When we talk about diet it is really important to make the distinction between diet and dieting. In this article I am not suggesting dieting. My experience and research tells me diets don’t work.
Why diets don’t work is that you are not changing the fundamental component in the equation = your brain.
It is important to realize that your brain is a key component. If you don’t change the way you think about food and listen to your brain when you are eating then you will most likely fall off the dieting and be back where you started.
Here are some helpful tips to prompt a diet shift and keep you on track.
1. Increase flavor
Just because you are choosing to eat healthy doesn’t mean you should lose flavor and taste. I have never worked well with rice cakes and plain rice/pasta.
Invest in herbs and spices. There is no need to buy fresh herbs, but if you want to go that direction they do add a caliber to food. If you aren’t someone who cooked with herbs a lot, then it is suggested to start with basic herbs – basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, maybe even dill.
If you don’t want to care for plants because of the work or you don’t have a green thumb then prepackaged are fine. I particularly like buying herbs from bulk stores because I can buy smaller amounts. However, again, for those who aren’t herb specialists – start with basil, thyme, oregano. Actually, Italian seasoning is great because it combines all the flavors. Or look for other combination mixes like those sold by ClubHouse.
Add limited amounts of salt while cooking but try not to add to the meal once you are seated. Add pepper to taste or get a table shaker which adds a combination of flavor without the salt.
I’ve learned over the last few years of trial and error cooking that you really can’t go too wrong with mild flavor additions. I know the cooking shows talk about flavors that don’t work together. So the solution is to keep the flavor the same for each meal between the meat and veggies. Try different flavors on different nights.
2. Portion control
Maybe you’ve heard this one before. Maybe you aren’t convinced.
A fist-sized portion of each – veggies and meat, doesn’t feel like it is something that will fill you. Well it will! And yes, the fist is a good option to size portions without using the nutrition label. However, I believe in the process of using nutrition labels to choose your food amount is a good way to count calories without actually counting them.
There are also a few ways to trick your brain into believing you have had plenty of food.
Idea one: start with a cup of soup. Soup will help to fill your stomach with liquid and food. Many cultures help to clean their palate with a bowl of broth soup. But use your favorite, whether you make it or have it from a can.
Idea two: put your smaller portion on a smaller plate. The visual trick will convince your head that your plate is full and you’re eating everything you need for the meal to fill your body.
3. Eat small more often
It is a often debated idea. Should you eat three square meals a day or snack more making it 5-6 meals?
There is no perfect answer, but I like the idea of smaller meals throughout the day. Let’s not be ridiculous, but eating less each time you eat can be spread over the entire day which will make you feel less hungry since food is a short moment away.
If you want to think of them as daily snacks, that’s fine. Have a decent breakfast – cereal/yogurt with fruit. Have a mid-morning snack – carrots with a hummus/dip. Have a lunch – wrap sandwich with a fruit, maybe even something sweet. Have an afternoon snack – an energy bar/veggies. Have a good dinner – meat and salad.
It really doesn’t matter what you choose to eat during those times you make room for food.
The other debate is when to have your ‘largest’ meal. Do you have the dinner midday or in the evening?
Again, I’m not sure it matters. Yes if you have it midday you have more time to digest the elevated calories. However, if that doesn’t suit your day then it isn’t worth the switch.
4. Drink water
We hear it all the time – drink 8 cups of water a day. Note one that it says 8 cups – not 8 liters. It’s important to remember this simple fact because that means a bottle of water can be 2 cups.
There are some easy ways to ensure you are getting enough water, but that’s for another post to come soon.
In this post, let’s talk about how water can help your diet management.
One of the biggest things you can do to help you not over eat is to drink water when you feel that you are hungry. Especially in the early days of a diet shift your stomach may send messages that tell your brain you are hungry but in fact that message it wishes it could send is thirst. For some odd reason, the early thirty messages are misinterpreted as hunger.
If after sipping a glass of water while continuing to work you still feel hungry than have a snack. It’s important not to starve yourself. But it’s also important to realize that when you are someone like me, who eats too much, water is a great test to the hunger message.
5. Eat slowly
I once saw a program with an Englishman (I don’t remember his name), but he showed how eating blind changed the amount of food people ate. We eat with our eyes but we also eat too fast.
He tested a couple individuals to load their plates with the normal amount of food. Asked them to put on a blindfold and eat the food until they thought they were finished. The end result – few of the individual ate more than a quarter the food. They swore they’d eaten most of it.
The difference was without seeing the food we don’t convince ourselves to eat more than we need.
So we can’t all eat blindfolded. The solution is to put your fork down when you are chewing. The time it takes you to put the fork down and pick it up again gives time for the messages to get through. The key message from the body is normally ignored. That message that tells us we’re full. By eating slower you’ll hear that message before you’ve overeaten.
Bonus: Prepare food in advance
Perhaps a few key points to help your success are: 1) Plan a menu; 2) Write a shopping list; and 3) shop after you had a meal.
After all that, come home and prepare foods. Season meats and package appropriately even if that means into the freezer. Make fruit salads, clean veggies including washing lettuce. Some people go as far as packaging all the food parts for stir-frys and crockpot meals.
Don’t be afraid cook and package meals for the week at the beginning of the week. By organizing your meals right after shopping you will not be tempted to find exhausted excuses to keep you from healthy eating.
There are so many more ideas to help you change your diet. Whatever you choose to follow, make the right choices for the right reasons – who and/or what do you have to be better for?