Category Archives: dinner

Small change #11 Split dessert the selfish way

When we dine out and the server delivers dessert in the form of 1/4 of a pie, we have a tendency to abdicate responsibility for our ability to finish whatever is put in front of us (“I didn’t put that on the plate, I’m just the lucky recipient!”).   In fact, this is part of the reason many people enjoy dining in restaurants.

It’s probably a good idea to split dessert.  The caveat: Never share a plate. That thing where they deliver the enormous slab of cake and 4 forks inevitably leads to an eating contest to get the delicate sliver at the tip, then the icing off the back…you get the picture.

Ask for your own plate, or to have the thing pre-split.  Tell the server you aren’t good at sharing.  They always seem to believe me when I say it..

If your partner eats like a raptor and goes after yours, you can always stab at him/her a little with your fork, though I don’t recommend this on a first date (unless there won’t be a second date or they seem litigious about being assaulted with a fork).

What?  You are eating with someone on some diet who doesn’t want dessert or is just not really human and doesn’t have a sweet tooth?  Don’t forgo dessert because of them.  Order dessert and ask to have it split, with the other half placed in a to-go container.  Tomorrow there will be more dessert for you! If, while you enjoy your guilt-free serving, you notice sad-doggy looks, they won’t belong to your happy face.

Always leave a good tip for a server who goes the extra mile.  They’ll be thrilled to help you get that torte into a to go container next time.

Diet for 2013, part 3

Well, you know there had to be some things you shouldn’t do.  Here they are, with one last life-affirming set of do’s tomorrow:

  • DON’T Weigh yourself every 12 minutes.  It takes 3500 calories to lose a pound, and the best way to do that is a combination of decreasing your calories by 100-200 calories a day combined with 300 calories of exercise.  That’s a 500 calorie deficit x 7 = 3500 calories.  That’s a pound a week.  Now, if you’re normally consuming 11,000 calories a day, you could cut back and lose weight faster.  But if you’re a lady looking to lose 10 pounds, it’s probably a better idea to lose a pound a week for 10 weeks than to starve yourself and end up face down in a cake on week 4.
  • DON’T Talk about your new diet plan like the town crier.  If you have a friend who can’t wait to savor every detail, okay.  But if you find yourself telling your significant other every single detail every single time you see each other, you are either a) very excited all the damned time or b) white-knuckling it, which means you are hanging upside down on the rollercoaster and it’s probably not going to last.  Being obsessed usually means you are having trouble hanging on.  Go ahead and be excited about the changes you are making.  Be happy about everything you are doing right.  But change should be slow and relatively effortless.  Giving up a piece of bread is effortless, but giving up everything is not.  You need to build new habits, and that takes time.  Taking time increases the chances that the changes you make will be permanent and not fleeting.  Obsession is like new love: It’s an exciting novelty, but eventually there’s got to be a deeper relationship to sustain it.  Otherwise your new love will have Duncan Hines written all over it.
  • DON’T Eat at the movies or while playing video games.  Unless you’re bringing in vegetables or a piece of fruit.  This is the kind of eating we do without having any awareness of what we’re doing.  It’s easy to put on weight when you aren’t paying attention because it feels like you didn’t enjoy what you ate – so you eat again.
  • DON’T Drink so many sugary drinks.  Soda should be as close to eliminated as you can stand it.  Juice other than orange juice (and even then, 6 oz a day will do it) is unnecessary.  Frappuccinos…once in a while.  All of these sugary drinks raise insulin levels, contain loads of calories, and will make you hungry again sooner because as your insulin levels dip, your body registers hunger.  The higher they rise, the harder they fall as glucose enters the cells.  Before it can be released, the brain says, “Give me more food!”  This might be the easiest way for you to eliminate that 100 calories.  Frappuccino?  Get an extra cup and share, just like your mother always told you to do.  Then save up the money you save for something else.
  • DON’T Take a salad with 50 calories and dump 500 calories of dressing over it.  Dip the fork in the stuff, then take a bite, or give yourself a tablespoon of the stuff and then push the rest away.  At restaurants, the cups of dressing average about ¼ to 1/3 of a cup.  That’s 4-5 tablespoons of oil, my friend, or between 32-70 grams of fat (288-630 calories).  Gasp.
  • DON’T Go below 130 grams of carbs a day.  Bread or ½ cup rice has about 25 grams of carbohydrate, to give you an idea.  Your brain runs on glucose, a carbohydrate.  If you want a lower carbohydrate diet, this amount will do, as the average sane person consumes about 300 grams of carbs a day (not just from rice, bread and past, but from milk sugar and fruit also).  If you want to consume less in the way of sugar, go right ahead, but this bullshit about low carb only encourages you to consume fatty foods that aren’t good for your heart (or, apparently, your head).
  • DON’T Consume very much saturated or trans fats.  Saturated fat is the stuff that’s solid at room temperature – butter, Crisco…trans fat is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil that in it’s oil form was all right, but has now been turned into something that will contribute to your death.  Read labels and keep saturated fat to under 10% of calories (on average that would be 20 grams a day – the less the better) and 0 trans fat is preferred – yeah, it’s that bad.  If the label says 0 trans fat, read the ingredients.  If anything is hydrogenated, it still probably has ½ gram or less of the stuff and you should leave it on the shelf.  The naturally occurring trans fat in butter and meat behaves differently, and are okay – in moderation.  Nuts have both healthier monounsaturated and saturated fats.  In other words, they make a good snack as long as you don’t eat a 5 oz. bag of trail mix.  A palmful will do.  Stay away from powdered coffee whitener – that crap is LOADED with trans fat garbage.  Use milk or soy milk or suffer with plain.
  • Don’t believe all the fad diets that you sort of know couldn’t possibly be a good idea but you fall for out of desperation.  Save your money for something good and just do the hard work in very small steps until you get there.  There are lots of books out there and lots of articles in magazines promoting books.  Be skeptical.

One more bit tomorrow with some resources….

Diet for 2013, part 2

More Do’s for 2013:

  • Pack lunch.  You will save money and eat better.  Ready made salads you bought at the market — okay.  Frozen meals that are loaded with sodium: avoid.  Best: freshly made sandwich, pasta, soup, rice you made the evening before, etc.  The less processed the better.  Pack the night before, except sandwiches (the bread will become stale in the fridge).  Pack all over refreezable ice or in a Thermos.
  • Bring a container to work and leave it there.  If the birthday cake is a winner, or the platter from the meeting is awesome, pack some to go for later when you can relax and enjoy it.  Otherwise, LEAVE IT.
  • Bring a container to your relatives house.  Leave it in the car and when they force more servings on your or want you to take some home, chirp, “Oh, I just remembered I have a container in the car.  I would love some to bring to work/home and enjoy all over again!  Thanks!”  It’s worked for my students over Thanksgivings and Christmases and it will work for you too.
  • Take half home.  Pack it up yourself in a reusable container you bring to the restaurant.  Now you’re all ready for lunch tomorrow!  (Have a cooler with ice or refreezable ice in the car so it doesn’t go bad.  Your friends will more than likely wonder why they didn’t think of it as opposed to getting all judge-y.) Continue reading

New Diet for 2013? Start with common sense.

December through January is the time for diet books, diet articles, and all form of marketing New Year’s resolutions vying for your attention.  With all the sweets around the office since the introduction of leftover Halloween candy, the potlucks and special meals with family and friends, the parties and the timeless winter pairing of hot chocolate and well, chocolate, they’re probably barking up the right tree.  No new diet books in March?  That’s because most of you will have given up on the gym membership (but are too lazy or forget to cancel the membership billing your credit card every month) and the stupid fad diet you were so excited about when the year began.  This is not pessimism; it’s statistical truth, and one I’d like you to avoid.

I’ve got nothing to sell you, but I’d like you to consider the following dietary advice:


  • Get rid of junk food/trigger foods in your house.  If you’re eating enough Cheetos to single-handedly support the company, it’s time for them to go (and by this, I mean any food you cannot stop eating once you start).  What about your family?  Both you and they can seek the food elsewhere (single-serving bag when out, yes, but in the house, NO.  See?).  
  • Understand that you are not a human garbage can.  It was a proud moment for me when I discovered that I could toss the extra shortbread cookies I didn’t want to be eating and wanted out of my house.  Or compost.  You don’t have to eat things because they’ve turned up, gotten left over, etc.  Toss them. Continue reading

Soup on the fly

healthysoupWhat happens when I have a child in the bath and I’m still thinking of what to whip up for dinner?  This is what happens: soup.  Our child loves soup, so on this night, when we were eating something she wouldn’t touch (Spanakopita; is she nuts? Her loss.) I whipped this up while she threw on some jammies.  Soup for one:

  • Broth (we buy a carton for $1.99 at Trader Joes – chicken or veggie — we use veggie.  The following night/day it can be used to make some really excellent rice when it’s the cooking water, or cooking water for vegetables.  Adds flavor without much salt.
  • Rotelle (spiral) pasta – always good to keep on hand.
  • baby carrots
  • frozen broccoli — just take out what you need
  • ditto the frozen, sweet corn
  • beans from a can, or leftover homemade, which was the case here

Microwave the broth with the rotelle pasta and carrots for 5 minutes.  Toss in the broccoli and corn, microwave for another 4 minutes.  Toss in the beans, 1 more minute.  Done!

Add a little bread and butter on the side and you’re good to go without having tons of soup left over.

Salad days

Left to my own devices, I could eat carbohydrates with bouts of protein consumption and nothing else. Usually by dinnertime my interest in going face down into a bowl of food at the end of the day when I’mYum! make-upless in my “tired pants” (nicknamed by the child for the proclamation about my mental state that usually accompanies their donning) is keen.

Turns out this is also how the vast majority of my students fill the bill when they’re left to their own devices. They work a lot, can’t afford a lot, and thus they eat breakfast and generally return home looking for food with raptor-like hunger. Many of us can finally relax at dinnertime (or lunchtime if we work the night shift, hopefully). They don’t have enough time to shop, don’t have enough time to eat, and as a result they don’t meet up with vegetables very often unless they’re in a wrapper squeezed between a piece of meat and a bun.

So how about a salad?

When you’re really hungry, this sort of thing tastes really, really good. The prep also lends itself to the popping of ingredients into one’s hungry mouth without a trace of guilt. And if one is a serious cheater like me, this can all be done rather quickly (and somewhat cheaply, but let’s not kid ourselves, produce can be expensive — but you’re worth it!! Excuse me while I put down my pom-poms). Here’s how — any or all of these: Continue reading