Friday, March 16, 2012

To Keep A Food Journal or Not To Keep A Food Journal? That Is The Question.

Hey, healthy heroes! How's it going? :) Still eating healthy and exercising regularly I hope. Now almost 4 months  into the New Year, those New Year Resolutions for some cease to exist anymore. Me? I'm still going strong with mine. No meat of any kind all year so far! And of course I'm still exercising. I think I can safely say that I'll be an exerciser for life. It's a way of life for me now, there's no turning back. It's March and the Spring weather is in full effect here in St. Louis, MO. I'm lovin' it! I'm not a big outside exerciser, but when Spring hits, it's always nice to be able to take walks outside. Walking is one of the easiest and most effective forms of exercise there is, an oldie but a goodie that I always love to keep in my regimen. But this post isn't about exercise, it's actually more about the other half of the equation which is diet. Losing and/or maintaining your current weight is 80% diet, 20% exercise. While both nutrition and exercise both play an important role in your weight journey, in my experience (and the experience of countless others), diet has had the starring role while exercise is more like the supporting actor. Keeping track of my diet is a MUST for me! And I find that food journaling (writing down everything that I eat everyday) allows me to not only visually see what and how much I'm actually eating, but also helps me to decide on future meals throughout the day, as well as keep me accountable (for example, it's much harder justifying eating a cup of ice-cream for dessert if  you see that you already ate 2 cookies earlier that day, right?)

Keeping A Food Journal and Why It's Important For Me
Food journaling is something that I did in the beginning of my weight loss journey, eventually got lazy and stopped, and now have recently started doing again. You see, I thought that as long as I was eating healthy and exercising, I didn't need to write down what I ate, and for some of you this may be true, but one of the keys to this whole weight loss/maintenance thing is finding out what works for you and your body, mentally as well as physically, and for me, food journaling is key! You see, for me, eating healthy is not the problem, I like healthy foods, I like to cook, I've never been a big eater of sweets and I don't care for fast food or soda anymore, but did you know that no matter what "healthy" food you may be eating, if you eat too much of it that's a problem? I didn't! Or at least I was acting like I didn't up until recently. My problem has always been portion control. I was able to conquer the portion control problem when I kept a food journal, and I was doing pretty good up until the latter part of last year. Without my food journal, while I continued to eat healthy, my "snacking" and food portions were getting a little out of control, resulting in some weight gain. Around 6 weeks ago I started food journaling again and guess what? I'm 13 lbs down! It makes a BIG DIFFERENCE!

The Benefits of Food Journaling
Are you still a little skeptical about starting a food journal?  Have you thought about it, but just not sure you want to jump in and record your daily eating habits? Believe me, you're not alone! To help those on the fence here’s 5 benefits of creating a food journal and exactly how to use it to maximize your weight loss potential.
  1. Track down those “extra” calories that sneak into your diet: You might be surprised at how many calories you consume at the end of the day. I know I was! Even if you ate “healthy” for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all those little snacks you thought were harmless can really add up.
  2. Know when you can cheat: If your below your caloric goal for the day and you haven’t cheated in a few days, then you know you can afford to have a bowl of ice cream or whatever you’re craving at the moment. (Most food journals have a section where you can track your activity/exercise - this counts toward calories burned and additional calories that can now be taken in! In other words, FREE FOOD! Lol! Pretty sweet, huh? :) )
  3. Increase your self control: Consciously knowing that you have to write down everything you eat may help you pass on that dessert or second helping.
  4. Blast through plateau’s: Everybody hit’s plateau’s while on their diets and there is no easier way to blast through this than by going through your food journal and seeing where you can easily make changes to start losing weight again. (For example, you may question yourself "what did I eat and/or do that week I lost 4 lbs?" You can then look back in your journal and replicate that entire week to see if that helps you get the results you're looking for.)
  5. Motivation: It can be very motivating to look through your food journal and see how far you’ve come, the successes you’ve had and to be able to visualize how far you can go in the future.

So How Do You Get Started?
There are many ways to keep your food journal, whether it be writing it down or plugging your data into an online program and there are many factors you could record such as:
  • What you consumed: Include everything you ate or drank in detail.
  • Amount consumed: Possibilities include size, volume and/or weight of the food.  Or break it down by calories and/or macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat).
  • Time: The time of day in which you ate or drank.
  • And more: Some people even like to zero in on other factors such as the mood they were in when they ate, where they ate at and even who they ate with – all factors which can influence the amount you eat.
The key is making your food journal work for your specific diet goals.

Below I've listed links to some of the top rated online food journals, if you're interested in starting one, check 'em out! Most of them have apps for smart phones which you download and you'll be able to track what you eat everywhere you go, right on the spot!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's National Nutrition Month!

Hey healthy people! :) It's the first blog of March which happens to be NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH! If your New Year’s resolutions fell by the wayside weeks ago, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual National Nutrition Month is a great way to get back on track! Each March since 1980, National Nutrition Month serves as a reminder to make smart, nutritious diet choices and exercise more for better health. This year, the theme is Get Your Plate In Shape, which plays off of the USDA’s 2011 switch to MyPlate as the national symbol for a balanced diet. The theme is meant to encourage consumers to eat the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy each day.

Here are a few guidelines to help you eat healthier: 

1. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and aim to include at least one fruit or vegetable in every meal or snack. In compliance with the MyPlate guidelines, the Academy recommends you eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red, and orange varieties, as well as legumes such as beans and peas. Choose reduced-sodium or no salt added canned vegetables whenever possible. If fresh fruits aren’t available to you, opt for frozen fruits and those canned in water or their own juices.

2. Make at least half your grains whole. Choose brown rice, barley, oats, and other whole grains instead of white rice or enriched white-flour pasta. Switch to 100-percent whole-grain breads, cereals, and crackers, and remember to double-check ingredient lists on all food packages to ensure that the first ingredient is whole grain.

3. Switch to low- or nonfat dairy. Because full-fat dairy has been linked to weight gain, consume only low-fat dairy products — they have the same amount of calcium and essential nutrients as full-fat kinds for a fraction of the calories.

4. Go for varied lean protein sources. Aim to eat different kinds of protein-rich foods such as seafood, nuts, beans, lean meat, and eggs for a variety of nutrients. You should also try to eat more plant-based proteins, such as nuts, beans, whole grains, and whole soy foods, such as tofu and edamame. At least twice a week, consume fish or seafood. If you are eating meat, limit your portion to three ounces per meal.

5. Cut back on sodium, solid fats, and added sugars. Swap sugary sodas and fruit-flavored drinks for water. When grocery shopping, compare like food’s nutritional information and choose the lower-sodium option. Season foods with spices and herbs instead of salt. In place of butter or shortening, use heart-healthy oil such as olive, canola, and sunflower.

6. Cook at home more. If you frequently eat out at restaurants, you could be constantly adding unwanted calories, fat, and sodium to your diet. Pack a lunch and snacks when you know you’re going to be away from home for several hours. If you are eating in a restaurant, opt for diet-friendly choices such as fish and steamed and roasted vegetables, and avoid creamy sauces, rich dressings, and fried foods.

7. Get active. Giancoli suggests you find activities you enjoy such as walking with your family, joining a sports team, or dancing and playing with your children. “If you don’t have a full 30 minutes [for exercise], carve out 10 minutes three times a day,” she advises. “Every bit adds up and health benefits increase the more active you are."

Have a great National Nutrition Month! I'll be back with another post soon!