Every health-conscious person I know has their own way of making their diet work for them – Even people on a structured diet plan tend to personalize it. Often, though, these methods are not universal, and may not always comply with general guidelines for healthy eating. But if it works, it works, right? If anything, finding a way to personalize it (within reason, of course!) may keep our interest longer.
I most certainly comply with a handful of “nutrition non-negotiables,” formulated over the years as a result of my personal preferences and experiences – and I’d be willing to bet you do too! Here are a few of my most influential ones, for better or for worse!
Breakfast – no matter what, I eat breakfast. There have been occasions where eating breakfast seemed silly (I got up at 4am to catch a flight, or I’m meeting a friend for brunch) but trial and error has taught me that eating something (even just a handful of dry cereal) can help prevent diet meltdown later in the day. For me, It doesn’t vary much from a cup of whole grain cereal, a banana, and some 1% milk, but honestly, even a slice of pizza would be better than nothing!
Ethnic foods and traveling – my absolute favorite part of traveling is discovering the local cuisine, so dieting is not generally on the itinerary. However, a week of indulgent eating can leave me feeling pretty awful, so I do try to keep my indulgences in check without skipping out on the local fare.
Since traveling is something I try to do often, I’ve come up with a few techniques to make it work for me.
- I Don’t waste time, money or calories on things I can find at home
- I Plan ahead for big meals, by spacing them out and trying to eat a lighter breakfast and lunch to compensate
- I incorporate activity into travel plans – whether it’s a quick workout at the hotel gym, or discovering a city on foot, I make sure I move!
- I’m good at sharing! My boyfriend did not mind splitting a Parisian crepe 75%/25%, believe me! and I get to try it without ruining my appetite or my weight goals. Win/win!
- I carry a snack – this is particularly true for road trips. I try not to put myself in a position where I’m hungry with no healthy choices.
- I always hit up the local market – markets are often a fun way to get to know the cultural vibe of a city, and they’re also usually brimming with fresh fruit and vegetables, a calorie friendly and portable treat!
Diet foods – I’m sure a few dietitians are cringing right now, but I really don’t care for diet foods. I wholeheartedly believe in quality over quantity; I’d rather have 1/8 of a cupcake than a stack of ‘low-fat’ (and, letsbehonest, low-taste) cookies or something. There are a few exceptions – I put equal in my coffee, I keep sugar free gum in my purse, and I crave a diet coke once in a while, for example – most of which are holdovers from a past life, but for the most part, I go for the original. I genuinely believe that diet foods (100 calorie packs, sugar free/fat free foods, etc) do nothing to help change eating habits for the better. Rather, I have seen so many cases of people who give up on impulse control and allow themselves to overdo it on junk food because it has been made ‘healthier.’ (I’ve definitely fallen into that trap in the past). But a cookie is still a cookie; that is, something that should be eaten in moderation. Furthermore, if I’m eating a cookie, I want it to be the best, most delicious cookie I can get my hands on!
which brings me to…
Butter, y’all – High five to Paula Deen on this one for keeping it real – I bet you won’t find “butter flavored spray” in her kitchen! I love the fact that butter is so simple and yet so delicious. Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on butter? Sweet Cream and Salt. TWO ingredients! Comparatively, check out the ingredient list on one of the well known butter wannabes:
“Natural oil blend (soybean, palm fruit, canola and olive oils), water, contains less than 2% of whey, salt, natural and artificial flavor, vegetable monoglycerides and sorbitan ester of fatty acids, soy lecithin, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, lactic acid, beta-carotene color, and potassium sorbate and calcium disodium EDTA.”
Yes, I know – butter is high in calories, most of which come from fat. Saturated fat, to be exact. But I decided long ago I would rather significantly reduce my portion of butter than eat the processed stuff, hands down.
And finally, fake meat – tofu, tempeh, seitan… I just can’t do it. End of story.