Nov 12

Eating Habits and Nutrition

by Rebecca Morley

When we think about shedding pounds, we often think of restrictive diets and use such terms as “struggle to lose weight”and our new rigid “diet.” We worry about regaining the weight we have lost and then some, for good reason. Science Daily states, “Although restriction of diet often results in initial weight loss, more than 80 percent of obese dieters fail to maintain their reduced weight.”

Perhaps there is a better and more positive approach to our relationship with food. Wouldn’t you prefer to feel great, enjoy every bite you eat and lose weight? Inherent enjoyment of food needn’t conflict with the ability to maintain a healthy weight.

A “foodie” is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food. Foodies also have an enthusiastic interest in preparing and consuming their food. Foodies eat what they really like to eat and savor the taste, texture, appearance and smell of food. The food is usually of high quality, not highly processed and prepared, as we used to say, “from scratch.” And the ingredients tend to vary from dish to dish, which increases our exposure to a variety of essential nutrients.

Maybe it is time for boomers to take back their kitchens with renewed vigor. If it takes time to make a meal or snack, this extra time and care may help us value the food we prepare. But don’t think that being a foodie means you need to spend hours in the kitchen. Sometimes a juicy piece of fresh, seasonal fruit and a handful of nuts is all that is needed to satisfy hunger.

By taking more time to eat – enjoying each mouthful – you may find you are satisfied with smaller portions. You may be surprised when you step on the scale to find that your weight has dropped because you are not reaching for junk food or overeating.

Using a kinder approach to eating, become a foodie who is a mindful eater. Learn to eat when hungry and stop when you are full. Another term might be “intuitive eating.”

According to registered dietitian Evelyn Tribole and registered dietitian and nurse Elyse Resch, co-authors of the book “Intuitive Eating,” the underlying concept is that you can learn to respond to your inner body cues, because you are born with all the wisdom you need for eating intuitively. If this style of eating appeals to you, just google “intuitive eating” and you will find a link to a website that lists 10 intuitive eating principles. Whereas most diets focus on external factors such as calorie counting and methods to control your weight, intuitive eating encourages you to focus intrinsically and listen to your mind and body.

We needn’t drown our food in butter and heavy cream to consider ourselves foodies. Instead, think of yourself as a “health foodie.” Purposely use a variety of spices fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats to prepare tasty dishes from scratch. Proudly incorporate lots of fresh, locally grown ingredients whenever possible. Cultivate a love, interest, respect and appreciation for food. Learn to listen to your hunger cues and stop eating when you are satisfied.

Boomers often have more time for hobbies as the children leave the nest and they feel secure in their careers. Gourmet cooking can become your new hobby. Perhaps you have a partner who would be willing to join you in this new venture. There are a variety of food channels that can initiate ideas and teach techniques that allow you to “whip things up” in your own kitchen. Shared cooking can be a fun way to bond as you develop a positive approach to the entire process of planning, preparing and enjoying the results.

Try to look at food as an exciting experience, from shopping for ingredients to the art of preparation, including the aesthetics of a dish and how it’s presented. It can be fun to break out the good dishes and serve a meal by candlelight now and again. Use special meals as social occasions, inviting your favorite friends to enjoy your culinary delights. When you eat what you really like in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure that you derive
may help you feel content and satisfied with smaller portions.

An advantage will be that you know the ingredients that go into the dishes you prepare. You can avoid the hidden sugar, salt and fat in many processed foods. Have you ever read the label of a packaged bakery item with dozens of ingredients that you cannot pronounce much less define?

When you cook in your own kitchen from wholesome ingredients, there is a reduction in chemicals that may not promote your health, such as artificial flavors, colors and other shelf life extenders.

A “health foodie” goes beyond the typical gourmet by connecting food with health. It includes the science of nutrition and subsequent incorporation of a variety of wholesome foods that help prevent diseases or assist in managing them.

The idea of a gourmet cook is not new, but foodies usually have a more intense and constant relationship with food, rather than cooking an occasional special meal. And just like healthy gourmet cooking, a health foodie uses quality ingredients that are known to be beneficial to our health.

The future of health foodies includes a collaboration of doctors, farmers and chefs to advocate for the role that nutrition can play in overall wellness.

Using scientific methods to identify which foods support health and in what frequency and proportion is extremely important. But it is not enough. What really encourages people to eat more of these healthful foods is to show how delicious, affordable and easy to prepare they can be.

Food can be both enjoyable and a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Of course, we can’t neglect the vital component of regular daily exercise if we want to look and feel our best. But combining the best of enjoying our food and physical activity will pave the road for wellness.

Perhaps it’s time to quit obsessing over calories and instead focus our attention on our food, enjoying it fully, including how it makes us feel as well as how it tastes.

You’ll be amazed at what it can do for health and your waistline.

  • Here are some ideas for budding healthy foodies:
  • Make it a point to try at least one new food per week.
  • Explore food from other cultures.
  • Hang out at the farmers market. Ask vendors how to prepare various items from their displays that are unfamiliar to you.
  • Ask for recipes of dishes you particularly enjoy from your favorite restaurant.
  • If you enjoy wine, go to a wine-tasting event to learn about how different flavors develop, and which wines should be paired with which foods.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Use quality ingredients in your cooking such as real vanilla, extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar.
  • Invest in tools of the trade, such as decent knives and other basic kitchen utensils you have done without in the past.
  • Get to know other foodies in your community. Share recipes, ideas and meals.
  • Limit recipes that are unusually high in saturated fat, sugar or salt or make substitutions with healthier options
  • Start small as you begin your gourmet dish expansion. Perhaps try making your own mayonnaise or garden-fresh salsa. Experiment with lemon juice instead of salt as you prepare baked chicken or fish. Try a homemade marinade on your favorite barbecue.

Rebecca Morley provides nutrition services through the Eat Smart Program and can be reached at 258-3827 or at rmorley@co.missoula.mt.us.

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