Social Eating: Tips To Stay On Track

It’s finally time for another 3-day holiday! Who couldn’t use a break from the normal Monday routine? Though, the holiday is no excuse to completely throw your health goals off track. Adopt these simple rules and you will not have anything to regret (at least not about your health goals)!

With summer and 4th of July upon us, what better excuse (weather permitting) to dust off the barbeque and enjoy some time outside in the fresh air with family and friends. Creamy macaroni salad¸ buttered corn, burgers, and an 8 layer United States flag cake. Sounds delicious, but not good for any health and fitness goals! Following these simple survival tips will save you hundreds of calories and guilt, without you feeling deprived¸ and keep your health and fitness goals on track.

1. Have Healthy Options Available

Bring or make healthy alternatives to processed meats, dips and macaroni salads. This way you can fill up on the healthiest foods first, without worrying about bad calories and unhealthy fats.  Chicken, fish, vegetables and even fruit are delicious cooked on the barbeque. Chicken Kebobs with tons of veggies grilled are delicious and super simple to make. Other alternatives include fresh salads (made with greens, fruits/vegetables, nuts, and a light dressing) and summer fruits (peaches, plums, berries¸ melons).  This could also be a way for you to introduce your family and friends to tasty¸ healthy foods. Other great recipes can be found here¸ here, and here.

2. Small Plates, Big Health Benefits.

If you keep portion sizes reasonable, it’s easier to eat the foods you want and stay healthy. By using smaller dishes, you can easily avoid “accidentally” eating too many calories. Use a dessert plate or grab one from the children’s table.

3. Mix and Mingle

Choose three or four items you really want to eat, and then step away from the food table so you’re not tempted to graze. You will be less likely to keep mindlessly refilling your plate if you are in the middle of an interesting conversation and standing on the other side of the room from the food. Being with friends and family and having a great time at a BBQ also contributes to overall good health.

4. Go for the Greens

 Skip the chips, bread and crackers. Refined carbohydrates spike your insulin levels, leaving you hungry and craving for more.  Unless it’s amazing, it’s not worth the calories. Make sure to complement any meal with lots of vegetables – especially green leafy veggies like kale or spinach.

5. Make Room for Dessert

Instead of saying “There’s always room for dessert,” actually leave room for it. Eat a little less of everything else so you can have a piece of that cake, cookie or ice-cream. Also, remember portion control!

6. Think before you drink

A drink that is not a glass of water has calories and sugar. Drink at least eight ounces of water or so that your thirst is quenched and stomach already feels a little full.  You will be less likely to chug the alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Make your choices worthwhile and sip on a glass of wine or beer.

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Guide to the Farmer’s Market

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I was so bummed yesterday because I couldn’t make it to the Farmer’s Market (FM). I woke up late, decided to drive instead of walk, spent 20 minutes looking for parking (it only takes 8 minutes by foot), and then I had to give up since I had to be somewhere else. I really had my heart set on getting more Pink Cara Cara Naval Oranges and fresh, buttery croissants from Paris Bakery for a late Sunday brunch.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the simple rules one needs to follow to have the ultimate farmer’s market experience and how I have come a long way from the first time I seriously started shopping at the FM. Most people complain that they never have time to go to the Farmer’s Market. Others feel like an outsider trying to get into the FM circle, needing to learn the lingo and mannerisms. I certainly felt that way. Or, the idea that it costs much more to shop at the FM. To ease your anxiety about the FM, follow these tips and you will be a savvy FM shopper in no time!

1. Put it in your calendar. Now it’s there and you can plan around your FM hours. Make it a point to schedule time in your busy life to buy yourself fresh groceries. The only reason you wouldn’t have time to go is if you didn’t plan for it in the first place. The FM is at the same day, same location, same time, every week (unless otherwise noted). The only difference is that it’s not there 24 hours, 7 days out of the week. Sometimes, my husband and I make a date out of going to the market. Sometimes, I run to the market, quickly buy all the things I need, and zip out of there. Going to the Farmer’s Market does not need to be a day long event, as most people think.

2. BYOB, bring your own bags. Not only is it cool to carry your own bags, most marketplaces have banned plastic bags. Plastic bags do not ever degrade, are toxic, and kill wildlife. Having your bags will also ease your comfort of carrying your beautiful farmer’s market finds without crushing or damaging them on your way home.

3. Go early. Heard the saying, early birds get the worms? It’s true, you will get the best selection if you arrive early. Often times, the best, rare things are gone within the first hour of the market opening. Though, if you get there late, vendors sometimes throw in a little extra of this or that, or just give away produce as they are closing up. It’s not guaranteed, but it does happen.

Photo credit: nicksflickpicks.com

4. Carry cash. Most vendors only take cash. I usually only spend $25-40 for a full week’s worth of groceries. Carry more cash in the beginning, just to be on the safer side. Many Farmer’s Markets even accept food stamps.

5. Get to know the vendors. Farmer’s like talking about what they are selling and can offer loads of information. Unsure of what a romanesco broccoli is or how to cook purple cabbage? Ask the farmer and s/he can give you the easiest cooking methods, storing tips, and maybe even wine-pairings!  Don’t be shy. You shouldn’t feel intimidated that you don’t know what a certain fruit or vegetable is. I ask all the time and it just gets the conversation rolling. The FM really is a friendly, helpful atmosphere.  Otherwise, you can just look up recipes and tips online. Also, ask what all the labels mean. Most FM offer organic and nonorganic produce, so ask what the labels mean. A better question to ask is if they use pesticides or spray.

6. Shop around. If you are overwhelmed with all of the choices and vendors, just take a few minutes to walk around, get a feel for it, and observe. Then make your purchases. You will quickly learn which vendors have the best stuff, offers the best price, and other differentiating points.

7. Don’t go on an empty stomach. Usually, the FM is full of tempting treats like baked goods, crepes, and dumplings. Although, there is nothing really wrong with satiating your hunger with these goods, you will find that most of your money/time will be spent at prepared food stands and fruit instead of on the fresh vegetables. This is a general rule for when you are grocery shopping.

8. Be open-minded. You will find all sorts of vegetables, fruits, and other food that you might have never seen at your grocery store. That is because most small farms do not operate on monoculture agriculture. Also, don’t expect to find watermelon at the FM, even though your Safeway is selling it during the winter. The farmers can only sell what they grow (not imported), therefore their crop depends on the seasons–>weather.

9. Check-in (optional). Have your phone on you so you can check-in and let your friends and family know how super cool you are by shopping at the FM. (optional)

10. Carry a camera (optional). Vegetables make great photographic subjects and who doesn’t like looking at pretty food.

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Thanksgiving Without The Guilt

For the last 25 days you have 1) talked, thought, tested out recipes, and shopped non-stop for this meal  2) salivated over all the food blogs and TV shows, hoping someone can cook all that up for you 3) secretly dreaded the meal because you know it will mess with your health goals.

Family Meal

Image by _dbr via Flickr

It really is wonderful that you have been more conscious of your health and weight. You have made changes that will help you reach your health goals and  you have been on track for sometime now. If you really have been on track, eating well and being active regularly, then fear not. Even if you have not been on track, still fear not.  Thanksgiving is just one day and it is just one meal. It is the one day that you can allow yourself to enjoy creamy mashed potatoes,  turkey gravy, macaroni and cheese, and decadent desserts.  Here are some basic tips for healthy eating:

1. Enjoy the atmosphere. Take in the sights and smells of the food. Talk to the people at the dinner table.

2. Fill up your plate once and eat slowly. Bite, put your fork down, chew,  enjoy the conversations, then bite again. Slowing down helps you digest and you can actually enjoy the taste of the food. If you are still hungry, go for seconds of  only what you really only want to eat.

3.  Leave room for dessert. Instead of saying “There’s always room for dessert,” actually leave room for it. Eat a little less of everything else so you can have a piece of that pie with whip cream sans guilt.

4. Start the day with a workout, brisk walk, or anything active that will help kick-start your metabolism. If you are too busy cooking, cleaning, or driving, just do 10 jumping jacks. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s better than nothing, will make you feel better, and it only takes 60 seconds. Or suggest the family go for a walk after the meal instead of sitting down in front of the television.

Overall, it is just one meal.  If you overeat, don’t be so hard on yourself. It will not kill you or throw so off track that you can’t get back on. Your metabolism will adjust and you will burn off the extra 200 calories. Plus, you can get back to eating regularly and staying active the next day. Stop thinking about Thanksgiving as only about food and think about all that you have to be thankful for. It’s a time when you sit down and share the grand meal with people who mean something to you. Enjoy that thought. Happy Thanksgiving.