Creative Leftovers: Meal Planning Monday Week 11

Ah, Thanksgiving 2018 has come and gone and now it’s Cyber Monday.  If you’re too busy shopping online today (or just living your regular life) to plan this week’s meal–let alone cook–here’s hoping you still have leftovers.  But if you are sick of turkey leftovers or even the turkey-stuffing-cranberry sandwiches (my favorite), creative leftovers can make you extra thankful…for the Thanksgiving meal that keeps on giving throughout your busy work week!

I am weirdly satisfied when I am able to use up foods I have in the fridge. Is that a dietitian thing?! Or can you relate? Here’s my thinking:

  • Part of it is about making the most out of the meal to use up natural resources (i.e., the turkey and the vegetables).
  • Of course I’m also happy to create more meals from one holiday meal to stretch out the food savings.
  • But mainly I find it rewarding to create new meals–that my family members love and look foward to–out of tired, boring leftovers.

So, this week’s Meal Planning Monday inspiration is creative leftovers. Feel free to leave a comment about how you love using up your turkey and leftovers!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a busy night): Leftover Shepherd’s Pie (Gluten Free)–a new recipe!  I froze half of this pie I made last week, but you could also use up leftover mashed potatoes and/or vegetables with this recipe.

Tuesday (a busy night): Leftover After-Thanksgiving Creamy Turkey and Rice Soup (new instructions for Instant Pot turkey bone broth!) Usually my husband makes this soup the Friday after Thanksgiving, but I waited till I got home to make it on Sunday so I could use my Instant Pot to speed up the broth step (while also being able to leave the house–win-win!)

Wednesday: Instant Pot Chicken/Turkey Enchilada Casserole  Use turkey if you have it, or chicken. You make the meat filling and enchilada sauce for this casserole in the Instant Pot and then assemble it into a casserole. It can be made ahead; just keep it in the fridge till you bake it. Leftovers freeze well, too.

Thursday (a busy night): Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie This is a family favorite with chicken or turkey and even when we don’t have leftover cranberry sauce, we serve it with the pot pie–a guilty pleasure! I feel a little better only using one crust on top.

Friday: Leftover leftovers?! Or if you’re fed up with fowl, it may be time for this easy Sheet Pan Italian Sausage, Pepper and Zucchini Bake

Buon Appetito!

Week of Thanksgiving: Meal Planning Monday Week 10

There are two kinds of people in America.  Those who stay home this week and have to clean house, host guests and cook a feast…and those who have to travel, but don’t have to clean or cook!

I’m not sure which is worse. I’d say it depends on which day you travel and how far you’re going! Of course, both are good problems to have…

While my husband is deployed on a humanitarian mission this holiday season (aboard the USNS Comfort hospital ship in South America and Central America), it’s never been more evident to our family that we have too many blessings to count! However, being able to travel to my mom’s this week is definitely one of them.

Thanksgiving Abundance

We have lived overseas many years (seven) and we haven’t always been able to spend holidays with family. But for the 4th year in a row we are close enough to drive to my mom’s and that is a gift!  Mostly because she’s family and we love her. But also because she makes an awesome Thanksgiving meal! And even though my trip likely will take longer than the usual 4 1/2 hours on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving…I’m super thankful I don’t have to clean my house or cook; it’s definitely a mini vacation for me!

Our Thanksgiving Food Traditions

My mom makes the full spread:

  • a roasted turkey,
  • from-scratch gravy from the drippings,
  • traditional stuffing,
  • mashed potatoes,
  • candied sweet potato halves,
  • mashed rutabaga (but we always call it turnip for some reason),
  • steamed green beans (for something green), and
  • creamed onions.  (I remember being surprised when I learned my husband’s family also had this tradition, but I believe it is a New England thing.)
  • And then we always have the choice of whole berry OR jellied cranberry sauce (but only from the cans! Are you “team Ocean Spray” or “team homemade”? LOL)

Roasted Turkey

Since we’ve been married, my husband started a new tradition for our family making a delicious spiced pumpkin pie and a heaping apple crumb pie. (I’m not a pie person, but the apple pie is especially amazing…not that you need help finding amazing desserts!) He’s not a baker, but the nostalgia of his grandmother’s holiday pies were his inspiration. (And conveniently enough after he perfected the recipes, somehow I’m the one who makes them most years…)

But my favorite of his creations is his After-Thanksgiving Creamy Turkey and Rice Soup. He loves using up “the rest of the turkey” and creating another hearty meal so much that he doesn’t mind spending Friday afternoon cooking while my sister and I usually visit an annual holiday craft fair. Several more blessings in all of that!  (This year, I will be enlisting my girls’ help!)

Pre-Thanksgiving Meals: K.I.S.S.

Random tangent:

Did you know that the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) acronym originated in the Navy in 1960?  Not sure if that explains a lot or begets more questions…but gotta love the Navy! And I am a fan of keeping things simple.

Back to my point:

For those of you cooking and even for those of us traveling, usually Monday through Wednesday before Thanksgiving needs to be E-A-S-Y! Pace yourself. Think minimal thoughts. Don’t be an overachiever on the pre-game meals!  But as always, you don’t have to cut corners with processed foods to have convenient meals either. As inspiration, I usually try to use up things I have in the fridge before a big holiday and in this case, branch out from poultry!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you slow down to enjoy your family, your food and your good fortune. I’m grateful for your support and honored that I’m able to encourage you in your healthy lifestyle efforts!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a busy night): Cauliflower Fried Rice with Chicken

Tuesday (a busy night): Shepherd’s Pie (working on a recipe with ground beef, mushrooms, beef broth, veggies and garlic mashed potatoes)

Wednesday (traveling): Dinner at Mom’s when we arrive (or I would plan on leftovers from Shepherd’s Pie)

Thursday:  MOM’S THANKSGIVING FEAST!

Friday: After-Thanksgiving Creamy Turkey and Rice Soup (no photo yet, but here’s the recipe. “What can I say, except you’re welcome?!”)

Buon Appetito!

Cooking Down: Meal Planning Monday Week 9

Are you a moody eater?  I am–and honestly it makes meal planning extra challenging sometimes!  But my freezer is full and it’s time to focus on “cooking down.”

Hoard much? I don’t know about you, but every now and then I need to reorganize the freezer and make a list of what needs to be used up.  I keep the list on a white board on the fridge, which helps hit me over the head with it.  Sometimes (most times) I need that…

If you’re not familiar with cooking down, you can read more about it in this post. Chances are you do it already, but if you don’t, check out my tips to get you started!

In a nutshell:

Cooking down is using up what you have on hand to minimize waste while still preparing easy, real food for your family.

So, this week’s meal plans are inspired by my need to:

  • prepare mostly from-scratch easy, real food for my family (as usual),
  • cook down and make room in the freezer,
  • catch my breath from the “birthday sweeps,” and
  • brace myself for Thanksgiving and the holiday season!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (no school, M’s birthday): Out for a sushi birthday dinner (fitting for my daughter who was born in Japan!)

Tuesday (a busy night): Leftover Instant Pot Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, creamed spinach (with frozen spinach), and leftover roasted root vegetables

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (from the freezer) with Seasoning Salt, caprese salad with fresh mozzarella (from my The Neighborhood Harvest delivery), and whole green beans (from the freezer)

Thursday (a busy night): Brunswick Stew (from the freezer)

Friday: Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas (from the freezer), served over lettuce and topped with shredded cheese, chopped avocado and sour cream

Buon Appetito!

Digging Deep: Meal Planning Monday Week 6

Ugh, I really don’t feel like meal planning today!  Can you relate? We had a busy weekend with camping and birthday parties, and I have a busy week full of my projects and the kids’ activities. (And did I mention it’s just me and the kids?) Plus I’m feeling like I’m all out of meal planning ideas.  Yes, it happens to dietitian bloggers, too. But…when I really stop and think about the alternative (not meal planning), I am always convinced to dig deeper.

I can reuse recipes, or peruse Pinterest (Try this Healthy Recipe Board). But whatever I do–I cannot bear the idea of scrambling last minute.

So, this is what I came up with for the week. I hope it helps inspire you to maintain some order while feeding your family some nourishing easy, real food.

New Fashioned Meatloaf

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a holiday): New-Fashioned Meatloaf (doubling recipe to bring a freezer-friendly meal to a friend traveling for a funeral), mashed potatoes, and green beans

Tuesday (a busy night): Dinner (pizza) out at the Elementary School’s Roller Skating Party

Wednesday: Instant Pot French Dip Sandwiches (recipe to follow) and salad

Thursday (a busy night): From the Freezer: Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls 

Friday: Baked Salmon with Dill Butter, Butternut Squash Gratin (Doubling recipe to bring a batch to a neighbor’s Oyster Roast on Saturday), and roasted broccoli

Butternut Squash Gratin

Buon Appetito!

Flexible Meal Plans: Meal Planning Monday Week 4

Maybe you consistently make meal plans. But do you always stick to them?  Well, I feel now is a good time to let you know–at week four of my Meal Planning Monday series–I do NOT often stick to my meal plans.  Realistic flexible meal plans are the key to stress-free weekday meals.

Life happens. You need to be flexible.  Changing your meal plans is fine and to be expected!

It’s always better to have a flexible meal plan that you can change than to have no plan at all.

Last Week’s Flexible Meal Plans

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday went according to plan. (I can usually hold things together for three days!)

But we planned a last minute family photo shoot for Thursday evening (before my husband deploys this week for about 3 months).  Although we planned on leftovers, at 6:45 pm when we finished up, we were hungry and decided to go for sushi.

Why? Because he’ll be stuck on a ship with limited food options AND because it sounded better to me than reheating and cleaning up. Win-win!

So, I moved Thursday’s leftover burrito bowls to Friday night’s menu.

But then on Friday…my lovely good friend of a neighbor next door surprised us with a tray of homemade chicken parmesan.  This is actually one of my favorite meals ever; I always requested it as my birthday dinner from my mom growing up!

Hmmm, pop that pan in the oven to melt the cheese (while I open a bottle of wine) or reheat leftovers?  No brainer.

So, the leftover burrito bowls got pushed back again and made for a great weekend lunch (and I had even put some in the freezer for a weeknight meal in the near future).  Nothing was wasted, so I feel absolutely fine about the changes.

Truthfully, changes happen almost every week. But I continually try to plan meals that are flexible enough to allow for the inevitable change of plans.  So, please don’t worry or give up if that happens to you, too!

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a holiday): Blue Cheese Bacon Burger Salad

Tuesday (a busy night): Baked Salmon with Dill Butter, Roasted Asparagus, and a simple salad

Wednesday: Baked Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and a simple salad

Thursday (a busy night): Instant Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup and a simple salad

Friday: Leftover soup and salad (TGIF!)

Buon Appetito!

 

Week 2: Meal Planning Monday

Happy Meal Planning Monday!

It’s that time again–time to get easy, real-food meals planned to stay sane this week…through the rest of September.

I, for one, am taking it one week at a time. We survived our first full week of school last week (it was delayed with 4 days off school, thanks to Hurricane Flo.) Of course, this week promises to be just as busy. So, bring on the slow cooker and Instant Pot meals!

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t worry. Most Instant Pot meals can be slow cooked and vice versa. If you have both, decide whether you want to be fixing the meal early in the day or later in the day.

Personally, I also don’t like to slow cook in my Instant Pot, because, for whatever reason, it is a lot slower than my slow cooker. So, since I am accustomed to my trusty slow cooker, I’m not parting with it–even though I have an Instant Pot and my slow cooker handles have fallen off and the lid has been replaced once). It has earned its keep.

Hoard kitchen appliances much? Maybe…but only the useful ones. Haha.

Meal Planning This Week:

Monday (a busy night): Fresh-caught grilled tuna (from a neighbor), Asian peanut cole slaw, and brown short-grain rice (I’ll post a recipe/photo of the cole slaw on the recipe page after tonight!)

Tuesday (a busy night): Slow Cooker (or Instant Pot) Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash (you can use zoodles or pasta, if you prefer.)

Wednesday: Dinner at church and then packing 30,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger (I would otherwise be making enough meatballs to have leftovers.)

Thursday (a busy night): Sheet Pan Italian Sausage, Pepper and Zucchini Bake

Friday: Trying out these vegan, gluten-free Spicy Chickpea Veggie Burgers (from Running on Real Food) with Roasted Vegetables (I will separately roast eggplant and tomato, so eggplant gets nice and crispy!)

Buon Appetito! As always, please leave your comments or questions. Did you try any recipes from last week? Do you have any special requests or dietary restrictions you need to work around? Let me help!

How to Crush the Back to School Rush

Back to school means “back to business as usual” for many of us–whether you have school-age kids or not!  During summer, we all tend to embrace a subtle circadian shift to allow for more daylight, relaxed schedules, and well…fun! But suddenly in September, the shift back to a typical schedule seems drastic as we are swept up in the back to school rush.

In addition to our new, usually busier fall routines, we can find ourselves bombarded with messages of impending change, which circulate in advertisments, the media, and of course schools. That’s because after New Year’s, September is one of the most popular start dates for making positive changes!  But when you ride the wave of popular change, sometimes you can get carried away with goal setting and expect too much of yourself.

Simply put, don’t do that! It sets you up for failure!

If you want to really crush the back to school rush, and be able to sustain any changes without becoming overwhelmed, plan ahead and be realistic!

I’m sharing FOUR simple ways I’m planning ahead to crush it–as an often distracted, sometimes overwhelmed, work-at-home parent of school-age kids–in case it helps you.

#1: My kids are packing their own lunches in the evening. 

Back to school is synomonous with the dreaded task of packing lunches, am I right?  So, ahhh, what a relief, my kids are now doing it for themselves!  And honestly, they are really enjoying it, even my youngest, who is six.

Bento Box Lunches

We are entering “year 4” of using these bento lunch boxes from Yumbox.  Each section serves as a template for packing lunches, which makes it easy. (They are a little small for older kids, so we usually also add some popcorn, pretzels, or crackers in a small separate container.) They really hold up, which makes them more economical (and you save by not buying pre-packaged items, which is also “green”!) There are many other bento-style boxes, but these are my favorite because they are leak proof between each section, which is harder to find.  Yes, this matters!  Because if juicy fruit leaks on bread or crackers, then your well-planned healthy lunch is ruined! That’s a preventable Mom fail…

#2: I am meal planning on Sunday (or Monday) and shopping once for at least 4 dinner meals at a time.

I need to get back to well-planned, easy weeknight meals, but still keep them homemade and healthy. And I really need to waste less time shopping. Honestly, I found myself in the store EVERY DAY the last week of summer.  Each time I was annoyed at how slow the cashiers were and really it’s my own fault for not sitting down for a few minutes and planning ahead to avoid wasting a ridiculous amount of time.  I may even embrace that it’s 2018 and try grocery delivery this month!  Seriously, am I the only one who hasn’t tried it yet?

#3: I am recommitTing to bullet journaling (and renouncing the chaos).

In January, I began creating my own weekly calendar in my spiral notebook planner. I fell off the wagon in June with the distractions of summer, so I’m getting back on now. It’s NOT fancy. I DO NOT doodle or create beautiful spreads like you see on Pinterest. It is pencil and ruler-drawn columns for each day, with “to do” boxes to check, and includes my meal planning for the week.

(I also write our weekly menu plan on a white board on the fridge to keep it handy and it lets the family know what’s for dinner, but the written record has become helpful to page through for repeat ideas over time.)

I use bullet journaling in conjunction with my phone calendar for appointments and reminders. It is simple, organized and customized to me and I am less scatter-brained and better off when I do it every week. Honestly, I’m starting next week when the after-school activities ramp up…

#4: I AM SCHEDULING 30 MINUTES EVERY DAY TO WORK OUT. 

I’m usually active every day, but I tend to give up time for myself when things come up or I get busy and stressed, so I really want to work on this. I’ve definitely had more time in the morning now that I’m not making lunches! But I prefer to wait till the kids are off to school, so I’m not designating a specific time. I just want to literally schedule some type of exercise for myself each day and treat it like any other commitment I make to other people.

Have I mentioned Planning Ahead is Key?

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it. Planning ahead is the best way to make positive changes to your lifestyle, such as eating more real foods and fewer processed foods. And it can and should be the simplest of plans.  To overstate the obvious, when we prioritize things that are most important to us, and have a way to stay organized, life is less overwhelming. Anything we can do to simplify things and create healthy habits helps our brains work for us, not against us, sort of on autopilot.

So, that’s what I call crushing it–planning ahead, doing the important things well, consistently. (That is, most of the time, with some grace for yourself!) I’d love to learn more about how you’re planning to crush the back to school rush, too.

Patriotic Red, White and Blue Real Foods

When you’re searching for festive holiday foods, the Internet (Pinterest) is full of creative hacks, but most festive recipes contain a variety of processed foods full of artificial colors, preservatives and flavors.  Fourth of July food inspiration is no different–you won’t find too many easy, patriotic red, white and blue REAL FOODS for you to enjoy with your family…

Well, I like to play with my food as much as the next mom (maybe more since I’m a dietitian), but I prefer to work with nature’s ingredients as much as possible.  I think it can be even more creative and just as fun!  And it’s certainly healthier for everyone involved.  That’s why I am sharing several of my favorite patriotic foods with you this Independence Day.

Yes, some are treats and some even contain sugar, but a non-diet approach works best when it includes the freedom to enjoy treats at times!  (Click on photos to link to recipes.)

Happy 4th of July! May you feel nourished every day by the things that matter most, including freedom, gratitude, and time spent with friends and family around a table of good food!

Almond Flour Gluten Free Waffles with Red, White and Blue Fruit
Almond Flour Gluten Free Waffles with Red, White and Blue Fruit
Patriotic Seven-Layer Dip Flag
Patriotic Seven-Layer Dip Flag
Red, White and Blue Flag with Roasted Vegetables and Mozzarella
Patriotic Red, White and Blue Roasted Vegetable Flag with Mozzarella Cheese
Strawberry, Banana and Blueberry Fruit Flag
Patriotic Fruit Flag
Patriotic Red White and Blue Wine Spritz
Patriotic Red, White and Blue Wine Spritz
real fruit snow cone syrup
Real Fruit Snow Cone Syrup (No Artificial Colors)

Finding Motivation to Give It More

You know when you listen to a song and there’s a line of lyrics you can’t exactly figure out? You listen to it over and over and still can’t make out what they are saying!

I know it’s not just me–a classic example is Bruce Springstein’s “Blinded by the Light” where for years (yes, before the Internet was invented) I thought he was singing “wrapped up like a douche” (it’s supposed to be “deuce”)!

But even in the age of Google or Apple radio lyrics, I sometimes find myself wondering what the heck I’m hearing when a new song plays on the radio as I’m driving! Adele’s “When We Were Young” has a part where she repeats over and over “when we were young”. I was 99% certain she’d coined a new term “in-EE-bree-uh”! Inebria, like inebriate…okay, maybe now it’s just me! But once that was in my head, I couldn’t hear anything else…I finally remembered to look it up when I wasn’t driving!

Well, all this to say, sometimes (not often) I invent my own song lyrics–and end up liking my version better! Shakira’s “Try Everything” from Zootopia is a song I may not have heard if I didn’t have kids, but it’s one of my favorites! (If you don’t watch kid movies, you’re probably missing out on a ton of good, motivational messaging in catchy, upbeat songs…I love listening to these positive songs with or without my kids.)

Here are my Top 5 Favorite Inspiring Songs from Animated Movies:

So, my favorite line of Try Everything is this: “Nobody learns without getting it wrong.” Love this “growth mindset” message that failing is an integral part of learning. It certainly doesn’t feel good to fail, but when we know it’s just something 1) everyone does sometimes and 2) it’s how we learn best, it takes the sting out! Especially when we’re afraid to even try something for fear of failing (true story).

But when I first heard the song, I thought these were the lyrics: “Nobody learns without giving it more.” I have to admit…I love my version even better! And no, not because I came up with it! Because it answers the question “what happens after you fail?”

You give it MORE!

YEAH you do!

So, what will you do next time you fail at something? Have you failed at changing your eating habits for the better? Have you failed at making exercise a regular part of your routine? Have you failed to follow up with your doctor about your health? Have you failed to even think about your health at all?

Do you want to just get it wrong and stop or GIVE IT MORE?

“Give it more” means you don’t give up on yourself or your health. And it means, you do NOT beat yourself up about past failures. “Give it more” does NOT mean try a different diet. Diets are temporary and meant to end–you didn’t fail.

Instead, give it more by figuring out one small meaningful thing you can do for yourself today. Make it asking for help if you don’t know where to start. Or check out this Calendar of 30 Eating Habits of Healthy and Happy Families and pick one. Make it something you’ll be able to do tomorrow, too. And the day after that. Give yourself MORE because you deserve it.

Tell your goal to everyone around you.

Better yet, find someone who will help you with your goal.

Make yourself a list and check it off every day for a month.

Listen to one of these songs or any others daily for inspiration.

Pray or meditate about your goals.

And rest assured that giving it more will get easier with time…when it becomes a healthy habit!

 

3 Nutrition Truths for the New Year

Happy New Year! I know it’s late, but I decided to sit out the first Internet wave of new year nutrition advice. This was intentional, but then the SEVEN snow days with my three kids at home kicked me completely out of commission. (Although extending vaca wasn’t half bad…if I’m honest!)

So, although I am somewhat late, at this point I hope you are like me and still mulling over what/if anything to do differently now that it’s January. If so, these are my deep thoughts and words of encouragement to help you keep it real for 2018with real food and real talk, as always! Because January is the peak of nutrition-related misinformation, in case you haven’t noticed.

But stick with me (if you want, subscribe to follow this blog via email, or follow @dvnorwood on Instagram or The Wandering RD on Facebook) and we’ll get through it together. Let’s start with three “nutrition truths” to help you wade through the media buzz and start your year off with steady, science-based steps in the right direction.

  1. Goals Are Still Resolutions (Do Set Goals)

So, new year. New you? Wrong. If you read the many wellness articles this year, most tell you not to set resolutions. Have you noticed lately the health and wellness conversation has shifted from always trying to improve yourself to accepting yourself?

I get the focus on self-love. I mean, I love you (ya know, as a neighbor) enough to want to help you figure this stuff out. So, surely, I want you to love yourself. But as with all things, a healthy balance is important. And to be our best, I believe we all can make small changes to our lives that would improve our health, wellness, relationships, productivity, etc. The important things in life are worth the effort—are they not?

Nothing explains what happens when we don’t put forth the effort as well as the scientific concept of “entropy,” which is the universe’s tendency for disorder (a.k.a. why our kids’ rooms get messier by the day.)

So, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals. And you can even call it a resolution, if you want. Because isn’t a goal still a resolution? “Resolutions” just have a bad rap because it’s human nature to want to change ourselves in grandiose ways and then drop the ball when it’s unachievable. So, if “resolutions” are a New Year thing, then maybe “goals” are better.

But the point is this: it’s never a bad idea to set realistic, small resolutions (a.k.a. goals) to improve yourself or your circumstances. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the current you. It doesn’t necessarily mean your self-worth is in jeopardy. If anything, it means you are investing in yourself, and isn’t that something we do when we can see our own potential?

And further, there’s no reason anything has to start on January 1st. I don’t know about you, but I’m still mulling my goals over and yes, it’s almost February. It’s great if you want to ride the wave of motivated people in January, but it’s equally great if you decide you’re ready to start something in September. Goals have to be realistic and practical. It helps to have a plan in place to be able to achieve them. And most importantly, before you even try, you have to decide which goals will be meaningful or you will fail and not even care about it—don’t ask me how I know this…

So, wait till you are fully ready, but go ahead and start to wrap your brain around what it is that would help you become the you that you’ve always wanted to be!

I was reminded recently in this NYT article that sometimes, for many of us, the hardest part of doing anything is starting…(unless it’s finishing, then read the book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. Ha! It’s a great quick read and I am not paid in any way to say this.)

  1. Diet is a Four-Letter Word (Do NOT Restrict Drastically)

About half of the population makes resolutions that involve losing weight and getting in shape. But have you heard? “Diet” is a “four-letter” word—literally, and figuratively. Yes, diet can be just a word that means “habitual nourishment,” but it has come to conjure up images of a very restrictive way of eating to lose weight. Research shows that’s bad because most people lose weight only to gain it back when they go “off” the diet, and often even more weight than they lost. So, bottom line: diets don’t improve your health if you gain back the weight (or more) and even decrease your metabolism in the process. And then there are the feelings of failure you’ll have to deal with, too.

So, if your goal is to restrict yourself so drastically that you can’t maintain it, then please, please, please change your goal to a more attainable, sustainable one. It’s okay to want to make changes to your diet, even to lose weight and/or improve other aspects of health, but consider smaller changes that you can incorporate to become lifelong habits.  That said—even a lower sugar, and/or lower carbohydrate diet can be maintained if you slowly make changes that become your new normal, which is especially helpful for preventing and managing obesity, prediabetes and diabetes.

  1. Mindfulness Isn’t Always Intuitive (Do Practice Mindfulness)

So, 1) set goals, 2) don’t drastically restrict—this begs the question: what’s a person to do?

Have you heard about Intuitive Eating? It’s often used in the same sentence as “mindfulness.” The principles promote a non-diet approach to eating, which involves ditching the scale, listening to hunger and fullness cues to determine food intake, and perhaps most importantly, finding other ways besides food to deal with emotions.

Let’s be clear, I am not at all against any of these things. But I do have a serious problem with the word “intuitive.”  If eating is supposed to be so intuitive, how are so many people doing it “wrong”? It appears to me that eating is not intuitive for a large part of the population, or there wouldn’t be a growing obesity and diabetes epidemic.

The problem may be this: it’s intuitive to eat what is available. Studies show people weigh more when presented with more variety and diversity of food options (think: buffets). And in America, we have a disproportionate amount of unhealthy foods available at our every turn.

Or the problem may be this: what if certain people with a genetic predisposition for overweight or obesity are biologically driven to overeat certain foods (such as refined carbohydrates and sugar)? It is far from conclusive, (and I talk about it in this comprehensive post about sugar) but there is a school of thought that refined carbohydrates and sugar could be addictive in some individuals. If it proves true, aren’t we judging and–even worse—alienating many people we are trying to help by telling them, or even trying to teach them, to simply “eat intuitively”?

I believe it’s not fair, accurate, or helpful to call eating “intuitive” in our food culture and that it does more harm than good.

Rant over!

That said, can one learn to eat mindfully? Absolutely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, it appears mindfulness may be harder for some people to learn and practice, perhaps due to one or more of the following:

  • our fast-paced culture,
  • our food supply,
  • differing genes,
  • and/or emotional issues (including eating disorders).

Some people can eat “everything in moderation” while others prefer to avoid certain foods because they can’t stop at a “reasonable” portion. It’s highly individual and we all know ourselves best, although sometimes need help and guidance teasing out all the factors that affect building healthy eating habits.

It should be noted it is impossible to talk about mindful eating without fully addressing the emotional aspects of eating, especially eating disorders, preferably with qualified therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, in addition to RDs.

Nonetheless, mindfulness for most everyone involves learning to incorporate more real foods, and far fewer processed foods, especially those with refined carbohydrates. I like to say it is a practice, because it is important enough to do the hard work and there is no room for perfection or guilt–just keep at it the best you can.

And you can always count on me to try to make practicing mindfulness as simple as possible with an ever-growing list of easy, real food recipes.  Stay tuned for a post with specific tips on how to practice eating mindfully!