Posts Tagged food choices

Are you portion-challenged? When you eat or drink, do you often find it difficult if not impossible to stop eating or drinking when you've had enough, even when you're full?

You're definitely not alone...countless people have just the same problem leaving a few chips or cookies in a bag, leaving soda in a can, or leaving unfinished food like pasta, steak, or whatever on a plate. I know I once did, too. A friend once asked me "How can you throw that away?" after I ate only half of a small ice cream cone? I simply told her that after years of dieting and deprivation (in my late teens and early twenties), I have learned to have what I like, savor and enjoy it, and stop when I'm comfortable..I don't need to eat the whole thing. I never feel like not finishing the food on my plate or beverage in my cup or glass is a bad thing; I don't try to be wasteful, but when I've had enough, I've had enough.

Years of practicing portion control have helped me truly learn to 1) enjoy whatever food or beverage I consume; 2) incorporate a wider variety of food into my eating pattern; and 3) no longer associate meals or snacks or any foods or beverages with guilt--because I allow myself small portions of whatever foods I choose, I never feel deprived and instead, feel satisfied when I eat what I enjoy, but simply don't have too much of it.

So, my friends, the Diet Do for today is to pare your portions when you can. I realize this is no easy task, given we live in a world in which supersized portions are the standard. And while it's tough, but not impossible, to find smaller portions at fast food and other restaurants, at convenience and grocery stores, and at ball parks and other sport- or entertainment-related venues, practicing portion control is like an art form and must be practiced to be near-perfected (after all, none of us can nor should we want to be boring that would be!).

Here are some ways to decrease portions painlessly at home or when you're out and about:

1) Before you buy or consume any packaged or processed food, get all the facts. Nutrition Facts panels on food or beverage packages (including bags, cans, cups, boxes, jars, or other containers) show you how many calories one serving of a food or beverage contains, and how many servings the package contains. Before you dig in (or gulp it down), ask yourself how many servings of the item you plan to have, and take the time to do the math to see if it fits into your daily calorie budget and if it's really worth it.

2) Remember that one serving of a packaged item may not necessarily be an appropriate portion for you during one meal or snack. For example, one tablespoon may be the serving size listed on a food label for mayonnaise when one or two teaspoons during one meal may be a more appropriate portion or amount for you to have. Also, just because a package of cookies says 3 cookies is a serving does not mean we should be having 3 cookies in one sitting or on one day (especially if the cookies are more than 50 calories a piece).

3) Invest in smaller sized plates, bowls, and cups. When preparing meals, fill them with the amount you want to consume--not too much, and not too little. If you give yourself a smaller portion than you're used to and eat it with smaller utensils, you'll likely end up consuming smaller portions. If you make extra food you plan to use the next night or another night, be sure to refrigerate or freeze it right away (before you even sit down to eat) to help you eat only the portion you doled out for yourself.

4) When you have snacks, pre-portion single-serve amounts using dixie cups or snack-sized plastic baggies (think of them as your own 100 or so calorie packs). Just as with main meals, planning ahead and preparing appropriate portions of healthful (and sometimes not-so-healthful foods like candy or cookies) can help reduce your risk for over consuming calories and at the same time, satisfy your cravings without derailing your "diet". You may also find it helpful (if not a bit anal-retentive) to carry around a few extra baggies in your purse or bag; this way if you buy a snack in too large a portion and want to control the amount you have, you can put the amount you want to consume (and no more) into one and save the rest for another day.

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Several months ago, I was fortunate enough to meet and spend a few minutes with Oprah. Meeting her and speaking with her was a lifelong dream of mine, and I am still overwhelmed that we had the unique opportunity to stand face to face.

As both a long-time fan of Oprah and her show, and as a registered dietitian who was once overweight and now enjoys a healthy, active lifestyle (and a sane, sensible relationship with food), I feel tremendous empathy towards Oprah. I know what it feels like to have food call your name, to overeat, to always think about food and what my next meal is, to feel like I have no control over how much I eat, and to not like my body or be ashamed of how I look. While these may not be Oprah's exact thoughts or feelings, many people feel badly when they're overweight and sometimes it's hard to know how to break the cycle and turn an  unhealthy way of eating and living into a more healthful one. Through hard work, education, and persistence, I was able to lose weight and keep it off successfully, permanently, and healthfully. Through all the writing and other work I do, it has been and will always be my goal to help others find their own way towards overcoming food and diet-related struggles that prevent them living--as Oprah always says--their best lives.

Like many of my colleagues and friends (and others who work in healthcare, and/or have lost weight and kept it off themselves), I would love to share my expertise and experience to help Oprah work out her weight and food issues once and for all. But while I may never be lucky enough to see Oprah again (not to mention work with her), I decided to take the ball into my own hands and start a blog entry called "From Me to Oprah: Tips for Managing Weight and Life." Through this blog post which will appear periodically over the next year, I will share my thoughts, feelings, and ideas about how to manage weight and life. While it is my not-so-secret hope that somehow, someway, Oprah will read The Zied Guide blog, these posts are also meant to help, inspire, educate and empower anyone who struggles when it comes to eating, exercising, and living a healthful and fulfilled life.

Today, I'll share with you my thoughts about dieting. Dieting is undoubtedly one of the public's favorite pasttimes. Some of us who work in health-related fields might smirk, grimace, or even get downright upset when we hear about the latest popular quick-fix fad or best selling diet book (especially if it promises great, fast results). People oftentimes cling to these new plans or programs especially when anyone they know--friends, colleagues, family members, or even mere acquaintances-- have had success with them). But while I may not personally agree with or like the concept of any particular diet--giving up favorite foods, consuming too few calories, or avoiding particular foods or food groups, I think it's safe to say diets are truly here to stay and as a registered dietitian, I need to accept that but continue to work with others to help them steer their own course in the diet maze.

As a registered dietitian and former overweight teenager and young adult, I have learned to think of diet not as a four letter word but as a way of eating. To me, the word "diet" has come to mean what I eat every day. It encompasses the foods I choose, and in what portions, each day to keep me energized, to feel strong, and to get the key nutrients I need to maximize my health. For me, the word diet is not negative, but positive. Through the years, I have learned how to create my own personal diet that I can enjoy and sustain. It may not be perfect, or ideal for anyone else, but it works for me, and helps me maintain a healthy body weight and have energy to do all the things I want to do (which includes running around with my 11 and 7 year-old boys).

When people ask me what diet is right for them, or they ask about a new diet book they read or heard about, I ask them a few key questions: Does the "diet" 1) include real foods from all the key food groups; 2) provide enough calories to keep you energized throughout the day; 3) include regular physical activity and exercise; 4) sound like a flexible plan they can "go on" and stay on not for a finite period of time but for life (and adapt as personal needs and preferences change over time). If the answers to these 4 questions are all yes, that's a great start. If one or more of the answers is no, then I usually recommend adapting the plan to their personal lifestyles. There are parts of all diet plans that can be helpful to many people in their quest to lose weight and keep it off, and as a registered dietitian I try to help people find and create their own personal way of eating that not only helps them lose an appropriate amount of weight for them, keep off their weight, and at the same time stay healthy (not to mention be pleasant for others to be around as well!).

So Oprah, if you're reading this, I know that when you're truly ready, you will find a "diet" that's right for that's flexible, takes into account your personal tastes, food preferences, and eating style, and that you can live with. Making food choices does not and should not cause anyone to feel stress or guilt; instead, making food choices should be positive, and be seen as an opportunity. Food can and should be enjoyed and respected, and used as a means for helping you get and stay where you want to be both physically and mentally. I know you can do it, and so can any of you who truly want to change your life in a more healthful, positive way.

Sources: My Oprah Encounter:

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