon. As I stated in my previous post, I control the portion size of all foods except vegetables at each meal–and I had to learn what a correct portion actually looks like–and then load up on the vegetables until I feel satisfied.

The first part of portion control I am going to talk about is using smaller plates and bowls. As I discussed in one of my earliest posts, I started having dinner on salad plates instead of dinner plates early on in my journey, and I still do to this day. When I am serving myself dinner, I imagine the plate as being split into quarters; I put the protein on one quarter, the starch on one quarter, and the vegetable on the other half of the plate. For my plates, that works out just about right for portions sizes. Here’s some examples of what that looks like:

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As you can see from these pictures, the starch is often a starchy vegetable rather than something grain based. We also frequently have more than one kind of vegetable with our meal, depending on what is in season. We have lots more variety in vegetables during the summer, of course.

I also use smaller bowls when I am serving myself snacks, like nuts or dried fruit. Items like these are healthy, but the serving size is very small. If you put a small amount of food on a big plate or in a big bowl, it can look depressingly small. But put it on a small plate or bowl, where it fills it up, and you really can fool your mind into thinking that you are getting more.

 

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How the Habit of Eating More Vegetables Has Helped Me Get Healthy

As I said when I introduced this habit, this is probably my #1 recommendation to people, and that is because of how much this habit has helped me. Because here’s the thing…I LOVE to eat. And I love to eat a lot of food. I’m not so great at doing that whole “only eat when you are hungry” and “stop eating when you are satisfied, not stuffed” thing–though I continue to try to work on that. Oh, and the “eat slowly” thing is a work in progress too.

So, I practice portion control (next week’s habit!) with everything else, and I let myself go crazy with the veggies. I make A TON of veggies with every dinner, so that if I want to keep eating, I can let myself do that…just with only the veggies. If there are leftovers, that’s terrific, I’ll have them with lunch the next day. If I want to snack between meals, even if I’m not hungry, that’s fine…but only with veggies–and sometimes fruit, though I do watch the quantity of fruit I eat in a day. If I am actually hungry, I will often have some protein with my veggies or fruit.

And here’s the thing…veggies are absolutely delicious. I love veggies. Sure, I love to experiment with them, and try cooking them in different ways. But most of the time I just love to quickly pan steam them with a little garlic and salt, as I described in this recipe, or I grill them like in this one. I also love a great crunchy salad, and sometimes experiment with different salads and dressings. If you don’t like vegetables a lot, or don’t know how to prepare them, this article from the Kitchn has some great tips. I think it would be impossible to really get healthy without being in a habit of cooking regularly, and I will definitely talk about that in a future post as well.

So, if you like to eat like I do, try making about twice as much vegetables as you think is reasonable, and go at it! You will be getting lots of healthy vitamins and nutrients, you won’t be hungry since veggies have lots of good filling fiber, and as a result you may find yourself eating less of the stuff that isn’t as healthy. It certainly worked–and continues to work–for me.

Links From Around the Web on Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Here’s some great ideas from around the web on how to eat more vegetables and fruit:

40 Unexpected Ways to Add Veggies to a Meal – great ideas from Greatist.com, a site with lots of fitness and nutrition information.

How to Get More Vegetables into Your Diet – from my favorite nutritionist, Monica Reinagel the Nutrition Diva. She gives very fact-filled, no gimmicks advice.

12 Ways to Eat More Vegetables and Fruit – from Cooking Light. I have ambivalent feelings about the magazine and website. They have some great ideas and recipes, but in my opinion they still use too much white flour and sugar and processed foods in some of their recipes

Weekly Healthy Habit #2: Eat Lots of Vegetables and Fruit

This week, I’m going to talk about my favorite subject, fruits and veggies! Seriously, if anyone ever asks me my secret to losing weight and getting healthy, I always tell them learn to love vegetables and eat a ton of them.

Vegetables have a very high nutrient density. That means that they have a lot of nutrients compared to the amount of calories. They also usually have quite a lot of fiber. So they fill you up, give you lots of great stuff your body needs, and don’t add on a lot of calories to your day. Oh yeah, and they taste fantastic too! My goal for most dinners, and often lunch as well, is to pack in as many different vegetables as I can. I eat an unlimited amount of vegetables–seriously, a lot–and about 3-4 servings of fruit each day. Fruit has a bit more calories than vegetables, so I try to exercise some portion control. I often have fruit in my breakfast, and when I have a craving for something sweet during the day. I also have an apple almost every night for dessert while they are in season.

There are a few habits you should try to form when it comes to fruits and (especially) vegetables. When grocery shopping, load up your cart from the produce section. If available, try to visit a farmer’s market weekly, or join a local CSA–visit LocalHarvest.org to find one near you. Then, plan to have fruits or vegetables with every single meal and snack. In fact, vegetables should make up the majority of the volume of food on your plate for most meals.

Today is Meatless Monday, so it is a great day to start this topic! Try having a vegetarian dinner once a week, where the vegetables get to be the star. Tonight we are eating vegetarian tacos, which is one of my kids (and my) favorites. I posted about taco night a year ago, but for that post I used ground turkey. More often, I now make my taco filling with tempeh and a lot of veggies. Tonight I will probably put in mushrooms and zucchini along with the tempeh and tomatoes. I will post an updated recipe soon. I hardly ever have a tortilla with my taco filling any more, I’ve recently discovered how delicious it is on a roasted sweet potato. Then I layer it with shredded romaine, tomato, and salsa verde. Mmmm, I’m getting hungry for dinner!

I will post more ideas about meals featuring a lot of vegetables and fruit, and links to websites to help get ideas about how to add more vegetables to your diet. In the meantime, go grab a carrot stick and get munching!

Mindfulness Can Be a Challenge

Today I couldn’t get to a class at the gym, but I have gotten into the habit of exercising every day, so felt like I should do something. That’s the benefit of creating healthy habits, it just feels wrong if you don’t follow through with them.

Yesterday my husband was talking about this wonderful hike he took near our house so I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise, and to make sure that he doesn’t pass me on the Fitbit leaderboard (ha ha, he’ll never pass me!)

As I started my walk, I had an internal dialogue going in my head…and it wasn’t a good one. I was grumbling about how I really didn’t feel like walking, I much prefer going to classes at the gym, walking felt boring in comparison. Grumble grumble grumble…I entered the hiking trail and started climbing up the hill, and my internal grumbling went to the fact that my legs were sore from strength training yesterday, I was still bored, so on and so forth.

Suddenly I realized…it is a beautiful day in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are having an unseasonably warm and dry winter, a fact for which I am sure we will all pay with water restrictions this summer, but for now it is really lovely outside. The woods I was hiking through are lovely and still a bit wild, even though they are surrounded by suburbs on all sides. My body is strong, and I love the feeling of my muscles working hard, even when they are a bit sore. As I started being more mindful of my surrounding, of the beautiful day, of the way my body felt, my internal grumbles faded and I felt more at peace, and my walk became a lovely experience.

So sometimes you have to work to calm all your grumblings, and just be mindful of the moment.

Mindfulness While Grocery Shopping

An important step in eating more mindfully is being mindful when buying your groceries. Avoiding impulse buying, and knowing about the food you are purchasing will go a long way towards a healthier lifestyle.

Before you shop, make a grocery list. This will help reduce impulse buying. I really like GroceryIQ–I keep the list on my iPhone, and my husband can update the list from his phone and it will sync back to mine. I actually shop at a lot of different stores–Trader Joe’s (primarily), our local grocery store, Costco, the farmer’s market, etc.–and I can keep a list for each one.

Michael Pollan has a great video speaking to the marketing strategies used by grocery stores to get you to buy the heavily processed products with higher profit margins. It is good advice to follow while shopping. Pay attention to the marketing strategies used to get you to buy certain foods–like huge displays when you walk in the door–and work to avoid them. When you do buy a product in a box or can, pay attention to what is on the ingredient list and the nutrition label. I often use Fooducate while shopping, an app that lets you scan the barcode of different foods, and gives them a letter grade based on a number of factors, including level of processing, nutrition, ingredients, etc. Perhaps I look a little strange standing in the store scanning products into my phone, but I don’t really care. It is actually kind of fun.

Don’t assume that just because it is at store like Whole Foods, or organic, or gluten-free, or has some kind of health claim on the label, that a food is automatically good for you. We can tend to think this way due to the “health halo” effect, but it can still be heavily processed and contain empty calories and lots of sugar.

Next week’s healthy habit will be about adding more fruit and vegetables to your meals and snacks, but this week try becoming more aware of how much fruit and vegetables you are currently buying and eating.

Increasing Mindfulness by Logging Your Food

When I was actively losing weight, I logged my food every day, every meal, every bite. As I got closer to my goal, I realized I didn’t really need to log anymore, but by then it was a habit…and to be honest I was a little scared to stop, like I would suddenly start putting the weight back on if I did. But the truth is that by the time I hit my goal weight I really understood what foods to eat, and how much, and eating healthy was such an ingrained habit that maintaining without logging has been fairly easy.

Logging was a very important step in my really becoming aware of what I was eating, and the nutrient density and caloric density of certain foods. Because of this, I strongly recommend that anyone trying to form healthier eating habits tries logging their food for at least some amount of time. Logging food includes occasionally weighing or measuring what you are eating, which is great to understand what a serving of different foods actually looks like.

The website, and associated app, I used was MyFitnessPal. It has an enormous database, and the app even has a barcode scanner. There are many other apps out there, use whichever one works best for you.

Again, you don’t need to change what you are eating this week. Just try logging everything before you eat it. It will make you much more aware of what you are eating…hard to eat mindlessly when you have to write it down first. Try it for a day or two, or even for the rest of the week.

ETA: After I posted this, an article was posted on Fooducate–a great app I am talking about in my next post–about The Top Ten Whys and Hows of Keeping a Food Diary. It is by Yoni Freedhoff, MD whose blog Weighty Matters is worth following.