Sunday, September 03, 2006

Make Your Diet Healthier - Overnight

Easy tweaks that can transform your eating habits from so-so to super-healthy in just 24 hours

By now, you've heard the same advice a thousand times: Eat more vegetables. Drink more water. Don't skip breakfast. Seems so easy, right? Yes, in a perfect world, but life is complicated -and hectic! Even the healthiest women stray from their eat-right resolutions when they get caught up in day-to-day details. "One of the major reasons women don't follow their good intentions is because making the right choices can seem too overwhelming and time-consuming when you're busy," says Molly Kimball, R.D., nutritionist at Ochsner Health System's Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. We at Shape know this all too well — which is why we broke down the most important healthy eating rules into the easiest possible steps. They're so simple, in fact, that you can transform your diet in no time.


Prepare a quick smoothie. Sure, you'd love to sit down with a bowl of oatmeal — but you're already late for that 9 a.m. meeting. You still need to eat because a morning meal provides energy and keeps you from overindulging throughout the day. What to do? Whip up this on-the-go breakfast: Toss fruit, yogurt, ice and milk into a blender and zap until frothy. (If you like, mix in a tablespoon of peanut butter for more protein and a teaspoon of honey for sweetness.) For those times you're running really late, store some energy bars (for our picks, see "Best of the Bars," page 154) in your desk drawer.
Pop your multi while you eat Taking one ensures you cover all your vitamin bases — no matter how crazy your day gets. Plus, your body absorbs vitamins better with food, so swallow it with breakfast (even if it's a smoothie).
Order tea or coffee, straight up. Then flavor it yourself with a little bit of sweetener, a splash of skim milk and cinnamon. Barista-made beverages are often high in fat and sugar, which can eat up a big chunk of your daily calorie budget. For instance, a medium café mocha can have up to 400 calories. In fact, 21 percent of our calories come from beverages most of which don't offer much nutrition, reveals a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That's not good news for weight-conscious women because liquids don't satisfy your appetite as well as food. If you had a 300-calorie snack, chances are you'd eat less at your next meal. But have a 300-calorie drink and you're likely to eat just as much. "When given the choice, have something to eat instead of a beverage," says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., owner of Nutronics, a nutrition consulting company based in Altoona, Pa.


Leave two pieces of fruit out on your desk. It's a visual reminder that you need to eat every three or four hours to keep your energy up throughout the day, says Roben F. Kushner, M.D., medical director of the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and author of Dr. Kuskner's Personality Type Diet (St. Martin's Press, 2003). Hunger can cause you to think less clearly and can interfere with productivity. Protein can power you through the day, Gerbstadt says. For an extra energy boost, spread a little peanut butter on apples.
Take a sip of water every few minutes. Many women don't drink the recommended 8 cups of water a day, leaving them dehydrated — one of the most common reasons for daytime hunger and fatigue. In fact, just a 2 percent dip in hydration levels — right when you start to feel a little thirsty — reduces short-term memory and the ability to do simple math problems, reports a study published in the Archives of Environmental Health. Too often, women mistake this tiredness for hunger, and end up eating when they're really just parched. "You're more likely to drink something if it has a little flavor," says Kimball, who suggests adding a splash of cranberry juice to sparkling water or squeezing a slice of orange or lime into your bottle.


Don't watch the clock. You should eat when you're hungry, not when the clock tells you it's time for lunch. Some days, you'll want lunch at 11:30 a.m.; other days you might not be hungry until 1 p.m. — and that's okay. Heeding your internal hunger cues is essential for weight control, Gerbstadt says. If you're at the mercy of someone else's schedule — let's say you have a business lunch — adjust accordingly. If you're hungry before the meeting, have a 100- to 150-calorie snack to tide you over. If you have no appetite at the lunch, order something light (a salad or a bowl of soup) and plan to eat your real meal later on.
Take an actual lunch break. No matter how swamped you are during the day, step away from your computer and take 20 minutes to eat outside or in the break room. People who dine with distractions consume more than those who eat in peace, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
At a restaurant, order a first course. The average restaurant meal contains 1,0002,000 calories — and that's without appetizers, bread, drinks or dessert, according to a research done by Healthy Dining, a San Diego-based company that helps restaurants slim down their menus. A surefire way to slash that number: Have a bowl of broth-based soup or a low-calorie salad first, so you'll eat less of the highercalorie main meal.
Stick to the two-carb rule. Carbohydrates cause your body to produce serotonin, a brain chemical that makes you feel drowsy. So earing more than two servings of refined carbs (a cup of white rice or pasta is one serving) in one sitting may leave you feeling sluggish.


Brew a cup of green tea.
Although visiting the coffee cart or soda machine sounds tempting for a quick pick-me-up, the instant boost you get will just leave you feeling even more drained. Green tea contains just enough caffeine to help you feel energized throughout the afternoon. Plus, it contains theanine, an amino acid that has a stress-reducing effect on the brain.
Have a salty-sweet treat. Instead of raiding the office candy jar, stash a bag of semisweet chocolate chips and peanuts in your desk drawer. Portion out 1 tablespoon each of the chips and nuts for a protein-filled snack for just 120 calories and 9 grams of fat. For a healthier treat, indulge in dark chocolate chips — they're higher in heart-healthy antioxidants.


Follow the 2-to-1-to-l dinner ratio. Think of your dinner plate as two parts vegetables, one part starch and one part lean protein. "To maintain a healthy weight, you have to control portions," explains Amy P. Campbell, M.S., R.D., education program manager for the Disease Management Division at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. "This is a simple tool for watching your calories without having to measure anything." Piling on veggies first will leave less room for higher-calorie foods.
Leave the skins on. Rather than peeling your cucumbers and potatoes, or apples and pears for that matter, rinse them thoroughly and toss them into your dish as they are. The peels contain much of the nutritious antioxidants and fiber, Gerbstadt says.
Use quick-cooking grains. "You should get three or more servings of whole grains daily," Campbell advises. "Not just because of the additional fiber — they also contain B vitamins to help your body process food better so it can be used for energy." Fastcooking brown rice, whole-wheat couscous and quinoa take less than 15 minutes to make.

• Sneak in your veggies.
Instead of making a separate side dish, save some time and throw veggies into your main course. Some options: Add chopped broccoli or shredded carrots to a casserole, cook your rice in tomato juice or layer your lasagna with eggplant slices.

Raid your pantry. Too exhausted from your day to make a meal from scratch? In the rime it takes you to order in greasy Chinese takeout, you can throw together a no-fuss healthy meal with some kitchen staples: Toss together pasta, tuna fish, frozen peas, mustard, olive oil and pepper, or mix the pasta with spaghetti sauce and frozen spinach for a simple dinner.
Go ahead, have dessert.
Restrictive diets lead to deprivation, which can start a cycle of bingeing, weight gain and, feelings of guilt and shame, Kushner says. "Dismiss the idea of 'cheating'; there's nothing wrong about having a sliver of chocolate cake," he says. Instead of thinking I shouldn't have eaten that, resolve to eat a tiny bit less or take an extra-long walk during lunch tomorrow, and enjoy the rest of your evening.

Try not to work through lunch. Eating at your desk can cause you to take in extra calories.

Toss some chopped veggies into your casserole or main dish for extra nutrients.

shape shops

eating On the run? Try these 4 favorites

for lunch & snacks
The Wrapables Milano Lunch Tote ($20; is made of insulating neoprene to keep your sandwich and fruit cool till lunchtime.

to stay hydrated
Keep the Camel Bak Bottle ($14; on your desk so you'll sip all day long. The dishwashersafe flip-top bottle holds about 4 cups.

for salads on the go
Fit & Fresh's Salad Shaker ($10; contains an ice pack for keeping lettuce crisp, a compartment for utensils and a dressing cup and dispenser built right into the lid.

to keep smoothies cold
This insulated Raya by Thermos Tumbler ($13; is made of an unbreakable polycarbonate plastic, so it will keep your coffee hot too.

slash your supermarket shopping time
A quick run to the grocery store can easily turn into an hour-long ordeal if you stop to study nutrition labels and figure out which brands are best to buy every time. Use these three healthy-eating guidelines to simplify your next trip to the supermarket.

Fill half of your basket with produce. Not only do fruits and veggies deliver nutrients and heart-healthy phytochemicals, they also help keep you slim. Several studies suggest an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and maintaining a healthy weight. "They have fewer calories per serving than many foods," says Ruth Litchfield, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University in Ames. Plus, their high fiber content promotes a feeling of fullness. Don't forget about the frozen packages: They're just as healthy.
Pick up one new food each trip. "The key to eating healthy every day is not getting bored," advises Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., a weight-management specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "So try new and different foods, like star fruit or a pomegranate. Don't know the first thing about fresh artichokes or okra? Throw some into your shopping cart and visit for cooking suggestions. You may wind up with a favorite new dish!
Buy the little packages. Individually wrapped treats, like small bags of cookies or crackers, are pricer, but they're worth it if you're not a stickler about measuring out portions. (We know: It's far too easy to polish off half a box of crackers in one sitting!) For snacks, look for single-serving options that contain 100-150 calories.
Scan the shelves. Don't grab the first product you see. Many food manufacturers pay grocery stores to place their products at eye level, so you'll be more tempted to buy them. Take a few seconds to look around; often the healthier (and less costly) options are on the shelf above or below.

By: Gottesman, Nancy, Shape, Aug2006


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