All About Food!

May 19, 2011

I follow other depression blogs, and one theme that has crept up in a couple of them lately is food. It amazes me just how unhealthy some people's relationships with food can be, yet it's totally understandable. We live in a society where being thin and healthy is celebrated, yet the most affordable, convenient and advertised food on the shelf is the stuff guaranteed to cause weight gain. It also doesn't help that the airwaves are overrun with conflicting information about food and nutrition--a good deal of it false and misleading. It's no wonder people have such love-hate relationships with food.

I, personally, love food. Most people don't think that when they see me. I'm tall and wear a size 8. Some think I must starve myself or exercise obsessively to have an ideal body weight. But I don't. I just eat and think about food differently.

Food is good. It is necessary to support life and provide energy. Eating food is pleasurable. The most exciting time of the day for me is dinner, because that's when I eat the best food and the most of it. While genetics does play a role in my weight, the main difference is in how I eat. I don't own a FryDaddy, and it's a rare day when a McDonald's bag enters my house or car. I cook nearly all of my meals from scratch using simple, pure ingredients. And between times, I limit my intake of caffeine and sweets. That's about it.

For those of you out there looking to lose weight or just eat better, I'm going to share a sample meal plan and some very simple tips. Here it goes:

1. The recommended calorie intake to maintain weight is 2,000. That's roughly the amount your body burns in chemical processes + physical activity a day. To lose weight, eat between 1,500 and 1,800 calories a day and increase activity if possible. Eating less than 1,200 sends the body into starvation mode, which makes burning fat harder.

2. Eat breakfast! This will get your metabolism started for the day.

3. Lean protein is your best friend. Protein helps keep you feeling fuller, longer. Sources of lean protein include soybeans, legumes (beans), fish and chicken. Eat lots of these with fresh fruits, grains and vegetables.

4. Avoid at all costs foods that contain corn syrup, especially high-fructose corn syrup. The body converts fructose directly into fat, and it can cause diabetes and poison the liver. Foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup include soda, ketchup, salad dressing, some cereals, cookies, and even yogurt, crackers, and ice cream. Before buying anything, read the food label!

5. Eat, don't drink, your calories. The body has trouble feeling full with liquids, and most calories in drinks come from sugar anyway. Drink mostly water, and stay away from soda! (Fun soda facts: soda contains 1,000 times the carbonic acid that carved Mammoth Cave, and drinking just one soda a day doubles your chance of developing diabetes.)

6. Avoid (as much as possible) prepared, packaged and processed food. Most of it just contains corn anyway--the same corn fed to cows to fatten them. Guess what? It's doing the same to you.

7. Limit fast food to just once every two weeks, less if possible. If you must eat fast food, buy the kid's meal. A McDonald's kid's meal contains 700 calories, which is about the right amount for a meal when you're eating 1,800 calories a day. Or just buy a sandwich and skip the fries and coke.

8. Avoid products labeled "diet." That does not make it better for you. Many "diet" products contain artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup. Instead, read the ingredients list and choose foods that are naturally low in sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

9. Buy organic foods whenever possible. Stay away from anything labeled "imitation," especially cheese. Real food is healthier and more satisfying, especially cheese!

10. Consider making weight-training a part of your exercise program. The stronger and more developed your muscles, the more calories you will burn at rest.

11. Limit alcohol and salad dressing intake. Both are loaded with calories.

12. Look for ways to limit and ease your stress. Stress increases appetite while causing the body to retain weight.

13. When eating out, some options are better than others. Instead of doing fast food, for instance, I get Chinese take-out or order from a deli. The drawback with Chinese food is that it can be high in sodium, but that's better than the high saturated fat you get at the burger joints, and Chinese food is usually loaded with veggies. The best deli in my opinion is Jason's Deli. Their food is phenomenal AND healthy (I love the Turkey Ruben and the Broccoli and Cheese Soup)!

Meal Plan

Breakfast Options: A nutritious smoothie (recipe at bottom) OR a protein shake OR oatmeal OR low-fat yogurt with granola OR a piece of fresh fruit with a side of cottage cheese.

Mid-Morning Snack Options: a piece of fruit OR a serving of raw fresh veggies with low-fat dip OR a serving of raisins.

Lunch Options: A very veggie salad (romaine lettuce and tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, cranberries, mushrooms, olives, etc.) with lean protein and a vinaigrette dressing OR a tuna sandwich OR a lean deli meat sandwich with cheese OR healthy leftovers. (The best deli meat in my opinion is Oscar Mayer Delifresh Rotisserie-Seasoned Chicken--50 calories per 6 slices and delicious. It comes pre-sliced.)

Afternoon Snack Options: raw fresh veggies with low-fat dip OR a serving of low-fat cottage cheese OR a serving of low-fat yogurt OR a 1/4 cup of nuts OR a slice of cheese OR a serving of low-sodium pretzels.

Dinner: No fried food. Cook from scratch if possible using lean protein and fresh vegetables. (I recommend Healthy Cooking Magazine for simple, fast and tasty recipes).

Dessert Options (2-3x a week): 2 pieces of individually-wrapped dark chocolate OR 2 oatmeal cookies OR a serving of low-fat Greek yogurt with fruit OR a serving of plain, low-fat frozen yogurt OR a serving of chocolate Jello pudding.

*Smoothie Recipe: 1/2 cup of non-fat milk, 1/2 cup of non-fat yogurt, 1/2 sliced frozen banana, 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries or berry mix, 1 tsp of honey, 1 tsp flaxseed oil, 2 tbls of vanilla-flavored protein powder. Pour all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth.


McCaffery said...

Thank you so very much for posting this! Partly it is validating about no fast food and cooked from scratch is best. This I do. But I didn't know about the high fructose corn syrup and some of your other points. All of what you wrote is so needed.

Thanks again.

April said...

You're welcome. I'm glad I can help people!

Jen said...

I am one of those depression bloggers with food issues. Food has been my comfort for a long time. I just started treatment for binge eating disorder and really, I need to lose weight the healthy way.

April said...

I wish you success in your efforts, Jen. I'm here if you need encouragement or just someone to listen.

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