Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Food = Fuel

Hey gang! Just FYI - this is my 70th post since I've started this blog! That's amazing to me. Thanks for helping keep me on track and for reading my jumbled thoughts!!

This week has been a challenge as far as food goes. I've been able to get to the gym just as much as usual, but I've had lots of food temptations. Saturday night was dinner at a Steak house for my stepbrother's birthday. And while steak is good in small portions (lots of protein!), the bread and wine and broccoli casserole that accompany it are not! Sunday night was girls Valentine's dinner with greek food. Which can be healthy - but feta cheese dip and baklava and the wine that accompany it are not! I've had lots of leftovers in my fridge and I've felt like I've had to eat them. I know as the daughter of a food banker, I should be saying this, but sometimes you just gotta throw stuff away! Plus yesterday was V-Day and my students (thoughtfully) brought me candy and a cupcake! We'll see what happens this week - I'm doing my best to make smart decisions now that all my unhealthy leftovers are gone. Although I still have that cupcake on my counter that keeps calling my name . . .

So, as a reminder to myself and as an effort to pass on pertinent information, I'm going to write a post about food and how you need to start thinking about it. Up until this year I thought of food as comforting, delicious and fun. It was the thing that life happened around - meet a friend for lunch, have dinner with the family, etc. I NEVER ONCE thought of food as a necessity, as fuel. Nor did I think about the fact that my body needed certain things to survive. Not just vitamins or calories in general, but things like protein, fiber and fat. (Yes, even fat!) My trainer has been reviewing my food logging through some WW printouts I've given her and she gave me a lot of great pointers. Including some very helpful (although very technical) magazine articles that helped me understand what your body needs.

Here's the first tip -
1) EAT PROTEIN! If you're working out, your body needs protein to help rebuild the muscle fibers you tear apart when you work out. (Yes, that's really what happens. That's how muscles get toned.) Both before and after your workout, make sure you're ingesting some protein so that you can give your body the fuel it needs. Vegetarians are particularly vulnerable to a lack of protein. In attempt to eat "healthy," I was cutting a lot of protein because it costs me more points. But it's something your body needs! Another perk of protein? It keeps you fuller for longer on less calories. So I could either walk around starving all the time, or I could spend a few points on something that is helping me lose weight. Try to put a protein in each meal! Great examples - lean (grilled) meats, nuts (almonds are best), and eggs.

2) Eat about every 3 hours. This keeps your metabolism running a little higher all day long. I know this isn't possible for everyone - even I can't keep this rule all the time. But instead of thinking about 3 square meals a day, try to do 5. Solid breakfast, small snack, solid lunch, bigger snack (depending on how long you have between lunch and dinner), and then dinner. Not that your snacks have to come at these times. My food timing usually looks more like this: solid breakfast, solid lunch, bigger snack, dinner, smaller snack. I work out between breakfast and lunch so I get hungrier a lot faster. Also I don't wake up that early so there's only about 3 hours between breakfast and lunch anyway. And I like to give myself a small snack after dinner. Even my trainer said it's not that big of a deal. A lot of people have a vendetta against eating late at night, but as long as you're not ingesting too many calories, then your body can handle it. Find a way to work in some snacks throughout the day! When I don't have a break in my students, I bring grapes and almonds that I can munch on a few of in between lessons. If I have a break, I'll bring an apple and some yogurt with granola in it.

3) BALANCE your meals. What does this mean? I'll give you an example - for breakfast, I would often have a bagel and cream cheese and a glass of milk. I'm a BIG bagel fan - I probably won't ever give them up. Now, I was using whole grain bagels and reduced fat cream cheese and skim milk. But I wasn't giving myself the right fuel for the day - carbs, good for energy. But a bagel is a lot of carbs at once. The cream cheese doesn't give me much protein at all - mostly it's just empty calories. So my trainer suggested instead that I eat half a bagel (still carbs, but not as much) with peanut butter on it for more protein. Which helps keep me full. And by adding in a fruit at breakfast, you're giving your body more nutrients. I still have the milk - don't deprive your body of it!! Or another option - I used to eat scrambled eggs with cheese and toast with butter. Eggs - good. Cheese, not so much. Now I cook my eggs over-easy or fried (this term is misleading - it just means that the yoke of the egg breaks. It's not any less healthy than over-easy. But if you don't like runny eggs then its a good option) cooked in olive oil. And I'll eat 2 eggs with one piece of toast. When I really wanted scrambled eggs, I'll use fat-free cheese to cut out some of the empty calories, and still only have one piece of toast.

In short - think about what you're eating before you eat it. What is this meal giving my body? Things like chips are almost totally empty calories - I know, I love them too! But try substituting them for a fruit instead. Not that you can't have chips or french fries - just don't make them a staple. When in doubt, think about this: In general, things that exist in nature are going to be healthy and fill your body's needs. Things that don't - like french fries - are not.

One last tip - follow the 80/20 rule. If you make 80% of your food for the day healthy, then 20% of your food can be something else. Or if you have a lot of temptations during your week, make 80% of your meals healthy that week so the other 20% you can splurge a little. Direct from my trainer's mouth! Keep working hard!! If I can do this stuff, I know you can too!!

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