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8 Ways to Get Through the Holiday Eating Fest

Take a deep breath, it’s December! The countdown is on for the holiday parties, cheery celebrations and food fest overload. So what can you do to enjoy the joyous season yet not overindulge? Here are my top eight tips.

1. Give yourself permission to enjoy. First of all, let go of the guilt. Follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of the time, choose the healthy fare; 20% of the time, enjoy your favourite indulgences – in moderation.

2. Be a picky eater. Do a once over of all the choices. In your head, rate each dish as either “I must try this!” or as “I can pass on this today.” Then, take a small portion of your top five “must try” foods, including at least one veggie dish. Go back for seconds only if the food was WOW!

3. Tell a story. You’ve heard that saying, “No talking with your mouth full”? Put it into practice now. Set your fork down, chat with others and tell a story. This slows down your eating and allows time for your brain to register that you’re getting full.

4. Chew your food. Research shows that chewing food up to 40 times before swallowing may actually help you feel fuller and eat less. Alright, this may not apply to that tiny shrimp appetizer, but the point here is to pace yourself and savour every bite rather than wolf down your food.

5. Power on with protein. Eat protein at each meal. You’ll feel full for longer and have sustained energy to keep up with the holiday hustle and bustle. Remember that milk and milk products provide high-quality protein too and can be easily included at brekkie, lunch, dinner, snacks and yes, even desserts! If you’re looking for festive-coloured, protein-packed recipes, try a hearty Lentil Kale and Feta Salad, or this refreshing Lemon Yogurt Cheesecake with Raspberries – both from www.dairygoodness.ca.

6. Eat until you’re 80% full. This is a practice in mindful eating. At 80% full, you don’t feel stuffed and in fact, you could probably eat a few more bites. But you’re no longer hungry and you don’t have to loosen your belt. Over time, you’ll get accustomed to eating to the 80% mark which can be a bonus if you’re watching your waistline.

7. Hold your drink / cocktail in your dominant hand.
This makes it trickier (and messier) to eat with your non-dominant hand while you’re socializing. Stick to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: no more than 3 drinks for women and 4 drinks for men on any single occasion. For each alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic one.

8. Use smaller plates and glasses. The bigger the plate, the more food we’ll pile on it. Research also shows that we drink more from short, wide glasses rather than tall ones. So use the short glasses for water and save the tall glasses for cocktails and sweetened beverages.

All the best for a happy and healthy holiday season!

(This story, written by Sue Mah, originally appeared in the Toronto Sun, Dec 8, 2017.)

What’s Your Food Personality?

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Are your eating habits helping or hindering your New Year’s resolutions?

Watch / take my Food Personality quiz to find out.


Question #1: I eat when I am…

a) Bored
b) Stressed / Upset
c) Hungry
d) All of the above

We’ve probably all had time when we’ve nibbled out of boredom or stress. But if you answered a) or b) or are constantly reaching for food when you’re upset, you may be an Emotional Eater.

Advice: Keep a food diary. In your diary, write down everything you eat and drink, the amounts, the time, and how you were feeling before you ate. Do you notice any patterns and eating triggers? Are you always bored or stressed before you eat? If so, find a healthy distraction away from food. Go for a walk, clean out your closet or give yourself a manicure (you can’t eat with wet nails, right?)


Question #2: I stop eating when…

a) All of the food is gone
b) My plate is clean
c) I’m not hungry anymore
d) I feel stuffed

If you answered a), b) or d), you may be a Mindless Muncher. You may be overriding you natural cues for fullness and satiety, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Advice: Eat until you’re 80% full. Even though you could probably take a few more bites of food, you’re comfortably satisfied and not hungry anymore. To avoid picking at food until it’s gone, pack up any leftovers quickly or put your napkin on your plate as a signal to yourself that you’re finished eating.

Question #3: On my kitchen counter, I’m most likely to have…
a) Packaged snacks such as cookies, chips and baked goods
b) Cereal
c) Candy or soft drinks
d) A bowl of fresh fruit

If you answered d), you’re on the right track to being a Mindful Eater. Research from Cornell University shows that women who kept comfort foods on their counters, such as cookies, chips, soft drinks (regular or diet) and cereal, weighed 4 to 5 lbs more than women who kept a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. Men who put candy on the counter were 3 to 4 lbs heavier than men who kept a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.

Advice: Keep only a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. This helps to create a healthy kitchen environment. Make it easy to find the healthy choices.


Question #4: I tend to eat…

a) At my desk or while watching TV
b) In the car or on the go
c) Over the kitchen sink
d) Sitting down with family and friends

If you answered a), b) or c), you could be a Mindless Muncher. If you answered d), it’s a sign you may be a Mindful Eater. Distracted eating hits us with a double whammy! Research shows that when we’re visually distracted with TV or work or social media, we eat 10% more food at that particular meal, AND we eat about 25% more food at the next meal! When we’re distracted, we’re not building awareness or memories of the food that we’ve just eaten. So when it’s time for the next meal, we have no “food memories” of what we ate previously so we tend to overeat. On the other hand, when we’re eating with attention, we’re building food memories – what we’re eating, how much we’re eating, how the food tasted, how we felt full after the meal. These positive food memories actually lead us to eat about 10% less food at the next meal.

Advice: Enjoy your food and create wonderful food memories with friends and family!

References:

Slim by Design: Kitchen Counter Correlates of Obesity Wansink et al., Health Education & Behaviour, 2016; Vol.43(5):552–558.

Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating Robinson et al., Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:728–42.

10 Things I Want for the New Canada’s Food Guide

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It’s been nine years since the release of the last Canada’s Food Guide and based on emerging research and trends, it’s sure time for an update! In fact, Health Canada is in the process of revising the Guide. Help all Canadians eat better and fill in this online questionnaire from Health Canada to help shape the new Food Guide.

Here’s my wish list of the top 10 wants for the new version.

1. Create age-specific Food Guides – how about a different one for kids, teens, adults and older adults. Each Food Guide could address the specific nutritional needs and issues for each of these age groups. For example…
• The Food Guide for young kids could include tips for feeding picky eating and food literacy/cooking skills.
• In the teens’ Food Guide, there could be messages around sodium and sugar sweetened beverages, maximizing bone density, and the benefits of cooking and eating meals with your family.
• The adult’s Food Guide could include tips for meal planning and healthy eating in the workplace.
• For older adults, the Food Guide could highlight the need for certain supplements, bone health, and the important role of protein in the prevention of age-related sarcopenia.
2. Take the emphasis off “low-fat” foods. Highlight foods that naturally contain healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds and olives in addition to healthy oils.
3. Include advice about eating protein – evenly throughout the day, at every meal, and especially breakfast to help with satiety and to maintain muscle mass.
4. Include visual images of portion sizes – for example, a fist is about 1 cup (250 mL) and the size of your palm is about one serving size of meat, poultry or fish. Encourage Canadians to fill half their plate with vegetables and fruit to help keep other foods in the right proportions.
5. Add ideas for eating sustainably and locally. We are eating for the health of ourselves, our families and our planet.
6. Encourage individuals and families to connect with food. Cook meals, grow a garden and create healthy eating environments at work, home, school and play.
7. Focus not just on what to eat, but also how to eat. Sit down and eat mindfully. Enjoy meals with family and friends.
8. Consider creating a vegetarian Food Guide or include more vegetarian options in the new Guide.
9. Add a message about alcohol that echoes the national low risk alcohol drinking guidelines.
10. Include lifestyle messages about the importance of sleep and physical activity that are essential partners to a healthy, wholesome diet.

Revising the Food Guide is no easy task! It requires an extensive review of the evidence-based research as well as consultation with health professionals and consumers. Here’s hoping that some of my top 10 – and your comments too – will make it to the final round!

Celebrate Mindful Eating Day!

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The Centre for Mindful Eating has declared January 28, 2106 as the first international Mindful Eating Day!

According to the Centre, mindful eating is:
– Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom
– Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body
– Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment
– Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating

Here are my tips for eating mindfully today and every day!
1. Listen to your hunger cues. We’ve all turned to food when we were feeling stressed, bored, lonely or upset. Mindful eating encourages us to ask ourselves if we are truly hungry before we automatically reach for a snack or meal.
2. Listen to your fullness cues. My general rule of thumb is to eat until you’re about 80% full. What does 80% feel like? Well, you’re not stuffed and you don’t have to loosen your belt. But at the same time, you’re not hungry anymore.
3. Eat with all of your senses. Can you taste the natural sweetness of those roasted carrots, or the hint of ginger in the butternut squash soup? Savour the flavours, colours, sounds and textures of every meal.
4. Plate it. Put your food on a plate or in a bowl, even if it’s two cookies or a handful of grapes. That way, you’ll have a good sense of your portions which is tricky to do if you’re eating straight out of the cookie bag.
5. Take your time and enjoy! Eating is one of life’s greatest joys, so don’t rush it. Sit down, relax and enjoy each bite!

Book Reviews

There’s no shortage of food and nutrition books out there! Here’s a sampling of my favourites over the years.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think
By: Brian Wansink, Ph.D., 2006

Hands down, this is one of my all-time favourite nutrition books! Wansink shares his entertaining, real-life research from Cornell University which sheds light on the “invisible” cues that make us eat more that we really need.  The book is filled with easy, practical tips for eating more mindfully, such including using smaller plates, taking “pause points”, and super-sharing instead of super-sizing.

10 Habits that Mess up a Woman’s Diet: Simple Strategies to Eat Right, Lose Weight, and Reclaim Your Health
By: Elizabeth Somer, M.A., RD, 2006

Somer shares common scenarios that promote overeating, such as nibbling while cooking, and finishing off your kids’ plate of food. Many of us can easily identify with these habits. You’ll find great insights from a dietitian and expert advice to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Healthy Starts Here! 140 Recipes that Will Make You Feel Great
By: Mairlyn Smith, PHEc., 2011

Not only is Mairyln Smith one of the funniest gals I know, but she also knows how to create delicious recipes that are absolutely no fail. Smith gives the 101 on must-have kitchen toys as well as a glossary of cooking terms in case, as she notes, you missed grade 8 Home Ec class. From apples and beans to shallots and yogurt, this book offers easy everyday recipes that will wow your family and guests.

GO unDIET – 50 small actions for lasting weight loss
By: Gloria Tsang, RD, 2010

Leave it to Gloria to write a book that is so easy to read and understand! Tsang offers practical tips for weight loss and answers common questions about fat, carbs and artificial sweeteners. This is a great go-to nutrition book for anyone who wants to lose weight and eat better.

 

Cook!
By: Mary Sue Waisman, MSc., RD and Dietitians of Canada, 2011

With over 275 recipes, this cookbook is perfect for the beginner and advanced cook. Waisman, a dietitian and trained chef, compiled this collection of recipes which were submitted by dietitians using home grown Canadian ingredients. Look for my Baked Salmon with Maple Syrup, and Couscous Primavera recipes, as well as my daughter’s delightful Piggy Pancakes.

Foods that Fight Cancer: Preventing Cancer through Diet
By: Richard Béliveau, Ph.D., and Denis Gringas, Ph.D., 2006

Two cancer experts share their passion for cancer prevention. Referencing the scientific literature, Béliveau and Gringas detail the benefits of various foods including garlic, green tea, berries and chocolate. At times, the content is reminiscent of my university chemistry classes, but the photography is stunning. Be sure to try the recipes in their follow up book called Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer, 2006.

In Defense of Food
By: Michael Pollan, 2008

Fans of Pollan’s widely acclaimed book The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) will not be disappointed by this book. On the first page, Pollan sums his advice in seven simple words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan promotes whole foods and values eating based on tradition, common sense, and the wisdom of our mothers and grandmothers. There are a few nutrition inaccuracies in this book, but all in all, a great read. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2009) is the Reader’s Digest version of the book.

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