Tips for Healthy Dining Out

Eating away from home has become a daily part of our American lifestyle.  According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans are eating out 5.8 times per week. Turn your awareness into action using mindful strategies and the abundant amount of nutrition information available to you.

As you may know, eating out exposes you to some nutritional challenges; larger portions, distraction to mindfulness, larger amounts of calories, dietary fat and dietary sodium, less fiber, and more processing of natural foods are just a few.

Mindful strategies are an important key to your success:

  • Plan Ahead by reviewing the menu ahead of time
  • Watch for the 3 B’s: bread, butter, and beverage. These can easily add up to over 600 calories before you even begin your meal.
  • Look for healthy cooking techniques: plank roasted, grilled, seared, stir fry, en papillote, nut crusted, grain medley, and poached with white wine, herbs, or broth.
  • Build a smarter salad: dark greens, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, small amounts of flavorful cheese, dry fruits, plant oils, vinegars
  • Feast on vegetables: colorful seasonal varieties
  • Go for the Grain: choose whole grain options such as quinoa, all rices, farro, whole wheat, amaranth, and oats
  • Visualize the components of your healthy plate: 75% plant based fruits, vegetables, and grains with 25% lean protein or approximately 4-5 ounces. Keep in mind that a plate would be approximately 9-10 inches in diameter. Add more color on your plate for a wide variety of protective nutrients. Consider plant sources of protein such as nuts, seeds, soy, beans, and legumes.

Planning is a key element to your success.

The FDA has issued the long awaited final rule on nutrition labeling of standard menu items in restaurants and similar food establishments. Effective December 2, 2016 you will be able to make informed and healthful dietary choices when dining out. Nutrition information will be placed on menu boards next to menu choices or directly on the menu. It will include a statement for context about daily calories and the nutrient summary per serving.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while dining out:

  • Be mindful when dining out
  • Visualize your healthy plate
  • Inquire about ingredients and preparations of different menu items
  • Feast on colorful vegetables and whole grains
  • Plant to share an entrée or dessert
  • Take advantage of the abundant resources for nutrition information available to you
  • Eating out can be a healthy indulgence, Enjoy.

Six Tips to De-Stress and Slim Down

Think back to the last time you felt pressure from your work, family, or friends — did you have the urge to reach for a candy bar? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Stress is one of the major causes of eating poorly and eating excessively, so it’s no surprise that stress can lead to extra pounds around your waist. And it’s a red flag for risk factors associated with inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes. Finding ways to manage your stress is essential to healthy weight loss. Follow these 6 tips to recognize and manage your stress:

  1. Choose Healthy Fats – Since the brain is approximately 60 percent fat, the type of fats in your diet can make a difference in brain function. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can act as an antidepressant because they boost serotonin production. Serotonin improves communication between brain cells and can help prevent or fight depression. Salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil are also packed with healthy monounsaturated fats. Limit your intake of saturated fat from animal fats and tropical oils, and eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in the partially hydrogenated oils used in processed foods.
  2. Stop “Dieting” – Diets that completely eliminate carbs and dietary fats actually increase stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression — not to mention set you up for failure. The correct approach to healthy eating is to choose a diet you can live with, one composed of healthy fats, lots of fruits and vegetables, and a daily intake of whole grains. The only way to feel full and satisfied is to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs.
  3. Get Some Sleep – Stressful situations can often lead to a lack of sleep — which can be especially dangerous for a dieter. Lack of sleep throws off the body’s chemistry and can increase cravings for carbohydrates, sweets, and fats. Plus, sleeping less than 5 hours a night not only produces inflammatory compounds linked to heart disease but also hinders your weight-loss efforts. Two hormones, cortisol and ghrelin, are the main culprits — sleep deprivation can cause an increase in ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating appetite, and a decrease in cortisol, the hormone that signals the brain that you are full. The result is an inability to control your appetite—a situation that can lead to a diet disaster. So get some rest!
  4. Vary Your Exercise – Varying the type exercise you do — alternating from a high-intensity workout to one of a more meditative style, like yoga — can be restorative, relaxing, and essential for boosting your immune function and general outlook on life. It’s important to switch up an exercise routine to stave off boredom and keep challenging your body. Exercise also improves brain chemistry, increasing the level of feel-good endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. So the next time you feel overwhelmed by stress, take a break and get active. You’ll notice the difference!
  5. Breathe – Breathing slowly, deeply, and deliberately is a very simple and easy way to cope with everyday stress and exhausting schedules. Take a few moments to stop and breathe when stress rears its head. You’ll be able to relax your muscles and focus your mind, readying yourself for whatever obstacles lie ahead.

Recognize the Symptoms of Stress:There are two kinds of stress: acute (intense but short lived) and chronic, or ongoing. It’s the chronic type of stress that causes health problems. We commonly suppress feelings of exhaustion, stress, and anxiety to the point that we can’t even recognize the symptoms anymore. This is when we get into trouble with weight gain and more serious health conditions. Pay attention to stress symptoms — for example, an increase in blood pressure, insomnia, body aches, feelings of anxiety or depression, or a general feeling of being overwhelmed.

Saying Goodbye to Food Hangovers

By Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD
Foundation Nutrition Advisor and Consultant, CHEF

Many of us eat the foods we love as a reward and then we feel terrible, which doesn’t make much sense. And yet, we do it all the time. Why is it we overeat foods loaded with sugar, fat, and salt and then groan in physical discomfort, swearing never to do it again… only to repeat the same process days, even hours, later?

One explanation is that the immediate good feelings you get from foods containing sugar, fat, and salt are far more powerful in influencing your behavior than the misery you feel later. Foods such as chips, ice cream, pizza, and French fries provide immediate stimulation to the pleasure center in your brain. The punishment—when you wake up feeling tired and bloated and dealing with digestive distress—is delayed just enough that you no longer connect it to the food, the association between food and your physical discomfort having weakened over time.

The same behavior pattern happens with other addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol. That’s because all these substances light up the reward center in our brains, triggering the release of serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine and creating a temporary pleasure high. It doesn’t last, though, and despite the repercussions, you still want to go back for more. It’s a vicious cycle! The only way to break the junk food addiction is to remove fast foods and other processed foods from your diet. While you might feel deprived initially, the long-term rewards will be so much greater than the temporary pleasure you’ve given up— you will experience freedom from cravings, increased weight loss, and more energy, and you never have to experience a food hangover ever again.

Tips to Avoid a Food Hangover:

  • Decrease your stress levels with a healthy and balanced lifestyle that includes regular exercise, smart time management, and relaxation. Stress can trigger cravings for foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. Relying on these types of foods for positive emotions sets you up for a roller coaster of extreme moods and cravings.
  • Sleep at least 7.5 hours each night to keep hunger hormones from triggering cravings. Insufficient sleep or poor quality of sleep can cause a hormone imbalance, making you feel hungry or crave sugary fatty foods.
  • Cut out sugary, simple carbs like cookies, pastries, and sweetened drinks to help keep optimal blood sugar levels.
  • Minimize fatty foods, especially those that are from processed snack foods and chips.
  • Avoid calorie-crashing diets. Rapid weight loss promised by very low calorie diets can lead to hunger and cravings.

Memorable and Healthy Breakfast Meals

Breakfast continues to be the most important meal of the day. Studies have shown that eating a nutritionally complete breakfast, rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals can better help you maintain a healthy weight, increase strength and endurance, benefit your concentration and performance, and is associated with healthier meal choices and patterns through out the day.   Eating breakfast is especially important for children and teen. Children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem solving skills, and eye-hand coordination.

Many studies in both children and adults have shown that breakfast eaters tend to weight less than breakfast skippers. The National Weight Control Registry provides positive results for 80% of the people in the registry who regularly ate breakfast containing protein and whole grains. The studies suggest that eating breakfast reduces hunger throughout the day, and help people make better choices at other meals. A closer look at the medical research also finds a role for breakfast and heart disease. Men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of a higher attack and death from coronary heart disease than those who did eat breakfast ( Circulation, 2013). Missing breakfast was also found to have 20% less weight loss and higher insulin resistance than individuals who ate most of their calories earlier in the day ( International Journal of Obesity, 2013)

Look for protein choices to contain at least 5 grams of protein per serving. Below are examples of high protein choices.

Low fat cottage cheese, 1/2 cup
Reduced-fat cheese, 1 ounce
Stonyfield Farms Organic Low-Fat, Fruit flavored
Egg substitute, 1/4 cup
Soy milk, low-fat, 1 cup
Soy-based sausage, 2 ounces
Tofu, extra firm lite, 2 ounces
Canadian bacon, 2 ounces
Extra lean ham, 2 ounces
Turkey bacon, 2 strips
Light turkey sausage, 2 ounces
Nut butter, natural, 1 tablespoon
Light cream cheese, 1 ounce
Lox (smoked salmon), 1 ounce

Sweetened cereals are part of a 160 million dollar marketing strategy aimed at children. Studies have found that children who ate highly sweetened cereals ate twice as much as those who ate low sugar cereals. These cereals have 85% more sugar, 65% less fiber, 60% more sodium than cereals targeted to adults. An easy way to calculate the amount of teaspoons of sugar per serving is to divide the grams of sugar per serving by 4.

Look for breakfast whole grains to contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Breakfast is the perfect time to start the day with at least one or two servings of whole grains. Gluten free, protein rich quinoa flakes is a delicious hot cereal idea, steel cut oats, bran, buckwheat, and other multi grain cereals blends are all delicious ideas.

Quick and Easy Healthful Breakfast Ideas

1) Whole grain waffle or pancake with 1 – 2 tablespoons of nut butter. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, or sliced fresh fruit.

2) A slice of toasted whole grain bread toped with 2-3 tablespoons of low fat ricotta, sliced tomatoes, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle of fresh herbs and black pepper.

3) Steel cut oats with fresh fruit compote, flax seeds, and sweet spices of cinnamon, clove, and cardamom

4) Whole Wheat Pita Pocket with one ounce of Canadian bacon and a one ounce slice of cheese

5) Two slices French toast made with whole-grain bread and one egg (use a higher omega-3 type if possible) blended with 1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of cinnamon. (278 calories, 42 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 14 grams protein, 6.5 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 215 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium.)

6) A Breakfast burrito made with 1 whole-wheat tortilla (weighing about 50 grams), 1/2 cup egg substitute scrambled with 1/2 cup assorted cooked vegetables, and 1 ounce of reduced-fat cheese. (304 calories, 32 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 25 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 2.5 grams saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 669 mg sodium.)