The question that I am asked most often is, “What can I eat to lose weight?” When I ask,”What are you eating now?” the answers have something in common. It seems that almost everyone who asks that question is eating a whole lot of simple carbohydrates, including large amounts of added sugars. As I began research for this article, I discovered that, of the mere 60-70%of Americans that eat breakfast, 31% eat cold cereal. (1) Unfortunately, cold pizza is also a recurring theme. I’ve got to tell you, if this is the way that you start your day, you have set yourself up for failure in weight loss. How do I know that? Because I did it for years. At my fattest, about a size 22, I was eating a ton of “healthy foods”, like whole grain cereals.
We need complex carbohydrates, but if we start our day with cereal alone, we feel justified to eat a LOT of it. The nutritional information on the side of the box is for 1 serving which can be as little as 1/2 cup, and occasionally lower. Put that 1/2 cup in your bowl and tell me if you want to run on that until noon. Even at 3/4 cup for Honey Nut Cheerios, which is an insanely popular cereal, how often do you stop with that? These cereals are designed to be so pleasing to the palate that we can’t stop eating them. They have sugar to attract and addict us and various flavor combinations so that everyone can have a favorite. Oh, and let’s not forget CRUNCH! They always have crunch.
Other than the obvious good taste and crunchiness of these morning staples, another serious problem here is that they have little to no protein. That’s one of the reasons that we just keep eating, and eating, and eating… Until our bodies get an adequate supply of protein we will continue to look for it because we will die without it. In 1981 many deaths occurred as a result of people trying to live on a diet of liquid protein alone (2), partially because they were still not getting enough high quality protein.
If you start your day with cereal and then opt for the traditional burger and fries and maybe pasta for dinner, have you tracked your protein? I have done that for a family member and I was terrified when I saw the paltry 35 grams that he was eating. Needless to say, he has significant health problems. He started his day with cold cereal. Two eggs alone pack 12 grams. A cup of milk has 8 grams. Add 3 ounces of ham at 14 grams, or salmon at 22 grams and you have as much, or more, protein at breakfast as he was eating in a day. When you eat a nutritionally balanced meal, you will stop eating sooner and stay more satisfied so that you are less likely to graze on junk food in your environment.
Speaking of junk food in your environment… I have a sure fire strategy for dealing with that, the garbage. Agreeably, during holiday festivities you probably can’t just empty the break room out but if someone tries to sabotage you, immediately carry the offending food to the garbage. They won’t keep wasting their kryptonite on you. I had someone buy a snack food that absolutely no one else in the facility would eat, open the bag and leave it by my computer. It was amazing how fast that went into the garbage, along with the other 4-5 bags that I found opened in various places around my work area. I was entirely justified. I work in the health care industry and an open bag with various hands run down in it throughout the day is just nasty. Be proactive. Take charge of your environment.
Instead of succumbing to the wiles of a saboteur, carry your own snacks. I eat all the time, while others around me go for long periods of time hungry and then usually eat a large meal laden with simple carbs and added sugars. I carry an ounce of nuts, apples, string cheese, full-fat Greek yogurt and an entree most days for an 8 hour shift. One of my favorite snacks is plain, full-fat Greek yogurt with various add-ins. One of my favorite add-ins is an ounce of Planter’s Deluxe Mixed Nuts with Sea Salt and Maple Grove Farms Syrup. It tastes like a Maple Nut Sundae only without the sugar and with at least 20 grams of protein. I eat 1 cup of yogurt at a time. It makes a huge “sundae”.
Considering my entree, I have recently discovered the tuna in a pouch. There is also chicken and salmon and a few other proteins. Oh, my goodness at the convenience and versatility here! This stuff leaves us with no excuse to be caught without portable protein. I can carry a Tablespoon (or two…) of Dukes Mayo, (always sugar free) and my apple and BAM! tuna or chicken salad in a minute. I avoid bread and get my carbs from whole foods, so I microwave a sweet potato and have a meal fit for a Queen. If you don’t like scrubbing potatoes, buy the ones that come pre-cleaned and wrapped, microwave ready. They leave you without excuse to carry a decent meal when coupled with a protein source. A white potato is fine. I eat them sometimes. You can open up that white potato and drizzle some olive oil on it and put your protein in there. It’s a great meal. A sweet potato seems like a decadent luxury though when I add some of the aforementioned syrup and Saigon cinnamon… Carrying your food keeps you from caving to the temptation of the drive-thru menu as you waste your lunch hour waiting in that insufferably long line gazing at milkshakes and other abominations designed to shorten your life.
Dinner, or supper in the South, was my downfall for most of my life. This is the meal where most Southerners pack in the carbohydrates and fried foods. No supper is considered complete in the South without cornbread. While there is lysine in cornmeal, which is a great protein, the carbohydrates make cornbread a bad habit. Especially when it’s coupled with other high carb foods like mashed potatoes, potato salad, sugary baked beans, macaroni and cheese and rice. I know a family who almost never puts an actual vegetable on the table. At supper, or any other “sit-down meal”, the table will be covered with those foods that I just listed along with a protein source and some sugary congealed salad or sugar-laden coleslaw. Sugar has worked it’s way into almost everything. Beware and be aware! I was eating a fabulous coleslaw at work only to discover that it contained sugar. I don’t eat that anymore.
After work, instead of hitting the drive-thru on the pretense that I worked and I shouldn’t have to go home and stand up and cook… I walk straight into my kitchen, put a thawed protein, usually fish, into a hot, oiled, cast iron skillet. I top it with either lemon pepper seasoning or chili lime. While it’s searing, I pop one of those pre-cleaned, wrapped potatoes into the microwave and open a can of green beans. BAM! Supper faster than the long line at the drive-thru with no simple carbs. I get a whole lot more protein this way also. A bag of frozen, wild-caught salmon at Walmart costs about $4/pound and has 2-4 servings, depending on how much you eat. I eat a lot of protein to build muscle. If you are not a lifter, this is ridiculously cheap compared to the price of fast food. Let’s not even get into the cost of sit-down restaurant food. It’s insane. Even though I eat a whole lot of protein, this is still a fraction of the price of eating out. With my nutritional needs as a strength trainer I would definitely go broke trying to get enough protein in a restaurant.
Women, and some men, tend to burn the candle at both ends and rush around and eat without giving thought to what’s going into our mouths. Stop it. You give thought to other things and other people. Start looking out for yourself. There’s plenty of good healthy food options. Go to your grocery store and look beyond the foods that got you unhealthy. Read labels and when you find a healthy option, buy it. So often I’ve heard women say, “Oh, that’s too expensive!” in a grocery store and stop at the drive-thru on the way home and pay $6 for one hamburger. How about the price of coffee drinks? Don’t lie to yourself about why you don’t buy healthy food. The main reason that we don’t is simply that we want to eat out. It’s your life.You have only one. It’s your decision. Make it a good one.