“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
Orson Welles is a man after my own heart. Like, I’m gonna make a joke about my obsession with food, but really, don’t touch my raviolis because I will find you and I will kill you.
Plus, as we’re only only two weeks into the New Year, I wanna talk about what’s for lunch because it’s exhausting listening to fair weather gym fans talk about their two-a-days, and how they stopped eating because they think that’s what a New Year’s resolution is.
There are a staggering amount of people that fall into this “New Year, new me” trap, and of those, an crazy majority might not even be able to recite their resolutions back to you come March. I feel like a big contributor to this failure rate is that people overcommit themselves. They cut out all sweets. Or tell themselves to lose 86 pounds. Or insert a slew of vague, extreme and difficult to measure goals here.
The goal should be a lifestyle change, not one that can only sustain life for 2.5 weeks before inevitably consuming the caloric content allotted to a rhinoceros for a month because you have deprived yourself of everything that doesn’t taste like cardboard.
So, as a fellow resolution-er with good intentions, but often poor execution, I decided to hit up an expert when it comes to dieting. I had the opportunity to ask a bunch of uncensored questions exploring every aspect of healthy eating to the wonderful, and incredibly knowledgable Allison Parker, who is a registered dietitian at Mariano’s. She’s also a lady with a sweet tooth, who is passionate about putting an end to diet fads and transforming them into healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes.
Allison, take it away!
What is the biggest obstacle that most women face when attempting to lose weight?
Life. We are constantly overscheduling ourselves and/or busying our lives with meetings, dates, get-togethers, etc. As a result, we don’t always take the time to make ourselves a priority. When we become so over-scheduled, often the first thing to go is eating right or working out. It’s important to know you can’t put your best self forward in your career or personal life without spending time on you. That means taking the time to reflect, exercise, cook and savor healthy foods, and really invest in you.
What are some tips to help us overcome that obstacle?
- Learn to say no to things that aren’t 100 percent necessary in your life. Before agreeing to event after event or activity after activity, ask yourself if it is truly necessary for you.
- Schedule your workouts into your daily calendar; make them a regular part of your day.
- Get into the habit of preparing a bunch of healthy foods on the weekend, so they are easily accessible on busier days during the week.
What are three foods we should all be incorporating into our diet to aid in our weight loss goals?
It’s hard for me to specify three foods that will help with weight loss. I’m a huge advocate of an “all foods can fit” approach; we just need to make better choices. I definitely feel like there are foods we as human beings – and more so as Americans – should consume more of, and those are primarily fruits and vegetables. Whether fresh, frozen, canned or dried, we need to consume more. Why? Fruits and vegetables are not only rich, natural sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are helpful for weight loss, but also for reducing cancer, heart and other chronic disease risk.
What are three foods we should be eliminating from our diet in order to shed those last few pounds?
Again, having an “all foods can fit” approach is my philosophy when it comes to nutrition. In general, though, highly processed foods and/or foods with ingredient lists that are very long and contain items I’m not sure of, should have less of a place in the diet as whole fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and whole grains. Anything containing trans-fat should not have a place in the diet, primarily because research supports its removal from the food system.
What are some habits that women trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle should be incorporating on a daily basis?
- Finding time to meditate or reflect.
- Finding a form of physical activity that is fun and sticking with it.
- Finding the time to savor and enjoy meals — away from technology (email, cell phone, etc.) and in a mindful way. When was the last time you took a real lunch break?
What are some habits we should be eliminating from our day-to-day routine?
- Negative self-talk (‘I’m so fat,’ ‘I’m not smart enough,’ etc.) and constantly comparing ourselves to other.
- Grazing; specifically unplanned grazing. This is when you grab a bag of chips from the office luncheon, followed by a couple of pieces of candy or a handful of nuts at a party. These calories can add up, and it’s important to account for them within the context of the entire day.
One of my personal struggles with maintaining my health is how frequently I have to eat out for work and for my social life? What are your biggest tips to help combat weight gain even when we do have to dine out more frequently than we might like?
Focus on fruits and vegetables; skip the entrées and order an appetizer or split an entrée with a friend, and watch how much you’re consuming from the bread basket or eliminate it altogether.
What are some of your favorite healthy recipes?
With the recent change of the season, I love making soups on the weekend and then freezing portions for another day. I’m also a big fan of making a large grain-based salad, with something like quinoa, and then having that for a quick meal or side dish during the week. When I crave something sweet, I turn to avocado mousse. And since I’m a big runner, I like to make peanut butter energy bites pretty regularly, as they’re a great on-the-go granola bar alternative for pre- or post-workout fuel. Recipes below:
Juice cleanses? Worth it or worthless?
Worthless. This is why we have a liver – to detoxify our body on a regular basis. I think that you can enjoy a variety of fresh juices, but don’t believe in using them to cleanse the body. If we have a healthful diet, more often than not, there should be no reason to “cleanse” the system.
When we’re craving some of the below junk food, what are some replacements you would recommend to curb our sweet tooth, but not pack on the pounds?
Chocolate: Have a 1 oz. portion paired with an apple or small piece of fruit.
Pasta & bread: Whole wheat pasta and sub ½ the pasta for veggies. This way you still get to enjoy it, but not in quantity that you may be accustomed to. Veggies make the smaller portion go farther. Bread is fine in moderation, and when choosing a bread for home, focus on 100 percent whole wheat as much as possible.
Candy: Purchase snack sizes and enjoy one per day. Make sure you take note of what you’re eating – don’t just eat without mentally acknowledging your indulgence.
Chips: Make chip alternatives, like kale chips or baked potato slices. Chips are OK in moderation as long as you stick to portion size. I know I can’t have a big bag of chips in my apartment or I will consume most of it in one sitting, so I stick to snack size 1 oz. bags when I’m out for lunch.
Ice Cream: Consider buying small, ½ cup bowls for ice cream – portion out and enjoy/savor – or make chocolate avocado mousse!
What are some ways you would recommend combatting the “burn out” that usually occurs (at least for me) after dieting and exercising very rigorously.
Don’t diet. Make lifestyle changes that can be sustained then you won’t have to deal with the “burn out.”
What are your tips for eating healthy on the weekends and at parties?
- Making sure to bring a healthy dish to pass, ensuring there’s something good you can indulge in.
- Fill your plate with better-for-you options first (like leafy green salads, vegetables, fruit, lean protein sources and whole grain crackers) and limit the variety of foods you take. Research has shown that when faced with a wide variety of foods, people tend to eat more, regardless of true hunger level.
- Stand away from the snack table and hold on to something to lessen the likelihood that you will mindlessly munch.
- Don’t leave your house hungry!
- Proceed with caution around alcohol. Alcohol interferes with blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose into the blood stream. It also contains more calories than you may realize—about 90 calories per 5 ounce glass of wine, 150-170 calories in a pint of beer, and about 75 calories in every 1.5 ounces of spirits. Alcohol breaks down your inhibitions and can impair your judgment, making you less likely to resist (and often times eat more of) the foods you might otherwise pass up.
And there ya have it! Straight from a diet extraodonaire: Moderation is sexy.