I love food. Love it. Whether it’s a warm, perfectly assembled meat lovers pizza or a vegetable stir-fry with a thick, sweet teriyaki sauce, I can dig it. I grew up with grandmas who could do some serious cooking. The homestyle, comfort food type of cooking. While I loved it, it gave me high expectations for how food should taste (little did I know they used bacon grease in most dishes…that’s healthy, right?)
Now that I’m no longer a kid that can eat whatever I want, eating healthy and actually liking it has become trickier. With age, eating seems to turn into this weird balancing act of eating those good sugars, plus plenty of fiber and protein, oh, and veggies, too. And, what foods are good for my heart again? I need some to boost my metabolism, too. And, then the toughest part, limiting sweet treats. Ugh, getting older is sort of a bummer sometimes.
I started to test some tricks out on myself to see if ‘controlling’ what I ate could be easier than it sounded (and was). I read from Dr. Mike Moreno’s ’17 Day Diet’ book, the theories of juicing, and suggestions from other workout/dieting programs. It came down to five little things I could do that made a huge difference in how I eat and my ability to keep my diet (and weight) healthier.
1. Spicy, Spicy, Hot
I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to hot foods. Mild salsa can be a touch too much for me depending on the brand. But, I do love the spicy food burn (weird, right?). Have you not had jalepeno or Sriracha chips? Whew. Good stuff.
But, here’s the trick. If I open a bag of those chips (it’s one of my favorite snacks), I know I won’t eat more than a handful because they’re hot to me. I took that theory and applied it to foods I cook. Often, I’ll add a touch of some spice to make it just mild enough that I still like it, but just hot enough that I won’t (and can’t) eat more than what I really should.
2. Whole Wheat Wins
Whole wheat or whole grain foods skip the whole refining, processed food part that white breads, flours, etc. go through. What this means is that the important healthy parts of the white flours, breads, etc. have the entire grain taken out, and the nutrients that are removed during that process must be added back in through a refining process. (The more processed, the farther away from all-natural and healthy you get).
It also has less calories, saturated fats, carbohydrates, and has more protein and fiber (the good stuff). I started switching my pasta to whole wheat, english muffins, bread, crackers, and pretty much anything else I can find. The amount of calories I save each day has been tremendous and the extra protein is a great nutrient to have after my workouts to help replenish my muscles.
3. Fruit In the Morning, Not Afternoon
This was a trick that I pulled from the ’17 Day Diet’. It suggested that you should always eat fruits before 2PM because, while the sugars in fruit are natural, they’re still sugars and won’t digest as well later in the day, meaning you won’t be burning those sugars off. So, I started eating more fruit in the morning. Simple things like adding a banana to my breakfast or having apple slices as a mid-morning snack.
The natural sugars helped boost my energy throughout the morning, and if I eat one in the late morning, it can help me in the drowsy after-lunch hours. You shouldn’t have more than two servings of fruit per day, but eating those servings earlier will help you bounce right through your day, and avoid storing those sugars as fat.
4. Shakes and Smoothies As Sweet Treats
Yes, sometimes this can be a hassle. Who has time to get a bunch of ingredients together in the morning to make some concoction in the blender? This is why I tend to gravitate toward smoothie and shake recipes that have less than 5 ingredients (and, there’s lots of them out there).
5. Alcohol Shouldn’t Be a Fourth Meal
This is sometimes a tough habit to change. When I’m out with friends on a Friday evening, I want to have a drink with them and enjoy myself! But, I started to look into my choice of drinks and I was a bit surprised when I added up the numbers. I started to realize two or three beers after dinner was pretty much equivalent to me eating another meal.
So, I made some small changes. Surprisingly, using ginger ale as a mixer with different kinds of liquor is lower in calories than using sodas or just beer. But, I also started getting a glass of water in between every couple of alcoholic drinks. It keeps me from drinking a fourth meal of calories, but lets me still indulge a bit.
Bonus Tip: Popcorn
I’ve always said I could live on popcorn. But, as it turns out, it’s a great choice for a low-calorie snack that also has lots of fiber and whole grains. It’s better to air-pop it if you have the option, but if not, try to stay away from the heavy butter types.
But, if you just can’t do without the butter, it’s still a better option than downing a soda, eating a candy bar, or slicing off a piece of pie!