As the new year commences, so do the resolutions, and I'm no exception. (In fact, this year I have resolved to take dance classes: not for the exercise, but to fulflll my longtime fantasy of being a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. That's another story.)
Many people I know, though, are using the start of 2013 as a chance to lose weight and eat healthier. I did the same thing last year, and it was an interesting experience. I lost 20 pounds and I've kept it off -- and in the process, I learned a lot.
To give you a little background: I love to eat. (Good thing, since I'm a VP at a food company!) I love the activity of eating -- together or alone, cooking or just snacking. And when I eat, I like to eat a lot. Smaller portions just don't work for me.
I also travel a lot for work, and if you're a fellow road warrior, you know that it's tough to eat healthy and eat less when you're running from airport to meetings to hotel. Even though I'm in charge of nutrition programs such as this one, I often get overwhelmed by the urge to splurge at the end of a long day of work travel.
But last year I'd reached a place where I wasn't happy with my weight. My clothes weren't fitting. I'd recently had a big "milestone" birthday, and my metabolism is clearly slowing down. So, in 2012, I resolved to adopt healthier food habits. And not only did I manage to stick to those resolutions throughout the year, but they're still working for me as we enter 2013.
Everyone's different, but I hope these five simple food resolutions will be as easy for you to keep as they have been for me. Here's to a happy, healthy new year!
1. Don't eat less
You never have to be hungry if you eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want. I sit down in front of the TV with literally a pound of steamed Brussels sprouts and eat them like popcorn. I bring a bag of green beans to work and throw them in the microwave to snack on throughout the day. Splash on a little low sodium soy sauce or balsamic vinegar and some chile flakes or sriracha, and you've got a Mediterranean or Asian treat.
Since I made this resolution, I've eaten more fruit than I thought humanly possible. I start each day with a banana in my oatmeal. It makes one cup of oatmeal seem like a lot more, and the sweetness of the banana makes up for the low-sugar oatmeal. I also eat a fair number of grapes, and I keep apples in the fridge for a cool treat on hot days. I've maintained (or maybe even increased) the large volume of food I've always liked to eat, but now it's whole, nutritious, healthy food.
Note: The eat all you want rule doesn't apply to starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. They're more like treats. And speaking of, I slow-roast whole yams and carry them with me as on-the-go snacks. The roasting process caramelizes the natural sugars, and they become a sweet, candy-like treat. I even take them on planes and eat them like bananas -- no utensils or butter required.
2. Do eat like you're at a buffet
Restaurants set up buffets to start with the low-cost items, like salad, and end with the high-priced stuff, like prime rib, in hopes that you won't have much room on your plate by the time you get to the end.
As it turns out, that's also a healthier way to eat. Load up on greens and whole-grain salads and then save the pricey and fattening meats and casseroles for a small plate topper at the end.
Here's the key to this strategy, though: downsize your plate first. I don't know about you, but I always feel compelled to take as much as I can fit on my plate. (Who knows why? I certainly didn't grow up in the Depression, and I'm an only child -- I didn't have to fight siblings for the last drumstick.) So, I decided to replace my dinnerware with smaller plates and bowls. It works like a charm. Now, I can still fill my plate up and feel like I've got an abundance, but I'm actually consuming less.
3. Don't be afraid of a second helping
Fill up that small plate, but don't go nuts and pile it high. If you give yourself permission to go back for seconds, you won't be so tempted to take (and eat) so much in the first round. We've all been taught not to waste food -- member of the Clean Plate Club, anyone? -- so it's no surprise when we eat everything we've piled onto our dishes.
4. Do drink vodka
Of course, you could cut out booze altogether if you're going for broke, but it's important to remember that not all alcohol has the same caloric impact. Mixers, which are mostly sweeteners, can take the cocktail calorie count to a whole new level. So, instead of that White Russian or Cosmopolitan, try a simple vodka and soda with a lemon or lime twist.
5. Don't skip dessert
It's important not to deprive yourself. No one can be "good" forever. To keep from breaking down and binging, I eat a little bit of ice cream every day. Now, I do admit I'm eating diet ice cream: Skinny Cow mint ice cream sandwiches even pass muster with my dessert snob of a husband. I also like the many Weight Watchers ice cream options, which are all preportioned and yummy.
But, on weekends, I delve into real dessert. Each weekend, I allow myself one decadent, perfect dessert. That finicky husband of mine bakes, so he may make a Mississippi mud pie or a three-layer lemon cake, and we each have one big piece. After that, we get ourselves and the rest of the dessert OUT of the house. The guys at the local bike shop have never eaten so well. Another bonus: they now tune up my bike for free!