Tag Archives: Dinner

Better Than Before: Thinner for (Holiday) Dinner

holiday dinnerNext week brings us Passover and Easter. And just these two holidays alone can spell diet disaster. If you’ve ever eaten matzoh, you know that it stays in your system for all eight days, unable to find a way out! And matzoh balls can sometimes weigh as much as a Mack truck. An Easter brunch menu offers similar regimen wreckers as Thanksgiving fare, plus the obligatory chocolate eggs. And we haven’t even gotten to the rest of the barbecues and feasts found on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial weekend, July 4, and at June weddings, to name just a few. So what are we to do if our intent is to still be able to fit into a bathing suit this summer?

Since there doesn’t seem to be any end to opportunities to pile on the pounds, I asked Jacqueline B. Marcus, a Nutrition Consultant and Owner of Jacqueline B. Marcus and Associates Food and Nutrition Consulting in Highland Park, Illinois, if it’s possible to be Better Than Before weight-wise in spite of it all. Happily, Jacqueline devotes an entire chapter to healthy weight management in her new book, Culinary Nutrition: The Science and Practice of Healthy Cooking.

“Yes,” she began, “you can end the nonsense and regain control, if you simply stop, look and listen.” By that she means to stop the negative self-talk about your body and willpower, to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and the numbers on your scale, and then to listen carefully to her advice to achieve and maintain your “true weight,” no matter what the temptations.

If you are invited to dinner, first up is to call ahead and ask your host: “What’s cooking?” If the answer is a collection of calorically-challenged courses, propose to augment the repast with BYO. Offer to bring a favorite dish to share the cost of a holiday meal. (You don’t have to mention that it is –horrors!—healthy.) If you happen to have a green thumb in cooking rather than gardening, there is no rule against buying something rather than risk poisoning your friends.

Of course, not all (or that many) social occasions will lend themselves to a non-insulting offer to bring your own food to someone else’s dinner party – or even an inoffensive query as to the menu. So Jacqueline suggests that if friendship or propriety trumps your diet concerns, eat a little lean protein or veggies beforehand to lessen your hunger.

Jacqueline also shares some general suggestions for keeping up with your weight management program any time of year. “Think Clean, Lean, Attractive, Simple, Small and Yummy.” In other words C.L.A.S.S.Y! “Choose small servings of simply prepared food without fat or skin and leave sauces on the side. Large, over-dressed portions are always no-no’s.”

Focus on selecting delicious lean proteins, brightly colored vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, wholesome legumes and flavorful fruit. “Healthy food prepared with care can be enormously satisfying. Nix the extra fats and sugars from fried appetizers, snacks and sweetened drinks. If tempted, make do with just a nibble or sip.”

I always like to make half my plate just salad and vegetables. (It helps, of course, that I actually like salads and vegetables.) On the other hand, the Lawyer’s worst nightmares usually start with a dish filled with Swiss chard. He therefore might disagree with Jacqueline’s prescription for delightful dieting. (But don’t go by him for health advice. He likes Cronuts.) “Nothing beats the color, crunch and aroma of garden-fresh vegetables,” Jacqueline continues. “If steamed or lightly dressed, you can pile non-starchy vegetables like D-L-G’s (deep-leafy greens) pretty high on your plate for lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Then add some lean protein and wholesome grains or legumes.” (Check out The Dukan Diet at www.dukandiet.com for great recipes, meals and diet recommendations.)

It is also important to practice what Jacqueline refers to as tradeoffs. “Want that starchy side? Forget the breadbasket. Dreaming of dessert? Skip the appetizer. Love those creamy sauces? Just dribble over protein-rich foods or steamed vegetables. Fried foods your temptation? Save those fat calories for something delicious and nutritious—like velvety nonfat yogurt or ricotta cheese.” (Sounds great to me; but cue the eye rolling by The Lawyer and his ilk.)

Water, not mixed drinks, should be your beverage of choice. “Mixed drinks may add a wallop of calories!” (Boo!) “If you must imbibe, stick with lower calorie and alcohol options, such as light wine or beer. And, of course, always exercise control.”

Speaking of exercise, “try the free track at the mall, park district or gym,” she suggests. “And while you’re there, use the stairs, too. It takes a lot of exercise time to balance any indiscretions. Body fat below the waist is particularly stubborn.” (Sigh!)

Furthermore, it’s important to maintain records. “By doing so, you commit on paper or screen (like on a smartphone) and then confront what you see or do. Record your biggest obstacles and greatest successes. Write positive affirmations and prominently place them where they will motivate you: Your bathroom mirror, the scale, fridge or closet.  Keep a weight loss chart so that you can monitor the way down.”

Practicing positive self-talk is essential. “Ditch the negativism. Dieting is hard, but there are no excuses for “I can’t”, “won’t”, “should have” or “would have.” Also, remove the words “failure”, “cheat” and “loser” from your vocabulary. “No dieter is perfect all of the time. Just focus on your successes one day at a time and get back in charge ASAP.”

It’s also fine to reward yourself along the way or when you reach your “true weight” and maintain it. “Just do it without food. Buy yourself a new pair of all-purpose athletic shoes for your new commitment to walk ‘30 in 30’ –30 minutes of daily walking for 30 days, or a jump rope to burn more calories, or even light weights to tone your muscles. (A new outfit also works, as do Louboutin pumps. Trust me!)

It’s easier if you don’t attempt to do it alone. “Reach out and connect with someone who knows how challenging it is to lose weight and keep it off. They can be your dieting or exercise buddy. “Just make sure that they’re really your pal throughout the ‘thick and thin’ of weight loss and weight maintenance.”

Finally, focus on your intent to be a Better Than Before you. “Downsize! Raid your pantry and part with the oversized packages of foods and beverages high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and sodium. Likewise, raid your closet and discard any too big, old clothes,” Jacqueline concludes. “When you think smaller and take baby steps in the process, you’ll celebrate each little accomplishment along the way.”

And when it comes to seconds on matzoh balls, remember the chorus of that ancient Passover song. Dayenu! (Enough!)

[VIDEO] “Spark” Some Magic

We don’t always know when love will find us, but it only takes a “Spark”!

A new production company in Los Angeles released their debut project today, just in time to make you fall in love! The short, adorable film follows a couple who has no idea they’re about to meet the love of their life and the restaurant that conspires to help them realize it. And it features our own MeLissa GavarretteImagine one of those Pixar shorts that melt your heart, just with real, live human beings.

Who are you going to spark with this Valentine’s Day? You never know when the right person is going to show up in your life…Go kiss somebody!

Make It Through Thanksgiving and Black Friday With These Meditations

The holiday season is a great time to spend with family and relax – but all of those people can get you kind of tense. Anxiety can also rise if you are planning to battle the behemoth crowds fighting for the best deals come Friday morning (Or is it Thursday night now? Thanksgiving is being attacked by consumerism). In times like these it is best to keep calm (and carry on!). We at Intent want you to enjoy this holiday and to help you not sweat the small stuff. So start your day off right with a guided meditation to help you start off centered and prepared for whatever comes your way.

This one is lead by Mallika Chopra:

Or maybe Deepak is more your style:

Note: There’s still time to join the Deepak & Oprah’s 21 Day Meditation for November. It’s completely free to sign up and could definitely come in handy over the long weekend! And if you want more “The Meditator” videos you can check them out on YouTube here.

If you find yourself getting worked up in the moment and don’t have five minutes to calm yourself with a mediation video or today’s challenge guided meditation, try this tip from Gabby Bernstein. Press your thumbs on both hands to the pads of each of your other fingers as you repeat, “Peace begins with me.” Remember to breathe. Say it as many times as you need until you find yourself centered again.

As a last resort just remember that soon there are going to be so many left overs, and pie. Pie makes everything better. Happy holidays!

Thanksgiving Is The Optimum Time To De-Stress

StressMany mental health experts write that Thanksgiving can be a stressful holiday.  However, I am happy to be the bearer of good tidings: Thanksgiving provides a terrific opportunity to manage stress and in fact, set the tone for the rest of the season: A reasonable happiness with realistic expectations. This is a holiday where simplifying, getting back to basics, is the theme.

Did you know that it is an urban myth perpetuated by the media that there is more family conflict during the holidays? In fact, increased family gatherings and community support during the holidays create greater cohesion and bolster the spirit. Consider that most of us are on our best behavior during family gatherings!

And if you are living a life of quiet desperation, you don’t have to accomplish the impossible which is to forget your loss and your grief in order to be happy. On the contrary the more you try to forget, the more your brain focuses on what you are trying to forget. Instead you have to complete your loss and grief by looking at it and taking charge of what you see.  On Thanksgiving, when you are supposed to feel grateful, go the opposite route and shine the light on what’s missing. This could mean forgiveness, integration of positive values, shedding the toxic parts and having your say to the person or disease – alive or dead. Turn the loss into triumph by strengthening your spirit and making yourself kinder and more compassionate. For example, if you have lost the love of your life become the love of your life.

The Thanksgiving Menu for Stress Management:

  • Taking a break from our problems and sadness to experience a fresh perspective that “earth is crammed with heaven” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • Writing a gratitude list is a powerful stress management strategy. And here you have an entire holiday celebrating gratitude, reminding us to re-appreciate all the things we used to appreciate.
  • A chance to reconnect with others, forgiving those we have argued with or excluded from our circle with no explanation necessary, after all, it’s in the spirit of the holiday
  • A quality meal based on protein and relaxing tryptophan – a turkey – promoting natural drowsy relaxation, a signal to slow down
  • A tasting menu which delights the senses and blesses and honors food instead of making food the enemy
  • A meal which is participatory, a team effort of pitching in and sharing a signature dish – delegating as opposed to depleting
  • Exercising outdoors like a brisk walk after eating, or a family football game to balance the fullness of the meal and reset natural rhythms
  • Volunteering to serve others or donating to those who are less fortunate or  on the flip side gratefully receiving help and donations, so that others can feel blessed when giving
  • To recall the dearly departed  with stories, quotes and memories, bringing them back to life
  • And if you can’t celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday due to work or complex family dynamics, there is always Sunday to make your own version!
photo by: Alan Cleaver

How Eating at Home Can Save Your Life

Portrait of a family saying grace before eating dinnerThe slow insidious displacement of home cooked and communally shared family meals by the industrial food system has fattened our nation and weakened our family ties.

In 1900, 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home. In 2010, 50 percent were eaten away from home and one in five breakfasts is from MacDonald’s.

Most family meals happen about three times a week, last less than 20 minutes and are spent watching television or texting while each family member eats a different microwaved “food”. More meals are eaten in the minivan than the kitchen.

Research shows that children who have regular meals with their parents do better in every way, from better grades, to healthier relationships, to staying out of trouble. They are 42 percent less likely to drink, 50 percent less likely to smoke and 66 percent less like to smoke marijuana.

Regular family dinners protect girls from bulimia, anorexia, and diet pills. Family dinners also reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. In a study on household routines and obesity in U.S. preschool aged children, it was shown that kids as young as four have a lower risk of obesity if they eat regular family dinners, have enough sleep, and don’t watch TV on weekdays.

We complain of not having enough time to cook, but Americans spend more time watching cooking on the Food Network, than actually preparing their own meals. In his series Food Revolution, Jamie Oliver showed us how we have raised a generation of Americans who can’t recognize a single vegetable or fruit, and don’t know how to cook.

I believe the most important and the most powerful tool you have to change your health and the world is your fork.

The family dinner has been hijacked by the food industry. The transformations of the American home and meal outlined above did not happen by accident.

Broccoli, peaches, almonds, kidney beans, and other whole foods don’t need a food ingredient label or bar code, but for some reason these foods—the foods we co-evolved with over millennia—had to be “improved” by Food Science.

As a result, the processed-food industry and industrial agriculture has changed our diet, decade by decade, not by accident but by intention.

That we need nutritionists and doctors to teach us how to eat is a sad reflection of the state of society. These are things our grandparents knew without thinking twice about them. What foods to eat, how to prepare them, and an understanding of why you should share them in family and community have been embedded in cultural traditions since the dawn of human society.

One hundred years ago all we ate was local, organic food; grass-fed, real, whole food. There were no fast-food restaurants, there was no junk food, there was no frozen food—there was just what your mother or grandmother made. Most meals were eaten at home. In the modern age that tradition, that knowledge, is being lost.

The sustainability of our planet, our health, and our food supply are inextricably linked. The ecology of eating—the importance of what you put on your fork—has never been more critical to our survival as a nation or as a species. The earth will survive our self-destruction. But we may not.

Common sense and scientific research lead us to the conclusion that if we want healthy bodies we must put the right raw materials in them: real; whole; local; fresh; unadulterated; unprocessed; and chemical-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free food. There is no role for foreign molecules such as trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, or for industrially developed and processed food that interferes with our biology at every level.

That is why I believe the most important and the most powerful tool you have to change your health and the world is your fork. Imagine an experiment—let’s call it a celebration: We call upon the people of the world to join together and celebrate food for one week. For one week or even one day, we all eat breakfast and dinner at home with our families or friends. For one week we all eat only real, whole, fresh food. Imagine for a moment the power of the fork to change the world.

The extraordinary thing is that we have the ability to move large corporations and create social change by our collective choices. We can reclaim the family dinner, reviving and renewing it. Doing so will help us learn how to find and prepare real food quickly and simply, teach our children by example how to connect, build security, safety and social skills, meal after meal, day after day, year after year.

Here are some tips that will help you take back the family dinner in your home starting today.

Reclaim Your Kitchen

Throw away any foods with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats or sugar or fat as the first or second ingredient on the label. Fill your shelves with real fresh, whole, local foods when possible. And join a community support agriculture network to get a cheaper supply of fresh vegetables weekly or frequent farmers markets.

Reinstate the Family Dinner

Read Laurie David’s The Family Dinner. She suggests the following guidelines: Make a set dinnertime, no phones or texting during dinner, everyone eats the same meal, no television, only filtered or tap water, invite friends and family, everyone clean up together.

Eat Together

No matter how modest the meal, create a special place to sit down together, and set the table with care and respect. Savor the ritual of the table. Mealtime is a time for empathy and generosity, a time to nourish and communicate.

Learn How to Cook and Shop

You can make this a family activity, and it does not need to take a ton of time. Keep meals quick and simple.

Plant a Garden

This is the most nutritious, tastiest, environmentally friendly food you will ever eat.

Conserve, Compost, and Recycle

Bring your own shopping bags to the market, recycle your paper, cans, bottles and plastic and start a compost bucket (and find where in your community you can share you goodies).

Invest in Food

As Alice Waters says, food is precious. We should treat it that way. Americans currently spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, while most European’s spend about 20 percent of their income on food. We will be more nourished by good food than by more stuff. And we will save ourselves much money and costs over our lifetime.

***

Get started today!  Get your copy of The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook  today.  

Originally posted on my site, DrHyman.com

 

Weight Loss Tip: Eat Your Dinner for Breakfast

GirlEatingDinnerFor many years, I operated a private practice as a naturopathic doctor in Southern California, specializing in the treatment of digestive diseases and side-effects of cancer treatment. Although weight loss support was never a service that I proactively marketed, it was an all too common issue that I found myself needing to address with my patient population. Really, this wasn’t a surprise to me, given that close to 70% of all adults in this country are overweight or obese. Every doctor, no matter their specialization, can likely relate to my experience – given the epidemic of overweight and obesity in our country, the need to treat these diseases is fundamental to successfully addressing the vast majority of other symptoms and illnesses plaguing our society today.

The weight loss protocol that I created was conceptually quite simple and consisted of two basic recommendations:

  1. Decrease reliance on packaged and fast foods and increase consumption of whole foods
  2. Make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, lunch the next largest and dinner the smallest

I consciously avoided complicated rules and trends such as those found in diets like “The Zone” or “Atkins”.  My goal was to create a mental shift in my patients from seeing a diet as a temporary thing to do to lose weight to a life-long way of approaching food in a healthy manner. Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to count calories, weigh my meals or eat the same frozen dinners over and over. Perhaps it was my own irritation with these trendy plans that played the biggest role in the advice I ultimately shared with patients.

To get started, I would often suggest a patient make one simple change: eat their dinner for breakfast and their breakfast for dinner. So, if they typically ate a chicken breast, green salad and slice of bread with butter for dinner and a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they’d just switch them up, simple as that. Although the idea of eating chicken breast and salad for breakfast was often a bit of a mental struggle, it was about as easy a change as you could make…no modifications to your grocery shopping list, no new recipes, no calorie counting.

More times than not, when I would see them at their next appointment, they had lost weight…amazing but true. With the idea planted (and some nice weight loss results as motivator), I would then work with them to find more suitable meal ideas grounded in whole food ingredients that followed the same approach of eating the largest meal at breakfast and the smallest meal at dinner.

Last week when I came across a study recently published in the journal Obesity that followed this same approach I was incredibly excited. I was even more excited when I read the results of the study that found significant weight loss as well as other improvements in fasting glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels in the treatment group. How wonderful it was to see this approach studied and to see it demonstrate such positive and measurable results.

I have often joked that I discovered the next diet fad and have even come up with a few potential names, “The Dinner-Fast Diet”, “Eat Steak but Only at Breakfast Diet” or maybe, “The Upside Down Diet”. Too bad I don’t have a publishing deal…it seems like I really may be on to something!

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Dîner en Blanc: The Biggest, Classiest Dinner Party in the World – Tonight!

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If you happen to be in Paris, France tonight and are privy to the underground communications of the Dîner en Blanc, then you are in for a treat! Founded nearly 25 years ago by François Pasquier, this ongoing dinner party – the largest in the world – convenes yearly in public places undisclosed until just an hour before the event. Diners must be personally invited by organizers, friends of organizers, friends of friends of…you get the picture. But apart from that layer of exclusivity, the event is grassroots, diverse, and non-commercial. Though technically not legal as it often descends upon landmarks, including in past years the Eiffel Tower site, the Louvre Pyramid, the Trocadéro Esplanade, the Château de Versailles, and the Esplanade de Notre-Dame, officials tolerate the innocent revelry of this “dinner in white.”

The “en blanc” part refers to the all-white outfits, linens, and decorations diners come equipped with, creating the aura of a chic, classy restaurant as opposed to the makeshift, outdoor picnic it truly is. Picnic or no, the event is all class. As outlined on their website, guests are responsible for bringing:

A table, two (white) chairs, a picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and china dinner service. They must wear white and be dressed elegantly. Originality is encouraged as long as it stays stylish and denotes taste.

It might sound a bit stuffy, but as the organizers urge, the guidelines are in place mainly to create a container for a magical, festive (and photogenic!) event. And the rules haven’t kept other communities from initiating their own local versions of the Dîner en Blanc, now in eighteen countries around the world!

Dîner en Blanc, a new documentary, captures the whimsical nature of this non-traditional dinner party, and the trailer alone is bound to whet your interest:

Looks like fun, eh? Good luck finding a way in to this exclusive party – but if you have a contact for any of the cities, can we be your plus one? 🙂

Photo credit: Dîner en Blanc

4 Ways to Cut Calories on Thanksgiving

Studies show Americans gain between 5 to 10 pounds during the fall through the winter food-fest holidays.  It’s a yearly cycle that brings us temporary enjoyment and then despair as we begin to feel our pant waists become tighter along with unsightly, muffin top bulge.  Many of us are unclear about how to prepare healthy, low calorie, low-fat meals without sacrificing taste and flavor. 

I’ve consulted with my friend Registered Dietitian, Robyn Goldberg, R.D. to learn about some healthy holiday meal makeover tips and recipes that are quick and easy.  These Calorie and cost cutting tips and recipes will make you the star of your holiday gathering and have all your girlfriends asking for your healthy holiday meal makeover secrets!   
  1. Make creamy sauces and dips “skinny” by using nonfat dairy products or using extra firm, low-fat tofu.  Tofu has a consistency that is easily implemented in desserts, puddings, whipped toppings, frostings, dressings, and creamed sauces.  Soymilk and rice milk may also be used in place of full fat or reduced fat dairy products.  De-fatting the turkey and stuffing are key healthy steps for serving lean poultry.  While the bird is resting after cooking, put the pan drippings in the freezer for 20 minutes.  The fat will congeal on the top for easy removal.  Bake the stuffing in a casserole dish instead of in the turkey where it absorbs animal fat.  Baste the turkey with low sodium broth instead of fatty drippings.
  2. Roast vegetables instead of frying them. Roasting veggies helps to enhance and intensify their flavor because it concentrates the natural sugars.  Cut the veggies into wedges or strips then, season with fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and/or oregano and brush lightly with good quality extra virgin olive oil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until fork tender.  Using canola oil instead of margarine or extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing are healthy alternatives for butter or hydrogenated, trans-fat bottled dressings and marinades.  
  3. When you are cooking, avoid frequently tasting the food.  Munching during cooking will add calories and inches to your waistline.  A great idea to cut calories during cooking is to serve crudities of fresh veggies for you during the cooking day (then, later to your guests).  This will help fill you and your guests up—not out.  Other great low Calorie, low-fat appetizer ideas include low fat hummus with baked pita triangles or a reduced fat cracker with your favorite low-fat spread.  Try making fun and colorful fruit or veggie kabobs with your favorite seasonal fruits and veggies, which will be taste best are they are freshest and most budget friendly as they are in season.  Pick deeply colored fruit and vegetables, because they are highest in vitamins, minerals, and cancer fighting nutrients.
  4. Make a health dessert. Dessert is always a hot topic over the holidays.  Pies are commonly seen at various events.  I recommend my healthy and delicious Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust that is only 125 Calories per slice or substitute a fresh fruit cobbler to satisfy to your sweet tooth without sacrificing taste. 

 

Originally published in 2008