The Benefits of Keeping a Food Diary

Food DiaryKeeping a food diary can increase your weight loss success. 

In a study by the Center for Health Research participants who kept a record of what they ate lost twice the weight of participants who didn’t track their food. The study appeared in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

How can such a simple activity help you lose weight?  

Open your eyes to the truth. 

Writing down what you eat, how much you ate, when you ate and any associated emotions or activities can provide information that can help you identify areas where you can make improvements. One thing I learned when I started tracking my food was just how often I was taking little bites of food here and there. Mindless eating while cooking dinner, packing kids’ lunches or putting away the snacks my children left out was really adding up.

Identify trends.

You may find that there are certain times where you tend to eat more than other times. You may also find that you make unhealthy choices more in certain situations. One thing I learned from my food diary is if I give in to certain treats (like frosting or candy) it sets me up for a day of cravings and frequently I give in. It’s so much easier for me to avoid those treats than to deal with the consequences. Many women find that it’s harder to eat right during “that time of the month.”  These are the types of trends you can identify by food tracking. Once you identify negative trends you can set some goals to do something about it.

Be honest.

It’s important when you start a food diary to be honest. You don’t have to show the diary to anyone else so be honest so you have good data to work with. That means writing down EVERY bite for a period of time. It’s best if you track all throughout the day instead of tracking at the end of the day. If you wait until the end of the day you can easily forget all the little extras you ate throughout the day. You don’t have to track forever. Just long enough to get a good sense of where you can improve to make the biggest impact in your health.

How to track.

You can track in many different ways. The easiest way is to just get a little notebook and write down everything you eat. You can also use apps like MyFitnessPal. Lately I’ve been tracking using the system included with the 21 Day Fix as shown in the photo below. It’s an easy way to track my portions of each macronutrient throughout the day. If you would like help with getting started feel free to contact me at info@cravingfitness.org

21 day

Enter to Win Shakeology

  Enter to Win Free Shakeology!

On my Facebook page I am giving away some Shakeology packets and a shaker cup so you can try the healthiest meal of the day. I’d love to have you hop over there and enter to win. You can enter by following the link: http://contest.io/fb/asczbc59

If you’d like to learn more about Shakeology and what’s in it you can check out my superfoods post here. It’s more than just a protein shake or meal replacement. I believe you won’t find another shake out there with as many amazing superfoods & no artificial ingredients. It comes with a bottom of the bag guarantee which means you can try it risk free for 30 days and return the empty bag if you were not satisfied. 

21 Days to Better Eating with Simple Portion Control

portion controlMy next challenge group will be the 21 Day Fix nutrition plan and workout. What makes 21 Day Fix different than anything you have ever seen? Simple! You know how most workout programs come with a nutrition guide that takes you days to read and then you spend a ton of money on groceries to try and follow the nutrition guide?

21 Day Fix is a simple system to help you focus on portion control and choosing the right foods. It even comes with special 21 Day Fix Portion Control Containers that you use throughout the program. If it doesn’t fit in the containers, then you can’t eat it. If it does, eat it! Simple! The combination of the workout plus the nutrition system is getting amazing results. Plus you can join others doing the same program in an online support group for additional accountability and encouragement.

Click here to see a video of what you’ll get and you will also be entered for a chance to win the program for free.

Chia seeds – Powerful Superfood

chia seeds

Source: Flicker/Health Gauge

Chia seeds have gained popularity in recent years. They are an ingredient in the Shakeology that I drink and I also use them to add to different foods (oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, etc.). They are a powerhouse of nutrition in each ounce of the tiny seeds. One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat (mostly Omega-3), as well as a good portion of calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus among other vitamins and minerals.

I get chia seeds in my Shakeology but sometimes I add either extra chia seeds or flax seeds to my shake to add some extra Omega-3s and other goodness.  Chia seeds are native to South America. They are seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica – a relative of the mint. Chia seeds are considered superfoods because they pack an amazing amount of nutrition and they are very high in antioxidants. They are an excellent protein source and when ingested they swell which can help you feel fuller.

If you are interested in learning more about the superfoods in Shakeology you can check out my post here.

This is Day 26 in 31 Days to Better Nutrition.

My New Vegetable Discoveries

new vegetablesI love to try new vegetables. This week I found two new things to try. At Trader Joe’s I found something called kale sprouts. Apparently they are a cross between kale and Brussels spouts. They grow in a stalk like Brussels sprouts. I also found a bag of baby squash. It had green and yellow patty pan squash and zucchini. I have never tried patty pan squash and I’ve always wondered if I would like them. I sauteed the kale sprouts along with the squash with some onions and garlic. I added salt, pepper and some oregano that my husband grew in our garden. It was all delicious. I encourage you to try something new this week.

You can check out my other veggie posts to find some new ideas or rediscover some old favorites.

Turnips

Parsnips

Rutabaga

Bok Choy

This post is Day 25 in 31 Days to Better Nutrition.

 

Eating Healthfully When Eating Out

Source: Flickr/Sameer Vasta

Source: Flickr/Sameer Vasta

Eating out without blowing your diet

My family and I are going out to dinner tonight. Over the last two years I have made a great deal of changes in my nutrition. Many of the changes have become a permanent part of my lifestyle and aren’t even a struggle to maintain anymore. One of those changes is eliminating fast food. At this point I have no desire to eat at a fast food restaurant. It’s really a relief for that craving to be gone. I do still enjoy eating out though. Here are some tips that have helped me navigate the challenges of eating out.

Choose your restaurant wisely

Tonight we are eating at a Mongolian BBQ. I love this type of restaurant because there are plenty of healthful choices. You can get plenty of delicious food with full of great nutrients. I load my bowl with chicken and a nice variety of veggies. I go for lower calorie sauces so I don’t add a sugar punch to my dinner. The portions are too much food for just one meal so I save half for lunch.

I also enjoy going out to our favorite steak restaurant. It’s an easy place to pick my protein and choose my own side. I usually choose steamed veggies and I have a green salad to start. I find that the steak is so amazing that most of the time I don’t miss the potatoes that I used to add to my meal.

For lunches on work days I like a local burrito joint. They make your burrito to order and I choose to order it in a bowl instead of in a tortilla. I choose my protein and then add black beans, cabbage and other veggies. Top it off with pico de gallo and avocado and you have some great food with great nutrients. The bowl is enough for two lunches to me so it’s easy on my wallet as well.

Think about what restaurants near you make it easier to make more healthful choices.

Splurge on occasion

Sometimes it’s fine to just have a treat meal and not feel guilty. I try to eat clean 90% of the time so that I have room for a splurge every once in awhile. It has taken me awhile to learn that a treat meal doesn’t have to turn into a whole treat day. Every once in awhile I feel poorly after eating foods. This is a good lesson for me about where I can splurge and where my body tells me, “That’s not really right for you.”

Ask about substitutions

Many times restaurants are willing to accommodate substitutions for healthier choices. You can also have them hold back things you don’t want to be tempted with. For example, one of our favorite restaurants automatically brings bread and butter to the table. We ask them to not to bring it for us. We also ask for our dressing on the side and not on the salad. As above, I will generally ask for vegetables rather than a starch side dish. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want. The worst that can happen is that they may say no. They are usually happy to please the customer.

Beware the salad 

Read the nutritional information on the menu when it comes to salads. Many times it is surprising how many calories can be in some of the salads. I used to order a very delicious southwest salad until I noticed that it was almost 12oo calories. In fact, it was more calories than a burger and fries. I thought I was making a healthier choice but it was loaded with empty calories.

If you like this post you may like more of my posts in the #write31days challenge titled 31 Days to Better Nutrition.

Mindful Eating

mindful eating

Source: Flickr/Bruce Tuten

Mindful eating can be an important part of your fitness journey.

Mindful eating is one area that I have lots of room for improvement. I am guilty of eating too quickly and many times I don’t even really taste my food. I drink my breakfast smoothie at work at my desk while I’m working. I do better at lunch when I eat with my coworkers. Then at dinner I eat in front of the TV. As a result I think I sometimes overeat because I’m not paying attention to what I’m eating. Many times I don’t take the time to really taste and enjoy my food. I may miss the “I’m full” signal when I’m not paying attention.

Tips for mindful eating:

  • Reduce distractions – sit at the table, turn off the TV, put down your smart phone – this will help you focus on the task at hand – eating
  • Take your time – focus on the appearance and the smell. Take the time to taste each bite. Enjoy the different flavors in your meal. Try to identify all the different seasonings.
  • Chew well. It helps you be more mindful and it’s better for your digestion. The digestive process starts in your mouth.
  • Fresh is best – enjoy the freshest, highest quality foods you can afford.
  • Enjoy your company – If you are eating with other people take the time to enjoy their company. Talk about the food – the appearance, the flavors. Thank the person that prepared it for you.

This may not happen for you all at once. It may be changing years of bad habits. Choose one meal to focus on at first. I think you will find that mindful eating will help you eat less and enjoy your food more.

This post is day 22 of 31 Days to Better Nutrition.

 

Getting Enough Protein for Weight Loss

proteinAre you getting enough protein?

Many times when trying to lose weight people skimp on their protein. They do it to save calories but what they are doing is, in fact, slowing down their metabolism. A good starting point is about 4 ounces at each meal and 2 ounces at each snack. Men and people who are putting on muscle may need more protein. Having enough protein also helps to reduce sugar cravings. For more information about the best sources of protein you can read my post here.

Here are some easy ideas to increase your protein:

For breakfast you can scramble 2 whole eggs and 1 egg white. 

One of my favorite snacks is some plain Greek yogurt with half a scoop of whey protein mixed in and a few unsalted nuts for a some high quality fats and a nice crunch. It is so good for you and feels a bit like dessert. Sometimes I’ll add a little fruit as well.

Organic, grass fed meats are a great option for protein.

My Favorite Nutrition Books

nutrition booksToday was a long, crazy day at work and I still need to get a post written. I thought I would post links to some of my favorite books on nutrition. I like to be up front – I am an Amazon affiliate so if you buy any books through the links in this post I will make a small bit of pocket change at no additional cost to you. But my personal policy is that I never recommend anything that I haven’t used (or read) myself. Feel free to buy your books from any source you choose, but if you buy through my links it just helps support this website. If you want to buy a different version (paperback, Kindle) it still helps to start from my link and then search for exactly what you want. So on that note, let’s move on to the recommendations.

[easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0062267337″ cloaking=”default” layout=”top” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”cravifitne-20″]  This book helps break down the conventional “wisdom” and why it’s not working. The author, Jonathan Bailor has reviewed more than 1000 research studies to break down nutritional information into simple guidelines. If you only buy one book on nutrition, this would be my number one choice.

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This book was a very important part of my nutrition journey. Cutting out wheat was instrumental to breaking through a very difficult plateau. The book helped me to understand why wheat and other gluten containing foods were not best for me. Once I fully understood that I was able to break free from my bread and pasta addiction. Now when I eat foods that I have eliminated from my diet, my gut tells me that I made a mistake.

 

 

 

 This book is an incredible resource. It is part nutrition book, part picture book and part encyclopedia. If you have any type of autoimmune disorder I highly recommend this book. If you don’t have an autoimmune disorder but you have questions about the paleo diet, I highly recommend this book. I don’t think you will find a more complete resource. Parts of it are very scientific and much of it is very simple to read. 

Diabetes Survival Skills – Recognize and Treat Hypoglycemia

hypoglycemia symptoms

Source: Flickr/sriram bala

Fast Recognition of Hypoglycemia Symptoms is a Vital Diabetes Survival Skill

Recognizing hypoglycemia symptoms is one of the most important diabetes survival skills. Unfortunately many people are put on diabetes medicines that have a risk of hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) and they are never taught to recognize the symptoms or what to do about it. Glucose (blood sugar) is the body’s source of energy. Hypoglycemia means that there is not enough energy to meet the body’s needs. If this is not treated appropriately there is a possibility that this can progress to a medical emergency.

Hypoglycemia symptoms

Hypoglycemia occurs when the blood sugar drops below 70. Most people feel symptoms when the blood sugar drops below 60. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are related to one of two causes. Some of the symptoms are the result of the body not having enough glucose for energy needs. These are symptoms like confusion, fuzzy thinking, sleepiness, irritability, impaired vision, anger, lack of coordination and other similar symptoms. Other symptoms are related to the fight or flight syndrome that occurs in the body because it recognizes hypoglycemia as an emergency. These are symptoms like shakiness, palpitations (rapid heart rate), anxiety, sweating, clamminess, etc. The person may also feel extremely hungry as the body tries to correct the situation. If not treated, hypoglycemia can progress to seizures, unconsciousness or even death.

How to treat hypoglycemia

Treating hypoglycemia symptoms is simple, especially if it is recognized early. Simply eat 15g of carbohydrates, rest and re-test 15 minutes later. If the blood sugar is still low, eat another 15g of carbs. You can buy glucose tablets or glucose gel at your drug store that serve this purpose. You could also eat any carbohydrate food like a glass of milk, soda (not diet), juice, crackers, etc.  Eat a small meal within the next hour. If hypoglycemia is so severe that a person has passed out or has become uncooperative they may need an injection called glucagon that would have to be given by someone else. People who experience frequent low blood sugars may have this medication prescribed. If this medication is not available, emergency medical services must be called.

How to avoid hypoglycemia

Some of the best ways to prevent hypoglycemia are to eat meals at regular intervals, take medications as prescribed and recognize and treat symptoms early before they progress to a medical emergency.

This post is Day 19 of 31 Days to Better Nutrition.