Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mothbeans, Beerwurst and Mouse Nuts

For my latest consulting project, I get to read through every food item in the USDA Food Database. It's a massive database and full of useful information for every consumer (because, uh, WE ALL EAT!).

Among the thousands of food entries, I've discovered many new foods... and that's just from today's research. Mothbeans (actually, more commonly known as Matki, which is famous in Maharastrian cuisine), Beerwurst, Caribou Bone Marrow (yes, you read that right) and Mouse nuts are just a few of the new foods I've come across. A little gross maybe, but indicative of the wide array of foods we have available in our food supply.

All these crazy foods reminded me of something I often preach, but yet, occasionally fail to practice. VARIETY. Variety in our food selection is what brings us the most nutritional bang for our buck. If we could master "variety", we'd rarely need dietary supplements. I know how easy it is to get stuck in a food rut and eat the same thing day after day... but the bottom line is simple, and hard to ignore: we get more nutrition when we try to eat different foods each day.

It's just a little reminder to try something new... not everyday, but maybe once a week. Walk through the produce aisles and try a new fruit, veggie, or even a new grain (like Millet, Quinoa, Barely, Bulgar, etc).

It'll be an adventure ;)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Risky Business

Eating away from home is risky... it just is. From movies, to airports, to gas stations, sporting events and more, we've got questionable food at almost every turn. Although the choices are many, they really aren't that great. People always ask dietitians to "just tell me what to eat". But in this arena - where consistency is almost mythical - I think intuition, common sense and "small, small, small" will always be your best guide.

However, if you like specifics, here are a few thoughts:

I’ll spare you the usual restaurant recs (like, "salad dressing on the side", "order grilled not fried", etc…). Instead, I’ve got two very basic recommendations for restaurant meals:

1) Appetizer-to-dessert meals are for special occasions. Save these enormous restaurant happenings for special days when you can really sit back and say, “I don't do this everyday and therefore I can splurge once in a while -- without guilt”.

2) If you are eating away from home out of necessity, then keep it clean and simple. Order basic grilled chicken or fish (or beans) and a veggie. Try to remind yourself that you are only eating to fuel your muscles and vital organs -- and it's NOT necessary to indulge just because you're in a restaurant.

Okay, restaurants down. Here’s the lowdown on a few other common pit stops:

If you find yourself in a gas station, try this:
1. nuts (1-2 handfuls -- not a whole bag)
2. bottled water
3. low-fat milk
4. fig newtons
5. sunflower seeds
6. string cheese

If you find yourself in a mall, try:
1. 1 - 2 small chocolates (enjoy a small piece of something satisfying and be done!)
2. 12-oz (small) fruit smoothie
3. 12-oz (small) hot chocolate (no cream)
4. (1) small sorbet

If you find yourself at an airport, try this:
1. soft bean burrito without the cheese -- or sides
2. fresh or dried fruit
3. nuts
4. hamburger or breakfast sandwich-- without the cheese and with a side of fruit
5. whole-grain sandwich -- without cheese

If you find yourself at a fall football game, try this:
DON"T EAT!!! (hahaha -- sorry, but this is for real what I would love to say... I've analyzed all choices at sports arenas and it's pretty bleak)

No really, I think we can make this one work:
1. Pick ONE item and enjoy it.
2. Share as much as possible.
3. Fill one ziploc sandwich bag with your a treat from home and eat that instead.
4. Eat or drink calories, but not both. So drink water if you choose to eat during the game.
5. Don't leave the food sitting on your lap (make it inconvenient to mindlessly eat handful after handful of popcorn, etc)

These are my tips, but what works for you? I'd love to hear all about it :)


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not thinking about not thinking about it

A few weeks ago, I had a friend tell me she was struggling with a food addiction to chocolate-covered almonds. Because she couldn't stop at 1 or 2 handfuls, she started feeling like they were a forbidden food. And because she loved them so very much, she couldn't quit buying them. Then she would tell herself not to think about chocolate almonds; like "okay, no chocolate covered almonds today" or if they randomly popped into her mind, she'd tell herself "stop thinking about almonds!! sheesh, where is my self-control?"... and from there, the mind games went on and on.

This got me thinking... and I realized, by the very act of telling yourself not to think about something, you are in fact, THINKING ABOUT IT.

This is a not a Nobel-prize level realization. But it is a small realization that can save excess calories, waistline inches, and even years worth of negative, unproductive thoughts. It's so simple: instead of allowing a passing thought to derail you completely, just let that thought come... and go. There is absolutely no need to tell yourself you're bad for thinking a certain thought either -- self-punishment over "thoughts that should not be thought" only keep you trapped in an environment centered around temptation.

The bottom line is simple. When thoughts that may derail your good intentions pop into your head, just let them pass right on through. Better yet, have proactive plan. For example, tell yourself you'll think about the beach, or go read the headline news, or that you'll facebook (or something!) when such thoughts pop into your head.

If thoughts become reality, then positive and proactive will do you right... in every facet of life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Personality-Identity Crisis

It makes perfect sense. You should know your "exercise personality". After all, if you enjoy a particular activity, you’ll stick with it. If you don’t, you’ll find every excuse to get out it.

Exercise is hard work – if it was easy, we’d all be doing it. But just like brushing our teeth, it’s something we have to make time for. You may never love exercise, but exploring your personality, your lifestyle and what types of activities motivate you, may just help you find a workout match made in heaven – a match that could save your life.

I'm on this soapbox because I'm currently working on an exercise personality segment for Studio 5 -- and through hours of research, I've taken a few personality tests... well, more than a few. You'd think the more you complete, the more you learn about yourself, but for me, it's turned into a bit of a personality-identity crisis. Eh, not a crisis, but certainly, I've gotten a few conflicting results. So, if you find this the least bit interesting, let me save you some trouble. DON'T google "exercise personality" (unless you have lots of time to meander :). I found 2 quizzes I really liked, here they are:

For a thorough exercise personality assessment, try The 8 Colors of Fitness quiz by Suzanne Brue. Her quiz is based on the based on the widely accredited Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the personality assessment used by organizations and schools to help understand individual differences in personality.

For a quick and easy assessment, try What's Your Fitness Personality quiz found on About.com. There are multiple quizzes of this nature found online, but I like this one best as the questions and recommendations are relevant, practical and clear – it’s easy to get up and get moving after a quiz like this.

Let me know what you think! Does it really matter? Can a quiz really help you find your thing? Maybe, maybe... guess you'll never know until you try ;)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This 'n that

That's it. That's how I describe what I do for a living these days. A little fitness, a little nutrition, some TV work, writing, project management, and blah blah blah. Point is, I get to work on some fun projects, and as I journey through these projects, I learn a lot of great stuff. I want to share those experiences -- those profound realizations -- with someone. Perhaps you. Take it or leave it. I don't claim to be all-knowing, but I do claim to try anything and weigh every practical option in the pursuit of health and wellness. Recently, I felt really privileged when I was asked to scour every aisle of the grocery store and analyze the good and bad aspects of "reduced-fat" foods (I know, right? ;). I learned a great deal... and I spent a lot of time doing it; it shouldn't go to waste. So that's what I'm gonna do -- share adventures in fitness, diet, and every topic in between. Starting.... tomorrow, and continuing on an irregular basis (sorry, commitment issues).