How to Salvage Even the Worst of Diet Days

Starting off, I know this post might ruffle some feathers because I still will be talking about eating processed and fast food. By no way do I think any of these foods are the best choice to be eating; however, we have ALL had that day where all our plans go to $#!t and we end up eating at places we might not normally eat. This post is about how to minimize the damage while still eating at different “junk food” locations.

Think of it as a Eat This, Not That kind of post. No one is forcing you against your will to go to McDonald’s, but if you happen to end up there, how can you make the smartest choice?

What if your kids REALLY REALLY want to go to Dairy Queen for ice cream, and you just HAVE to get something? Yes, the best option would be to politely say, no thank you, but I personally haven’t figured out how to do that yet when it comes to ice cream.

For the purpose of this post, we will be following Person A, and Person B, and we will see where they end up at the end of the day. Calories are listed, along with amounts of carbs, protein and fat (in grams).

So you decide to start your day at Starbucks. Ready to buy a triple vente mochalattefrappa vanilla coffee? Think again.

 

A) Vente Salted Carmel Mocha = 473 calories – 74 carbs, 18 fat, 14 protein

B) Grande Skinny Salted Carmel Latte = 130 calories – 19 carbs, 0 fat, 12 protein

***Don’t drink your calories. You came to the coffee shop for a quick kick of energy in the form of caffeine, not for your early morning dessert. Make the smart choice, leave out the added sugar and heavy cream, and get your caffeine fix without the added calories***

Next on our day of fun comes breakfast! Let’s stop at Denny’s, ‘Mericas Diner! Ok lots of choices here, but they have this “Fit Fare” menu… must be healthy. I’ll take the Banana Pecan Pancake Breakfast, right off the Fit Fare Menu!

Wedding at Denny’s? #Merica!

A) Fit Fare Banana Pecan Pancake Breakfast = 750 calories, 131 carbs, 14 fat, 29 protein

B) Fit Fare Loaded Veggie Omelet w/ Fruit Cup Side option = 420 calories, 51 carbs, 13 fat, 29 protein

***Just because something is labelled healthy or fit, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice still. When it comes to breakfast, try to be as anti-American as possible (this might get me on a watch list or something?). The traditional American breakfast is SO carb heavy that one can easily meet their carb goals for the entire day if they aren’t careful. Cereal, toast, pancakes, muffins, bagels, waffles = ALL CARBS! Your first choice should be a protein source (eggs in this case). Starting the day with protein will set you up for success. If there is an option to add on a side, always pick the fruit or vegetable option. This should be an automatic response.***

It’s the lunch hour and you are crammed into your co-workers van. “Hey guys, mind if we stop at McDonalds?” He says as he takes a gulp from his 36 oz. Super America Mt. Dew from yesterday’s lunch break…

A) Double Cheeseburger, Large Fry, and a Medium Coke = 1140 calories, 153 carbs, 47 fat, 31 protein

B) Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Kids Fry, and a Water = 460 calories, 56 carbs, 11 fat, 34 protein

***Yes, I realize you could be even healthier and get a salad instead of fries. Or if you are a male trying to get more protein in the day, another grilled chicken sandwich might be a better option. The point I am trying to make here is damage control. If you just NEED to eat some McDonalds fries, the kids portion is more than enough. A large fry is over 500 calories alone, while the kids option is only 110 calories. BY making this simple swap alone you are saving 400 calories from your daily intake, and still getting a little bit of those salty fries.

Also, same thing as at Starbucks, don’t drink your calories! A medium fountain soda is right around 200 calories. Combine this with a dessert before breakfast from the coffee shop and you have drunk over 600 liquid calories for the day! These calories are of ZERO benefit to you and your body. I can’t stress this enough.***

It is now 3pm at work, you are crashing, you think you are hungry (but its really just boredom or stress?) Time for a healthy snack! Kashi granola bars sound healthy.

A) Kashi Granola Bar – 130 calories, 21 carbs, 4 fat, 6 protein

B) Nothing OR Chocolate Milk Whey Protein Shake made in water = 130 calories, 5 carbs, 2 fat, 25 protein

Maybe a little overkill…

***Equal calories here, different macronutrients. By having some protein for a snack, you will be more satiated (full) versus eating a quick carb source. This should tie you over until dinner. Also, maybe you aren’t hungry. Take a second to reflect on what is going on in your day. Are you stressed out? Are you just bored at your desk? Food won’t fix that. Go for a little walk to the drinking fountain, fill up your water bottle, and take some deep breaths. ***

You are driving home from work and your spouse calls. “Hey honey, we have so much going on tonight, I am going to pick up Pizza Hut for dinner. What do you want?” Sigh…

A) Two pieces of hand tossed, large, pepperoni and sausage pizza = 660 calories, 98 carbs, 26 fat, 30 protein

B) Two pieces of thin crust, large, pepperoni = 560 calories, 56 carbs, 28 fat, 24 protein

***This is a tough one here. Even by switching to thin crust and only one fatty meat, you only save 100 calories. You could get a veggie pizza option here, but would the kids eat that? If so, then do that. However, if you have to get one pizza for you and one for the kids, there will likely be leftovers – and we don’t want leftovers sitting around for later. Another option here could be to politely recommend to your spouse/person offering to pick up pizza, to grab a pre-made rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, along with some type of veggie. Saves time, and a ton of calories!***

Just when you thought your diet day from hell was over, juniors tee-ball team is hitting up DQ for Blizzards! You know that ice cream is not on the plan, but you just can’t say no…

A) Small DQ Reese’s Blizzard – 580 calories, 74 carbs, 21 fat, 13 protein

B) Kids Vanilla Cone – 170 calories, 27 carbs, 0 fat, 4 protein

***Another option here is get nothing, enjoy company and your kids, and maybe steal a bite from someones treat. Especially if you are person A in this case, you have had more than your fair share of food for the day. Also notice that Blizzard is a SMALL! 580 calories in a SMALL! Holy crap!***

The day is over. That was crazy. Now I will be the first one to say that neither one of these people had the best day when it comes to food choices. But lets take a look at the daily totals:

A) 3733 calories, 551 carbs, 130 fat, 123 protein (269 grams of sugar)

B) 1873 calories, 214 carbs, 54 fat, 128 protein (76 grams of sugar)

Person B ate at all the same places as Person A, but had almost 2000 fewer calories, 340 less grams of carbs, less than half the fat, and a little more protein!

The power of choice can be huge, especially when it comes to making decisions about what you will eat at some of the less healthy locations out there. It can be done.

Remember, we all fall off the wagon sometimes, it’s not your whole life, it’s only one day. You haven’t thrown everything away ($100 to anyone besides my best friend who gets that reference).

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Stay healthy my friends,

How to Survive a Long Weekend Food Fest, and Still Enjoy Yourself

Overview:

  • Portions still matter, calories still matter
  • Maintain healthy eating patterns
  • Be active, however you can
  • Return to your routine as soon as the trip is over
  • Enjoy your vacation guilt free

Reuben Sandwich with fries, authentic Mexican fajitas + 20 oz. margarita, Denny’s Grand Slam* and Gino’s East – Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza. (*The Grand Slam was custom, more about this later*)

Rueben...

Rueben…

What do all these foods have in common?

 

I consumed them all this past weekend on my road trip to Cedar Point (the rollercoaster capital of the world) with my lovely fiancée, Amanda. You know what also rocks? After just one day of being back, my weight was right back to where it was before I left. (I’m not a huge fan of the scale, but I weighed myself purposely before the trip because I wanted to prove this point)

Fajitas...

Fajitas…

Now before you think I am trying to rub it in your face and brag about how much crap I ate, let me make it perfectly clear that I sorta am. That may sound harsh, but at the same time I want it to. I want to get rid of this notion that you have to starve yourself, forgo enjoying foods that you want to enjoy, and make all these terrible sacrifices while going on what is supposed to be a fun, and enjoyable vacation.

This being said I also want to make two very clear points:

  1. I am not overweight, obese, or really trying to lose weight right now. However, I do not want to gain weight either with my wedding coming up in 5 months (HOLY S#!T)
  2. I realize how hard it is to lose weight, I know that it is not easy, and I know this post may come off as offensive to people who really struggle with their weight. I work with people every day who struggle with their weight and body image. I was once there. I was once 260 lbs. (45 more than I am now) and I lost it and kept it off now for over 6 years.

20 oz...

20 oz…

In no way do I mean to offend, rather, I want to help people regain control of their lives without obsessing over food while trying to enjoy their lives.

Now, how the hell did I consume this food, along with riding in a car for 14 hours over the weekend, and not gain a single fraction of a pound? This is where the magic happens…

First off, go back to the word: vacation. This should be a time of enjoyment, relaxation and plenty of fun. It doesn’t mean pure gluttony. The foods I listed at the start may sound like pure gluttony, however I will argue they were purely part of the vacation. The follow-up to that reasoning would be; how are those foods not gluttony?

Gino's East...pure enjoyment, only 350 cals per slice!

Gino’s East…pure enjoyment, only 350 cals per slice!

This brings me to point numero uno:

1) Maintain Portion Control and At Least Match Calorie Goals

Yes I ate some less than “healthy” foods, but no I did not eat ONLY those foods nor did I eat ridiculous quantities of those foods. Here are the quantities of the foods I ate:

  • The whole reuben sandwich, half the fries, water for beverage
  • The entire plate of fajitas, and the 20 oz. margarita, water for beverage (this was the day we spent at the park, in which I tracked over 16000 steps, and had a tiny sandwich for lunch to avoid puking all over my fellow riders)
  • A build your own Grand Slam (2 eggs, 2 egg whites, 2 chicken sausages, and whole wheat pancakes) coffee as beverage
  • 2 slices of Ginos East deep dish

All of these meals (except the fajitas) were right around 700 calories, which for me, is my goal per meal to maintain my current weight. Yes, they weren’t very nutritious, but calorically they were “controlled” and consistent with my caloric intakes prior to the trip. I could have easily ordered a full Grand Slam or had a third slice of pie – making these meals closer to 1200 calories each.

"Healthified" Grand Slam

“Healthified” Grand Slam

This is where mindful eating can be huge. Slow down, and listen to your body. Eat until you are satisfied, but not bursting at the seams.

If you have NO CLUE how to guesstimate your calories, use an app like MyFitnessPal to check out your meal options BEFORE ordering them.

You can even use the strategy with fast food joint. Yes they aren’t optimal, but it also doesn’t mean you need to pound 1500 calories in one meal. Do your research BEFORE you eat it, or plan out a cute car full of healthy meals and snacks, like my good friend and fellow RD, Jen, suggests here on her awesome blog.

*All other meals on the trip were very light, because I knew we would be going on rides, or eating hardy later in the day.

2) Maintain normal eating patterns

I am not a big snacker throughout the day. If I do snack, it is usually a protein shake or another source of protein and maybe a little healthy fat. Therefore, the only snack we brought in the car for the drive was beef jerky. The big goal again is to maintain some consistency.

People tend to go crazy with snacks in the car, why, I have no clue. You are literally setting yourself up for boredom eating. Car rides suck, especially when you have nothing but flat ass northern Indiana and Ohio to drive through.

jack.links_.beef_.jerky_

If I would have brought M&M’s, sodas, chips, trail mix, etc. I can guarantee I would have pounded those foods like nothing. Only bring snacks if you are a snacker, and you know you snack responsibly. If so, only pack portions that you normally would eat so you can’t devour an entire bag of almonds in one sitting (almonds are healthy, but are still easy to over consume)

3) Physical Activity is a MUST

Notice I didn’t say exercise here. It doesn’t have to be an actual workout, but move around when you have the chance. Go explore the local areas. Find some state parks that are close by and walk, climb and hike them. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, then you may have to get a little more creative, but just don’t sit around all day. Find something of interest and go walk around. A museum, art gallery, shopping mall, anything to get you moving after sitting in a car or on a plane all day.

Lake Erie shore, precious.

Lake Erie shore, precious.

Every bit matters.

As I stated earlier, we got about 16000 steps in while at Cedar Point. The night before, we went up to Johnson’s Island and walked around the Lake Erie shore line, and checked out the area. As soon as we got back from our trip, I got in a quick bodyweight and band workout while Amanda went for a run.

It was just returning to the norm. Which brings me to my final point:

4) The SECOND Vacation is Over, Get Back to Your Routine

This is assuming you already have a good routine in place. You don’t need to go on some detox, or starve yourself, or workout for 3 hours the day after. Just get back to your routine. As soon as I was unpacked I was itching to workout (or maybe it was that I hadn’t showered yet…) It felt great to get a workout in as soon as I could.

Normal Breakfast

Normal Breakfast

Standard Lunch

Standard Lunch


Typical Dinner

Typical Dinner

Then the next morning I started my day off with my usual workout day breakfast, followed up with a standard lunch and dinner. No big deal.

If there were one word to sum up the process here it would be: consistency.

Anyone who takes their health seriously needs consistency throughout it. From your meals, to your workouts, to your sleeping patterns. Consistency is huge.

On the flip side, anyone who takes their LIFE seriously, also needs to know how to enjoy it, guilt free, knowing that they will return to their consistent patterns as soon as the vacation is over.

Carbohydrates: The Real Enemy?

Low-Carb, No Carb, Carb FREE, Carb Carb Carb Carb – Seems all we hear about now a days is carbohydrates and how bad they are for us. Well today I want to take a step back, look at what these devilish things are, and explain why, or why not, they are so dang bad!

1. What are carbohydrates?

I could take the biochemistry route here, but I don’t want bore you or give you flashbacks to high school chemistry class. Rather, carbs are one of the 3 macronutrients (protein and fat are the others) that can be used for energy. Carbs are the preferred fuel source for your muscles and organs. Carbs are found in a wide array of both healthy and less healthy foods—bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, pasta, soft drinks, corn, etc. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.

Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity.

See and remember bolded terms: energy, fuel, important, energy (again) and physical activity 

2. So should I eat carbs?

Yes! (here come the riots)… If your brain is working, you will need them. If you are active, you might need more of them.  Carbs are your fuel for activity (unfortunately your fat stores aren’t as much as you might think, unless you are exercising for longer periods of time). Think about it this way; carbs are like gasoline. You need to put gas in your car to get from point A to point B (unless you drive a new fancy electric car, bear with me). When you fill your gas tank up, it automatically stops when full. However, when you eat the amount of fuel (carbs in this example) your body needs for activity, your body doesn’t just automatically stop intaking food. Unfortunately, when we eat past what our body needs, it gets stored as fat tissue.

Weight loss surgery patient at a carbohydrate gas pump - cartoon

3. How much and what kind should I eat?

This is where I recommend carb-cycling. In a nutshell, if you have a very active day, eat more (but still within reason) carbohydrates. If you have a lower activity day, or less of a calorie burn at your workout than normal, maybe opt for a salad for lunch, or pass on the big potato at dinner. Just make the conscious effort to eat a little less carbs than you normally would. Not because carbs are the devil, but because your body just doesn’t need them! Choose your carbs from whole grain, higher fiber sources (I like a 5:1 total carb to fiber ratio – ex: bread is 20g carbs per slice, at least 4g should be from fiber), vegetables, fruits,  and beans (extra protein too!).

The one thing I don’t want you to take away from this article is: “Okay Mike, I worked out really hard for 1 hour today, so I can eat a basketball size bowl of pasta, right?” Wrong.

You still need to eat in balance, and keep your carbohydrate (and overall food) intake in check. Ideally spacing your carbs out evenly throughout the day, or at least getting more of them in closer to your workout (remember, they are used for energy!)

Carbs aren’t as bad as some people will tell you. (But we probably DO need to eat less of them!) Learn more by meeting with a Registered Dietitian, not watching Dr. Oz.

Stay Healthy My Friends

 

Fruit Will Make You Fat? Not so Fast…

A recent article in a popular fitness magazine featured several different “nutrition experts” discussing whether or not fruit was a good idea for those trying to lose weight. Two of the writers said fruit was bad, two said it was good. Along with this, it seems to be popular among people to knock fruit because of  its “high sugar content”. So whats the verdict? Granted, I respect both of these views, and understand their reasoning, but the following is my personal take on these colorful carbs.

Fruits are some of the most nutritionally dense, diverse foods that exist on this planet. This means that they pack a ton of micronutrients, antioxidants and very little calories. The calories in fruit come exclusively from carbohydrates, these being natural sugars and fiber.

fruit-copia

The relation of fruits and adding body fat comes from the idea that eating sugars increases insulin response, and thus can increase fat storage in the body. Biochemically, this is an accurate statement. However, as stated earlier, fruits provide many other powerful nutrients that something like an equivalent amount of a candy bar wouldn’t come close to providing.

The average fruit consumption among Americans is only 1.6 servings per day (2010). This comes out to about 25-35 grams of carbohydrates per day, and 100 to 140 calories. If you were to consume the recommended 3-4 servings per day, that would come out to 45-60 grams of carbs and 180 – 240 calories. These amounts are hardly significant when it comes to fat gain.

To the people looking to lose weight through a healthy lifestyle and worried about the carbs in fruit hurting them, my first question would be, “How does the rest of your diet look?”  If you eat SO “cleanly” that you are concerned about carbs in fruit, I feel that they shouldn’t even be a concern. However, some of the people that will be concerned about fruit, yet they admit to snacking on chips, soda, processed sugar foods, etc.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 11.07.43 AM

The bottom line is, fruits should be on the bottom of the “fat boosting foods list”, if even on the list at all. Fruits add a ton on vitamins, antioxidants and fiber to the diet. They help with fullness, keeping the diet diverse and fresh. Don’t fear fruits, eat more of them and take a good hard look at the rest of your intake before thinking that fruit is going to derail your current goals and progress.