Category Archives: eating well

How changing your diet is like the winter solstice

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The sunset on 12/20/13.

Today is the winter solstice — the start of the shortest day of the year.  According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, today we’ll see just 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.  In contrast, the summer solstice gave us 14 hours and 26 minutes of daylight.

That’s a lot of difference, right?

The amount of daylight we receive changes minute by minute, day by day.  Except during the period surrounding each solstice, and for periods of a couple of days where the amount of daylight remains the same, we either gain a minute of daylight a day, or lose one.  From today until June 21st of 2014, we will slowly, very slowly, gain daylight until we have amassed more than four extra hours of daylight a day!

What does that have to do with changing your diet?

Day by day and hour by hour, what we eat can change us, even if it’s by only a tiny change from what we normally consume.  If today you decide to eat one cookie instead of two, or take one piece of bread out of the restaurant basket instead of two or decide after overdoing it at a get-together not to keep overdoing it today out of self-loathing and a sense of defeat, you’ve inched a bit closer to success.  Eating better, exercising and taking care of ourselves are not about the big, dramatic moves, but about the little tiny ones that are less painful and therefore are read as less important.

Minute by minute and day by day, how will you be when the next solstice arrives?

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What to eat at Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee Company

The official drink of The Voice, and my husband. They should have a platinum card for guys like him.

There’s a lot out there about what NOT to eat, but how about a post about what constitutes a good choice?

Starbucks has a lot of food and drink with under 400 calories, which is a good caloric neighborhood, beverage included, when you’re making a stop to fuel up.  If you’re watching your calories, it’s a good idea to choose a beverage very, very low in calories (iced tea with one packet of sugar or one pump of sugar, coffee with one sugar and a very small hit of cream) if you’re having a snack.  I would keep the snack at or below 200 calories; you need to save room for other healthful foods throughout the day.

I will assume you are looking for a drink and a nibble…

  • First, remember that whipped cream adds 45-100 calories depending on the size of the drink.  If you want whipped cream, the obvious choice is the smaller-sized drink (the short with whip is 45, give it up: a grande has 60 calories for the whip and is more realistic).
  • Each pump of syrup adds a teaspoon of sugar, which is about 20 calories.  Caramel drizzle adds 15 calories, and chocolate adds just 5.
  • Protein/fiber powder adds 30 calories and is entirely unnecessary (only adds one gram of fiber?!  Let’s have bakery instead!).

Beverages (200 calories or less):

  • Iced brewed coffee or tea.  Get it without the added syrup, or just one pump, and add milk or soy milk.  If you add the milk, and choose nonfat and Tall, it’s 80 calories.  If you’re feeling spartan, a plain iced tea or coffee contains 0 calories.
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12 tips to save you money on groceries

My mother used to use one of these and I LOVED it as a kid.  Alas, it only goes to 10 or 20 bucks!

My mother used to use one of these at the grocery store and I LOVED it as a kid. Alas, it only goes to 10 or 20 bucks!

Lately I’ve been taking greater care to stay on a grocery budget, and the process has been quite enlightening.  Though I never went hog-wild buying cartloads of groceries, I often found myself buying things in advance that we didn’t yet need, or lots of one thing, like fruit, without thinking about how much bread and protein foods we would need later in the week.  In other words, I wasn’t planning well, despite having a list.

Here are some tips that helped me:

1. Keep track of the bill as you shop.  I kept my list and my cell phone together and entered each item in the phone’s calculator.  It’s a pain when the calculator accidentally zeros out on you once in a while, but after entering the prices of everything for a few weeks, I found that I can look at the list and very closely estimate the cost before I shop.  If I have 10 things on the list and I know they will come to about $30, I know how to estimate from there if I decide to add ice cream as an impulse purchase — or decide that this week, I really shouldn’t.

2. Know your prices.  I know what yogurt, tofu, beans, and even some chips cost at every market where we shop.  If there’s a sale on yogurt or canned beans, I’m all over it because that’s two items we eat nearly every day.  Be careful about package size — sometimes an item will cost the same amount at Trader Joe’s as it does at Costco, but at Costco you get twice as much.  Which is great ONLY if you will consume twice as much.  Here’s an example: Costco has 6 heads of conventionally grown baby Romaine lettuce for $2.99 — the price for three organic heads of baby Romaine at Trader Joe’s.  I like organic, but when money’s tight, sometimes we do without.  If you’re a family of four, it’s 100 degrees outside and you’re eating salad until November, this is awesome.  If you live alone and don’t have a herd of pet rabbits, it doesn’t work at all.

3. Keep track of what you spend.  Our weekly budget for groceries is $150 (covers 63 meals for we three).  I have an Excel sheet divided into four weeks and I enter each receipt to keep track of the week’s total (along with everything else we spend).  A simple memo pad where you can jot down the amount for each trip will help you keep track, or you can use the Evernote app.  But if you shop in more than one place you need to find somewhere to record what you spent at Ralph’s or Whole Foods before you hit Costco, Walmart or Target and blow the budget completely.

4. Pay cash.  Nothing forces you to stick to the budget more than seeing the greenbacks visibly leave your hand.

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Small change #14: Buy and/or make a new food

Do your best old lady voice: What’s all this I’m hearing about kale?  What is this here Quinoa (KEEN-wah)?  How do you make an eggplant anyway?  

Buy a little kale, quinoa, or some other food you haven’t yet experienced.  Look online for a recipe or instructions on how to make it and give it a try as a side dish with dinner.  You might discover something you couldn’t believe!  You’ll also round out your diet with balanced, healthy foods.

I was asked recently by a lady in her 60s how to cook fresh broccoli as I was adding some to a bag.  I was so happy she asked! (You can boil broccoli for 2-3 minutes, but I prefer to make a shallow pool of water in a wide skillet, put the lid half on and let it steam for a few minutes.  Add a little grated parmesan over the top, and/or add a tiny bit of butter to the pool of water for serious yum.)

A couple of years ago a kid from my daughter’s school was visiting and wondered if she could taste vanilla soy milk.  She loved it, and I was moved by her enthusiastic response: “I could have gone MY WHOLE LIFE and not had this!”  Tasting one new food made her realize the importance of new experiences.  And she was all of 9 years old at the time.

 

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.

Small change #10: Find out how many calories you need in a day

Once in a while I’m asked how many calories a person needs in a day.

It depends on the person’s height, weight, gender, age and activity level.

All of which you can enter right here to find out the answer quickly, along with how much you should eat in a day if you were being a perfect angel.  Click Create profile, and you will be prompted with boxes for the above information before the site will calculate your caloric needs.  If you want a quick estimate without considering exercise or the factors above, look here.

Even if you’re feeling a little less heaven-sent, this will give you guidance.  Moderation in all things, even perfection!

Small change #8: Eat a little breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast.

I hate eating breakfast.  I have a 0% fat greek yogurt (high in protein low in sugar)  just about every day with a nice cup of tea.  It makes me human.  I highly recommend it.

200 calories will do ya, with another 150 or so at 10 am so your blood sugar doesn’t fall through the floor waiting on lunch.  And obviously more if you’re not a short little middle aged woman such as myself!

Breakfast meeting?  Egg white omelette, a bready item that is NOT a muffin, or half a muffin if it cannot be helped (and sometimes, let’s face it, it cannot be helped!), and fruit, though it always pains me just a little when I order not to say Potatoes!  When possible, I poach a couple of breakfast potatoes off someone else’s plate (um, don’t do this at a meeting — but with the spouse, it’s on!).  Keep it light.  I don’t recommend a Grand Slam or anything that slams in the morning, particularly if you are already worried about over doing it.

In a couple of hours, there must be a snack!  See below for some good options: 25_Healthy_Snacks_Kids_2012_Tearpad