The beginning of January is tough for those of us trying to lose weight as a New Year’s resolution. There is the ride down the backside of December that culminates in parties, football watching, celebrations, cookie eating, more parties, fun, over-eating, and too many cocktails. For the New Year, don’t say “diet,” just endeavor to eat better. I have my favorite go-to strategies that help me immediately see results. The main thing is to not call any of this a “diet,” call it an “austerity plan.”
Cut out sugar. All of it, including the fake stuff. Stop drinking sugary sodas and diet sodas, all are bad for you and the diet sodas trick your brain into craving more sugary items and alters your metabolism. If you are addicted, then wean yourself off, replacing with plain sparkling soda with a splash of real fruit juice, or better yet, kombucha, which is naturally sparkling, lightly sweetened, and made with tea. If you must have something sweet, buy some good dark chocolate (lower in sugar) in small, individual packages, and have one. If you break down and start mowing down a package of Milano cookies, endeavor to do better. Look for all the hidden sugars on the labels, but if you are removing packaged foods, the sugar will disappear.
Prepare. Bring food and snacks for the day, make them in advance and have them with you. I keep different nuts in the car, and small protein bars low in carbohydrates and sugar. I will have my smoothie in the morning if I am on the go, and bring some type of crunchy salad with tuna or chicken on top for lunch. On Sundays, prepare a few items that you can use throughout the week: cooked sweet potatoes, quinoa, grilled chicken breasts, diced roast beef, boiled beets, or carrots. Assembling grain bowls or salad is fast and fun, and depending on the ingredients, can be sizable and filling. If salads aren’t your thing, make some hearty and delicious soups.
Structure your mealtimes and water consumption so that the bigger meals of the day are at breakfast and lunch, then have a light dinner. Health specialists say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your body will be in a much better place the next day.
Minimize the drinking and cocktails. Treat drinking as an extracurricular weekend activity. When we were kids, ice cream and cake was a treat that we had on the weekends, and the same should hold true for booze. Drinks contain a ton of carbohydrates, and are high on the glycemic index and calorie chart. If you are going to drink, then dinner needs to be smaller and no dessert. Two glasses of wine with dinner? That equals close to a quarter of your daily calories. Lately, I have taken to cutting my cocktail mixers with a splash of flavored soda waters. Having a gin and tonic? Cut the drink with some grapefruit soda water, delicious! Same for margaritas, or just go to a spirit you like without all the flavored soda and the calories will be half. Add extra lime or lemon for flavor, or find tasty bitters to add for flavor.
Write everything down. Use an app on your phone, or carry a pad. You can’t shove anything in your mouth unless the pad is nearby. As I would start to eat something, I would have to stop myself in order to figure out where the “damn” notebook was, and by the time I found it I had realized I didn’t really need it. The act of writing down what you eat, and looking up the calories, is mind blowing. Coconut cake you say…yum, love it! My favorite… try 800 to 1,000 calories for one of our “American”-sized slices. Yikes! Write it down.
Eat mostly plants, lots of them, while trying to avoid plant-based starches. The lower the glycemic index of the vegetables, the more you can have. Some are more satisfying than others, so if you really feel like potatoes, then go for it, but cut the fat that you are piling on top and counter with some sautéed kale. You don’t like vegetables? Then you need to work on that and start to love them. You will be amazed with the results. Become informed and find foods that you do love and start with those. You will be surprised at how your body responds.
Go organic, or do the best you can. The big agricultural companies are very liberal with the sprays, fertilizers, desiccants, and genetic engineering, so much so that it is starting to affect our digestion, which ultimately affects our stomach, skin, gut, brain, etc. Buy local and organic, or at the very least “natural.” If the farmer is taking care of his fields with proper rotation, then the chemicals aren’t needed, and we consume a better product. Quit buying all that packaged garbage and buy organic. Put your money where your mouth is and help your body at the same time.
Try to stick to the outside aisles of the store. Try to buy foods with five ingredients or less, and if you can’t understand or pronounce the words on the label, then don’t buy it, or better yet, don’t eat it.
I could go on and on, truly. It wasn’t until I had a pretty severe health issue that I woke up to my diet and what I was eating. I had some help and it has been a good ten-year journey (and I am a chef!!). I have learned some amazing things along the way, dropped pounds, reduced my blood sugar, and started to sleep like a kid again.
Try it! Give this thing a shot. It is not a diet, it is a life plan. Good luck, and if you see me on the street, let me know how it is going! Cheers to 2018!
(This has taken a while to get used to, but I am on year five of this a.m. drink.)
Add all ingredients to a blender, add ice if you like, and blend until smooth.
(The ingredients can be whatever you like, it is a breakfast or lunch meal, so make what you like and what you would eat.)
Hearty Vegetable Minestrone
(I make enough for the week and change up the ingredients; I eat it breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)
In a large soup pot, sauté the celery, carrot, turnip, onion, and olive oil on medium heat. Once the vegetables are soft, add the garlic and herbs, cook until it starts to color. Then add the zucchini and tomatoes, cook for 10 minutes. Then add the greens, green beans, canned tomatoes, parsley, bay leaves, and seasoning. Allow to cook for another 10 minutes, then add chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, taste, adjust seasoning, and enjoy.