Regardless of the season, life has a way of making us stray from our healthful eating habits. Whether it’s being inundated with high-calorie foods during the holidays, indulging while on vacation, or choosing convenient to-go meals during a busy work week, we can easily find ourselves abandoning a regular meal routine.
Here are some good tips from Sarah Churchill (pictured on left), a registered dietitian with Emerson Hospital’s Center for Weight Loss, to help you maintain a healthy weight.
Avoid meal skipping
Skipping meals does not necessarily reduce overall calorie intake. In fact, skipping meals can increase hunger. This makes it harder to make healthful choices later in the day and often leads to overeating. Try to avoid allowing more than four to six hours to elapse between meals.
Adjust cooking techniques
Braising or slow cooking can still give you the rich “comfort” food feeling that we crave. Try to choose leaner cuts of meat such as chicken, turkey, pork or lean beef. Instead of using cornstarch or butter and flour to thicken a sauce, reduce the total volume of the sauce by boiling. This will give the sauce better flavor and thickness without added calories. When baking, replace a portion of butter in the recipe with applesauce to maintain the same moisture with fewer calories.
Choose foods that satisfy
Lean proteins and high-fiber foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, take longer to digest and keep you full longer. By adjusting your portions, you can delay hunger between meals. Start by filling half of your plate with either raw or cooked vegetables. Fill a quarter of your plate with whole grains or starchy vegetables including brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, butternut squash, potatoes, or corn. Fill the rest of your plate with lean proteins such as low-fat dairy, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, beans, lentils, or fish.
Take your time with eating; enjoy the taste and texture of the food and the company of your friends and family. Choosing a smaller plate helps slow you down and makes portions appear larger. This will all help your brain and stomach catch up and better acknowledge fullness. Eat to satisfy physical hunger rather than “head” hunger. It is sometimes challenging to differentiate between the two. Physical hunger typically comes on gradually, is satisfied by different foods, and stops when you are full. Head hunger usually comes on suddenly, causes cravings for a specific food, can be paired with an upsetting emotion, involves absent-minded eating, and can result in feelings of guilt after eating.
Choose low-calorie, sugar-free beverages whenever able and avoid drinking your calories. Liquids are digested faster and do not satisfy hunger like solid foods. Also, feelings of thirst can be confused for hunger, so have a drink before reaching for a snack.
If you find it challenging to gear up for activity in cold or inclement weather, find a workout buddy. An exercise partner will help hold you accountable and keep you motivated. If going to a gym or structured class does not excite you, try doing exercise videos at home, walking around the mall, gardening or landscaping, or playing outside with your kids.
And remember to stay positive! Do not let one meal ruin a whole day or even a whole week. Incorporating some of these quick tips and strategies can help you take control over your health and help you achieve your goals.
More information about Emerson’s Center for Weight Loss can be found at emersonhospital.org/swl.