Don’t even THINK that four-letter word. Yes, it’s a New Year, and there’s the inevitable resolution we make year after year after year. It’s the dreaded DIET: There’s probably a reason we end up making the same resolution time and time again.
Instead of thinking DIET, I’m resolving to think HEALTH. Diet implies tedium, starvation and sacrifice. Resolving to improve your HEALTH means taking positive steps towards a better tomorrow. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to swallow. However, the formula is simple: Decrease calories and increase activity. Yes, the formula is simple, but it’s often easier said than done. I speak from experience. I am the champion yo-yo dieter of all time. I was a chubby baby and toddler. I went on my first “diet” as a high school sophomore. And I’ve been up, down and all around in the 35-plus years since.
So, obviously, I don’t have all the answers. The holidays are always hard for people like me who love to bake and who love food. But, now that it’s January, it’s time to recommit to a healthier way of life. So, what do the experts suggest?
--First things first: Scientists have proven that you’ll be more successful when you write something down. Use the present tense to voice your goal because your brain thinks you’ve already done it, and believes it. For example, “I am making 2010 a healthy year. I am eating better. I am exercising more.”
--While you’re in the “writing down” mode, try a food journal. If you have to write down every bite that goes in your mouth, it may make you think twice about that handful of crackers – even if they are the reduced fat variety.
--Set small, attainable goals. If you have 50 pounds to lose (and believe me, I’ve been there!), break it into manageable goals. Post a “healthy living” tally on the refrigerator door. List pounds lost, miles walked, inches lost, and other measurable progress. It’s a powerful reminder of what’s been accomplished and a deterrent to raiding the refrigerator. Celebrate the small goals (just not with food)!
--Mix it up! For several years, I’ve been walking 4 miles a day. But I need to add weight training. Farm wives like me don’t have a health club just down the block. But my body has gotten used to walking 4 miles a day. I will add some workout tapes with strength training to my exercise regime. I know it may jump-start my metabolism, and it helps strengthen my bones. So … even though I’m not a big fan, I AM adding some strength training to my workouts (note present tense)!
--Drink more water. It’s cheap, fat-free and gives your body a boost. Eight cups of water may seem like a bunch. But resolve to drink one more cup of water today than you did yesterday. Start the day by drinking a glass of water with a sensible breakfast.
--Eat a balanced diet. How often do you hear that advice? But how often do you actually follow it? The healthiest and most body fat-resistant diet contains protein and carbohydrates and fats. Many times in my life, I’ve dramatically cut back on protein. But dietitians say that protein helps you feel fuller. Just combine low-fat protein with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
--Eat foods that are low in calorie density. Foods that are high in water and low in fat – such as fruits, vegetables, soup, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products - are low in calorie density and provide few calories per bite. I personally do so much better if I eat a large salad. Some days, I’ll top it with veggies, then extend my low-calorie dressing by using low-fat or no-fat cottage cheese (and get some protein and calcium at the same time!) Other days, I top the romaine salad with fruits and use a low-fat raspberry vinaigrette. During the winter months, low fat soups fill you up without a bunch of extra calories. Eating a diet that is low in calorie density allows you to eat satisfying portions of food, and this may decrease feelings of hunger and deprivation while reducing calories. I do so much better if I don’t feel hungry all the time. Low calorie, high volume foods help with that feeling of fullness.
--Add more fiber. Fiber has many health benefits including weight/appetite control, reducing the risk of certain cancers and lowering cholesterol levels. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, 100% whole wheat flours, brown rice and beans.
--Vow to cut out mindless munching. Pay attention to each piece of food you plan to eat. Busy your hands with a glass of water or a cup of tea. Brush or floss your teeth. Pop a stick of gum or a sugar-free mint in your mouth when you’re facing the munchies.
--No more skipping meals: People who eat breakfast are healthier and have an easier time losing weight. However, many people often skip this important meal. One idea is to break down your meals into smaller and more frequent meals – a trick that often helps people to eat better.
--Don’t do it alone! If you are near Stafford County (KS), Lovely Branches Ministries is offering “First Place 4 Health,” a Christ-centered weight-loss and healthy living program. Sessions will be on Thursdays, both at 9 AM and 7 PM at the Stafford Senior Center. Orientation is January 14. The $16 fee covers materials and building rent, and scholarships are available. To learn more about the program, visit www.firstplace4health.com. To sign up for the Lovely Branches study or to get specifics, email email@example.com This program isn’t just about weight loss. It’s about creating balance in four cores of your life: Emotional, Mental, Physical and Spiritual through putting Christ first in every area.
--Take responsibility for each day. Reflect on how the day went. If you ate too much food, recognize it, move on, and plan for tomorrow. Don’t beat yourself up. Just resolve to do better the next day.
--Don't forget to enjoy the food you eat. Sometimes a healthy diet means reducing your intake of the foods you love. The only way a “diet” can work in the long run is if you enjoy the food you're eating. If you get rid of every single unhealthy but tasty food, you won't last very long. Moderation is the key to enjoying some unhealthy foods. Having a small piece of dark chocolate may help you keep on track as long as the rest of your diet is OK. As my daughter the dietitian says: Everything in moderation!
I really do believe in moderation. I love to cook and bake. So I’m not always going to share low calorie recipes through the Vine Press. But, for this New Year, here’s a lower-fat Pasta Primavera recipe that my family has enjoyed since first discovering it in a holiday cookbook from The Hutchinson News:
12 oz. spaghetti (choose whole wheat for additional fiber, if desired)
2 cups broccoli (cut into 1-inch pieces)
2 tbsp. olive or canola oil
1 pkg. (12 oz.) mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, minced
1 small carrot, cut into matchstick-thin strips
1 small red pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated skim milk
2 tsp. chicken-flavored instant bouillon
1 ¼ tsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. salt
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp. minced parsley
About 40 minutes before serving: In large saucepan, prepare spaghetti as label directs and drain. Return spaghetti to saucepan to keep warm. In 2-quart saucepan over high heat, in 1 inch of boiling water, heat broccoli pieces to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until broccoli is tender-crisp. While broccoli is cooking, in 12-inch skillet or wok over high heat, cook mushrooms, onion and carrot in hot olive or canola oil, stirring frequently until vegetables are golden and tender-crisp. Add red pepper strips and cook, stirring until vegetables are tender. In 2-cup measuring cup, using a fork, combine skim milk, bouillon, cornstarch and salt. Into vegetable mixture in skillet, stir milk mixture. Over high heat, heat to boiling. Boil 1 minute. Add diced tomato, Parmesan cheese, parsley, broccoli and spaghetti, tossing to coat well. Heat through. Serves 6. (Serve with a green salad or a fruit salad.)
FROZEN VEGGIES: My daughter has simplified this recipe further by using a frozen vegetable mix with similar veggies instead of using the fresh ones. You’ll have dinner ready in no time!
ADD MEAT: Meatless meals don’t often appear on our table. So, if you’d like, add some cooked chicken breast (either leftover, zapped quickly in the microwave or even some grilled chicken from a salad bar or deli – if you live closer to the store than I do!)