One of my first blogs was titled ‘Are you following a diet or a lifestyle?’ The message was about making healthy choices over the long term versus sticking to “a diet” or weight loss plan. It took me many years of trying various diets to understand that good health does not have to include a restrictive diet and long list of rules that limit foods or food groups. My goal was to not be on a diet, but to have a healthy lifestyle that would prevent disease and promote longevity.
There is so much information available online, in bookstores, and on magazine racks about diets and weight loss strategies. Information overload can be confusing and may also create a distorted sense of societal norms. Cultural bias around food choices and body type is prevalent everywhere. How you approach your daily food intake is different for everyone and you shouldn’t have to explain your food choices to anyone.
For about a decade, between my mid-30s to mid-40s, I incorporated running into my weekly workouts, which led to sprint triathlons, half marathons, and then marathons. During this time, I abandoned “dieting” because I was always hungry and knew I was burning extra calories. Training for races, working, and raising small children was an exciting but challenging experience that required planning. Knowing I needed to fuel properly before, during, and after a workout was imperative to my performance and overall health. I simplified my approach to food by eating quality whole, unprocessed foods while not restricting food groups, other than meat (personal preference).
Just as you need a plan to train for a race, you also need a plan to live a healthy life. Below are a few approaches that may help encourage healthy choices:
- Be mindful. Deliberately pay attention to your hunger cues and eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel full. Creating awareness of how food choices affect your body, feelings, and mind will help you feel your best.
- Eat regularly. If you start with a healthy breakfast, you are more likely to continue making good eating choices for the remainder of the day. Regularly fueling your body helps you stay full and avoid overeating.
- Think simple. The goal is to make small changes, but not all at once. Meal planning, beginning a new exercise program, or cooking at home more often does not have to happen at the same time.
- Enjoy more produce. There is an abundance of fruits and vegetables to choose from at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Add a serving to each meal to crowd out other foods that are higher in fat and calories.
- Move your body. Regular exercise is good for your mind and your body. Incorporating some form of exercise every day can help clear your mind, improve your sleep, and build muscle. You don’t have to commit to hours at a gym. It could simply be a daily walk or a 30-minute body weight workout in your basement. The idea is to make it a habit like brushing your teeth.
- Drink water. Sometimes when I feel hungry a few hours after breakfast, I chug 16 ounces of water and wait to see if I am still hungry. Often times hunger can be confused with thirst. I also drink a glass of water before each meal to curb overeating. Drinking an abundance of water also helps with digestion.
The bottom line is to choose health-promoting behaviors that you can sustain over time. The best self-care is when you commit to consistent, personalized, healthful actions for optimal health.
Quote of the Week: Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be criticized anyway. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Recipe of the Week: General Tso’s Cauliflower
This tastes exactly like Chinese takeout but so much healthier! Tested on the family with two thumbs up. I reduced the amount of soy sauce in this recipe and only used 1/8 cup brown sugar. So yummy! Adapted from https://www.liveeatlearn.com/general-tsos-cauliflower/
1/2 head cauliflower
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs whisked
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp cold water
Prep: Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange workspace, placing flour, egg, and panko in separate bowls. Mix salt and pepper into panko. Cut cauliflower into bite-sized florets.
Dredge: Working in batches, coat the florets in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crispy.
Sauce: Set a small saucepan over medium heat and add the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant, then add remaining sauce ingredients except the cornstarch mixture. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer. While whisking, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. It should thicken quickly; if not, continue simmering until thick.
Assemble: Drizzle sauce over the baked cauliflower and gently toss to evenly coat. Serve cauliflower over warm rice or quinoa.