Tune-up Your Dinner
By Nancy Clark, MS, RD
We cannot change our genetics, but we can change our diets to optimize our performance.
Here are a few suggestions for easy ways to improve the quality of your daily diet, so that even if you are a junk food junkie, you can take steps towards reaching your life's potential.
Tip #1. Front-load your calories.
Do not "hold off" until dinner to eat a huge meal. People who skimp on daytime meals tend to get too hungry and consequently experience powerful cravings for sweets, fats and "junk." Your good intentions to eat apples and carrots can get trampled in your stampede to devour apple pie and carrot cake.
By preventing hunger-- by eating a heartier breakfast, lunch and a planned afternoon snack (or even a second lunch, if dinner won't be until after 7:00 p.m.), you'll:
Consume more nourishing foods at those meals.
Cereal, milk and banana at 7:00 a.m. can cure cravings for donuts, pastries or croissants at 10:00 a.m. (and even at 10:00 p.m., for that matter).
Reduce the risk of gaining weight.
A survey of dieters who lost weight and have kept it off suggests eating breakfast is a key to successful weight management. When you fuel your body with wholesome, hearty meals by day, you are able to eat less at night. Make it your goal to wake up hungry for breakfast!
Tip #2. Eat more whole foods
Enjoy more whole apples instead of apple juice; more whole wheat breads instead of breads, pitas and wraps made from refined white flour; more whole grain cereals instead of Rice Crispies.
Whole foods = more fiber. Fiber is satisfying. You feel full longer and curb your appetite, eating fewer sweets and fats without feeling denied or deprived. Whole foods also offer more vitamins and health protective phytochemicals that help your body's engine run smoother.
Tip #3. Eat fruit in the morning.
Of all the health protective foods, fruits are among the best. Most Americans eat way too little fruit; it is unable to compete against chips, cookies and candy. The easiest way to improve your fruit intake is to make a point of eating fruit for breakfast, such as a banana on cereal plus a glass of orange juice. (Yes, eating the whole orange would be preferable, but when time is tight, drinking orange juice is better than having no juice or fruit. Calcium-fortified OJ offers an extra bonus.) Choosing fruit for snacks throughout the day can displace "junk." Some fruits offer more nutrients than others, so try to eat more of the best: oranges (or orange juice), grapefruit, kiwi, bananas, cantaloupe, strawberries and mango.
Tips #4. Eat more veggies.
Munching on pre-dinner carrot sticks or green pepper strips is a healthful alternative to munching on chips. Frozen broccoli, spinach or winter squash are easy options for days when you lacked time to shop for fresh veggies. Your goal is to make sure veggies cover one-third of your dinner plate. This can reduce your risk of over-indulging in steak or french fries.
Tip #5. Eat more peanut butter and nuts.
Although nuts are high in fat, their oil is health protective. Research suggests people who eat nuts (including peanut butter) five or more time a week have a 50% lower risk of heart disease. While peanut butter on a whole grain bagel for breakfast may seem like a decadent treat to some folks, I consider it an honorable breakfast choice. (Add a glass of lowfat milk and/or a banana for more balance.) Peanuts are perfect for afternoon snacks; you can easily file them under "emergency food" in your desk drawer. They don't spoil and are satisfying to reduce your dinner appetite plus provide the energy you need to cook, let's say, broccoli and potato for dinner instead of chowing on potato chips the minute you walk in the kitchen door.
Tip #6. Eat fish at least twice a week.
People who eat two or more fish meals per week have less heart disease. If you have tuna for lunch once or twice a week, and fish or seafood when you dine in restaurants, you'll easily enhance your fish intake. (Or, you can simply cook fish at home a few times a week.)
Tip #7. Eat more soy foods.
Some folks enjoy a glass of chocolate soy milk for a bedtime snack. Others cook soy sausage or soy bacon for breakfast. Many prefer soy in it's native Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisines. Or soy protein bars. Whatever your method, soy is a healthful choice. The trick is plan ahead, so you can consume soy daily (ideally 3 to 4 servings each day).
Tip #8. Plan time to food shop.
If you schedule weekly time for food shopping, you'll enhance the likelihood of having wholesome, health protective foods readily available.
Good nutrition starts in the supermarket!
Copyright: Nancy Clark, MS, RD January 2002
Nancy Clark, MS, RD is a nutrition counselor at Boston-area's SportsMedicine Brookline. She is author of the best selling Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Second Edition, available by sending $20 to Sports Nutrition Services, 830 Boylston St., Brookline MA 02467 or viawww.nancyclarkrd.com
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