The message hasn't changed: "We are what we eat." That message is gaining momentum and growing louder and clearer every day. We may not be able to prevent illness altogether, but there's lots we can do to allay it and prevent progression -- and that includes staving off various cancers, diabetes and heart disease, all major chronic illnesses. In reporting on health, virtually every story I investigate includes a nutrition component. So, here are some tips I've picked up in the last week.
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Take note of what you eat. Write it down if necessary -- or even if it's not. Health coach Rhonda Greene at Body-in-Balance in Newport News has her clients write down what they ate for breakfast -- and how they liked it. Then two hours later she has them write down how they feel then.
In the program she subscribes to, it's all about the individual and how each person responds to different foods. She encourages her clients to experiment with different foods so that they can discover what works best for them. (See this upcoming Sunday, March 4 story in Good Life in the Daily Press about a young couple in Yorktown who are working with her. In a couple of weeks they've all but broken their soda habits and introduced fresh fruit as a regular part of their breakfasts. It just took a little prodding and support.)
When I did Weight Watchers years ago -- and lost the 10 pounds I've since regained -- it also required food journaling. It's shocking to see how much you eat that you're not aware of. At least it was for me... it's not the meals, so much, as the snacks -- the "oh, there are doughnuts on the table" at work and the cheese and crackers I grab when I get home before I cook dinner, or the chocolate I sneak afterwards. Honesty is essential; and the resulting awareness can really help break bad habits and help you understand your patterns - and work on substituting healthier foods at better intervals.
So what can you eat for breakfast that's healthy -- and convenient? It's a tough one because the American Heart Association, whose dietary recommendations form the bases for most recommended diets, advocates oatmeal and other hot cereals. I've tried them -- I CANNOT do it. I just can't. What I like is cold cereal with fruit -- I've substituted almond milk for cow's milk, but I don't think that makes a great start either and I'm hungry again a couple of hours later. One solution I've found is to get up earlier and take a brisk walk before eating; I'm not as hungry then and I'm more selective and eat slower -- it also encourages me to drink water or fruit juice.
Then I might follow some of the AHA's suggestions:
- Start with a glass of fruit juice.
- Eat whole-grain instead of white toast. Instead of butter, spread your toast with low-fat cottage cheese and a little jam (or hummus or Marmite, anything that has lots of flavor and few calories).
- Use low-fat cream cheese with a bagel (and watch the size of the bagel - they've exploded in recent years).
- Look for whole-grain cereals with fat-free milk (but watch out for high-fat granolas - of course, my favorites!).
- Enjoy fat-free or low-fat yogurt with fruit — either in a bowl or as a smoothie. (I plan to experiment with these and protein powder additions - but I still need something crunchy/chewy.)
- Hot cereals such as oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat or cream of rice with a little honey can warm you up on a cool morning.(This is what I can't even think about it; however, heated up leftover grains work OK.)
Increasingly the experts are discouraging calorie-counting. Insteady they're emphasizing balance and the importance of eating fresh, nutritional foods in appropriate portions and variety. I like the idea of starting by recording just one meal and how it fares and progressing from there. Feel free to share your ideas about breakfast by sending to email@example.com.
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