10 Dec Naturopathic Tips for Eating Better: A Food Diary Can Help
A food diary can help you pinpoint problem-eating patterns. Do you mindlessly munch on junk food when you watch TV? You may not be aware how many unhealthful, high-calorie foods you are consuming at odd moments if you don’t track your habits with a food diary. Seeing it all in black and white can help you take responsibility for changing your behavior.
Don’t wait to write. To get the most accurate impression of what and how much you consume, jot down what you’ve eaten as soon as you eat it. If you wait until the end of the day, it’s likely you’ll forget some of the things you ate earlier. Strive to write down every mouthful of food—even tastes, snacks, and sips—within 15 minutes of consuming it.
Do get the details. Record relevant important details, including the time of your meal or snack, where you ate, whether you were doing something else while you were eating, and the type of food you consumed—whether for example, it was a meal from scratch or fast food you picked up on the go. These added data will help reveal patterns.
Do record portion sizes. Record the specific amounts of each food you eat—for example,1 cup of fortified almond milk or 3 ounces of chicken. Measure portion sizes initially with standard measuring utensils and a kitchen scale. This not only helps you track your food consumption but will give you familiarity with standard serving sizes. You’ll probably be surprised by what a 3-ounce serving size of chicken or a half- cup of pasta looks like on your plate. Over time, you can begin to “eyeball” servings more accurately and skip the actual measuring.
Choose whole foods. With the overload of diet advice out there, it can be hard to separate objective, scientific recommendations from those that are slanted by commercial or other agendas. Just remember: the type of carbohydrate matters and the type of fat matters. Avoid white and refined carbs opt for whole grains that aren’t available in a box. Choose your fats from quality mono and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil, nuts and seeds, flax and fish oils.
When you eat a diet packed with vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, lean protein, fruits, and whole grains, you not only consume the best energy-boosting foods, but you also promote good health—an energy booster in itself.
Eat more unprocessed or minimally processed foods. By doing so, you’ll naturally consume foods that have the amounts and combinations of fiber and nutrients that nature intended. Many factory-made foods in contrast, are stripped of natural fiber and nutrients and filled with ingredients made to stimulate appetite and keep you eating more. Processed meats in particular are linked with heart disease and cancer. Unprocessed foods have no added sugar, fat, or salt. Most also have more fiber.
Go for novelty. You may feel as if good nutrition is boring because you only think of a few kinds of healthful foods. To get a broader range of disease- fighting nutrients, try new grains, vegetables, and fruits. Bulgur and quinoa are good grain alternatives. Novel kinds of beans and vegetables abound. You can experiment with new recipes that rely less on meat and make use of different ingredients and herbs and spices for flavor sources.
Cover all your bases. Every day strive to eat four or more servings of vegetables, one to two servings of fruit (unless you have trouble managing insulin or have dementia), some lean protein and legumes, healthy oils, as well as nuts and seeds.
Stay hydrated. Strive to drink room temperature water throughout the day. Plus, as you increase your fiber content with whole foods, water helps ferry it smoothly through your digestive tract and protects you from constipation. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day is a reasonable health goal, add another glass for every hour of activity.
Keep protein portions small and avoid red meat. Unless you’re an athlete and training intensely. For proteins like turkey and chicken, 3 ounces is sufficient. Keep in mind that 4 ounces is about the size of a deck of cards. For beans, the serving size is about 1⁄4 cup of cooked beans, which looks like the size of a golf ball.
Aim for at least two servings of fish per week. Fish—especially salmon, blue sh, and mackerel—are good sources of omega-3 fats, which are good for your heart. You’ll want to skip the large, predator deep ocean fish (such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and blue fin tuna) because of their higher mercury content.
If you’re vegetarian consider fish oil supplementation. If you’re vegan increase your omega 3 fatty acids with blue-green algae, walnuts, and flax oil.
Avoid impulse eating. If you snack, plan ahead for healthy snacks. Avoid sugary drinks and their empty calories.
Tips for eating away from home. For some people, eating out— whether at a restaurant, a social function, or a friend’s home—is always a challenge. Portions can be heavy and packed with calories and saturated fat. When you eat out, it may help to follow these simple guidelines:
- Ask how entrées are prepared, and avoid fried foods or dishes served in heavy sauces or gravies.
- Choose skinless chicken, sh, or lean meat that’s broiled, poached, baked, or grilled.
- Get the server’s advice in selecting healthy, low-fat dishes. Restaurants and flights are used to dealing with special diets.
- Don’t feel obliged to clean your plate. Eat a reasonable portion, and take the remainder home.
- Choose steamed vegetables and salads to accompany your meals. Request low-calorie dressings and toppings, and if they’re not available, ask for all dressings, butter, and sauces to be served on the side so you can use them sparingly.
- If you crave a dessert, share one. Also consider healthier deserts like whole fresh fruit or dark chocolate.
Practice mindful eating. Food offers comfort and pleasure as well as nourishment. Try to take the time to savor each bite. To practice mindful eating, sidestep distractions like the background drone of TV or even a propped-up book. Start by setting a place for yourself and sitting down. Close your eyes for several seconds and inhale and exhale deeply to help yourself focus. Bring your full attention to the moment. Now, look at your food. Breathe in its aromas before you taste it. Chew slowly so you can delight in textures and flavors. Try not to rush through one mouthful to get to the next, but concentrate instead on the mouthful you’re actually eating at that moment. Bringing all your senses into play can sharpen your taste for fresher, healthier foods and help break the cycle of stress-related eating.
If you or someone you know can benefit with dietary help and mindful eating, feel free to drop me a line on the “contact us” page on this site. I treat patients locally at my Naturopathic practice in Vancouver, B.C. and worldwide via phone or Skype.
To honoring your health potential!
Licensed Naturopathic Physician, Menopause Clinician, Acupuncturist, Author, and Health Educator