Eating well is hard to do. Here are a 13 lucky food strategies I follow to keep extravagance at bay.
- Never order a cheeseburger. I said never. “But, Blake,” you ask, “Don’t you like cheese and beef?” Yes. Both are bursting with flavor. But there’s no sense overdoing it when each are good on their own. “I really wish this delicious burger had cheese on it,” said no one ever. “I really wish this grill cheese had meat on it,” also said no one ever. Pick one and enjoy.
- Hold the mayo and sour cream. Speaking of burgers, my wife and I made homemade ones over the weekend. Mine was topped with red onion, lettuce, tomato, Dijon mustard, and ketchup on a Texas toasted bun. It was a taste explosion, even without the mayo. Same goes for the tacos we had tonight. Beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, on a freshly cooked tortilla. No sour cream required. Again, sour cream and mayo are delicious, but there’s no sense in adding them to an already heavily-flavored meal.
- Substitute olive oil for butter. There are a lot of crappy nutritional substitutes in the world. Synthetic sugars. Scientific and scary-sounding fat-free substances. Rice bread. The list goes on. Olive oil, on the other hand, is a powerful alternative to butter. It’s not quite as rich. But it’s dang close. Really close. So close my family and I don’t miss sauteed butter dishes at all. The only thing we continue to use butter in is baking, and even then we consider reducing it a little. Not that butter is bad, but there’s no sense eating it in deserts as well as entrees. Again, pick one and enjoy. That’s called balance.
- Only dine out on special occasions. You want to know why restaurants are so addicting? It’s because they only use the richest flavors; fats, creams, lots of salt, sugar, red meat. They do this because those are the flavors that are the most addicting. They’re harder to satisfy; they keep you coming back. Hence, you won’t find big portions of veggies, fruits, nuts, or lean-prepared entrees at restaurants. If you really want to combat gluttony, you’ll need to to take full ownership of what you eat by making it yourself at home instead of letting money-hungry restaurants dicate an unhealthy diet.
- Skip whipping cream. My wife makes the best hot chocolate “in the city,” as my 5 year old says. She also makes a mean pumpkin pie with homemade puree. Her butter and sugar-filled short bread cookies make me weak in the knees. Similar to other sugary garnishes, it simply makes no sense to add more unnecessary fat and sugar to already sugar rich deserts. So skip the whipped cream, frosting, and icing. The lone exception I make to this rule is with the perfectly chocolate cake. It’s worth the full monte. Other than that, we make brownies without the frosting, muffins without crumb toppings, etc. Bonus tip: Next time a meal calls for heavy cream, use evaporated milk instead. It’s a delicious and almost-as-thick alternative.
- Eat dessert sparingly. Yesterday I ate about a dozen homemade monster cookies in a two hour period. No joke. While my family strives to save desserts for special occasions, sometimes that doesn’t always happen, especially when my pregnant wife’s cravings are so sporadic. But we do make a conscience effort to reserve deserts for the weekend or once or twice during the week. Never every meal. And when I engorde on sweets like a did yesterday, I don’t guilt over it. I just decide to take an extra breather between my next dessert.
- Always wash it down with water. Depending on how much soda and sugar drinks you consume, you can lose 5-10 lbs and lower your blood sugar immediately by drinking water instead. It’s hard to do at first, but once you get in the habit, you likely won’t go back. We’ve been drinking water as a family during all meals for years. It saves money, increases health, makes your pee squeaky clean, and limits extravagance. It’s become such a good habit for my body, I’ll often reach for water even during special occasions, because that’s what my body craves now to quench thirst.
- Reach for raw foods. By this I mean fruits, carrots, lettuce with vinaigrettes and walnut or olive oil, raisins, all manner of nuts. Keep this stuff in sight and grab it when hungry. Today, for example, I was a hungry shortly after breakfast. So I returned to the kitchen, mixed some almonds with raisins, and downed ’em. They were delicious (but then again, they always are). So learn to love raw food. It really does thwart indulgent, fatty, and sugar cravings better than anything I know. In fact, raw food is so rich in nutrients, they can help calm and soothe your unhealthy cravings into healthier ones. For example, if I’m craving something sweet after dinner, but it’s not the right meal to indulge in dessert, I’ll grab an orange instead. After a meal, it’s deliciously sweet and makes your stomach feel wonderful. Next time, I dare you to eat an orange instead of desert and NOT feel satisfied.
- Make your meals from scratch. This is hard and difficult for busy people to do. But if you’ll just embrace it and decide to make cooking a priority in your life, you’ll put a lot more nutrient rich and balanced ingredients into your body than with ready-made, prepackaged, eating out, or fast food. Plus, from scratch just tastes better. If this isn’t an option right now in your life, reach for labels with short ingredient lists and unscientific sounding names. Pay extra if you must. But don’t get conned into buying “organic,” “gluten free’ or whatever the latest marketing fad is. My tomato is just as good as your tomato. My wife’s four-ingredient homemade bread with no preservatives is just as good as your trendy bread. Just eat and prepare it well. No need to have a superiority complex with your food.
- Eat food in its season. Although I was raised in the “Peach State,” you haven’t had a peach until you’ve eaten a local Utah one during the month of August. It may very well be the tastiest, sweetest, water blob you’ll ever sink your teeth into. Same goes for apples in the fall. Citrus in the summer. Strawberries in the spring. I’m convinced that the reason people aren’t eating more fruit is because they’re eating it at the wrong times, thereby negatively affecting their opinion of said fruit. The only fruit that’s really good all year are bananas. For everything else, know when things are in season. Look forward to them. Train you body to be patient and it will do so in more ways than one.
- Eat meat sparingly. Vegetarians are wrong. But so are meat eaters that indulge in it every meal, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks such as beef jerky. That’s just way too much meat. That said, meat has a lot of nutrients that your body needs. So you should eat it in moderation. For me, that’s no more than 1-3 times per week. And even then, it’s more chicken, pork, and fish than it is red meat. And even then, my family has dramatically reduced our potions of meat. For example, that burger I mentioned earlier: it was a super thin 2 oz patty. We bought 2 lbs of ground beef recently and fed a small family of six 4-6 times with it in the span of two months. I used to eat steak and burgers upwards of 10 times per week while disregarding both medical and religious counsel. No more. Instead of meat, reach for beans, milk, eggs, cheese, and nuts. But not as much as veggies, fruits, and grains.
- Learn to love dark chocolate. There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who like dark chocolate. And those who hate it. I used to be in the latter camp. But that’s because I was eating waaaay too many fats and processed sugars. Once you get your body off that unhealthy regime and taste dark, less sweet chocolate for the first time, it’s a revelation. Not only that, but it’s richer in healthier kinds of nutrients. Nowadays, my wife and and I reach for dark chocolate almost exclusively. Not because we’re suppose to from a health perspective. But because we want to. That’s the key to fighting food indulgence. Learn to love your diet. Embrace it. If you’re not going to drink juice the rest of your life, perhaps you shouldn’t center your current diet entirely around it. By all means, indulge here and there in moderation, because the stuff we indulge in is certainly worth it. But we mustn’t overdue it with regularity. That’s how we get fat and sick.
- Stop when your are no longer hungry as opposed to being stuffed. This is very hard to do. I’ve gotten better at listening to my body but I assume this will be a lifelong effort. The best way to do this is to eat balanced meals. After eating oatmeal and an orange the other day, I still craved something extra. “Protein, I want protein,” my body often tells me on mornings that I don’t have eggs. So I grab nuts, a glass a milk, or yogurt. “Ah, that’s better,” my body replies. I’ll do the same during lunch and dinner. If we failed to prepare a balanced meal, I’ll grab a carrot, more fruit, a piece of bread in the evening. If you can get to that point, you’ll be in a much better position to stop when no longer hungry as opposed to stopping after you’ve indulged in two or three plates of whatever rich entree you’ve been eating. If you haven’t had a veggie with your meal, grab one. Same goes for fruit. Fight indulgence with a balanced diet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Blake Snow is not a dietician, but has found a sustainable, gimmick-free, and healthy diet for himself. He doesn’t vilify one nutrient over another, including fats, sugars, gluten, or whatever popular anti-craze health zealots are pushing. More than anything, Mr. Snow believes you should listen to your body. Teach it healthy eating habits. Reduce your portions. And make an effort to stop indulging in the richest foods while learning to love the healthier ones.
Readers, what anti-gluttony strategies do you follow?