My Italian mother made the food of her mother and grandmother. Mediterranean. Simple. Fresh. We ate protein, mostly from fish and beans. We devoured whatever vegetables were in season. Olive oil. Fruit. Pasta, too. And, always a bite of dessert. So, a Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest on the planet, is deeply embedded in my DNA. To this day, I swoon over summer ripe tomatoes and newly grown herbs.
As much as I love and recommend a Mediterranean diet, I know there’s no one diet that is right for everyone. Where you live, what’s available, your budget, your lifestyle and what your schedule permits in terms of preparing food all are factors. Do you have a family? What do they like? Do you work long hours? Are there local markets where you can shop or must you rely on a big supermarket miles away?
Maybe you don’t have to diet, at all. You’re at a relatively comfortable weight…last season’s jeans still fit…but you know that you and your family could be eating smarter and healthier. Or, you may have a specific meal plan that has worked for you in the past. If that’s the case, go for it and stick to it.
Choosing foods that are right for you can be overwhelming. Every time you pick up a magazine, look on the web or stop by a bookstore, you see “new”, “better”, “easier”, “faster”, “foolproof” ways to lose weight. Do they work? Maybe…maybe not.
I believe in habits, not diets. Developing and sticking to a handful of healthy eating habits and staying focused on your wellness goal will serve you better than obsessing over a rigid diet plan with unrealistic promises. Remember, you are what you eat.
FOCUS + HEALTHY CHOICES + POSITIVE ATTITUDE = LASTING IMPACT
Follow my basic healthy eating guidelines and your road to wellness will be paved with progress and success.
- Know how much is too much. Portion distortion is everywhere.
- If you tend to put huge portions on your plate (think: buffet) and then scarf it all down, serve yourself on a salad plate and eat with a smaller fork. It’s an optical illusion, like wearing black! And it works. You will eat less.
- Be mindful of your total intake throughout the day. If you have a big lunch, have a small dinner. When the waiter brings you a plate of chicken, eat only half…bring the rest home for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Invest in a small kitchen scale and become familiar with portion size. 3 – 4 ounces of protein is enough…about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand, which you have with you at all times. If you’re having cheese, remember that one-ounce looks like (your thumb).
- Stop eating before you’re full. If you eat until you’re stuffed, you’ve eaten too much.
- If apps are your thing, you might invest in FoodTrackerPro or MyDietSteps to keep you informed…and honest.
- When you’re at the farmers’ market or in the produce section of your super store, think variety and color. Add more greens, reds, yellows and oranges to your basket. Try seasonal vegetables that may be new to you. Mix them up and experience wonderful new flavors and textures.
- Learn about fragrant spices and fresh herbs and use them. They have no calories and can transform simple, healthy ingredients into exciting dishes.
- If you have a sweet tooth or tend to snack during the day, it’s okay as long as think small and simple. After dinner, either a bite of chocolate or a small cookie or a small – ½ cup – scoop of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt will be fine. A handful of chocolates or cookies, ice cream with butterscotch sauce and whipped cream definitely are NOT. Same with snacks – think nibbling vegetables like carrots, celery or radishes, fruit of any kind, a dozen almonds or walnuts. Stay away from calorie laden energy bars, muffins and shakes.
- Banish the terrible trio, now and forever – saturated fat, processed foods and refined sugars – especially found in soda and other bottled beverages. Nothing here but empty calories.
- Know your fats and say goodbye to the bad ones. Always read packaging labels and ingredients lists so you can avoid the many hidden fats in processed foods, which you should avoid, in any case.
- Monounsaturated fats – olives, avocados and nuts are your friends, as are olive oil for cooking, drizzling and salad dressing and canola oil for baking.
- Trans fats – stay away from them by avoiding foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Shortening and stick margarine are big culprits here. Remember that any fat that is solid in room temperature is probably not a good thing to put in your body.
- Saturated fats – consume these in moderation. By switching to fat free dairy products and limiting red meat and other animal protein, you’ll keep your saturated fat intake under control. Remember, less than 7 percent of your daily fat calories should come from saturated fats.
- Polyunsaturated fats contain all-important omega-3 found in foods such as salmon, sardines and walnuts. They should be a steady part of your diet.
- Water. Water. Water. Water should be your beverage of choice. Try to drink 6 – 8 glasses a day. Keep water your desk to sip while your working and within reach when your doing chores. I love mine with a slice of lemon or lime. And, always have a bottle in your car while your driving.
- Be kind to YOU. If you’ve had a bad food day, don’t beat yourself up. Simply, cut back and be very careful the next day. Things will balance out. Studies have shown that if you eat well 80% of the time, you can eat some of the bad stuff 20% and still be very healthy.
- Know your weaknesses. Don’t keep “bad habit” foods around. If you tend to snack at night, reach for fruit, munch worthy vegetables or a handful of nuts.
- Savor every bite. Eat slowly. Take sensual pleasure in the taste and texture of your food…and the knowledge that your healthy diet is one of the building blocks of your wellness potential.
- If you have a willing partner, make love instead of snacks. Nourish your self and you’ll forget about that craving for ice cream and pie.
"I believe in habits, not diets. Developing and sticking to a handful of healthy eating habits and staying focused on your wellness goal will serve you better than obsessing over a rigid diet plan with unrealistic promises. Remember, you are what you eat."
— Dr. Carm