March 02, 2007

Better Than a Cure: Prevention's 100 Smartest Diet Tips Ever (Part II)

OK, so the second half was a lot harder than the first.

51. True, but always check your nutrition on the frozen meals. The lean meals, meaning SmartOnes or Lean Cuisines (or the Healthy Choice entrees, but I think they taste like cat food) usually land you 300 or so calories, and I’m actually filled by them, but if it’s dinner, salad and milk are fine. Or salad, water and a pudding cup, if you need dessert. [Note: “Meals” of the Marie Callendar or Hungry Man ilk do not belong in this category; read the labels if you don’t believe me.]

52. Hooo, boy. True, riiight up until the end. I admit bias, because egg yolks make me ill and therefore I do not eat them, but I don’t see the point in eating them regardless. The egg white contains the protein, the yolk contains the fat and cholesterol; the fact that it’s been separated for you is no less than a cosmic hint. I eat scrambled egg whites, but if that gacks you out, get the colored kind that are made from whites; the food coloring doesn’t have any cholesterol. If you’re baking, pitch the yolks and add an extra white; no cholesterol, and your cake’ll be fluffier.

53. Yuuuuum. True.

54. OK, minus the dressing? I eat this 3 times a week. Spies, I tell you.

55. True. Nothing beats a good sandwich. Watch the bread, though; some varieties have over 100 cals per slice. I like Aunt Millie’s lowfat wheat; it has 70 cals for two slices and still manages not to taste like particle board. Although I usually forgo the meat and eat a ‘salad sandwich’ with extra tomatoes and 2% cheese. Great stuff for picnics.

56. See ‘soup, long rant on.’

57. False, with good intentions. OK, I know nobody reading this is a moron, and knows that the list does not mean Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops, but I do feel that a clarification of that is necessary. Also, some suggestions as to which cereals are healthiest in this capacity without tasting like cardboard (Rice Krispies, All Bran, Corn Flakes) and warning about the pitfalls of granola are warranted. Also, and this last is just for me, this doesn’t suggest eating a huge bowl of cereal at dinner, rationalizing more calories than a breakfast portion. [In my sadder days, I was known to pass out on the couch with my arm up to the elbow in a box of mini-wheats. I am not proud. Beware PM snacking on cereal, is my point.]

58. True, (or… make one) without fatty dressing or mayo. Their bread is sort of high-calorie, though.

59. I… don’t understand. A salad and yogurt, or fruit and yogurt? What’s pre-cut fruit? Do they mean canned? Whatever. Fruit and lowfat yogurt is fine; a salad with it is even fine.

60. Oh, True. Gaining over the holidays happens; stay straight and roll with it.

61. True. I suggest yogurt with fruit and All Bran or something with beans; fiber will keep your stomach full for hours and your decisions will be less impulsive.

62. True. Get thee away / from the buffet.

63. I hate buffets. I don’t really go overboard on portions as much as I always feel a need to try everything—which adds up to too much food. I find that surveying the goods beforehand will give you a good idea of what to try (the best ones have ingredient lists, so if there’s an item you don’t like, you can pass at the outset). Start with the salad bar; if you’re lucky, the people who’ve hit the hot bar will be raving about what to try before you even get in line—go with the highest ratings. Also—it’s a buffet. They’ll always bring more, so take the teeeeniest bit of anything to try it; if you hate it, you’ve wasted nothing, if you like it, you can go back for an actual portion. [Dessert bar: Can’t help ya; I have zero game avoiding them. Do your best.]

64. True. Whenever I change into bigger pants, I feel almost obligated to fill them (sort of like a comfy, oversized dinner plate). Also, wearing your real clothes makes you aware of how they’re fitting; if they’re getting a bit snug, you can make better choices before they don’t fit at all.

65. True. I don’t know how many boxes of chocolates I regifted to appreciative non-dieters (this is also known as the ‘take it to work,’ or, ‘this is for those Girl Scout cookies you “shared” last summer, BWA HA HA!,’ rule. [I should also note my favorite holiday tip here, since they don’t mention it: Go for the homemade goodies. If your family gathering is littered with cakes and pie and casseroles, why would you snack on chocolate miniatures? Always pass up the store-bought for the homemade; you can get a Hershey bar any day of the year.]

66. If you want, yeah; I prefer the gym, but the mall is warm and dry, so hit it.

67. TRUE. The best way to keep on track during a hard time is to stick to your exercise schedule. Holidays are stressful, and you’re bound to overeat as a result—but nothing combats stress like an hour on the treadmill, with the added bonus that you’ll sleep like a brick.

68. True. I don’t really ever stop dancing, though.

69. True. Less dinner = more dessert = my favorite math since 1999.

70. This is different for everybody, so feel yourself out and be honest. I am of the type that loves candy and will occasionally binge on it, so I keep it to once a week; I’m not capable of having a small amount everyday; it makes me a sugar-crazed rageball. Some people do prefer small doses daily to prevent binging, just stick to what works. Also, if you’re having trouble breaking the habit, try making the rule of never eating candy two days in a row. That second day will be hard, but by the third you can consciously choose whether you want it or not.

71. True. I end most of my dinners with grapes or strawberries.

72. True. See “candy (rage).” Those two weeks are killer; make sure you have fruit on hand.

73. Hee. Obviously the Prevention guy and I are old salts.

74. Yes, if you can. I can’t eat an ounce of chocolate, I need it all, so… one day.

75. Love all of this stuff. It’s better to have this around than bags of the hard stuff, which can be really tempting and call your name in the night. Which it does.

76. True. Keep carrots or yogurt at work at all times, if you can. If not, keep lowfat granola bars in your bag.

77. This is probably true, but I don’t do it. I eat on the couch, which is apparently gauche, but as long as I don’t mindlessly eat or equate the couch with the act of eating, I don’t see the big deal.

78. I’ve never done it, but it seems sound. In the winter, hot herbal tea works well.

79. This is true, and I have employed it many times. I get home from the gym and eat immediately, then shower. The shower gives me time to feel full, while also signaling that eating time is over. I get out and write, or sew, or work on one of a million hour-long things that I have written down in my planner. If I find myself wandering around in the kitchen, I eat a vitamin and go back to work.

80. GOD, True. You don’t want food, or need it, or are even the slightest bit hungry—and yet you’re still looking around for what to eat next? Food addiction. Emotional eating. Ask yourself what it is you really need and find a way to get that.

81. This might work, but my binges are almost always pantry-raids. I do hide the candy, though; Out of sight, Out of mind works wonders.

82. True. Or mouthwash, or put in your retainer. Or eat a mint; it ruins your palate for at least an hour, if not the rest of the night.

83. Yup. Covered that, but it actually bears repeating.

84. True. Calories ‘count’ the same no matter what the o’clock. Bingeing happens most commonly after work, when we’re tired—we need sleep, but substitute food. Choose sleep instead.

85. Very mostly False. According to my Google search, lycopene and beta-carotene are fat-soluble, so adding fat (like olive oil, which also has antioxidants) will help the absorption into your system—but omitting it does not “block” it; as long as you get a healthy amount of fats in your daily diet, they should absorb just fine. None of the sites I checked mentioned reaping zero benefit from these vitamins without fat, but if you’re worried about it, drink 6 ounces of milk or sprinkle cheese on your salad.

86. Um, True about skipping breakfast, but 350 calories in drink form is kind of hefty.

87. GAH! FALSE! Nuts from a vending machine are the devil. They are rarely the leanest kind (peanuts, almonds) and are always, ALWAYS covered with honey, or salt, or seasoning, or all three. Do not eat the nuts. If you have zero healthy alternatives, eat either the animal crackers or the pretzels, and split them into two servings if you can. [Note: I know that you can argue that there’s protein in the nuts, therefore making them the better choice. The key word is argue. If you’re going home in an hour and the hunger pangs are too severe to ignore, you’re looking for something that satisfy you only until you go home to eat again. If you’re staying at work until nine and don’t have a dinner plan, do the nuts. One tides you over, one eats like a meal.]

88. OK, I really don’t believe there’s a feeling that “coffee can’t match,” period, but since there’s a pattern developing about work habits, let me share my schedule: I eat breakfast at 8:00. I have a snack at 11, lunch at 12:30, then another snack at 3:30. At 5:00 I leave work and hit the gym, and have dinner when I get home, which is around 7:00. That’s the whole day. If your day is as regularly scheduled as mine, it shouldn’t be hard to plan out your meals and snacks. I am never “famished” at any point in the day eating this way, nor so full I can’t move or get too sleepy to do my job.

89. Who doesn’t know all of this already? And who expects his pants to get all loose when he’s cooking with peanut oil? Sheesh.

90. Hrmph. I’m dubious on frozen having more nutrients than fresh, but both have their good points; as long as you’re eating them, no worries.

91. Trans fats are like the new Red Scare. They’re basically hydrogenated plant oils, which are basically vegetable shortening; possible culprits include pie crust, deep-fried restaurant fare or ready-made store pastries… but, these are things you won’t be eating much of on a healthy diet anyway. If you’re worried, check labels on packaged food—but the brouhaha in the press has caused a lot of manufacturers to lose the trans-fats. I know Starbucks has already chucked everything trans-fatty off its menu, with other businesses poised to follow suit. [Sadly, as of this posting, Oreos contain trans-fats. Pity. Also, don’t eat Starbucks pastries; trans-free they may be, but regular fats they got in spades.]

92. What a weird, completely incorrect blanket rule. I range from starving to feeling like I’m going to barf after a good workout, so I imagine there are as many states of post-gym hunger as there are people on the planet. I am usually hungrier after weight-lifting, and queasy after running (mainly due to poorly-managed blood sugar levels). I do agree that you shouldn’t use exercise as an excuse to eat extra food, unless you’re training for a marathon or spending the day building houses for the homeless.

93. Um, how about we skip all the numbers and drink 1-2 liters of water a day at our own pace? Crazy draconian lawmakers, scaring people away from an easy thing.

94. Some people do this, and I see the appeal, but I personally can’t focus on both things at once. Music is fine, because I can tune it out or listen, but the plot of the book would be lost if my mind wandered, so I’d have to stop what I’m doing, look down, rewind, and mostly likely hit something stationary and hard with my face along the line. If you’re a multi-tasker, go for it; I was born backwards

95. I am so conflicted about yoga. There are many different flavors, and I have never tried them all, but I never feel like I’ve gotten a workout of I’m not soaked and shaking by the end of it (insert inappropriateness here). I have a yoga DVD that I love, and it does kick my ass, but the different positions are about toning and stretching and shaping, not cardio. I suggest yoga for strength building days when you just can’t face lifting weights, but not for cardio days when you should be running or walking the treadmill. And yeah, you need both days. Trust me.

96. Truish, except for the “drinking too few,” which somehow made it to press without making any damn sense. Water intake is important, so get a Nalgene and make small dents in it at your own pace; if you’re just starting out, it’ll probably last you the whole day, which is fine. If you’ve been at it and can kill a liter every few hours, that’s still fine—but you may not have enough sodium at that point, so watch for dizziness.

97. HEY! I am so totally checking that out. Help is important; always ask people around you to be supportive and not encourage the habits you’re trying to change.

98. I’m a heretic, but churches are often tight-knit and friendly, so if yours offers a group or class you might want to look into it. If they’re making you feel guilty because overeating is a sin, though, I’d take that with a whale-sized grain of salt.

99. First, true. It’s not called ‘comfort food’ because it’s squishy to sleep on. My family starts crying, they eat. We’re sad, we eat. We’re depressed, my mother offers to make us some food that we can eat. Pattern, sad. It’s a quick fix, and usually an effective one, and the mental and emotional associations are hard to break, but it can be done. Substitute a workout, or a cup of tea, or crawling into your bed and crying; anything but sad-snacking.

Second: Who thought up this sadistic test? I’d cure my stress by beating him with my shoe.

100. HAH! I love the way this is worded, like, “drop 20 pounds being a cube dweller EZ NO PILLS CLICK HERE!1!!11!!!” when what’s meant is online support can be just as helpful as live support. Which is true, and is also a great motivator. If you’re just reading the emails and not doing the work, though, that’s… not so good; if you’re having trouble, do actually tell these counselors (email if you’re ashamed), do not just tell them everything is going great when it’s not, or that you’ll totally work out tomorrow if you know you’re lying. These people are here for you; use that resource. It’s not a failure to admit you’re having a problem; defeat is doing nothing to fix the problem.

OK, so I made a few notes while going over this, and here’s what I would like to add:

Water: This should have been the first item on the list. Drink plenty of it, often. Keep it on your desk at work, or in your hand. If work is too busy, drink it at meals; always order water in a restaurant even if you get another beverage—and start with the water. Get used to peeing on the half hour; it may seem like an inconvenience, but on the other hand, bladder cancer? Not your problem.

Multivitamins: I realized I needed these about a year ago, shortly after I gave up eating mammals. Keeping them by your snack traps is a good idea (candy, cereal, etc.); when you cruise by with that one eyebrow raised, you’ll opt for the vitamin / Viactiv instead. It also helps me take them with dinner (they work best with food), as this is when I’m at my most snacky.

Granola: Yogurt and granola is my go-to lowfat snack. Problem is, most low fat varieties of each still contain a shit-ton of sugar and can easily run you 500 cals if you’re not extremely picky. Low fat granola is easy enough to find, but I was hard-pressed to find any that were low sugar; they all boasted around 200 cals per ¼ cup. I was torn between making my own (which, lazy) or finding a suitable alternative… like all that cereal I wasn’t snacking on anymore. One-eight cup of All Bran, Uncle Sam, Kashi GoLean or Grape Nuts will add crunch without extra sugar (Dannon’s yogurt with Splenda being my base of choice).

Here are some things I keep on hand at all times:

Pantry
Soups (low fat, low sodium)
Pasta (whatever kinds and shapes you like, whole wheat if it’s your thing)
Bananas
Prunes
Dries Apricots
Peanuts (unsalted, dry roasted)
Raisins (to mix with the peanuts, GORP!)
Beans (canned black, kidney, navy, chickpeas, etc.)
Peanut Butter (low fat or Simply JIF)
Aunt Millie’s Lowfat Wheat Bread
Townhouse crackers (lowfat)
Canned Veg (especially corn and lima beans for impromptu succotash)

Fridge
Yogurt (low fat / sugar)
Fruit
Veg
Cheese (sliced and grated, some lowfat, some not… I just love cheese)
Head of Lettuce
Boca Burgers
Frozen Pierogi
Frozen Fish
SmartOnes (at least 5)

Please feel free to steal anything off this list if it helps you. If I got anything wrong, please let me know and I’ll amend it.

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