Changing traditions can prevent weight gain from holiday foods and special party dishes

Holiday Treats, Party Dishes and Weight Gain

CHANGING TRADITIONS CAN PREVENT WEIGHT GAIN FROM HOLIDAY FOODS AND SPECIAL PARTY DISHES

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

If you’re worried about gaining weight during Q4 (fourth quarter) with all of the holiday treats around, it may be time to rethink your annual food budget. Not the amount of money you spend on food, but how you eat throughout the year that makes holiday foods so costly in terms of calories.

It works something like this.

You deprive yourself of foods you love all year, and then when party dishes show up at traditional year-end gatherings, you cash in. The faulty logic of this approach is believing you can have all you want of the Hanukkah honey puffs or Christmas rum balls because you only eat them once a year. If only the math worked in your favor.

The sad truth is you can’t average out the calories you ate today over the other 364 days of the year.

What Makes Some Foods So Special?

The menus for most holiday feasts originated at a time when food was scarce. Being able to celebrate special occasions with foods you rarely got to eat, or foods that had historical or religious significance, helped make the events and the foods seem more important. Over time, the two got so cemented together in our psyches that we reserved eating those foods just for those occasions, even if we could enjoy them on any other day of the year.

The problem is we now have an abundance of food all year round and endless opportunities to eat more than we need. There is no longer a shortage of eggs, oil, or sugar, yet the symbolism of these ingredients and the holiday foods they’re used in lingers on.

One way to avoid over-indulging in them may be to start preparing your favorite party dishes at other times of year. By giving yourself permission to dip into those treasured recipes whenever you like you can diminish some of the pull they may have over your self-control when you confront them during the holidays.

What Else Can We Celebrate?

Gathering extended family around the same table has become a rarity in our 21st Century lives, yet is as important to our survival as the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock was nearly 400 years ago. Maybe now, instead of focusing all of our attention on the food we serve, we can use these special occasions to reconnect with one another.

One way to do that would be to start a “tech-free tradition” that requires everyone to leave behind their smart phones and tablets. Imagine all the verbal messages and hugs that might be exchanged when talking face-to-face with hands free!

What favorite holiday food would you like to eat all year?

Start the holiday party season with a plan to control excess calories

Simple Solutions to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

This post was originally written as a guest blog for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org. You can read the original post here.

I know it can seem impossible to control what you eat during the holidays due to all of the parties and special occasions that occur, but weight gain is not inevitable! Instead of worrying about weight loss during such an overwhelming time, focus on maintaining your current weight and adding in exercise when possible- a game of touch football while Christmas dinner is in the oven or a walk with family before dessert. Below I’ve put together five simple substitutions for a happy and healthy holiday season.

BE SELECTIVE

Whether you have 3 social engagements in the same day or 3 in the same week, you can’t walk into each one and eat and drink as if it’s the only party of the year. Instead, you need to be selective about where your calories are going to come from so you can stay within your personal calorie “budget.” A good place to start is with the beverages. A no calorie diet soda or glass of seltzer with a twist of lime can save 150 to 300 calories compared to a glass of wine or fancy mixed drink. And choosing a non-alcoholic drink will also help you make the rest of your food decisions with a clear head.

MAKE TRADE-OFFS

When it comes to weight control, every calorie counts! That means you need ways to offset the added calories you’re likely to eat when the tins of homemade cookies and boxes of assorted chocolates are passed around. It’s possible by making lower calorie substitutions throughout the day. For example, order a Skinny Latte made with a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, and nonfat milk instead of your usual mocha coffee drink. Or you can swap out your mid-morning muffin for a reduced-calorie, high fiber granola bar. How about passing on the croutons at the salad bar and taking an extra scoop of crunchy cauliflower for another calorie-saving trade-off? By saving calories throughout the day, you can enjoy a few more later on.

BE PREPARED

We can’t add more hours to the day to get all those extra errands done we have this time of year, but keeping plenty of better-for-you foods on hand can help fuel us while doing them. The best choices provide protein and fiber so we’ll feel satisfied longer. Try a container of light yogurt with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top, a cheese round or wedge with a few whole wheat crackers, or a small container of hummus with some baked soy chips for great grab-and-go snacks that can curb your hunger until your next meal.

PLAN TO EAT

Even if it feels like your “to-do” list gets longer every day, skipping meals is not a good way to catch up. Eating on a regular schedule keeps your energy levels on track so you can get to the bottom of that list! It will also help prevent the impulsive eating that can occur when you get too hungry and face a food court full of temptation. You can make your meals as simple as a healthy frozen dinner heated up in the microwave or a soup and sandwich combo from the nearest deli. The key is to take the time to stop and eat a planned meal instead of over eating an unplanned one.

DON’T LET STRESS GET THE BEST OF YOU

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so make sure you keep your sights focused on the fun, not just the work. Delegate, improvise and take shortcuts to reduce some of the demands on your time and the stress eating that can go with it. Wouldn’t a massage, a facial or long soak in the tub make you feel more relaxed? Making time to pamper yourself is often all it takes to put things back into perspective.

WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY, HEALTHY HOLIDAY SEASON!

Care packages from home can contribute to college weight gain

Tips to Prevent College Weight Gain

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

CARE PACKAGES FROM HOME CAN CONTRIBUTE TO COLLEGE WEIGHT GAIN

Now that everything has been purchased and packed to send your recent high school graduate off to college, what’s left to do? For many parents and grandparents, it’s time to start worrying about the notorious freshman 15.

College weight gain is a bigger concern today than ever before because so many more young people are arriving on campus overweight. Packing on five or ten pounds between now and winter break and another five or more by the time they move back home in the spring can saddle them with excess weight they may never lose.

The health risks of starting adulthood overweight should not be ignored. As anyone who has tried to lose 15 pounds – and keep it off – knows, it’s not easy. Taking steps to prevent gaining those unwanted pounds in the first place is far easier.

As the author of Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, I can show you how you can help your college student do just that.

What Causes College Weight Gain?

Life on campus is filled with opportunities to eat, drink, and party too much. The rest of the time is often spent sleeping, sitting in classes (sometimes both at the same time) and studying. That combination of overconsumption and under activity is all it takes for some kids to gain a pound a week, which happens to add up to 15 pounds at the end of the first semester.

Yes, the school has a state-of-the-art fitness center, a campus that stretches over several acres or city blocks, and round-the-clock recreational activities. But somehow all of that opportunity to burn calories is underutilized. It’s sort of like all the home exercise equipment and gym memberships that go unused.

Another source of unneeded calories are those care packages that come in the mail filled with all their favorite foods. Bags of Twizzlers, boxes of Cheez-Its, and tins of homemade chocolate chip cookies arrive one day and are gone the next.

Repackaging those care packages from home can eliminate the temptation, and extra pounds that go with them. Try some of these instead.

Care Packages That Prevent College Weight Gain

Hair Care

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Gel or Mouse
  • Spray or Spritz

Dental Care

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash

Laundry Care

  • Detergent
  • Bleach
  • Dryer sheets
  • Stain remover

Body Care

  • Bar soap
  • Shower gel
  • Bath powder
  • Deodorant
  • Body lotion

Appliance Care

  • Printer cartridges
  • Computer paper
  • Batteries
  • Gift cards for apps

And whatever you do, don’t keep reminding them of what it was like when you were in college!

Having too many food choices can result in overeating if we make the wrong decisions in the grocery store

Can Too Many Food Choices Lead to Obesity?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original blog here.

HAVING TOO MANY FOOD CHOICES CAN RESULT IN OVEREATING IF WE MAKE THE WRONG DECISIONS IN THE GROCERY STORE

The average grocery store in the U.S. now has up to 60,000 different items in stock. That’s good news if you’ve always wanted a mango chipotle salad dressing, but for most of us that’s just too many food choices. And research shows that choice overload may actually be contributing to the obesity epidemic.

I like grocery shopping since I’m in the food and nutrition business. But with the expanding number of products for sale, it now takes me a lot longer to do it. Supermarkets are where food manufacturers showcase their latest and greatest products, so everything that fills the shelves is of interest to me. How else could I possibly know there are low sodium olives and braised beef flavor with sweet potato dog treats?

But for most people, food shopping is a chore – a dreaded chore. The more people you have to feed, the more dreaded it is because the pantry never remains stocked for very long. And each trip back to the store involves another round of decision-making as you take in all those choices.

A simple shopping list is not enough to help you win the battle against too many food choices.

Food Choice and Hunger

No matter how much you may like macaroni and cheese, it would soon lose its appeal if you had to eat it over and over again (toddlers excluded). Research shows that appetite declines, regardless of physicalhunger, when limited to eating the same food day after day. This loss of interest in food is also seen in people who have lost their sense of taste.

The other side of that coin is called hedonic hunger. That is when you eat more than you physically need because you can move from one food to another to get a new taste sensation. Our enjoyment of food over-rides our sensation of satiety. That’s what happens every time we order dessert immediately after a meal.

When food shopping, we are not literally consuming everything we put into our carts, but we are “setting the table” for what we might consume once we get that food home. How well we make those decisions can contribute to overeating.

Overchoice and Overeating

Careless Decisions: Overwhelmed by having to make so many decisions you grow mentally tired of evaluating all the choices. To simplify the process you may ignore important information (price, nutrient content, health claims), make an impulsive decision or don’t choose at all, even if it’s something you really needed. That is how you leave the store with a familiar brand of cereal instead of the high fiber, low sugar one you meant to buy.

Incomplete Decisions: You make a decision but are not satisfied with it because you don’t know if you saw every possible choice, and fear there may have been something better. Your enjoyment of that food is diminished by a feeling of uncertainty about what you may have missed and you are likely to eat more of it trying to become satisfied. That is how you can polish off a half-gallon of low fat ice cream in a few days so you can go back to look for more options.

Irrational Decisions: The availability of so many tempting choices can over-ride your rational, decision-making process and make it easier to select foods for other reasons, such as to reward yourself or satisfy emotional needs. That is how you arrive home with so many items that were not on your shopping list.

To avoid poor decisions when food shopping, my advice is to:

  • always have a list
  • never shop when hungry
  • pay in cash

What works for you?

People fill their grocery shopping carts with foods they like.

Obesity and What We Buy at the Supermarket

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

MANY FACTORS INFLUENCE WHERE WE BUY GROCERIES AND WHAT WE PUT IN OUR SHOPPING CARTS

Do you like to check-out what other people have in their carts when doing your grocery shopping? I admit it, I do, but then I’m a nutrition expert. For me, watching what people buy at the supermarket is like looking through a microscope for a biologist.

One of the most interesting observations I repeatedly make is that having a higher income and access to better quality food does not necessarily mean you buy better groceries.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has noticed this.

Some fascinating new research has taken a look at what people eat when they live in so-called “food deserts” – typically poor urban areas with few grocery stores – and those who live in the burbs with endless choices. As it turns out, no one is filling their cart with the right stuff.

Quality of the American Diet

A study published in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics described how well the diets of Americans from different groups across the country stacked up when compared to the recommendations in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. The authors concluded that regardless of socioeconomic status, the diets of everyone 2 years and older were far less than optimal.

Of interest, children in the lowest income group had higher dietary scores than those in the higher income groups due to their participation in national School breakfast and Lunch Programs and Summer Food Service program. Also of note, suburban families ate more fast food meals because they were often in the car during the dinner hour traveling between various after school activities.

Availability of Better Quality Food

Another study compared the diets of more than 8,000 school children and how much they weighed to the number of food outlets in the different residential neighborhoods where they lived. The goal was to see if there was a connection between available food sources and obesity in children.

The researchers found poor neighborhoods had nearly twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores and more than three times as many corner stores compared to wealthier ones, but they also had twice as many supermarkets per square mile. When they analyzed all of the data the researchers concluded that exposure to the all of these food outlets does not independently explain weight gain in school age children.

A similar study conducted with more than 13,000 children and teenagers in California found no relationship between what type of food students ate, what they weighed, and the type of food available within a mile and a half of their homes. The researchers concluded living close to a supermarket did not make students thin and living close to a fast food outlet did not make them fat.

What’s On Your Shopping List?

These studies are important because there are still people who believe the only thing keeping overweight and obese Americans from losing weight is the availability of more fresh fruits and vegetables where they buy groceries. I never believed it based on what I saw other people putting in their shopping carts. Maybe the solution is a better shopping list?

Find other ways to shop smart when you buy groceries here:

  • Imagine Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Labels
  • Want to Save Time and Money in the Supermarket?
  • Can Too many Food Choices lead to Obesity?
  • Eating Healthy on a Budget
You don’t have to serve diet snacks if you use these healthy snack ideas

Need Healthy Snack Food Ideas for the Super Bowl?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO SERVE DIET SNACKS IF YOU USE THESE HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS

When the Taco Bell advertising team came up with the idea to bash veggie platters at Super Bowl parties, they weren’t just knocking vegetables. The ad implied that all healthy snack food ideas are unwelcomed at the biggest gridiron event of the year. Now that the ads have been pulled, it has left many people wondering whether any diet snacks can be safely served on game day.

Do not despair! There are other ways to curb your party food consumption without trying to sneak broccoli into the chili con carne!

Beware of Halos

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when faced with lots of food choices is to separate the choices into “good” and “bad” foods. No matter what criteria we use to make the distinction, it always leads to the same illogical conclusion that if we eat mostly good food, it’s okay to eat some bad food, too.

This is called the Halo Effect, where we believe the good food – they’re the ones wearing the halo – can somehow magically cancel out the risks of the bad foods.

Mathematically, this just doesn’t work out in our favor. The amount of fat, sodium and calories in 20 potato chips submerged in a half cup of onion dip cannot be cancelled out by a 20 baby carrots dabbed in hummus. Same is true about eating the celery sticks served with the Buffalo wings. The numbers just don’t jibe.

This does not mean we can never eat the chips, dips and wings. We just have to be more realistic about how many we can afford to add to our fat, sodium and calorie tally for the day.

“Watch” What You Eat

As much as we all feel drawn to food by its smell and taste, our vision plays a role in what and how much we eat, too. I’m not talking about attractive plating arrangements, but the color and size of the plates and bowls its served in. Food marketers use this information to get us to eat more of their products, but we turn the tables on them and use it to eat less.

A study done in the Department of Social and Economic Psychology at the University of Basel Switzerland found people ate less snack food from a red plate and drank less soft drink from a red cup than they did when blue or white plates and cups were used. The researchers hypothesize that the color red serves as a subliminal stop sign that helps to reduce how much we eat.

That’s good news for San Francisco 49er’s fans who can use the team’s red and gold colors for their party ware.

Tackle the “Hidden Persuaders”

Even if there won’t be any diet snacks at your Super Bowl spread, there are ways to deal with mindless eating so you don’t overindulge. Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Brain Wansink, a consumer behavior psychologist, we now have proof that how we serve food is as important as what we serve.

Use these Healthy Snack Food Ideas to Eat Less at Your Super Bowl Party

  • Use tall slender glasses for drinks instead of short wide ones
  • Fill a basket with single-serving bags of chips instead of having big bowls filled with chips
  • Offer only 1 or 2 types of chips instead of 3 or more
  • Place some of the snack food just out of reach so guests have to get up to have more
  • Provide small plates for guests to fill with their own snacks and place scoops and tongs on platters so they can serve themselves
  • Offer snacks that require some effort to eat, such as peanuts or pistachios in shells, cheese you must spread, and candies you must unwrap
  • Fill candy dishes with single-colored treats, like M&Ms or Jellybeans, featuring your team’s colors rather than offering mixed colors
  • Provide medium-sized (9 inch) paper plates for the half-time buffet instead of larger dinner plates
  • Put plain names on your buffet dishes, such as “Chili,” versus more appetizing descriptions, such as “Rosie’s Three-Alarm Homemade Chili”
Cheap diet solutions for safe weight loss if trying to diet on a budget

10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013 but you can view the original blog here.

Trying to diet on a budget can seem impossible when you see the price tags on the latest gluten-free foods and shiny new gym equipment that promise safe weight loss for those with fat wallets. As a challenge, i took a walk through the nearest discount dollar store to identify cheap diet solutions for those with good intentions, but modest means. I wasn’t disappointed. Here are ten items you can buy for ten dollars that will help you eat right and get in shape so you can lose and save at the same time!

Blank Notebook: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

The most valuable part of any healthy makeover is a blank book. Use it to record your goals, weight, measurements, and daily food intake and physical activity. If you faithfully and honestly fill the pages each and every day, you’ll soon discover the book was the most effective weight loss program you ever tried.

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Tape Measure: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Stepping on a scale is not the only way to measure your progress, or the best. A simple cloth tape measure can be used to get some baseline measurements that will help you see the loss of inches in places where it really counts. Be sure to include: waist and hip circumference, thigh, calf, upper arm and chest.

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Index Cards: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

It may seem old school to write recipes on index cards, but not if you use them for a collection of your favorite fool-proof, quick, easy, and tasty dishes that are diet-friendly. Take the time to try new recipes and be selective about which ones you allow into your collection. If you just find one new recipe a week there will be 52 winners in the box by this time next year.

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Measuring Cups: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Like it or not, all food contains calories and the serving size of the food you eat determines how many calories it contains – no matter how nutritious the food may be. Using measuring cups to both prepare your food and portion it at home will help you stick to your calorie budget and train your eye for the meals eaten away from home when you have to guesstimate.

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Measuring Spoons: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Just like the foods measured in measuring cups, there are calories in the smaller things we eat that are measured with measuring spoons, like cooking oils, salad dressing, and soft spreads. It isn’t easy to free-pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet, so it pays to measure it since each additional tablespoon adds another 110 calories.

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Food Storage Containers: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

One of the biggest challenges to healthy eating is eating out regularly. By having a complete set of food storage containers you can take your breakfast, lunch and snacks with you to work with you, if needed. It’s a great way to use the leftovers from all those meals you’ll be preparing at home, too.

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Insulated Lunch Sack: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Now that you’ve got a set of food storage containers, you need and insulated sack to carry them in when filled with food. These sacks come in enough different styles you’ll never have to guess which lunch is yours in the office refrigerator, and they’re flexible enough to slip into your shoulder-strap bag or back pack for hands-free travel.

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Freezer Packs: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Keep an assortment of these freezer packs in different sizes in the freezer so they’re ready to add to your lunch sack. Remember, there’s nothing healthy about food that hasn’t been kept at the proper temperature.

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Egg Timer: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

No matter how many features you have on your smart phone, they can only help you if you know how to use them. A simple kitchen timer is a no-brainer way to build short bursts of activity into your day. Set it to ring once every hour then, then get up and stand, walk, or stretch for 5 minutes.

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Handheld Mirror: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Give yourself some words of encouragement each and every day, you’re worth it!

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Two new anti-obesity drugs have been approved this summer giving consumers more help with weight loss

3 Anti-Obesity Drugs Now Available in U.S.

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

TWO NEW ANTI-OBESITY DRUGS HAVE BEEN APPROVED THIS SUMMER GIVING CONSUMERS MORE HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS

After 13 years with only one Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pill for weight loss available in the U.S., the agency added two more anti-obesity drugs to the arsenal in the past 30 days. Qsymia is the latest.

I covered the Belviq when it was approved last month. Before that, Xenical was the only option. It received FDA approval in 1999, then became available in a lower dose as the over-the-counter drug Alli in 2007.

What does this recent flurry of activity in the world of anti-obesity drugs mean?

To the 68 percent of American adults who are either overweight or obese (that’s more than 23 million people) it means hope. Hope that one of these drugs will help them win the battle they fight every day with overeating. They still have to learn to make better food choices and be more physically active – no pill can replace that – but maybe, just maybe, one of these prescriptions will make it easier.

Obesity is a complex disease with multiple causes. No single treatment will work for everyone. Since each of these drugs functions in a different way, one could be better for you than another.

If you tried weight loss pills in the past and didn’t get the results you expected, you may want to try again. If you’ve been afraid to try them before, keep an open mind. It’s a hard battle to win alone.

FAQ About the Anti-Obesity Drugs

How do they work?

  • Some have a single mode of action, others have a combination of effects. They may:
  • Suppress appetite
  • Increase metabolism
  • Block absorption
  • Increase satiety
  • Stimulate alertness

How much weight can I lose?

FDA approval is based on studies that show weight loss is greater using the drug than can be achieved from just diet and exercise alone. Weight loss varies for each drug and with one’s ability to comply with the diet and exercise recommendations, but range from 5-10 percent.

How long must I take them?

Each of the available drugs must be taken daily to maintain results. They are not a cure, but a treatment that must be continued for the rest of one’s life.

Do they have side effects?

As with most drugs there are risks associated with their use, but when taken as recommended the benefits are expected to outweigh any risks for most people.

Can anyone take them?

Most are approved for adults only. Some are restricted if pregnant, when taking certain medications or if suffering from other conditions. These concerns must be discussed with your physician.

Some related blogs:

  • My post on last month’s anti-obesity drug: New Weight Loss Drug Wins FDA Approval
  • Some thoughts on what obesity is not: Reflections on Obesity and the Weight of the Nation
  • Why obesity isn’t our biggest problem: Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity

 

Learn how to avoid overeating at buffets even if the sign says all-you-can-eat

How to Avoid Overeating at Buffets

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

LEARN HOW TO AVOID OVEREATING AT BUFFETS EVEN IF THE SIGN SAYS ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT!

The one question every client who has ever been on a cruise or stayed in an all-inclusive resort has asked before booking the next one is: “How can I avoid overeating at buffets?” Their concern is justified. Any dining establishment that promotes “all-you-can-eat” does not have your best interests in mind.

The whole idea of eating unlimited amounts of food is just plain wrong.

I avoid those places like a failed health inspection sign. But every so often I find myself in a buffet line. It may be the only (or fastest) option for breakfast in a hotel when I’m traveling for business. Or it could be a wedding or other affair where quests are asked to serve themselves from long tables decorated with food.

Unless you know this is going to be your last meal, there’s no need to stuff yourself. Fortunately, research has been done to help identify the traps that can lead us to overeat and the steps that can help slow us down.

Tips to Avoid Overeating at Buffets

Location:

  • Select a table as far away from the buffet as possible. The longer it takes to make a return trip, the fewer of them you are likely to make, and the more obvious you feel as you pass through the dining room.
  • Take a seat at the table that does not face the buffet. Seeing what others are taking increases the chances you will feel compelled to get your share.
  • Take the inside seat in a booth so you have to ask someone to move in order to get out.

Food Options:

  • Walk past each table and serving station before taking a plate. Since you don’t get a menu at a buffet, think of this as a virtual menu. Decide what you would take if you could only sample 3 things, and start with those items, even if it’s a chunk of cheese, a fried oyster and gooey dessert. If that satisfies you, the meal is over!
  • Use a small plate to take tasting portions of anything else you’re interested in. You can go back for more if you love it, and should not don’t finish it if you don’t.
  • Plan to eat in courses and serve yourself only one course at a time just as you would be served if ordering from an a la carte menu. As you become satisfied you can opt to stop eating without having piles of food in front of you.
  • Place food on your dinner plate as if you were serving someone else and wanted to make it look appetizing. Don’t pile one thing on top of another.
  • Skip anything you can have anytime, like a plain dinner roll or baked ziti. There’s no need to consume any extra calories.

Social Skills:

  • Pace your alcohol consumption so you don’t lose your inhibitions about the food.
  • Engage in conversation while at the table to help slow down your speed of eating. The more time that passes, the more likely your satiety signals will kick in.
  • If others from your table are still on line, wait for them to return before sitting down to eat.
  • Wait for a server to clear the plates you are finished with before getting up for more food.
  • Don’t worry about “wasting” food by not finishing what’s on your plate. It is a far greater waste to eat something you don’t like, want or need.

And for help when eating in restaurants without a buffet, see Calories Control Means Weight Control When Eating Out.

A new study on behaviors that aid weight loss found keeping a food journal is number one

Proof: Keeping a Food Journal Aids Weight Loss

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

A NEW STUDY ON BEHAVIORS THAT AID WEIGHT LOSS FOUND KEEPING A FOOD JOURNAL IS NUMBER ONE

When it comes to weight loss, any diet that results in caloric reduction will do the job. But if you’re looking for the best results, keeping a food journal can make the difference. That, along with not skipping meals or eating lunch at restaurants too often.

Those are some of the findings from new research done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The aim of the study was to identify behaviors that support caloric reduction in a population of sedentary, obese and overweight postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 75.

The researchers monitored 123 women for one year who were randomly assigned to either the ‘diet only’ arm of the study or the ‘exercise plus diet’ option. They looked at the impact of a wide range of self-monitoring strategies, diet-related behaviors and meal patterns on weight change in the subjects.

At the end of the study participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight. But those who kept food records lost the most — approximately 6 pounds more than women who did not keep records.

Skipping meals also affected results. Women who skipped the most meals lost about 8 pounds less than those who did not skip. Going out for lunch was another behavior that impacted weight loss. Those who ate lunch out in a restaurant at least once a week lost about 5 pounds less than those who went out for lunch less often. Eating out regularly for breakfast or supper were also linked to less weight loss, but lunch had the biggest difference on weight.

This research reinforces something I have seen work over and over again in my clinical practice. Throughout the 25 years I was seeing clients, those who keep the best food records lost the most weight and kept it off the longest – women and men, young and old alike. I’ve included this advice in my blogs, too.

Where you keep your record does not matter. It can be done in a simple blank note pad or detailed food journal template, in a computer tracking program or voice activated phone app. What matters is what you report.

Tips for Keeping a Food Journal

Honesty: Record everything you put into your mouth and swallow. Don’t leave out anything whether it was just a nibble or had no calories, like a diet drink. Make it your goal to record everything you eat and drink, period.

Accuracy: Get quantifiable information about the amount you are eating or drinking whenever you can by measuring or weighing the portion you take, counting the items, or reading the label to determine what is the serving size. The more you do this, the better you will be at estimating when you have to.

Thoroughness: Include descriptive information about how the food was prepared, what condiments were used, any sauces or gravy added, and any special features such as low fat, reduced sodium, sugar free, etc. Ask questions when eating out if you’re not sure how something was made or what it was made with.

Consistency: Continue your record-keeping when you are away from home so you can enter information as soon as you eat or drink something, even if you must use the back of a receipt until you can transfer it to your permanent record. Don’t rely on your memory.

I have been keeping a food journal every day since I was in college studying to become a dietitian and my weight has not changed other than when I was pregnant. Has anyone else been keeping a food journal that long?