My eating regimen these past several weeks? Healthy, delish, and colorful.
For me, summer eating is always a fiesta of fruit — sweet, juicy, brilliant berries… those oh-so-good-for-you dark leafy greens… and with my ramped up resolve to knock off some pounds, it’s Produce Central around this old house.
Those who know me are aware that my preference is to eat organic, but my wallet is thinner than my waistline. Nevertheless, many organic offerings are the same prices as their less healthy counterparts, and I find I can eat roughly 70% organic (and grass-fed) with no impact to the bottom line. It goes to show that if you shop around — yes, that takes time — there are plenty of organic foods for the Tight Belt Budget. (I have a kid in college, remember?)
Also critical to me when I’m focused on healthy eating — not only do I not want to muddle through the day light-headed, stomach growling, or depressed about tasteless tidbits to consume on schedule, but I crave the sensual pleasure that derives from varied textures, a diversity of flavors, and again — those all-important colors.
Consequently, too restrictive a list of foods is, I find, counterproductive. I’m left feeling emotionally and physically deprived, which leads to raging bouts of crankiness and eventually, seeking out an excess of sweets and starches.
My Regimen These Past Few Weeks
With or without exercise, I’ve patterned my diet after a modified version of Weight Watchers, once successful for me some 15 years ago. I’ve internalized an excellent eye for portion control (and “points”), I pay attention when I’m full, and I note when emotion is poking me to eat, and I reach for a glass of water with lemon instead.
While this approach has worked well for me in the past, I know others who have been successful in changing and sustaining healthy eating habits on any number of reality-based programs.
Do note my mention of reality-based. Crazy diets that leave us out of whack or feeling forlorn? Waking to desperate dreams of eggs Benedict or double-mocha layer cake?
Just say no to yo-yo inducing extremes!
Also key to my re-established regimen is noting when emotional eating is about to lead me astray. Certain types of stress leave me unable to swallow a morsel. But “routine” stress — a challenging deadline on little sleep, more errands in a day than I can possible manage — sends me scrounging for salts and sweets.
I’m also aware of being “suggestible” when tired or stressed, and in those moments, I must be vigilant.
Fruit, Veggies, Protein. And That Breakfast Thing.
My diet consists of a variation on themes I’ve always loved — fruit, veggies, chicken and fish. I also eat meat once a week. For me, it’s a must.
Now about the breakfast thing. I’ve never been a morning eater. But my habit of skipping a morning meal altogether is something that I’m working to change, though I refuse to eat if I’m just not hungry. I am an early riser though, so waiting until lunch to eat is simply not smart. I’ve begun to have a small breakfast two or three hours after I wake — either a small oat muffin or multi-grain toast with a drizzle of honey.
Do I like all the tempting items on the typical breakfast of champions menu? No doubt about it, though I’d rather have all those goodies for brunch!
The main difference between what I eat on a non-diet diet and the rest of the time?
Attentiveness to mindless snacking at the computer. Attentiveness to portion control. And as mentioned in discussing challenges in weight loss, I’m careful not to eat as the hour is growing late.
Favorite (Healthy) Foods in My House
My personally approved food list — Hello? Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval? — is as follows. Note the variety of textures and colors, and of course we know there’s great nutritional value. (So I’ll show you mine if you show me yours… Care to share what you eat to stay healthy?)
My fave foods you can generally find chez moi:
- Wheat or multigrain toast
- Organic honey instead of sugar
- Oat bran muffins (only one, and keeping it small)
- Coffee, coffee, coffee — I try to stick to four cups max
- Organic yogurt (with almost anything)
- Fresh fruit — apples, pineapple, papaya or mango on occasion, blueberries and strawberries when the price is right, kiwi now and then for fun
- Salad salad salad, heavy on the spinach and please pass the dill
- Homemade vinaigrette (olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, pepper, garlic)
- Eggs — over easy, soft boiled, or in an omelet; usually once a week
- Soups of all kinds, and any time of year
- A handful of organic almonds, almost daily, as a snack
- Tuna (about twice a week), chicken (about once a week), homemade soup (veggies)
- Rice or a small red potato; usually with a once weekly piece of grass-fed beef
- Broccoli — I’m making an effort to eat more, along with kale, both of which I like
Now about the mention of omelets…
One of my sons takes great pride in producing them. And when he’s kind enough to do so for me, it’s a custom combination as it was last night — folded inside the fluffy eggs were bits of onion, red bell pepper, fresh spinach and mushrooms. He served the omelets with salad and a small side of sautéed red potato. (Note my petite portion size.)
Snacks may include water crackers or veggie chips, both satisfying, reasonably “neutral,” and Whole Foods 365 brand is very affordable.
Best Bet If You Ask Me? The Non-Diet Diet
Naturally, there are other things I eat. And because time and money are always on my mind, I shop carefully and I cook quickly. Cod, tilapia, and salmon (when I can afford it) — all are easily prepared in the microwave or on top of the stove. Add herbs, tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers… whatever veggies suit your fancy.
One of the mistakes I made throughout the years when “dieting” ruled my life was to cut out everything that is pleasurable. The second mistake — eating too little, or imagining that starving myself is the path to slimming down. Deprivation does not a sane diet make!
The occasional nibble on a piece of dark chocolate? That’s also a yes, as long as I don’t over-indulge.
Sanity and Sensibility (in a Crazy World)
Must I really mention the confusion that ensues every time there’s a new “preferred food” to burn body fat, speed metabolism, or magically maintain cognitive capacity until age 99?
So often, I’ve felt like Alice in Wonderland staring at a label that says EAT ME!
But the fact is, we do know a good deal about the nutritional value of what we consume, what constitutes empty calories, the addictive properties of certain junk foods, and the importance of paying attention to the quality of the ingredients themselves, avoiding processed foods at least to some degree.
Armed with this knowledge for many years now, my food tips and tricks also include:
- Remembering to make my plate pretty!
- Using spices to take an average meal from bland to bold
- Feeding off color and texture (food as art)
- Cooking at home rather than grabbing take-out
- Sitting at the table (or possibly my little deck) to eat
- NOT going shopping when I’m hungry!
Maintenance… Are We THERE Yet?
I’m aware that I maintained with little effort for so many years in my forties by savoring what I eat, not feeling guilty about what I put in my mouth, and pursuing what is essentially a “non-diet diet” — in another words, healthy, interesting, sensual and adventurous eating as a way of life. And I didn’t beat myself up when I wanted a gooey dessert or a bag of chips. (My weakness is Reese’s, remember?)
I’m taking precisely the same route again — paying close attention, but enjoying each bite while exercising the patience of a gradual path back to the “me” I feel good about. Meanwhile, I’m delighted that my resident college student is happy to man a fry pan and a chef’s knife. The other evening, it was chicken in mushrooms and onions, brown rice, and fresh salad. We tossed a bit of chicken and sun-dried tomato sausage into the mix; what you see below is my son’s plentiful serving. And we just enjoyed a custom lunch — a single egg, potatoes, and fresh fruit for him, and a large bowl of berries and bananas for yours truly, which I wound up mixing with a cup of vanilla yogurt.
Your affordable, good-for-you, favorite foods? Special ways to prepare them, that don’t break the bank or require hours in the kitchen?
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