Posts in eating
How to Navigate Work Dinners

Going out to eat with clients and colleagues is a part of a lot of our work lives. And, let’s face it, most of the restaurants selected are usually not the healthiest (ie steak houses). Appetizers, bottles of wine, heavy entrees, several desserts – we end up eating more than we would celebrating with friends and family. There’s just something about work dinners that gets us. It’s become the ultimate indulgent meal.

This doesn’t have to be the case, though. With a little preparation and some awareness during the meal, we can enjoy work dinners and still feel in control of our diet.  

Here are some tips on how to navigate work dinners and not fall off a healthy eating routine:  

1.    Check out the menu in advance – once the restaurant has been selected, go online to review the options. Then pick your entrée. If you go into the meal knowing what you are going to order, you won’t be as tempted to order something unhealthy in the moment (and after a cocktail). Make a plan and stick with it. If there isn’t anything that looks like an option for you, plan to request a veggie dish. Most chefs will happily make a veggie dish with all the vegetables on hand.

2.   Pick 1 or 2 indulgences – If the restaurant is known for great wine or dessert or you spot an irresistible appetizer, prioritize it. Then adjust the other parts of the meal to accommodate that choice. If you want more to drink, cut back on the apps and nix dessert. If you want apps and dessert, cut back on drinks. Or if an entrée is calling your name and it isn’t that healthy, don’t fill up on apps or splurge on dessert. It’s all a tradeoff. Find what you are most excited about and prioritize it.

3.   Pay attention – It’s easy to get caught up in conversation and ambience and mindlessly eat or drink. Be aware of what you are eating and drinking and how you feel. You might realize you are more full than you thought (or more inebriated). Constantly checking in with yourself will help you avoid overindulgence.

4.   Don’t compare your plate – We all have different priorities and nutritional needs, so don’t worry about what other people are doing at the table. Most people don’t care what you are or aren’t eating or drinking. Peer pressure exists, but as adults we should be able to stand our ground. Just stick to what you want to do and don’t worry about matching the decisions of others in the group.

5. Enjoy yourself and the company! If you eat or drink a little too much, know that you can pick up where you left off in the morning. No one meal does harm. It’s all the daily, repeatable decisions that make the difference in the long term. Stay the course.

eatingJulie Minchew
The Other F-Word: Fiber

How much fiber have you had today?

We worry so much about getting enough protein everyday, but what about fiber? Fiber is essential for a healthy diet with benefits that go beyond just helping us poo. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and aids us in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Most Americans, however, are not getting enough of fiber. Only an estimated 3% of us meet the daily requirements! With the rise in high protein diets (and misguided fear of fruit & carbohydrates), meat is crowding out space on our plates for fiber-rich foods. No wonder so many relatively healthy, active people are suffering from digestive distress and microbiome issues. We need more fiber in our lives.

So how much do we actually need? According to The Institute of Medicine, men under 50 should consume about 38 grams and women 25 grams of fiber each day. Adults over 50 require less with only 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.

What are fiber-rich foods?

·     Beans and legumes (split peas especially are high)

·     Whole grains (whole grain/wheat bread, pasta)

·     Oatmeal and oats

·     Veggies (all of them)

·     Fruit (especially berries)

What if you follow a paleo or keto diet? No fear. There are plenty of ways to sneak in more fiber without having to eat legumes or more fruit than you are comfortable consuming.

·     Seeds – Add flaxseeds or flaxseed meal to your smoothies and yogurt. You can also bread chicken or fish with flaxseeds. Add chia seeds to really anything liquid. They will thicken it up and become gel-like. Great for a pudding texture.

·     Cauliflower and broccoli– roasted, pureed, sautéed or made as rice both of these veggies can be added to almost any dish.  

·     Avocado – healthy fat and fiber? Win win. These little guys pack in 6.7 grams of fiber per half.

Artichokes – throw on a salad or butternut squash pasta to up the fiber content. This veggie packs more fiber than any other vegetable at over 10g per medium size artichoke. 


Mindful Eating: Food with Consciousness

“The simple act of actively noticing things.”

– Ellen Langer

I love the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett. A recent episode was especially interesting to me because it was with Ellen Langer, the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology department at Harvard. Dubbed in some circles as “the mother of mindfulness,” Langer has been studying mindfulness for over 35 years. To her, it’s not just meditation and yoga. We can practice mindfulness by “simply noticing new things.” It’s more about being intentional with our behavior and observing our surroundings. Truly “being mindful” is about noticing not just being.

The practice of being more mindful when we eat is an important one because research shows that most of our eating is unconscious. We are mindless when it comes to it – except when we are dieting. When we diet, we are conscious about every single morsel we put in our mouths. This is why dieting doesn’t work in the long term. It’s too extreme behavior for our brains to handle. What we want is to strike a balance. To be mindful, not rigid. To notice and observe. To make healthy eating habitual yet still thoughtful.

Food is meant to be enjoyed. And as Langer points out “our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them.” How we frame our food – good vs bad – will determine how we experience it. If we decide that a salad is “diet food,” something we don’t want to eat but feel like we should, we are setting up ourselves for displeasure. Salad doesn’t stand a chance next to pizza. However, if we reframe the way we think about healthy food, see it as something delicious, we will enjoy it more. We are influenced by what we believe something is – the meanings we attach to it. Notice how you define certain foods and then explore reframing the way you think about them.

To eat healthier, we must eat with consciousness.

eatingJulie Minchew
Mindful Eating: Stopping the Cycle of Extremes (Eat the hotdog!)

This Labor Day weekend got me thinking about baseball games, festivals, cooking out, swimming at the lake, and all the foods we associate with holiday weekends. When you're trying to eat healthy, these weekends can be stressful -  but they don't have to be. 

What you eat is important. Food is fuel - and you want your body running at its best. However, how you eat is important as well. This post is the first in an ongoing series about mindful eating. Today, we tackle the issue of restrictive eating. 

When we want to lose weight, our plan is typically to deprive ourselves of all the foods we love. We vow to never eat cookies again. We throw out all the ice cream. And we swear off carbs - all of them. Despite cutting them out, we can't stop thinking about them. And when we crave, we cave. The cycle continues. The guilt comes back.

Eating better shouldn't be a battle of extremes. We shouldn't associate situations with "being good" or "being bad." This pits food against each other and re-enforces the perspective that good, healthy food is not fun but something you should rebel against on the weekends (aka #cheatday). By allowing ourselves to enjoy the food we sometimes crave - hotdogs at the baseball game, ice cream cake at our son's birthday party, our mother's pecan pie at Thanksgiving - we take the pressure off. We develop a more relaxed, more conscious, more intentional way of eating. We remain in control. We see how the foods we crave fit in our lives - and we work around that. No more ultimatums. 

One of my favorite quotes that I've heard about restrictive eating is "deprivation is a binge in the bank." 

Deprivation never works in the long term. Focus on enjoyment, not denial. You'll end up eating less of these foods because you won't be using them to make up for something. You'll just enjoy them for what they are and move on - hopefully to something healthier :). 

eatingJulie Minchew