eating

Revisited: Sage Advice For Holiday Eating From Someone Who Knows Nothing

It’s that time of year again. When we head over to Aunt Sheryl’s, load up those red plastic plates with horse ovaries (more commonly known as hors d’oeuvres), hunker down on a fireplace hearth and wait for the self-loathing and regret to kick in. Trust me. We’ve all been there. Why did I eat that ninth macaroon?  Who poured me this fourth glass of eggnog?  How did I get pieces of gingerbread down my bra?  Sooner or later though, the holiday feasts reap what they sow and sweatpants suddenly seem like appropriate work options. Enter in New Year’s resolutions.

Well this year, that will not happen. This year will be different. This year I will control myself – I will eat only half the ham, seven turtle cookies and limit myself to three hot toddies. Take that Saint Nick! I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. I believe the holidays are a time to enjoy the wonderful foods we, and the people we love, churn out. However, enjoyment doesn’t have to equate to perpetual gluttony. And so, to save you from yourself, I present to you…
Kimberly’s Strategies for Surviving the Smörgåsbords
1. Don’t Go To The Party Hungry
This is the kiss of death.  You’ve been running around all day trying to find that Pokémon bean bag chair your eight-year old god son wants, you perform your Mariah-Carey-5-minute-costume-change at the house, grabbed your keys, your significant other and are out the door. Sure enough, as the car pulls out of your driveway you realize that snack bag of Bugles you ate for breakfast and lunch may not have been enough to power you through the day. Suddenly your stomach starts talking like Kimmy Gibler from Full House, you’re light-headed and in need sustenance…fast. Cut to you licking the crumbs off your fourth (stupidly small) appetizer plate as you walk it to the trash can.  The presence of others is all that stops you from reaching into the garbage and polishing off that half-eaten piece of fruitcake sitting right there on the top.
I’ve been there. I am a firm believer of never getting overly hungry.  Whenever I hit that point of blinding hunger, I end up reaching for foods I will a) regret and b) over-eat.  It’s for those reasons I never leave home without snacks.  At any given time, my purse/book bag/satchel looks like a go-go-gadget of munchies.
Holiday parties are wonderful.  You get to see half-drunk people you sort of like in dim lighting while you all stuff your faces with the hostess’ provisions. This suggested ‘rule’ hardly implies showing up to a party puffer fish full.  Just don’t arrive to the front door seeing spots and drooling unconsciously. I find I make wiser food choices when I arrive any place where free food is in abundance free of that malnourished feeling. I will actually select the foods I really want to try and not simply reach for anything containing cheese whiz. Not only that, I won’t suffer the all-too-common conundrum of overzealous food selection. This doesn’t mean you can’t go up for seconds, but arriving semi-full will allow you to be selective and therefore, more aware of how much you’re eating.
2. Be The Change You Wish To See In The World 
By this I mean, bring a more healthful dish.  If I had a dime for every time I went to a party where the only vegetable served qualified as great Aunt Rebecca’s bloomin’ onion or the olive in my martini, I’d be a less poor woman.  This does not mean you have to bring a vegetable tray.  I curse those things. I am a dietitian and even I hate eating raw broccoli flowerets. Surely there must be some middle ground. Off the top my head – tomato bruschetta, edamame humus, roasted potato wedges with sun-dried tomato pesto, Caprese on a stick (tomato, basil, mozzarella), kale chips, maple glazed Brussels sprouts. BAM! Vegetables don’t have to be gross. And don’t worry, just because you’re bringing a ‘healthy’ dish doesn’t mean everyone else is going to do the same.  You will still get your true holiday fix in at the party, mark my words. You’re dish will just lighten up the spread.
3. Mind What You’re Swilling

God, to talk about calories here is just too boring. It’s also been done a million times. What I can’t stand is when some health nut writer tells me to avoid booze at holiday parties. Has he/she never been to one before? Sometimes a social lubricant is required for survival at these kinds of functions.  Your ex-boyfriend is avoiding you like the bubonic plague, your girl friend is crying the bathroom because ‘if one more person asks her when she plans to start having babies, she’s going to adopt a Himalayan whistle kid by March’, and your mom commented that your eye makeup made you look like an extra in an off-Broadway production of the Grinch as you walked out the door.

All I will say is this: booze has calories; it’s not a ‘free food’.  As we all learned in D.A.R.E., alcohol also impairs our judgment. Those repulsive deep-fried Oreos you first saw when you walked into the party might suddenly look downright appetizing after four glasses of mulled wine. So easy does it.  Plus, the person who has raced to the end of the night by 8pm never goes home or wakes up a winner.  I can sadly say this from experience.  Lastly, if you plan to drive home, do not drink. It’s a no brainer, but it would feel irresponsible to endorse moderate drinking at holiday parties to those who may go on to be designated drivers.  But Kimberly, you told me it was okay! I have only you to blame for my poor decision-making. No! Not on my watch.
4. Back Away From The Food Table
Okay, I’ll admit this one is easier said than done.  The act of walking away from mountains of appetizers can at times, require the Jaws of Life. Unless you have the will power of a much stronger man, standing near plates of copious amounts of food is like going to Mexico and never wearing sunscreen. You will burn yourself time and time again. After you’ve had your fill, thrown away your plate and utensils, comes Act II of the night. It opens with the scene titled “Grazing” and concludes with you unbuttoning your pants on the car ride home. Don’t act like you’re better than it because you’re not.
From personal experience, I’ve found that removing myself from the vicinity of all the foods that taunt me to have the greatest effect. After I’ve eaten and I am feeling full, I try to migrate to a different room.  However, I do realize the kitchen is often a congregation location. So instead of wandering into the host’s personal office or sitting alone with the cat watching reruns of the Match Game, put those Crescent dogs out of arms reach. At the heart of it, we’re all lazy.  Maybe all it takes is the required extra four steps to snatch the last smoked salmon quesadilla to deter you from overindulging.
5. Return to Normalcy 
 Hypothetically, let’s say you decided to ignore strategies one through four and ate until it hurt. The next day you arise thinking, “Today I will eat less to make up for last night.”  Please, please, please don’t do this.  Food isn’t about atonement and the holidays shouldn’t be filled with self-induced regret. So what? Last night didn’t go so well. You came home, popped the Pepto and woke up every two hours mumbling “never again”…that’s probably a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Nobody is perfect. So instead of skimping on calories following an epic holiday bender, just get back to normal. Wake up, eat some breakfast and go about your day as normal – eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.  Besides, if you decide you’re going to start a ‘diet’ on December 17th you, my friend, may just be more dumb than a first grader. Don’t even get me started on diets.  That’s for another day.  There’s nothing quite like intentional self-denial while all those around you indulge in the very thing you’ve sworn off.  Say hello to crying in the shower and aggressive journal entries.
Bottom line here: when we decide we’re going to enter into Calorie Deficit Land in an effort to amend for last night’s destruction, nine times our of ten we wind up hitting 3pm in a ravenous state…and the cycle repeats.  The biggest favor you can do yourself is to wake up and kick your metabolism in the pants with some breakfast.

That Better Be A 1040 In Your Pocket and Not A Banana

Just when I think Americans know everything about healthy eating and start to panic that I may have entered a profession that is becoming obsolete due to the internet, a little survey comes along and proves just how wrong I am. This is probably the one time I will accept defeat with open arms.  You see I have lived in this academic bubble for the last 6 years, learning all about nutrition.  So I am rather ignorant to what you people actually know.  I just assume because I know it, so must you.  Woe is the life of a cocky grad student. Sue me.

Recently though, a research has come out on what Americans actually think with respect to their diets and healthy eating and it is VERY interesting.  In a nation-wide study, the Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health, researchers conducted a 25-minute web-based survey on Americans across the country.  Below are the highlights of their findings. For the complete summary of their findings, click here.

  • 52% of Americans think it’s easier to file their income tax on their own than improving their diet
  • 90% of Americans consider themselves healthy, but 20% say their eating habits are not at all or not too healthful.
  • 55% of us are currently trying to lose weight, up from 2011’s 43%
  • Only 1 in 7 Americans estimated the correct calorie count they need to maintain their current weight
  • 44% are trying to eliminate or limit their purchase of products with High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • 60% of respondents are trying to consume more protein (funny because we all already eat too much anyway)

Where do I begin? While I cringe at the results of these findings, I can’t help but let my internal evil self giggle with delight over the potential my degree holds. Look, I get it.  Nutrition is hard.  I can act patronizing, but the truth is there is a boatload of information out there for you to read, learn and integrate into your lives regardless of whether it actually holds water. I could digress here and discuss the undervalued dietitian, but I will spare you.

We live in a culture where unhealthy food is cheap and available, portion sizes have doubled over the last 20 years, and we’re all engaging in less physical activity than ever before. There are a lot of pieces to the obesity puzzle including diet, lifestyle, and genetics. I think we can all agree on one thing; based on the results of this survey, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about nutrition and how to make smarter food choices.

Sage Advice For Holiday Eating From Someone Who Knows Nothing

It’s that time of year again. When we head over to Aunt Sheryl’s, load up those red plastic plates with horse ovaries (more commonly known as hors d’oeuvres), hunker down on a fireplace hearth and wait for the self-loathing and regret to kick in. Trust me. We’ve all been there. Why did I eat that ninth macaroon?  Who poured me this fourth glass of eggnog?  How did I get pieces of gingerbread down my bra?  Sooner or later though, the holiday feasts reap what they sow and sweatpants suddenly seem like appropriate work options. Enter in New Year’s resolutions.

Well this year, that will not happen. This year will be different. This year I will control myself – I will eat only half the ham, seven turtle cookies and limit myself to three hot toddies. Take that Saint Nick! I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. I believe the holidays are a time to enjoy the wonderful foods we, and the people we love, churn out. However, enjoyment doesn’t have to equate to perpetual gluttony. And so, to save you from yourself, I present to you…
Kimberly’s Strategies for Surviving the Smörgåsbords
1. Don’t Go To The Party Hungry
This is the kiss of death.  You’ve been running around all day trying to find that Pokémon bean bag chair your eight-year old god son wants, you perform your Mariah-Carey-5-minute-costume-change at the house, grabbed your keys, your significant other and are out the door. Sure enough, as the car pulls out of your driveway you realize that snack bag of Bugles you ate for breakfast and lunch may not have been enough to power you through the day. Suddenly your stomach starts talking like Kimmy Gibler from Full House, you’re light-headed and in need sustenance…fast. Cut to you licking the crumbs off your fourth (stupidly small) appetizer plate as you walk it to the trash can.  The presence of others is all that stops you from reaching into the garbage and polishing off that half-eaten piece of fruitcake sitting right there on the top.
I’ve been there. I am a firm believer of never getting overly hungry.  Whenever I hit that point of blinding hunger, I end up reaching for foods I will a) regret and b) over-eat.  It’s for those reasons I never leave home without snacks.  At any given time, my purse/book bag/satchel looks like a go-go-gadget of munchies.
Holiday parties are wonderful.  You get to see half-drunk people you sort of like in dim lighting while you all stuff your faces with the hostess’ provisions. This suggested ‘rule’ hardly implies showing up to a party puffer fish full.  Just don’t arrive to the front door seeing spots and drooling unconsciously. I find I make wiser food choices when I arrive any place where free food is in abundance free of that malnourished feeling. I will actually select the foods I really want to try and not simply reach for anything containing cheese whiz. Not only that, I won’t suffer the all-too-common conundrum of overzealous food selection. This doesn’t mean you can’t go up for seconds, but arriving semi-full will allow you to be selective and therefore, more aware of how much you’re eating.
2. Be The Change You Wish To See In The World 
By this I mean, bring a more healthful dish.  If I had a dime for every time I went to a party where the only vegetable served qualified as great Aunt Rebecca’s bloomin’ onion or the olive in my martini, I’d be a less poor woman.  This does not mean you have to bring a vegetable tray.  I curse those things. I am a dietitian and even I hate eating raw broccoli flowerets. Surely there must be some middle ground. Off the top my head – tomato bruschetta, edamame humus, roasted potato wedges with sun-dried tomato pesto, Caprese on a stick (tomato, basil, mozzarella), kale chips, maple glazed Brussels sprouts. BAM! Vegetables don’t have to be gross. And don’t worry, just because you’re bringing a ‘healthy’ dish doesn’t mean everyone else is going to do the same.  You will still get your true holiday fix in at the party, mark my words. You’re dish will just lighten up the spread.
3. Mind What You’re Swilling

God, to talk about calories here is just too boring. It’s also been done a million times. What I can’t stand is when some health nut writer tells me to avoid booze at holiday parties. Has he/she never been to one before? Sometimes a social lubricant is required for survival at these kinds of functions.  Your ex-boyfriend is avoiding you like the bubonic plague, your girl friend is crying the bathroom because ‘if one more person asks her when she plans to start having babies, she’s going to adopt a Himalayan whistle kid by March’, and your mom commented that your eye makeup made you look like an extra in an off-Broadway production of the Grinch as you walked out the door.

All I will say is this: booze has calories; it’s not a ‘free food’.  As we all learned in D.A.R.E., alcohol also impairs our judgment. Those repulsive deep-fried Oreos you first saw when you walked into the party might suddenly look downright appetizing after four glasses of mulled wine. So easy does it.  Plus, the person who has raced to the end of the night by 8pm never goes home or wakes up a winner.  I can sadly say this from experience.  Lastly, if you plan to drive home, do not drink. It’s a no brainer, but it would feel irresponsible to endorse moderate drinking at holiday parties to those who may go on to be designated drivers.  But Kimberly, you told me it was okay! I have only you to blame for my poor decision-making. No! Not on my watch.
4. Back Away From The Food Table
Okay, I’ll admit this one is easier said than done.  The act of walking away from mountains of appetizers can at times, require the Jaws of Life. Unless you have the will power of a much stronger man, standing near plates of copious amounts of food is like going to Mexico and never wearing sunscreen. You will burn yourself time and time again. After you’ve had your fill, thrown away your plate and utensils, comes Act II of the night. It opens with the scene titled “Grazing” and concludes with you unbuttoning your pants on the car ride home. Don’t act like you’re better than it because you’re not.
From personal experience, I’ve found that removing myself from the vicinity of all the foods that taunt me to have the greatest effect. After I’ve eaten and I am feeling full, I try to migrate to a different room.  However, I do realize the kitchen is often a congregation location. So instead of wandering into the host’s personal office or sitting alone with the cat watching reruns of the Match Game, put those Crescent dogs out of arms reach. At the heart of it, we’re all lazy.  Maybe all it takes is the required extra four steps to snatch the last smoked salmon quesadilla to deter you from overindulging.
5. Return to Normalcy 
 
Hypothetically, let’s say you decided to ignore strategies one through four and ate until it hurt. The next day you arise thinking, “Today I will eat less to make up for last night.”  Please, please, please don’t do this.  Food isn’t about atonement and the holidays shouldn’t be filled with self-induced regret. So what? Last night didn’t go so well. You came home, popped the Pepto and woke up every two hours mumbling “never again”…that’s probably a little dramatic, but you get the idea. Nobody is perfect. So instead of skimping on calories following an epic holiday bender, just get back to normal. Wake up, eat some breakfast and go about your day as normal – eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.  Besides, if you decide you’re going to start a ‘diet’ on December 17th you, my friend, may just be more dumb than a first grader. Don’t even get me started on diets.  That’s for another day.  There’s nothing quite like intentional self-denial while all those around you indulge in the very thing you’ve sworn off.  Say hello to crying in the shower and aggressive journal entries.
Bottom line here: when we decide we’re going to enter into Calorie Deficit Land in an effort to amend for last night’s destruction, nine times our of ten we wind up hitting 3pm in a ravenous state…and the cycle repeats.  The biggest favor you can do yourself is to wake up and kick your metabolism in the pants with some breakfast.

Shameless Product Placement of July

This weekend marked the beginning of the end. I have officially commenced packing up my apartment in preparation for my move at the start of next month. I will be living like a slight nomad for 3 weeks. My apartment leases didn’t align, so my parents will be taking me in for what’s sure to be an interesting 21 days. Cue eye roll. I can’t really run with this one because one of my future roommates is also my editor. But I will say this – deciding what to pack, what to take home, and what to throw away has been entertaining. Will I need twelve rolls of Scotch tape during my stay in my childhood habitat? What about my emergency Saturday Night Fever ‘Staying Alive’ flashlight? Needless to say, this past weekend felt like some weird marathon of Minute to Win It. Should it stay? Should it go? Decide now!

I’m still unsure what this month’s Hot Topic will be. While dragging my feet on all things ‘life’, I thought I’d give you the Shameless Product Placement of July. . .
Amy’s Quarter Pound Veggie Burger
I know what you’re thinking – this granola loving, tree hugging, birdseed eating chick is trying to make me eat cardboard. I promise you, my feelings toward vegetable burgers were lukewarm at best before I discovered Amy’s. If you’re a devoted meat-eater, these veggie burgers are not trying to resemble meat. Something about vegetable based products that attempt to resemble meat grosses me out. For instance, Tofurkey. Why? If I were so repulsed by the act of eating turkey, be it morally or biologically, why would I want to even touch a piece of tofu trying to pass itself off as the animal protein it’s clearly not.
Although the burger’s ingredient list is not exactly short, it is 100% readable. I don’t have the time to develop and make a decent veggie burger that isn’t loaded up with grain. One thing that erks me about homemade veggie burgers is they are often oat or rice based. Why bother? Being grain based, there’s a clear lack of protein and I’m just going to put it on a bun! I’m not anti-carb, but come on. Putting a rice patty on a bun is like putting macaroni and cheese on top of pizza. At some point it’s like okay, let’s just eat a loaf of bread and be done with it.
So what makes Amy’s so remarkable you ask?
One, 4-ounce burger brings a lot to the table. Let’s start with protein. One burger is nearly three ounces of protein. Amy’s does make other veggie burgers, but the Quarter Pound packs the most protein – hence the name. Trying to get in an adequate amount of protein is a common predicament I find myself in when trying to go vegetarian. Cottage cheese, eggs, nuts, and beans just don’t cut it when they must be eaten on a daily basis. And one of these burgers gets me halfway to my daily protein allotment.
These burgers deliver in both the protein and fiber departments. With six grams of fiber per burger, they don’t shy away from getting your bowels movin’. The average adult should aim for 25 grams of fiber a day.  Most of us don’t even come close to that number, so every little bit helps. I’ve mentioned it here before, fiber is an important part of our diet and should not be over looked. Return to The Shameless Product Placement of April for a fiber refresher.
Lastly, one of these burgers contains a mere 210 calories, 30 of which are from fat. Beside the all-too-common down fall of being grain based, many veggie burgers are often loaded with nuts and seeds. There is nothing wrong with fat, but sometimes a girl just wants to eat some protein and nothing more. These beautiful, delicious patties are 75% organic, kosher, diary-, lactose-, and cholesterol free. They’re also vegan, but who cares.

The only aspect of these burgers that I don’t care for is their sodium content: 600mg per burger is a wee bit steep. One burger is equivalent to two teaspoons of soy sauce. However, if I’m being totally honest, I was unaware of this small detail until I sat down to write this post. So reader, thank you so much for ruining this for me.  Stupid nutrition facts labels. 

Moving on, I like to put these burgers on either a whole wheat bun or one of those whole grain 100-calorie sandwich flats.  Top them with humus, spinach and tomato for the perfect lunch. I also enjoy them coated in barbecue sauce. Simply pop them in your microwave for a minute or two and they’re ready to go.  You can heat them in the oven or on the grill, but I don’t have the patience for all that hoopla.

Hop on over to Amy’s Website here.  Take a look all the wonderful items this company has to offer. Amy’s products can be found in most grocery stores or specialty health food stores (i.e. Whole Foods). Pot pies, soup, salsa, cake, or pie – this company is one to put stock in and I mean that figuratively.

Disturbing Literature & The Snickers Bar in Your Blood Stream

A few years ago I picked up Dr. Gillian McKeith’s, You Are What You Eat. To say I instantly regretted it would be an over statement. To say I slept for two days straight after reading it would also be a derivative of the truth. Looking back, I’m not sure why I even purchased the bloody thing and now, with four years of nutrition education under my belt, I find it rather funny that I did.  But first let me say kudos to her for having the moxie to write and publish a book. I have anxiety over this blog, a portal for my thoughts for which I receive absolutely no compensation.

Let’s start out by doing due diligence. Dr. Gillian McKeith is a Scottish nutritionist with the teeth to prove it. She’s also a UK television presenter and writer. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Edinburgh and a Masters from the University of Pennsylvania in international relations. She received a Masters and a Ph D in holistic nutrition via a distance-learning program from the non-accredited American Holistic College of Nutrition, later the Clayton College of Natural Health in Birmingham, Alabama which has since closed. There are numerous portions of her book that made me do a double take. Herbal and nutritional supplements to suppress appetite, aromatherapy vein massage, a healthy teeth program involving horsetail and oat straw supplements (yes, you read that right), and a stress self check questionnaire (if I don’t know I’m stressed, I probably shouldn’t be reading this book) are just a few. Oh and lastly, I cannot ignore the section titled “Cleaning Out the Dirty Sink” in which she recommends an enema or colonic on the day of a cleanse. Ouch. Also, I’m not super fond of thinking of my colon as a dirty sink, but okay.

Moving On.  In Chapter 5 titled, Top 5 Bummers, she discusses the regulation of insulin and glucose in the body.  Allow me to catch you up to speed.  A more relatable word for glucose (in reference to our blood) is blood sugar. Insulin is the hormone that drives glucose into cells when our blood sugar levels rise. This innate process is crucial for clearing sugar out of our bloodstream. And we’re back.  She provides the reader with the following “Glucose Tolerance Self-Check” quiz to allow you to identify if you may have a problem with regulating your insulin and/or glucose levels.  Thanks?
  1. Difficulty concentrating
  2. Excessive consumption of caffeine, chocolate or cigarettes
  3. Excessive sweating
  4. Excessive thirst
  5. Extreme difficulty in getting out of bed
  6. Falling asleep in the middle of the day/feeling really drowsy
  7. Inability to get going without caffeine/nicotine fix
  8. Irritability without frequent meals
  9. Need for more than eight hours’ of sleep a night

Umm…crap. Let me tell you folks, I do not have any issues regulating glucose at this time and I am literally nine for nine on that questionnaire.  Most days, I’ve experienced all nine by 3pm. My life gets very real when I’ve gone more than four hours without eating and if you’ve ever witnessed me on less than eight hours of sleep, you know my demeanor resembles that of Attila the Hun. It’s like witnessing a punk rock band actively contract sun poising in front of your eyes. I’m truly a delight under the right circumstances.

What is it about most nutrition related literature that can really freak a reader out? Sometimes it seems most of these authors corner the market on scare tactics and drastic recommendations (*see horsetail). Honestly though, one scary nutrition book can lead you to find the most normal things in your life to be a medical emergency. It reminds me of when I was taking Medical Terminology. We had just covered the urology chapter and without being too graphic I had eaten red beets for dinner and in the morning I awoke to a toilet bowl full of temporary terror.

In all seriousness though, insulin resistance can lead to some pretty heavy complications. For example, it can be a precursor for Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So although I’m scoffing this little questionnaire, You Are What You Eat has sold over 2 million copies worldwide, so you better believe people are reading it.

Having said this I feel it’s important to arm you with some knowledge because calling out your caffeine fix for a medical condition just isn’t fair. Common symptoms of insulin resistance (or glucose intolerance) can include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, and polyphagia (excessive hunger/eating).  Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar can be further evidenced by fatigue, headache or blurred vision. As you can see, some of the items on McKeith’s list are right on track with these symptoms. Here’s what I’d say. If you have a family history of insulin resistance or diabetes, you’re probably already aware of the signs. If you experience any of them on a daily basis, do more than take a self-assessment questionnaire. Please go see your doctor.

If you’re interested in this book, by all means check it out.  The book does have some merits.  She pushes healthy eating 101: fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, etc. However, there is a lot of information to keep track of and a smattering of some rather odd practices. Personally, I don’t think food needs to be this hard. The plan she designs is rather complicated and time-consuming for us mere mortals to follow on a daily basis. Nevertheless, who doesn’t want to read a book where the author states on the cover, “Slimmer, healthier, and happier…that’s my promise to you”. If only there was a chapter on techniques for paying off student loans.