well is hard. But switching from the kind of diet that most Americans
eat to the kind that nutritionists want you to eat is even harder.
You probably know what you should do,
but getting there is intimidating. The solution is to break it down
into much smaller steps. You can’t change everything today, but you
can change a few things — and build on those changes as time goes
"It’s important to eat something
within an hour of getting up, so your body knows it will be fed,"
says Deanna Norelli, a registered dietitian who formerly worked at Pro
Health Care in Pewaukee. That initial burst of food helps set your
metabolism at a higher level for the day.
Today: A piece of fruit, a breakfast
bar — grab something as you dash out the door. "Time is not a
good excuse, because there are so many convenience foods," says
Jennifer Motl, a clinical dietitian at Columbia St. Mary’s in
This week: Think about variety. "I’m
a big fan of shakes on the fly" and of protein for breakfast,
says Tommy Grabowski, physical fitness principal at Vita in Fox Point.
Sometimes he’ll throw ingredients into the blender the night before;
sometimes he’ll do an instant shake from powder or a can.
This year: Establish breakfast as a
habit. You don’t have to progress to bacon and eggs and oatmeal
(although they’re nice if you make time), but make sure you continue
to eat something.
You already know that you should be
eating more of them, but we all need some help in making it a habit.
Today: Take the apples and oranges out
of the fridge. Put them in a bowl on the counter or table where you
won’t forget about them. Many people do buy fruit, Motl says, but if
it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
This week: Buy frozen fruits and
vegetables. They won’t go bad while you forget about them or defer
your good intentions. Wisconsinites get into off-season fruit blahs,
but "you can get frozen blueberries year-round, and they’re the
best fruit you can eat," Norelli says.
This year: Look at cookbooks or Web
sites for new fruits and vegetables and new ways to cook them, and do
some experimenting. Boredom is a major factor that keeps people out of
the produce department, according to Anne Marie Weiss of Highlander
Fitness in Brookfield.
Fill yourself up
Changing your eating habits cannot be
about deprivation; if you’re constantly longing for what you can’t
have, sooner or later you’re going to eat a lot of it. The best
solution is replacement.
Today: Drink water. Not juice, alcohol,
or a fancy coffee drink, but water. "People are eating when they’re
actually thirsty," Norelli says.
This week: Add vegetables to a calorie
bomb — for instance, broccoli and peppers mixed into your pasta
alfredo. "They sort of dilute the calories in the dish,"
Motl says. "You eat less pasta and cream sauce, and hopefully
This year: Read labels to add whole
grain to your diet. Bulky fiber will give you a better feeling of
fullness, but you have to check the manufacturers’ claims. Norelli’s
guideline: If "whole" isn’t the first word on the
ingredient list, don’t put it in your cart. "If an Oreo is made
from whole grain, it’s not health food."
Eat out carefully
So many good intentions come to grief
at McDonald’s — or at Applebee’s or Cheesecake Factory or even
Bartolotta’s. Keep the same awareness of food in a restaurant that
you do elsewhere.
Today: Skip the bread. It’s there on
the table and it’s tasty, but it’s not the reason you came to the
restaurant. Save your calories for the star attraction, and order a
noncaloric drink to keep yourself busy until the entrée arrives.
This week: Plan on a doggie bag.
Milwaukeeans like to get value for money at the restaurant, and local
portions are large. Grabowski suggests that when you put in your
order, ask for half the entrée on your plate and half in a to-go box.
This year: Check the Web sites of any
restaurant where you dine more than occasionally. Nearly every chain
now posts nutrition information for the dishes on its menu, and you
are sure to find nasty surprises. Panera, for instance, serves more
upscale food than McDonald’s, but "some of those sandwiches
have more calories than a Big Mac," Norelli says. "How many
calories is that mocha? Is it really worth it?"
Change food rituals
How often do you really feel hungry?
Chances are it’s not nearly as often as you put food in your mouth.
We eat for all kinds of other reasons, and you need to be aware of
Today: Sit down. It doesn’t get
simpler than that. Even if it’s not a three-course dinner with the
family gathered together, take 10 or 15 minutes to sit at the table.
Food deserves your undivided attention. "Think of the texture, of
the color, of the feel of it going down your throat," Weiss says.
Eating more slowly will make you aware of your own fullness sooner —
and consciously enjoying food will probably make you satisfied with
less of it.
This week: Do something physical after
dinner, Weiss says, even if it’s walking five minutes down the
block. The purpose isn’t really to burn calories — it’s "to
realize that you’re full and get your mind away from eating."
This year: Look at the nonmeal eating
occasions throughout the day. For instance, maybe you eat when you get
home from work, not because you’re hungry, but because you’re
bored or stressed. "Think about ‘Hey, what else do I like to
do?’" Motl says. "You could take a walk, take a hot bath,
talk to a friend, pet the dog or cat."
TV is another major culprit. Motl says
that if she’s not paying attention, she can easily eat an entire bag
of microwave popcorn while she watches TV, after which "I feel
physically ill and bloated." Her solution is to pour some of the
popcorn into a bowl before she sits down, to make herself more aware
of portion sizes.