Getting real about food choices
As a nutrition columnist, I'm probably more aware of the need to make healthful food choices than a lot of folks out there. But does that mean I always choose wisely?
Of course not. My food choices are sometimes guided by whim or circumstance or convenience, by what I'm craving or what I happen to have on hand, or sometimes they're simply perverse and random.
But my Me Minus 10 journey -- I'm trying to drop 10 pounds before my 50th birthday -- has taught me that it's best to have some kind of guiding principle in mind to help you sort through the impossible array of foods that surround us and decide which ones to put in your mouth. (Dr. Pam Peeke, one of the wonderful people who has been advising me during my weight-loss campaign, told me at the get-go that my eating was "chaotic.") It doesn't necessarily have to be rigid or detailed: Just a simple tool you can use whenever you're making up your mind about what to eat.
There are many guiding principles to choose from. You can decide to eat vegetarian or vegan foods exclusively, or to do so once a week. You can opt to go all-organic, or choose to buy organic versions of certain foods. You can say you're going to cook and eat at home all the time, or you can say you'll get takeout every Saturday. You can go low-carb, low-fat, sugar-free, or whatever works for you.
With my weight-loss goal in mind, Dr. Peeke suggested I start thinking of food as fuel for my body and its activities, including its production of muscle. To that end, she suggested lots of lean protein paired with fiber-rich foods. Bread and full-fat cheese, former staples of my diet, aren't the most efficient fuels, I've learned, so I rarely choose them any more. Instead, eating small portions of lean protein with huge servings of vegetables and snacking on fresh fruit and high-fiber, low-calorie crisp breads with a little peanut butter or Laughing Cow cheese through the day has helped me lose weight while feeling full, satisfied and never deprived.
And here's how a guiding principle serves me: When I grocery shop and when I'm preparing meals and snacks, I always stop and ask how well the food at hand will fuel my body. If there's not a good reason to buy it or eat it, I don't.
This week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column is about a novel way to organize your eating. The new book "Real Food Has Curves" by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough sets up a distinction between "real" food and processed, packaged stuff that's not "real" at all. Between those two ends of the spectrum are foods that are more or less real, according to the ingredients they contain and how much they've been processed. It's a handy and sensible way to navigate the grocery store. The authors say that when they learned to eat more real food, they lost weight and just plain started feeling healthier.
What about you? Do you have a guiding principle that steers you toward healthful food choices? Please share with me and your fellow readers!
Jennifer LaRue Huget
May 25, 2010; 8:40 AM ET
Categories: Me Minus 10 , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity
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