Is “Convenience” food really convenient?

While I was showering this morning, I was thinking about the relationship between home cooking, versus prepared foods vs. fast food restaurants and the relationship with today’s wave of obesity.

My thoughts took me back to the root of fast food and prepared “convenience” foods. If you think about it, before the advent of television and TV dinners and the rise of the fast food chains, the majority of people cooked meals from scratch. I look at pictures of my parents and their friends from the 40s and 50s and there isn’t a single obese person in sight. At that time, people cooked from scratch.  It was cheaper – and now we know – healthier.  They controlled the amount of fat, salt and all ingredients that went into the meal.

Recently, I came across a picture of a group of my family and relatives.  It was taken 10 years ago at my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Everyone looked pretty good.  I’m sure that most of the adults would admit to wanting to lose a few pounds.  However, there were perhaps 2-3 people in a group of 75 that may have fallen into the obese category. That would be 30 lbs over the normal weight for the height, age, etc.  Knowing my family and relatives, the majority of us still cook from scratch.

Every day I see that advertisements for the new food that commercial enterprises are trying to entice me to buy.  Despite my busy lifestyle, I make most of our meals using vegetables, grains, meat and dairy products. There will be the occasional frozen or canned vegetable that makes its way into the meal but overall, they are basic ingredients. This way, I have complete control over the ingredients used to make a meal that is easy, healthy and delicious.

You have no control over the ingredients in a prepared dinner or the fast food meal you purchase. Home cooking is under your control and is cheaper than the alternatives above.


Diet Myths

Diet Myth Food Photo

A while back, the Toronto Star featured an interesting article titled “Four diet myths, one good food habit”. The tagline was “Focus less on magic formula of macronutrients and more on eating quality options – and on eating less”.

The article, written by Dr. Mike Evans, Associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and Chair of Patient Engagement at the Centre for Child Nutrition and Health, University of Toronto was quite blunt in stating that diets don’t work.

Only one in six people who lose weight on a diet manages to keep the weight off. The rest put the weight back on, and for many, a few additional pounds as well. Diets don’t work but lifestyle changes do. The magic formula isn’t magic at all.

  • Eat less meat.
  • Eat more fruit, vegetables and nuts.
  • Eat fewer desserts and sweets (fruit aside).
  • Shop for single ingredient food in the outer aisles of the grocery store and cook your own meals.
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Make small changes.
  • Don’t expect instant results.

Here is an example of a tangible, simple change that you can make.

Replace desserts with fruit in two meals over the course of your week. Do this for two weeks. On week three and four pick two more meals where you will replace fruit for cookies and pastries. Repeat the above recommendation until you have one or two days where the cookies and pastries are a special treat rather than the norm. Over time, this small change can amount to positive results and even a weight reduction that is totally painless.

The idea is to turn mindless overeating to mindless healthy eating.

Happy, mindless healthy eating.

New Year’s Resolution – Set Intentions Instead


New Year’s Eve and reflections abound on the year past. Was it a good or bad year? Eyes turn to the coming year with new hope of a fresh start.

We make our resolutions; to exercise more; to lose weight; to drink less; to make time to visit friends and family. Every year we tell ourselves that this year we will hold to our resolutions. By February, most of us revert back to our usual habits.

Why not try tangible intentions instead of vague resolutions?

Here’s an example. Many of you may already be familiar with the S. M. A. R. T. acronym. Below is an example of a tangible, achievable intention.

Specific – I want to do yoga once per week

Meaningful – it will help me to relax and be flexible

Action oriented – I will book 1 month’s worth of classes ahead of time

Realistic – I can spare the time once per week

Timely – I will start in January, 2016 and repeat the process for each month this year

If you want to succeed in making a real change in your life then it is necessary to put it in your daily or weekly plan. Creating a tangible plan is far more likely to generate the results you want.

What is your S.M.A.R.T. intention?


Emotional Eating -Eating In Response to Feelings

The holidays can be filled with joy for most but is often extremely stressful. We place such high expectations on what we buy, the parties we give or go to and the food we prepare.  All this is usually on top of our already hectic, crazy lives. Many may already be emotional eaters but this situation is aggravated at Christmas.

Here are some of the styles of emotional eating:

Head Hunger – to soothe feelings or emotions such as stress, happiness, or boredom

Taste Hunger – eating beyond fullness because it tastes so good

See Food Hunger – eat larger portions than needed “because it’s there”

Habit Hunger – you have a specific routine and eat even when you are not hungry

Distracted Hunger – Eat with distractions such as working, reading, watching TV, socializing and you don’t notice what you are eating and only stop when your plate is empty

Here are sign that you are experiencing emotional hunger:

  • Hunger comes on suddenly
  • You crave a specific food and only that food will meet your need
  • Must be satisfied RIGHT NOW with what you crave
  • May eat well beyond the point of physical fullness
  • Feel guilty after having eaten

If you experience any of the above, you know that you are eating not because you are hungry but for emotional reasons. You are now able to recognize the difference between physical and emotional hunger.

Here are a few strategies you might try:

  • Drink water – sometimes we think we are hungry but we are actually thirsty.
  • Go for a walk – alone if necessary, to get away from the food and crowds.
  • Determine what triggered the sudden craving that made you emotional – you may not be able to solve the issue that makes you feel this way right now but at least you recognize the source of the emotion you are feeling.
  • If you are going to be eating anyway, make sure you REALLY like what you are eating – take the time to savour it. If the food does not provide extreme satisfaction, stop eating.
  • Walk away from the situation that is making you anxious. You can’t change people; you can only change your reaction to them.

I hope that this helps you with your emotional eating…or at least get you to realize what you are doing.

Have fun and I wish you all the best.

Mindful Eating – Feed Only the Hunger

It is less than one week to Christmas and I want to share some eating strategies that may prevent you from overindulging and they will let you celebrate without guilt.

First, check whether your eating is out of whack with your actual physical hunger. When you should eat can be determined based on a hunger scale.

1 = completely empty

10 = overfull and feeling physically ill

You may have noted that the lower the number, the likelier you should eat due to physical hunger and the higher the number indicates that you should stop eating.

Second, keep to the lower numbers on the hunger scale to help you decide when you should eat.

If you wonder what constitutes physical hunger, here are a few pointers:

  • Hunger comes on gradually
  • You are open to a variety of options
  • You can wait to eat
  • You are more likely to stop eating when full
  • You don’t feel guilty for eating

When you are attending or hosting a party, it is easy to ignore hunger and to eat for the following reasons:

  • Social – eating around people or in social situations and being influenced by seeing what other people are eating
  • Situational – because it’s there
  • Thoughts – making excuses or rationalizations for eating

Here are a few strategies to help you be a mindful eater:

  • Eat when you are gently hungry – don’t wait until you are ravenous
  • Serve yourself smaller portions
  • Stop eating part-way through your meal and gauge the level of hunger you still feel
    • Do you feel satisfied?Mind
    • Are you still eating because the food is there?
  • Discover your “last bite” threshold, and push your plate away or bring it to the kitchen
  • Don’t stand near the buffet or where food is laid out – you will likely pick at it
  • Savour the food. Taste it and, on a scale of 1 – 10, if it is not an 8, 9, or 10, don’t eat any more of it. Why eat food that you don’t find appealing?

Adopting mindful eating strategies will help you get through the holidays and beyond without packing on the pound and still having a good time.

5 Quick Tips to Healthy Eating

Have you noticed how many bites there are about what to eat, how much to eat, what not to eat…the list goes on.  You can get these quick tips everywhere. Here are some tips that approach healthy easting in a different way – from a holistic point of view.

  1. You have probably heard this over and over again…drink more water; not tea, coffee, sodas but water! What you may not have heard is that drinking water that is at room temperature with the juice of half to one full lemon first thing in the morning is a very good start to your day. For more on the benefits of this tip, check out this article published in the Huffington Post.
  2. Coffee…good or bad. Both. It all depends on your genetic makeup. People with a specific genetic makeup are better able to digest caffeine better than those without the specific genetic traits. Therefore, if you feel the effects of caffeine after only one cup…then drink only one cup. If you can drink several cups before you feel the caffeine “buzz”, then go for it.
  3. Eat from the colours of the rainbow. You have seen the Canada Food Guide but do you follow it? Do you know what you should eat to get all of your nutrients without resorting to taking supplements?  A quick rule of thumb…eat from the colours of the rainbow.  Vary the colour of the fruit and vegetables that you purchase and eat; add a little meat, some bread, a slice of cheese and you are well on your way to healthy eating.
  4. Alcohol is termed at “empty calories”. This means that your body is absorbing sugar from the alcohol but alcohol has no nutrients that the body needs. Quick strategies to still enjoy alcohol and yet take in less empty calories include drinking light beer, put ice and let it melt so that it dilutes straight liquor, drink wine spritzers.
  5. Get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep can lead to a significant increase in the desire (not need) for food. Lack of sleep affects the brain in ways that make it incapable of evaluating whether or not you are hungry.  Even worse, lack of sleep means that you may have a tendency to crave high-calorie foods. A good night’s rest may actually help with weight loss…who knew?

Tough to Maintain the goals

This is the post that I didn’t write for last week.  Obviously, I am late.  It has been a challenge with the recurring problem of having too many things on the go in a short period of time.

Recently, I experienced the ultimate food and will-power test. I failed. It has been an exceptionally busy, taxing and, at times, irritating week. Yesterday I hit the cherry on top of things to piss me off. I caved and went for one of my trigger calorie-rich comfort foods. I stopped on my way home and bought a small bag of cheese curds. If you have never had fresh cheese curds, in my opinion, they are a small slice of heaven. I ate the whole bag and I felt better…no guilt about eating the curds and feeling less out of sorts about life in general.  Regardless, it is not the healthy eating that I am trying to maintain and promote. On the upside I very seldom reach for food to change my mood so this is not a habit. The downside is that I am slightly heavier on the scale this morning.

Darn it all, it is only Thursday. Will this week never end?!!