Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Step at a Time

If you are reading this blog then you can read. I'll assume you even read other things besides this blog. You may read newspapers and magazines and books. I'll assume you are neither blind nor deaf. And yet...

The media of all kinds are full of the problems with the American diet. They are full of information on nutrition and health. It's not only the media. The medical field is open and vocal about changes that need to be made to our diet so that we can be healthy and remain healthy. So why aren't we really listening?

One reason might be because all those pronouncements in the media are given side by side with advertisements for just the kinds of places and products that are bad for the kind of healthy eating and living that are advocated. Another reason might be the sheer overwhelming amount of information that we are bombarded with, a lot of it contradictory. Yet a third reason might be that we are creatures of habit and making radical changes is something we don't like doing.

What I am advocating now is something different. Let's call it the one-step method. I'm not asking that you suddenly and completely get rid of desires and habits that have been around for your lifetime. Instead, focus on the number one. Could you change one thing that you are in the habit of doing? I think most of us would answer "yes." Then decide that you are going to change that one thing. Below are some examples/suggestions for things that you could do to improve your nutrition and eating habits, and all you need to do right now is choose ONE.

1. Change from regular oil to canola, olive and/or grapeseed oil. You cut down on saturated fats without sacrificing taste or ingredients.

2. Substitute oil for the butter, margarine or shortening called for in a recipe. Lots of places on the Internet that will give you the equivalents.

3. If you make your own salad dressing, cut the amount of oil called for in half. You'll still get the flavor and cut down on the calories.

4. Dilute bottled salad dressings with water or vinegar by 1/4 to1/3 as a ratio. Again, the flavor is there and you've cut calories and fat (saves money too).

5. Use only half the salad dressing a bottle says is a portion size.

6. Read labels as to how much is an actual portion size and don't take more than what they say. People who pour dressing from the bottle can be using 3-5 times as much dressing as is recommended, with 3-5 times the calories. Use a measuring spoon.

7. Do you find yourself frying food many times during the week? Decide to cut down on one of those times. Even not eating something fried one less time during the week is healthier for you.

8. Do you eat out often? Do you buy take out often? Reduce your meals eaten out by one for the week. Reduce your take out food by one meal for the week. Lots of savings health wise in calories, saturated fats and additives like salt and sugar.

9. Not really a fruit and veggie person? Can't see eating all those servings they tell you you need? Start really small. First, decide to eat one green vegetable every day. Lots to choose from and maybe you won't hate them all. Green beans of all types, broccoli, spinach, dark leaved lettuces, peas, kale, cucumbers, zucchini, green peppers. Or maybe red/orange/yellow are your colors. Try carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, red peppers, yellow squash, radishes, corn. Same goes with fruit. Choose only one if that's all you can handle right now, but make it one a day. I'll bet you can deal with only one apple every day, or maybe one orange or a cup of grapes. Maybe pineapple is your thing--try one portion every day.

10. Not willing to give up peanuts as a snack? Fine. Your one thing is to measure the portion size given on the package. Or maybe it is to switch from roasted/salted nuts to plain ones. Or maybe you might consider switching to a nut with more nutrients--try substituting almonds for the peanuts.

11. Can't give up pretzels? No problem. Measure a portion size and limit yourself to one portion every day. Read the label and switch your brand to a lower fat brand. Or maybe choose a salt-free brand. Or switch to a brand made with whole wheat containing more fiber.

12. Won't give up potato chips? No problem. But for every measured portion of chips that you eat, you have to pair the chips with a fruit or veggie--can't have one if you don't eat the other.

13. Declare one day during the week as fat free day and don't eat anything that day that is fried or fat laden.

14. Switch your milk to a less fatty version.

15. Can't live without peanut butter? Fine, but switch to one of the lower fat versions or to one of the natural peanut butters made without added sugar.

16. Keep only one variety of snack food in the house--just one. Choice and variety in "regular" food is important; choice of snacks should not be.

I'm sure you can find zillions of things all on your own that would be of help in living a healthier lifestyle. All you need to do right now is pick one. And when you have that one fully incorporated into your lifestyle, go and pick another one. If you are the chief "decider" in your family for what constitutes meals and snacks then make the changes for everyone you feed, or ask the family and get a concensus for which thing to change. (Just remind everyone that "none of the above" is not one of the answer choices.)

You don't go down stairs by standing at the top and jumping down a whole flight to get to the bottom. Go down one step at a time.


Anonymous said...

Measuring things is one thing that could really help. I always thought I knew how much a teaspoon of anything was or about how much a cup was. When some items seemed to be disappearing fast I couldn't understand why. Then I measured how much a cup of cereal really was. We were eating way more than the recommended portion. The same thing with salt. Just pouring in what you are sure is only a teaspoon can be closer to a tablespoon.

Bas~Melech said...

Another oil tip: Get one of those refillable spritz bottles and use it instead of pouring. Especially for salads -- evenly coat the whole salad with minimal oil.

How about using whole grains? Wheat is a bit of a stretch for people used to white, but I quickly got used to brown rice and discovered that it is really more tasty than white.

Anonymous said...

My MIL took what she calls the brocha approach to cutting down calories. If you have to make a shehakol on something then it's iffy. If you have to make a mezonos on it then it doesn't come into the house.

Bas~Melech said...

Rita -- if you're talking specifically about snack foods, ok. But shehakols and mezonos have very important functions in life and should be consumed in moderation like everything else, barring unusual circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Bas Melech. A whole bran muffin can be a good alternative to processed white bread so just the brocha shouldn't put it off a person's eating list. But Rita's mil has the right idea if she is talking about junk food. Awfully hard to find a nutritional reason for candy and potato chips. And what is moderation for junk food items? Is one a day moderation? Or is it 2 or 3? Or is it once a week? Nutritionists are always talking about moderation but it's hard to pin down a definition for it.

concernedjewgirl said...

All of these tips are good for people that WANT to change their lives.
Unfortunately we live in a world, in a society where people are happy with how their lives are. They are to busy to eat healthy.
Has anyone here looked at the price of apples? Yesterday I was at the store and apples were 1.47 a lb, or approximately one to one and a half apples. It dawned on me then that eating healthy has become a luxury! Some of my co-workers don’t eat fruits or vegetables because of that. They have some lettuce with salad dressing and meat (not kosher so it’s even cheaper). There argument for me is: I might not be the healthiest but that’s money in the bank I can see. I point out that a couple years of eating like that it’ll be money their doctor sees, they just laugh. One apple is $1.47 a pack of Oreo’s from the vending machine is $0.75, some people choose the later.

Bas~Melech said...

Hate to pick on a comment that agrees with me, but... potato chips = ha'adamah.

YES! I griped about this in a previous round of comments... We need more incentives for people to eat well. It is both cheaper and easier to buy a package of junky snack bags than to purchase and care for fruits and vegetables. What's a busy parent on a budget to do in this world?!