Matt and I were having dinner recently – chicken herby breasts to be specific – and I was savoring a crispy piece of the skin. I thought about how people remove the skin to save calories and fat. I realize why people choose to remove the skin – it’s contains a high amount of fat. It’s not really good for you. But for me it’s one of life’s pleasures, and I wouldn’t want to give it up.
This got my brain cranking about other nutrition compromises you hear about. Open any women’s health magazine and you’ll find articles about how to cut 100 calories here or “10 tips for weight loss” there. While I think most of these suggestions are solid tips, if I followed all of these “rules” I would eat a very bland diet. We have to pick and choose what tips work well for us and which ones feel like deprivation. Here are my nutrition compromises.
Nutrition Tips I Just Can’t Follow
“Have your server remove the bread basket before you start a meal.”
The bread basket is one of the highlights of my meal. I’d rather have a roll (with some butter) and order a salad or share an entrée with my husband than skip the bread altogether.
“Frozen yogurt is a lighter choice than ice cream.”
Despite the “yogurt” part, frozen yogurt is not a health food. It wouldn’t surprise me if frozen yogurt had more sugar than ice cream. Plus ice cream is the more natural choice since yogurt often has processed additives to make up for it being fat free. I’d always rather have real ice cream than an icy fro-yo. Plus I tend to top yogurt with candy, so that just adds the fat back in, whereas the ice cream is rich enough by itself. Give me a small cup of Splendora’s gelato or Breyer’s Vanilla Bean any day.
“Fat free foods will help you lose weight.”
While we’re on the topic of fat-free…this statement is just wrong. While it’s true that fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein, fat free does not mean sugar free or calorie free. Fat free also means processed most of the time, so choose real food whenever you can.
“Beer is too high in carbs. Choose wine instead.”
Life without beer!? Noooo! Matt likes to say that beer replaces the bread in a meal. So if I were having a beer maybe I would skip the bread basket after all. It’s true that beer has more calories than wine, especially if you’re like me and love the high alcohol kinds. So, I agree that wine is a better choice. But don’t be scared of beer ; ) It’s another one of those “I’ll never give this up” foods.
“To lose weight, skip the wedding cake.”
Is this even a tip? Because these words should never be spoken. Wedding = special occasion.
“Blot your pizza to remove 100 calories of grease.”
I remember when this was a popular tip back when I was in middle school. My lunch table would go through 20 napkins blotting away. Gross! If a slice of pizza is dripping with grease, sure it couldn’t hurt to dab a bit, but I am not going to dry my pizza out with a napkin before eating it to save calories. That’s kind of like telling someone to order cake but ordering them to scrape off half the icing. Just eat a small slice of pizza (or cake) and cut back in other ways.
“Never eat _____ to lose weight.”
Never say never. I truly believe that not restricting any part of your diet will lead to long term food happiness. You probably shouldn’t have a donut every morning to live your healthiest life, but have a donut once a month and savor that bad boy down to the last crumb. As much as I believe in real food, I also believe in enjoying life to the fullest 10% of the time.
“Skim milk has the least calories.”
True, but it also tastes like sour water. I much prefer 1 or 2% milk. The small amount of fat adds so much flavor, body and satiety.
“Mary reached her goal weight by eating grilled chicken and steamed broccoli with plain brown rice for dinner every night.”
How many before + after magazine stories have the above meal plan quoted? Maybe Mary is adding some herbs to her chicken and lemon and parmesan to her broccoli and they edited these facts out. Maybe I’m still scarred by some of the bland diet meal plans I tried in college, but I cannot eat the triangle of protein + steamed veggie + rice more than once in a while, and I must have some seasonings!
Nutrition Tips I Embrace
Now that I have that off my chest, here are some nutrition and weight loss tips I find to be particularly helpful and relatively easy to incorporate as regular habits in my life.
“Water water sip sip.”
Chugging water definitely helps curb my hunger, and I definitely feel that I confuse thirst with hunger a lot of the time. Drink more water!
“Leave the cheese off of sandwiches.”
I am a cheese lover, but on sandwiches I find that the flavor gets lost. This is especially true when you have a big sandwich and a thin slice of cheese. Save your cheese for when you can really taste it – like some strong blue cheese crumbled onto your salad.
“Save alcohol for special occasions.”
Now here’s a tip I need to follow more. As much as I would love to have a glass of wine with dinner every night, cutting out weeknight drinking is an easy way to reduce your overall caloric intake. Alcohol is empty calories, and a drink a night at 150 calories or so can lead to a pound per month gained or lost, depending on what your habits are.
“Creamy pasta dishes are calorie bombs.”
This rule is an easy one for me to follow since don’t find creamy pasta dishes to be that appealing. My favorite choices at restaurants are often seafood and hearty salads (with a side of bread basket), so I have that going in my favor since they are often lighter choices.
“Fancy coffee drinks are loaded with calories and sugar.”
Another lucky me because I am one of the few out there who is not dazzled by Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Give me a plain cappuccino (made with 2% milk!) please.
“Bulk up your meals with veggies.”
This is one of my favorites, and I love the Volumetrics concept.
“Share an entrée with a friend or package up half of your meal before you start.”
Sharing food is my favorite way to taste a variety of flavors when I am out to dinner without eating thousands of calories or wasting food.
“Cooking is healthier and cheaper than take out.” (Unless you are getting plain chicken, steamed broccoli and brown rice!)
I personally think it’s easier to cook something basic at home – say whole wheat pasta with a jar of tomato sauce – than it is to find, order and pay for take out. And it’s definitely at lot lighter than rich curries or General Tso’s Chicken. Maybe it’s because we don’t live in New York City, but take out has never been a huge temptation of ours. I can have spaghetti, a salad or a No Bull Burger on the table in 10 minutes in a pinch. One exception: ordering a pizza.
“Watch your portions.”
Portion control is the number one tip I think can make a big difference in someone’s diet. Cutting back on portions means you don’t have to change much about your habits but can make a big difference. It’s the easiest first step to making change.