A food journal is a quick way to assess your current eating habits. It has been proven that keeping a record of what you eat on a regular basis leads to quicker fat loss and helps you keep it off. When you don’t journal, you don’t get an accurate picture of the quantity or quality of your nutrition. We are very good at fooling ourselves into thinking we eat less calories and have made better choices than we really do!
There are some common themes I have evaluated in food logs.
Here are my “Top 5 Tweaks” to help skyrocket your progress:
Tweak #1: Eat like you want your child to eat. Coffee is not breakfast. Two crackers for a meal is not a meal. If you have kids, take your own advice and sit down and eat some real food.
Tweak #2: Eat protein. It helps keep you full longer, it helps keep your blood sugar stable, and you are probably just not eating enough.
Tweak #3: Peanut butter is not an ideal source of protein. Yes, peanut butter has protein, but it comes at a high calorie cost. A serving of natural peanut butter (2 Tbsp) has 210 calories, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein. That translates to about 144 calories from fat, 24 from carbs and 32 from protein. That means there are 4.5 times more calories from fat than protein – once again not ideal. I love peanut butter as much as the next, I just need to be careful not to depend on it!
Tweak #4: Where's the green? There is some serious vegetable-phobia out there in food log land. There were many times a 3 day food journal had nothing green on it at all! More veggies is a sure way to get that weight loss moving in the right direction.
Tweak #5: Late calories. If you must eat after dinner, default to more protein/veggies. Your body can use some more protein to repair while sleeping. That bowl of ice cream (or even fruit) will spike your blood sugar/insulin response right before bed – right when you don’t want it. Your body is not going to use that energy while you sleep, so it’s going to store it – ouch!
I bet you there is one simple change you can make this week.
To Your Best Health,
Calories, today it’s THE word in weight loss. When it comes to calories I picture in my mind these little white things called calories literally ‘burning’ off of my body and me becoming thinner by the second. I was wrong.
In 1824, Clement created the concept of the ‘Calorie’. He used it to measure steam energy. Now it’s, “Eat this many, burn that many.” I overhear women talking about calories like I overhear men talking about football. We are the most nutritionally educated country in the world yet considered the most obese. Hmmmm…. This makes me wonder.
Calories are simply a measurement. A number that we often focus on because we have been told if we eat more than we need…we gain weight. On the flipside if we use more than we eat and we lose weight.
I’ve worked with a lot of people. That experience has shown me that counting calories is one of the reasons America has become obese. But not in the conventional way most people think.
Let’s look at a real example…a very real example that every woman reading this can probably relate to…I will use ‘Sara’ as our illustration.
Sunday morning rolls around and Sara decides she is going on a diet. She tells her family and they quiver when they hear the ‘D’ word. They know the routine and what is about to occur (seriously ladies, notice when you say the ‘D’ word around your husband, he mysteriously has to work long hours that week). Sara wakes up Monday morning and decides she will eat no more than 1200 calories a day. She just saw an ‘expert’ on the Today Show who recommends 1200 calories a day… so this sounds like a great number. It also means she can eat 400 calories per meal. Sara is excited and determined that ‘this time will be different’. So she decides to ‘be strong’ and kick some caloric butt. She decides she is going to eat only 600 calories her first day! To get a headstart on this diet. She figures if she eats 600 calories when her plan is 1200 calories she will lose weight that much faster.
So the diet day begins. Sara nibbles on a carrot for breakfast. Then she eats a low calorie meatball for lunch, then one almond for a snack. Sara’s hungry but determined. Her family is avoiding her because they know what’s about to happen. By 3pm Sara is tired, hungry and she’s lost 3lbs. She’s already picked out her size 2 mini skirt and new heels.
For seven days in a row, Sara sticks to her plan. At night she adds up her calories consumed for the day and eats anything in site as long as it keeps her under 1200 calories. She does this for all week noticing she’s not losing any more weight.
Now Sara is real tired and her family is real scared. Sara wakes up on day 8 decides she’s just meant to be a size 12 and that she will try again next spring when some new rocket science diet is out on the market.
Next year, Sara does it again and the results are the same. Each year becomes harder. Each year she becomes a little heavier and little more frustrated. Then it happens. She gives up for good. She’s defeated and then the weight really begins to pile on. A few years later she is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Weight loss is no longer a concern, now it’s life or death.
Folks, this has occurred in America for the past 40 years. We focus on ‘calories’. The end result, we are calorie counting experts. We have done what we were told to do…count calories, eat low calorie, burn calories, avoid bad calories but eat good calories, etc. As I’ve heard said by a few old timers; “It ain’t workin’“.
Something to think about…Growing up in the 60’s, my mother NEVER said ‘Don’t’ eat that! It has too many calories’. We did not know what a calorie was in 1965 yet America was not obese. Japan does not count calories and yet they have no obesity issues. So simply put…calories don’t count. Say it again…”Calories don’t Count”.
There I said it. Label me a quack or a renegade. Calories fool people into believing if they focus on a number then they will lose or gain weight. I wish it were that simple but it’s not.
I do not believe in labeling anything good or bad in terms of food. However, there are foods I know that will help me or hinder me from making progress toward my goal. To make things more confusing Dean has different foods that hinder or stop his progress toward his goal. While learning more and more about health and nutrition we clued into our own bodies’ needs. It takes time. It actually is a work still in progress as we refine our plan and as we add more time to our lives (that was a nice way to say: we’re getting older and things change because of it).
I am all about eating real food, food that satisfies. I don’t want eating to be a chore or food to become a naughty word. One of the best tools I’ve used is ProCoach. I won’t say much more than it has tuned my thoughts and aligned them with my body’s needs. Its put my mind in the right place. I’m not sure if its right for you at this time, but there is only one way to find out. Check out ProCoach.
To Your Best Health,
Here are my three rules to easy eating while on vacation (thank you Michael Pollan for the fantastic ideas in your book “Food Rules”- great read for anyone!):
1. Eat foods that you can visualize in their raw state. If I’m not able to identify where a particular food came from, I’m going to avoid it. At restaurants that means avoiding foods covered in goop and sauces. Where does that cheese like substance come from anyway? Fried food? Not happening. I don’t know what is in the coating or what they fry it in (not to mention the fat and calories). That leaves me with very few choices, so I’ll probably starve, right? No way! Think of all the grilled items, vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs and more that I can have. There are thousands of varieties of vegetables and fruit alone. Open your mind and mouth to new possibilities!
2. Eat foods that spoil quickly. If a food like substance can stay on the shelf for years, it is probably very low in nutrients. If a rodent will not even go after it, do we really want to put it in our mouth?
3. Eat foods your grandmother (or great-grandmother?) would recognize. I love my grandmother; she was a wonderful cook. But I’m sure if she looked at a Go-Gurt, she’d have no idea what to do with it. What about Spam, Velveeta, or powdered drink mixes? She did her cooking with items readily found in her area, that she grew herself, or that my grandfather fished or hunted. She didn’t have a whole lot shipped from other countries, or items found out of season in her area. I’m going to imagine sitting at her table each time I eat.
So that’s my plan. I’m going to eat fresh foods that are easy to recognize (before and after they are cooked) that my grandmother would enjoy.
That's not so hard, is it?
Ask me how I did when I get back!
To Your Best Health,
There are things we do the same, every time we do them. We drive to work, put the toothpaste on the brush, and put the pillow under our head - the same way, every time.
When it comes to the way we eat, we have built habits as well. We like certain foods in certain ways. We like to eat at certain times. We plan and prepare our food or we don't. We have a set point at which we are full. We salt our food without tasting it first (guilty!). We may grab a glass of wine after dinner. We may eat dessert. These things are all habits.
Food has so much power over our lives. We have to eat to survive. But eating is also enjoyable. There are so many wonderful tastes, textures, colors and smells. The problem is when we let food overpower us and control us to the point our health suffers.
The good news is that habits can be built, and habits can be broken. The Grateful Plate is all about building habits that support good health. It is these habits that we turn into powerful skills.
There are replacements, however.
We replace poor habits with better ones. We control our food, we don't let it control us. We take one day at a time, doing specific things that will help us replace our poor nutrition habits with ones that will support our goals of losing fat, getting lean, and looking and feeling great.
Over the years we have been consistent with these habits. There is nothing magical here. We are making a conscious decision every meal to do what it takes to build good health habits.
Let's get started!
Here's a handy dandy chart to help you get pointed in the right direction in meal planning and preparation.
Quality Protein with Fantastic Carbohydrate Compliments
The possibilities are endless, so get out of the drive through, put on that chef's hat and Make It Happen!
To Your Best Health,
Protein, it’s a word we throw around when we talk about food. I thought you might enjoy some facts about protein. It is one of my favorite food subjects - protein!
Why is protein so important?
The simple answer is that without an adequate supply of all the things protein supplies in our bloodstream, our bodies don't function well.
Our bodies use proteins to produce enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Protein is the "building blocks" of our cells and without it we cannot replace worn out cells or repair muscle tissue from training.
How much protein should I eat today?
Great question. Ladies are going to want to get a minimum of between 20 and 30 grams every time they eat, and men between 30 and 45 grams. If you eat more frequent meals a day (say 5) choose the lower end per meal, if you eat less frequently (3 meals a day) eat the higher end of the spectrum. So on the low end that is between 90 and 100 grams for women and 120 to 150 grams for men, per day.
I can hear the screams and wails already? THAT much protein? 🙂
Well, is it really that much?
Let's look at what a women eating 3 times per day would have to consume to get between 90 and 100 grams per day:
That's 95 grams of protein without hardly trying. You are also getting some healthy fats at the same time and the calories are very efficient.
Did I eat enough protein at each meal?
Adequate protein is crucial to giving your body what it needs to manufacture enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Protein is needed to replace worn out cells and build new cells. You can't be your best without enough protein.
The most efficient way to get our protein is to eat it from animal sources. They have the most protein per calorie and contain all the essential and non-essential amino acids that your body needs. We call these FULL proteins, because they are well, FULL of protein.
One key point to remember is that we want to focus on lean protein that ‘stands alone’. In other words, there is a big difference between something having protein in it and actually being considered a primary source of protein.
A quick example is peanut butter. Eating enough natural peanut butter to get in 20 grams of protein would mean we were also eating 48 grams of fat and 600 calories, only about 85 which are from protein – not the best plan.
Lean Beef, Bison: 3 oz cooked = 22-27 grams protein
Extra Lean Ground
Fish: 3 oz cooked = 21-26 grams protein
Salmon, canned and fresh
Pork: 3 oz cooked = 22-27 grams protein
Low sodium ham
Poultry: 3 oz cooked = 21-26 grams protein
Chicken - breast, ground, tenderloins
Turkey - breast, ground, tenderloins
Shellfish: 3 oz cooked = 21-26 grams protein
Milk & Yogurt: 1 cup = 8-24 grams protein
Greek yogurt, plain
Lamb: 3 oz cooked = 22-27 grams protein
Whole eggs: 2 large = 12 grams protein
Whey protein powder: 1 scoop = 21-24 grams protein
Now to get you started in the right direction why not choose one of these recipes. They are proven to be winners by my family. Making these for your family will help you to get in the protein your body needs.
To Your Best Health,
I own my food choice. Really. Own them.
Do you ever barter with yourself? Make deals, trades or swaps related to food?
“Okay, self, I’ll turn down dessert today… but I’m gonna collect on the weekend.”
With this mindset, one “good deed” gives you license to “go all out” elsewhere. But these trades don’t pay off — they usually just amount to a lot of mental energy that zaps your ability to making tough decisions. In fact they often create a self - sabotaging environment. In the end you end up overeating with a large dose of guilt to follow.
Look, we all do this at times. Trading off “good” and “bad”, thinking there is “good” and “bad” foods. All while you imagine a little angel and devil on your shoulder convicting or congratulating you.
Mind games like this undermine your health goals — and your authority over your decisions.
My solution: I started owning my choices, and letting my deeper values and core principles guide me when I sit down to eat.
I started making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome I would expect, based on my experience. For example:
“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m fine with it.”
Or at another time, "I am going to avoid hanging out with ‘so and so’ because when I do, I tend to eat way too much as we gab the night away. I know this might offend ‘so and so’ but I will do my best to explain my choices to them and be fine with the outcome.”
In the end, own your choices: Don’t assign them a good or a bad. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behavior.
Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.
What's your call today?
Wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to listen to our body's needs so we can fulfill them?
If our body is saying 'hunger' we eat until we are satisfied.
If our body is saying "I'm good" we stop eating.
Both allow for life to happen.
How can we best do that? Learn to eat mostly whole foods.
What do I mean by that? Foods that are closest to their natural state for the bulk of food on our plate.
Two ways we can help ourselves to eat whole foods:
1. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Just think about where all the fresh foods are located. They are all around the edges of the store. Foods in the produce section don’t usually carry a label on them. When we pick up an apple or a cucumber, they don’t need labeling to let us know what is inside the peel. The meat section caries labels but these labels let us know what cut of meat we are buying. A chicken is a chicken all the way around. By doing this we can avoid foods that have stuff added to them.
2. Avoid the middle of the store. Remember - the stuff on the inside of the grocery store is there for a long time. It can be, because it is preserved or has preservatives in it. While there are reasons to travel to the innards of the store - oatmeal, canned tomatoes, frozen veggies, lentils, and nuts.
Do your best to avoid items in the foil bag, cardboard boxes, or plastic trays. Highly processed foods, sugary sweets, otherwise known as junk food can trick your body. They don't trigger the same response as whole foods. In other words, you can eat enough highly processed foods but your body doesn't tell you it’s full so you eat more. By eating more unprocessed, whole foods, you’ll avoid short-circuiting the body’s energy-balance system and keep you healthier.
Georgie Fear puts it this way, "Our bodies are designed to not only survive, but thrive, on real, unprocessed foods. Whole foods are simply foods that are closest to their natural state. Like high-octane fuel in a premium sports car, whole foods nourish your body and keep you running at peak performance."
But don’t stress over traveling to the nearest indoor CSA or Farmer's Market in the winter with a storm coming in to buy farm fresh tomatoes instead of buying canned tomatoes – that’s counterproductive to weight loss. Likewise, if you’re worrying how you’ll learn to raise your own beef, build a green house, or find time to make all your own meals, relax. Please remember I said mostly whole foods. Thinking that you have to eat only whole foods won’t earn you extra credit; in fact, I strongly discourage you from making that your aim!
If you are like me, at times I make too many exceptions to this rule. Now I am working back to where I want to be. Yes, I will still enjoy an occasional treat but that is where my 'mostly' rule will come into play.
Don't stress yourself. Our goal is to help you become healthier. Learning to eat mostly whole foods is a skill. Add in more things to your grocery cart from the outside edges of the store and fewer and fewer from the inside shelves.
You’ll make it easier and easier to satisfy your body and learn how to keep you running healthy.
To Your Best Health,
Remember when you were in elementary school? Each fall you came back and it seemed like the courses hadn’t changed much. You would spend the first several months reviewing or, in some cases, relearning the subject until your teacher added anything new.
Hmmm…. Improving nutrition is a lot like going to school. The basics of a healthy eating style need to be first learned in small chunks, put into practice, reviewed, add maybe a small morsel more, put it into practice and review. It’s like getting better at writing English papers. You learn some of the basics, then put that into practice. You read it over and see where you could improve, then add a bit to it.
Think of nutrition like you would a subject in school - it’s a constant state of learning, practicing, seeing how it works, and then adding a bit to your knowledge base.
You wouldn't expect the same type of work from a 1st grader as you would from a 4th grader. And you see a big difference from a 4th grader’s paper to a college paper 10 years later. It doesn't stop there though. We constantly are writing for different scenarios, for different reasons, for different purposes. So we keep working at it by applying what we already know to a new situation. We keep using the basics.
With healthier nutrition, we keep getting better slowly. We work at applying our knowledge to different situations at different times and find out what works.
If you were on a 'summer break', now it is time to review a bit, apply a bit, learn a bit more, then apply it and so on and so on.
School and healthy eating follow the same steps. Let’s keep learning and applying as you go through different situations in life to make a healthier version of you.
To Your Best Health,
The Grand Canyon was formed by water rushing over the ground surface. It didn’t happen in a day, but over time. Probably no one noticed at first (probably because no one was around but if they were, they wouldn’t put much thought into it).
This scenario happens every day, and will keep repeating time and time again. No one will notice until suddenly everyone is noticing. It’s the small continual changes that seem to slip right by everyone.
On the other hand, a hurricane or a flood captures everyone's attention and causes us to leap into action.
The thing is, small incremental daily progress (negative or positive) is what actually causes transformation. A figurative drip, drip, drip. Showing up every single day, gaining in strength, planning meals, building new kitchen skills, preparing lunch the night before—this subtle but difficult work is how you create change. It takes a length of time (sometimes a very long time) to change your physical being or to increase your health.
It is all about that drip drip effect. Be consistent, do what you can do today to move forward and keep the movement going even when you don't 'feel' like it.
Three things to increase the power of your drip:
1. Go simple this week. Very simple. While there are days when I spend a long time fixing just the perfect dinner, more often than not, I’m making things happen, double time. I don’t have to miss out on good food, I just have to make that good food as quickly as I can. Keeping things simple has helped cut down my time in the kitchen. If you have time, spend it on cooking and let your kids help. Otherwise, let them help while you keep on smiling.
2. Branch out, eat the rainbow. The different colors in fruits and vegetables indicate the different types of antioxidants. There are many types of helpful antioxidants, so you want to make sure you are exposing yourself to a variety by including different colors on your plate. You don’t want to consume only orange and red fruits and veggies while ignoring the greens and yellows. You want a wide variety.
3. Talk to yourself like a kindergarten teacher talks to her students. Teachers are really good at encouraging a growth mindset in the children around them. They urge them to practice more, be patient, to try and to try again. They find the good in the process while giving guidance on the challenges. For example: “So I ate the whole bag of M&M’s again. But I did eat lots of veggies during the day and it was a smaller bag than last time. Next time, I ‘m going to first think if I am in need of those candies or if I am just in need of something else?”
To Your Best Health,
Eat veggies. Eat them all the time.
No one denies the power of vegetables. They are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and come loaded with fiber. But all this goodness comes without a high cost in calories. It’s a win-win that needs to be shouted out more.
Veggies are so good for you that you should be eating them at each meal. Why not set a goal for yourself? Depending on where you are at now, the final goal is to eat between 2 and 3 cups of veggies at each meal. Yep, that is between 6 to 9 cups by the end of the day. No fear if you aren’t there yet, that is what practice is all about. If you eat barely any veggies now, start with one cup at each meal or a total of 3 cups at the end of the day. Slowly increase from there.
The 1 2 3 Veggie Plan
A while ago I was coaching a group to eat more veggies. In fact, I had challenged them to eat veggies at every meal. Glen decided she would make her plan easy to remember and easy for her to follow. She called it the “1 2 3 Plan”. Here is what Glen did. She ate 1 serving of vegetables at breakfast, 2 servings of vegetables at lunch, and 3 more servings at supper. Here is a sample of her day in order to accomplish her 1 2 3 Plan:
At breakfast she made up omelet bars. These were easy for her to reheat before work and still get a meal including her veggies. 1 serving done and in the books.
For lunch she brought Chicken Veggie Pad Thai that she had for dinner the night before. Another 2 servings of veggies for Glen that day.
Finally at dinner, Glen had time to roast vegetables, make a side salad, and serve it alongside a rotisserie chicken that she picked up on the way home.
She did it. The 1 2 3 Veggie Plan.
Of course I wanted to challenge her a bit more after a few days of successfully being on the 1 2 3 plan. So we came up with the 1 2 3 4 Veggie Plan.
The 1 2 3 4 Veggie Plan: 1 vegetable at breakfast, 2 servings of vegetables at lunch, 3 more for dinner, and doing this 4 days each week.
Whether you are challenged with the 1 2 3 plan or increasing the stakes a bit by adding a timeline, eating your veggies will help you to better health.
To Your Best Health,