Health and Wellness Blog
By Liz Daeninck, MS, RD – Registered Dietitian, Healthful Life MD
The internet is teeming with information about diet. Search engine results produce hundreds of articles suggesting rules for everything food related—foods you should never eat, foods you should eat, the best power foods, top 10 food rules, and on and on. While these articles are sometimes interesting, it is important to know what they suggest can be less than helpful.
Establishing rules for food consumption can be good, and is especially helpful when working to lose weight, but anytime you assign blanket rules (such as NEVER eat this food, etc.) to food and weight loss you risk your efforts backfiring. Just like when you were a kid and your mom told you to not do something, a lot of times you ended up doing the exact opposite.
Strict food rules leave you obsessing about things you otherwise would not think twice about, and ultimately, can cause you to reject guidelines about foods entirely, even the good ones. They also set the precedent for labeling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This is risky because it can drive you to evaluate self-worth based on what you eat. The food choices you make are irrelevant to the kind of person you are. What is important about food choices however, is understanding how certain foods impact you and make you feel.
Food is food. It is an object and as such, it does not warrant being identified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When you label food as good or bad, you may start to judge yourself when you eat foods carrying such labels.
So what are my food rules for weight loss? In all honesty, I do not ascribe to specific food rules, but rather a set of guidelines for creating the awareness essential to making smart food choices and achieving health and weight goals. These guidelines are intended to add structure to what can otherwise seem overwhelming in your weight loss journey.
- Avoid certain foods and drinks: While working on weight loss, avoiding calorie dense, nutritionally poor foods and beverages will produce the best weight loss outcome while maintaining optimal health.
- Limit the variety of food options: Limiting the variety of food options available simplifies eating patterns and reduces the number of food decisions being made. This can be a very effective tool for weight loss.
- Reintroduce foods gradually: At the right time—which is different for everyone—slowly reintroducing foods in limited quantities helps in negotiating desired foods back into the regular diet in a strategic manner.
- Pay attention to how you feel: Food plays a powerful role in how we feel. As we eat different foods, it is important to understand how our body responds to them—positively and negatively.
- Note what impacts your intake: There are many reasons we consume food beyond the simple provision of nutrients and energy. Food can impact us on a variety of levels—emotionally, mentally and physically—and it is extremely important to be aware of those effects.
My approach as a dietitian is to help you live a richer, fuller and more active life by building awareness around how your environment, friends, family and circumstances impact your food choices and how foods make you feel. Understanding your body and how it responds to certain foods empowers you to make choices more suitable for overall health goals.
Once you experience the energizing feeling of altering your diet, chances are you will be eager to give up the foods that do not make you feel that way, even when they are foods that are loved.
In the end, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all food rules for weight loss. Following well-documented and effective guidelines, like the ones above, is an effective approach to working towards weight goals. With that being said, remember the number one, most powerful thing you can do in your weight loss journey is to develop an awareness of how food intake impacts you and makes you feel. This awareness will become your internal compass and has the ability to positively impact food choices and govern eating patterns.
Liz’s tips for achieving weight loss and maintenance goals:
- Remember there are seasons in your weight loss journey. Rather than get frustrated because you have eliminated a food you love from your diet, consider that food temporarily on hold until you transition into your next season and can reevaluate if it fits your plan. You may be surprised by how your view, and even your taste buds change over time.
- Pick and choose the foods that bring you joy. If you love chocolate, allow yourself one piece of chocolate each day, but limit the amount you eat.
- Adjust your focus towards the foods you enjoy that make you feel awesome, rather than pouring energy into thinking about all the things you cannot or should not eat.
- Refocus your energy into something other than your diet. By distracting yourself with your favorite hobbies or moving your body, you can distance yourself from an overwhelming focus on food and diet.
- Be patient with yourself… changing what is your ‘normal’ takes a significant amount of energy and effort. Over time you will see change, but only with continued, consistent efforts.
Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.
- 1/4 cup pistachios
- 1 large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
- 6 stalks of celery, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
- 1 cara cara orange, segmented
- 3 Tablespoons Champagne or White balsamic vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons Olive oil
- pinch of sea salt
- Zest of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pistachios 5 minutes until oil and fragrance just begins to release. Mix dressing ingredients. Toss salad ingredients, cooled toasted pistachios and dressing.
Serve and enjoy!
“I used to play golf and cycle and fish 3 times all in the same weekend and now I can’t even do one of those things without feeling exhausted.”
The men I see in my medical weight loss practice most often come to me because of a combination of family obligations, change in work life with increased travel or increased desk time, and less time to spend being active. They find themselves either having difficulty or unable to do the things they enjoy to the level they enjoy them. In addition, these men are starting to have health complications that their doctors have attributed to their weight, their nutrition, or their activity level.
In this country, about 36% of our population is obese – have a body mass index, a standardizing measure of weight, above 30. While BMI is not a perfect measure, it cannot differentiate between high muscle mass and high fat mass, it is the number used when studying the impact of weight on health, so it is a reasonable measure of risk in most people. In Colorado, about 21% of men, slightly higher than the 19% of women, are obese, and even more are overweight.
Obesity impacts men’s health in a number of ways. Most often, men carry their extra weight in their middle, a sign of not just extra weight, but of visceral adiposity – fat deposits in organs that affect their function. Visceral adiposity is more commonly associated with heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver, and therefore, portends more negative health consequences than simple subcutaneous fat. Obesity also increases the risk of a number of cancers, in both men and women.
Some effects of obesity are specific to men. For example, obesity can lower testosterone levels. We know that testosterone levels decrease as men age by about 1 percent per year. However, studies have shown that it decreases much more significantly in men who are obese: one study showed that a 4 to 5 point increase in BMI had a similar impact on testosterone lowering as 10 years of aging!1 Waist circumference, which is correlated with visceral adiposity, has an even stronger association with low testosterone than BMI.2 For example, 4 inch change in waist circumference increased a man’s risk of having low testosterone by 75 percent! Low testosterone, in turn, is associated with a multitude of health problems in men, including increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, and stroke, among others.
Erectile dysfunction, which is associated with low testosterone, is also independently associated with obesity in men. A 2009 study showed that either an obese BMI or a high waist circumference was associated with a 50 percent increased risk of erectile dysfunction in men, compared to men with a normal waist circumference or BMI.4
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the non-cancer related enlargement of the prostate in men, can cause symptoms of having to urinate frequently during the day or night. While most men develop prostatic enlargement while they age, men who carry extra weight are greater than 2 times more likely to have symptoms, and to have surgery as a result.5 Again, this correlation is more clear with waist circumference (greater than 43 inches, compared to less than 35 inches) in this particular study.
Fortunately, many of these problems are improved or reversed with weight loss, and specifically weight loss that improves visceral adiposity, or waist circumference. At Healthful Life MD, we monitor markers of metabolic health that are indicators of visceral adiposity. While there are many programs that help people lose weight, men in my program appreciate the medical approach backed by scientific evidence. They like the one-to-one care they receive, particularly, they prefer not to go to meetings of predominantly women whose struggles may not be similar to their own. They like the efficient and effective program which allows them to see changes right away, and that specifically addresses their personal goals.
There are many changes men can start right away to improve their health. First is identifying whether they have a problem.
- Check your BMI—A BMI over 25 is overweight, and a BMI over 30 is obese. BMI calculators can be found online: http://bit.ly/1D0ZqDv
- Measure your waist circumference – a waist circumference greater than 40 inches puts you at risk for health complications.
- Decrease your intake of sugary and alcoholic beverages
- Start an exercise routine, even walking regularly will have a positive impact on your health. Exercising more than 150 minutes weekly decreases your risk of obesity and many health complications
- Increase your vegetable intake—eating 3 or more servings of vegetables daily can improve your health
- Consider if a comprehensive medical weight loss program would help support your healthy lifestyle changes and get you back to the things you enjoy!
1 Travison TG1, Araujo AB, Kupelian V, O’Donnell AB, McKinlay JB. The relative contributions of aging, health, and lifestyle factors to serum testosterone decline in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Feb;92(2):549-55. Epub 2006 Dec 5.
2 Susan A. Hall, Gretchen R. Esche, Andre B. Araujo, Thomas G. Travison, Richard V. Clark, Rachel E. Williams, and John B. McKinlay. Correlates of Low Testosterone and Symptomatic Androgen Deficiency in a Population-Based Sample. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Oct; 93(10): 3870–3877.
3 Svartberg J1, von Mühlen D, Sundsfjord J, Jorde R. Waist circumference and testosterone levels in community dwelling men. The Tromsø study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2004;19(7):657-63.
4 Peter M. Janiszewski MSc, Ian Janssen Ph, and Robert Ross PhD. Erectile Dysfunction: Abdominal Obesity and Physical Inactivity Are Associated with Erectile Dysfunction Independent of Body Mass Index. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Volume 6, Issue 7, pages 1990–1998, July 2009
5 Edward Giovannucci Eric B. Rimm Christopher G. Chute Ichiro Kawachi Graham A. Colditz Meir J. Stampfer Walter C. Willett. Obesity and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 140, Issue 11, 1 December 1994, Pages 989–1002
I love this article that shows a shift in healthcare from treatment of disease to prevention. I practiced primary care for many years, caring for both adults and kids. When I saw kids for well-visits, I started asking them to name 5 vegetables that they like to eat. Not surprisingly, they often could not. I encouraged them to pick a new vegetable to try at each grocery shopping trip until they could come up with five. Out of curiosity, I started asking my adult patients if they could name five vegetable that they liked to eat. Remarkably, many of my adult patients could not name five either! I shifted my questioning in practice from “Are you eating a healthy diet?” to the more specific “Do you eat 3 servings of vegetables daily.” Many patients who said they eat a healthy diet, when asked specifically, report that they do not eat a minimum of three servings of vegetables daily, which would constitute a healthy portion of vegetables.
As I pressed further, it became clear that one of the major limiting factors for a healthy diet was that people did not cook real food at home. In our very busy lives, many people feel that cooking at home is too time consuming, and choose a box, a frozen or processed meal, or eating out for convenience. These processed foods often contain sugar, excessive salt, and unhealthy forms of fat that make us unhealthy and contribute to other health issues. I discovered that if I problem-solve with patients by discussing meal planning, recipes, food preparation tips, they were grateful and then felt confident to start to change their eating patterns.
In my current practice, reviewing recipes and cooking tips and techniques inspires my patients and gives them confidence in the kitchen. I have loved the opportunity to teach cooking classes and nutrition as part of my medical weight loss program, and I am thrilled to have Chef Dee Iraca as part of my Team to create fast and flavorful recipes that are also healthy. We love to hear when patients and participants in the class tell us with pride how they made the recipes from the class to the delight of their family and friends. As a physician, the other great reward of helping people learn to cook fresh whole foods to improve their nutrition is that they become healthier and live better. After changing their diet, my patients quickly report decreased pain and increased energy, their blood pressure and blood sugars go down, and I can decrease or take them off medications! Food is medicine, offering prevention and treatment both!
All of us from Healthful Life MD join together in Wishing You the Happiest of Holidays!
Dr. Abby and the Staff of Healthful Life MD
Dr. Abby submitted an article to the “Obesity Medicine Association” and they published it in their newsletter!!!
Here is the article for you all to read:
Fat. Lazy. Ugly. One of the most common causes of body shaming is because of “Weight Bias”, which means the cruel bullying and negative images that bombard people who carry extra weight, often causing them to believe that they are indeed “worth less” than others – and leading to harmful long-term health consequences.
In the following article, Healthful Life MD and Kidpower Board member Dr. Abby Bleistein shares her expertise about the constant harassment her patients face from others, how people carrying extra weight turn this bullying against themselves, recent studies documenting the damage done by weight bias, and some skills from Kidpower that her patients have found to be helpful. For more information about her important work, visit https://healthfullifemd.com.
Weight bias is a very significant and very real experience for most of my patients. From the judgment or dismissiveness of physicians, to the side-long looks when taking their seat on an airplane, to offensive jokes by the water cooler at work, to open cruelty by colleagues and family, my patients have seen it all.
One patient described an episode at work that was particularly upsetting. She worked as an emergency dispatch operator. One very busy day, she was managing multiple calls regarding an emergency, from the victims to the first responders and back. She had to put the fire fighters on hold to clarify information from one of the victims. The firefighters, not realizing that they were not on mute complained into the system, “Well, if she would put that doughnut down, maybe we wouldn’t have to wait!” My patient was angry and hurt, but honestly, the first thing she felt was embarrassment and shame.
I see so much suffering from the acceptance of weight bias in our society and culture, I see my hackles rise with ideas of social justice, and my heart breaks for the good people who experience these, often daily, insults. Recent research indicates that the harm done goes beyond emotional suffering to causing lasting physical damage as well.
With better understanding of the issues involved and some tools for personal safety, we can take action to prepare our patients to advocate for themselves – and to protect themselves from internalizing the destructive messages caused by weight bias. We can also prepare parents, educators, and others to speak up instead of ignoring these messages.
Weight bias is the inclination to form unreasonable and negative judgments based on a person’s weight.1 Stigma is the social sign that is carried by a person who is a victim of prejudice and weight bias.1 The consequences of this bias can be seen in a variety life arenas.
Economically, people who carry extra weight, have difficulty when seeking employment. Studies have shown that carrying extra weight leads to decreased hiring rates compared to normal weight in identical candidates. The difference is more pronounced for women.2Perceived character traits of people who carry extra weight include lower ambition, lower productivity, poor personal hygiene, poor supervisory potential, and poor self-discipline.1 In comparable positions, obese people earn less than their normal weight peers, a difference that is also more pronounced in women.1 People who carry extra weight are also less likely to be promoted over time.
In the media, people who carry extra weight are less often in leading, and particularly in romantic roles. They are most often portrayed with less desirable or even negative, stereotypical character traits. They are also frequently the objects of jokes. These images reflect societal views but also work to reinforce those views and legitimize them. Imagine the impact on children, and their general development, seeing these stereotypes consistently throughout their viewing.
Children are also impacted in education. Teachers attribute negative characteristics to children who carry extra weight, believing them to be less intelligent and less capable than their normal weight peers. Teachers have lower expectations for kids who carry extra weight. Adolescents who carry extra weight when applying to college are less likely to be accepted for admission, all else being equal.
In addition, kids who carry extra weight are bullied at rates 2 1/2 times that of their normal weight peers.3 One study examining quality of life scores (QOL) for kids found that kids who carry extra weight report lower QOL scores than their normal weight peers, and in fact, have score comparable to the scores of kids undergoing treatment for cancer.4 I have had patients who had to leave schools because of the bullying they experienced, and who completed their schooling through on-line or home schooling because they did not feel safe in the normal school environment. Studies bear out this situation showing that students who carry extra weight have fewer years of education and are less likely to go to college.
Weight bias is present even in health care. One study of medical students showed that students already had integrated weight bias in their thought processes, including negative attitude towards people who carry extra weight, blame for their condition, unfavorable feelings, and dislike of working with patients who carry extra weight. Many settings do not accommodate patients who carry extra weight, such as non-private weighing stations and seats with arm rests that do not fit heavier patients.
Physicians assign blame to patients who carry extra weight and often communicate their negative judgments. They believe that patients will not get better, spend less time with them, and also forgo examinations, often skipping routine screenings and exams. Facing this inherent bias leads to feelings of shame and discomfort. The result is that many patients who carry extra weight delay or avoid going to their doctor, which may delay diagnoses or even lead to worse illness that is not monitored or treated appropriately.
Sadly, weight bias can be internalized—the negative judgments and associated stigma can become part of an individual’s thought patterns with regard to themselves and their own self worth. So often the patients I work with describe themselves as lazy, even though there is no evidence in their behaviors, actions, or daily living that would indicate laziness. The result of internalized weight bias is not benign. One study indicated that patients who demonstrate internalized weight bias based on a rating scale were more likely to suffer from metabolic disease—greater risk of metabolic syndrome and elevated triglycerides—compared to those who did not demonstrate internalized weight bias.5 The implications are that the expression of weight bias and the associated stigma that people are exposed to can impact health and outcomes. Indeed, if we are exposing our children to these beliefs, it is as if they are being exposed to second hand smoke, slowly and insidiously developing disease from exposure.
How can we make an impact on this problem and reduce its devastating consequences?
First we must be aware that it is happening:
• Notice when biased views are portrayed in the media
• Notice the comments made by those around you that reflect weight bias
• If you are the target of weight bias, identify it for what it is. Do not take these negative message in. Instead, recognize that this prejudice is unjustified, and call it out to yourself, “That’s not safe.”
The following recommendations include some of the excellent tools provided by Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, a global nonprofit leader dedicated to providing effective and empowering protection, positive communication, and social safety skills for all ages, abilities, cultures, beliefs, and identities. I am on the Board of Directors and often provide these tools for patients in my practice.
If you are the target of weight bias, and it is safe to respond, be prepared speak up and to protect your feelings from the negative words and actions:
1. Set clear boundaries: “I believe you mean well when you comment about [my weight, my food choices, my exercise], and when you say those things, I feel uncomfortable/hurt/etc. Please stop making those comments to me.” “We don’t talk about weight here. It is against our values of respect and safety. . Please don’t make those kind of jokes around me.”
2. Redirect the behavior: “My eating choices are fine. Tell me more about the trip you just took…” Or, “I don’t want to talk about this subject. Please tell me more about how you are doing.”
3. Be prepared to persist in the face of negative reactions. It is normal for people to react negatively when they have been told that they did something wrong. They often belittle, minimize, or deny. For example, you might say, “I understand that you think I am being overly-sensitive. And I think it is disrespectful to put anyone down about their weight or other differences. Please stop.”.
If setting boundaries is not safe, you can still protect your feelings from emotional triggers.
Walk away from negative conversations. You can just leave quietly or make an excuse about being busy.
• Use an emotional “rain coat,” shielding your heart from the impact, by undoing the negativity: If someone says you are lazy because you are fat, you can say to yourself, “That’s not true! I am effective and efficient at my work.”
Be an Upstander instead of a bystander.
• If you feel safe to do so, interrupt jokes or negative comments. “We don’t talk about weight here. Making fun of people’s identity is not funny or safe. Please stop.”
Use respectful language when you talk about people.
• Avoid using terms like “obese” when describing people. For health care providers, we can talk about people affected by obesity, rather than using obesity as a descriptor: “the obese patient.” Or using the term, “people who carry extra weight.”
• Do not comment about your own weight or other’s weight in negative terms with friends, colleagues, and especially around children.
Be pre-emptive in addressing weight bias.
Because so many patients who are working on healthy lifestyle choices are dealing with weight bias, you can introduce the subject in a way that leaves them feeling less isolated and vulnerable. For example, you might say, “Many people who carry extra weight, have to deal with weight bias. Being treated as less worthy or even just hearing constant putdowns about weight can make it hard not to take in these negative messages. Here are some ways you can protect yourself and advocate for others. “
How to Speak Up About Putdowns
1. Washington RL. Childhood obesity: issues of weight bias. Prev Chronic Dis 2011;8(5):A94. http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2011/sep/10_ 0281.htm
2. Pingitore, Regina, et al. “Bias against Overweight Job Applicants in a Simulated Employment Interview.” Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 79, no. 6, 1994, pp. 909–917.
3. Ian Janssen, Wendy M. Craig, William F. Boyce and William Pickett “Associations Between Overweight and Obesity With Bullying Behaviors in School-Aged Children.” Pediatrics 2004;113;1187-1194
4. Schwimmer JB1, Burwinkle TM, Varni JW. “Health-related quality of life of severely obese children and adolescents.” JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1813-9.
5. Pearl RL, et al. “Association between weight bias internalization and metabolic syndrome among treatment-seeking individuals with obesity.” Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Feb;25(2):317-322
Abby Bleistein is a primary care physician board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She is also a Kidpower Board member. In this article, Dr. Bleistein describes how she uses Kidpower skills in her outpatient practice.
Your Holiday Survival Guide to Realistic Expectations
By: Lindsay Jones, MS, RD–Registered Dietitian
It’s getting chilly here in Colorado and has even snowed, which only means one thing … the holidays are upon us, or will be before we know it! The holidays can be synonymous with stress, weight gain, indulging, and lack of exercise which can lead to kicking off the New Year with unwanted pounds to lose. But it is possible to not get stuck in this pattern this holiday season! Believe it or not, the holidays can be the perfect time to implement some healthy habits or put your already healthy habits to the test.
Here are a few of my favorite holiday tips to keep you and your family on track this holiday season:
1. Be realistic. Don’t try to lose pounds during the holidays, instead try to maintain your current weight.
2. Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevents weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating.
3. Don’t skip meals. Before leaving for a party, eat a light snack like raw vegetables or a protein smoothie so you will be less tempted to overindulge when you get there.
4. Survey party buffets before filling your plate. Choose your favorite foods and skip your least favorites. Aim for half of your plate to be fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate carbohydrates and a quarter of your plate protein.
5. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Savor your favorite holiday foods and be mindful of when you feel full. Feeling full is a delayed response so the slower we eat, the less likely we are to feel uncomfortable after a meal.
6. Be careful with beverages. Whether it’s a hot chocolate or a hot toddy, most holiday beverages are full of calories and sugar and can induce overeating.
7. Practice portion control. Some of our favorite foods are served only at the holidays but that doesn’t mean we need to eat enough for the whole year. Take a small portion and enjoy each bite.
8. Take the focus off food. Plan group activities with family and friends that aren’t all about food. Try serving a holiday meal to the community, playing games or going on a walking tour of decorated homes in your neighborhood.
9. Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering. This is the only way you can know there will be a healthy option when you get there!
10. Practice healthy holiday cooking. Preparing favorite dishes lower in fat and calories will help promote healthy holiday eating. Incorporate healthy baking and cooking alternatives to cut back on fat, sugar and calories.
How to Stick to a Healthy Eating Plan and Enjoy Yourself
The restaurant choice does matter. Many restaurants are cooking with local, sustainable, fresh ingredients now, and choosing those types of establishments will make it easier to eat out. These restaurants can be more expensive, however, and often, you don’t choose where you are eating because it is for work or for a social gathering, and the choice is made for you.
At any restaurant, pre-planning can help you make good choices for your health. You can find nutrition information on menu items for most restaurant chains at www.dietfacts.com or www.myfitnesspal.com. This way, you can check the calorie count, sugar/carbohydrate content, and fat content of menu items prior to going out. Salt or sodium content is often listed as well. The healthiest items are not always intuitive, so if you have the opportunity, check and decide what you might want to eat prior to going out.
Most restaurants will offer bread or chips for the table prior to a meal. I recommend avoiding this, as you will have plenty of food to come. However, if you have trouble staying away from it when it is placed in front of you, ask them not to bring it at all. I will ask for vegetables to dip in guacamole at Mexican restaurants and skip the chips.
When selecting menu items, I look at the protein and the vegetable of each item. Choosing fish that is grilled, baked, or poached is a good choice. Avoid breaded or fried fish. You might eat red meat only when going out, and choosing that is fine. Consider portion sizes, though, because most portions at restaurants are larger than 3-4 ounces which is what you want for a meal. Three ounces is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. When your plate arrives, cut off the portion that looks like 3-4 ounces, or if you plan to have more for this particular meal, cut off that amount. Get your to-go box at the beginning and save the rest prior to starting your meal. You can always have more, but this way, you can decide if you had enough prior to finishing the larger portion.
If the plate comes with a starch or a grain, it will likely be higher in carbohydrate than you want to have. Restaurant food tends to be more calorically dense than you would eat at home as well. For this reason I recommend asking to substitute the starch/grain for either more of the vegetable that comes with the meal or ask for a second vegetable side. I will peruse the rest of the menu to see what vegetables are already being made and ask to substitute that. Most restaurants will charge two to three dollars extra to make this kind of change. If they won’t do it, I just ask them to leave the carbohydrate ladened side off the plate. If you order a salad prior to the meal, you will have 2-3 of your daily vegetable servings at your restaurant meal!
When choosing a salad, avoid dressings that have added sugar. Usually these dressing will have sweet in the name, for example: “sweet soy” dressing, or they will be called “citrus” or “honey” dressing of some sort. Added sugar in salads also comes in the form of sugared nuts. You can ask them to use unsweetened nuts, or simply leave these off. You may enjoy lemon and oil for your dressing at home, and you can ask for fresh lemon and oil to dress your salad with–that is always a fresh and tasty choice. You could also ask for vinegar and olive oil, which most restaurants can often accommodate. I recommend staying away from fat-free dressings as they often have added sugar for flavor, not to mention the chemicals added for texture.
If you want something sweet after dinner, ask for fresh fruit. Often the restaurant will have lovely fresh berries, and you could have them put on some cream for an extra treat.
By asking for some simple changes and by planning ahead, you can go out to eat with family and friends and eat in a very healthful and satisfying way.
No Recipe Required
By Anna Stockwell
Winter is coming. But so are homemade bowls of hot soup.
When I’m sick. When I’m cold. When I’m feeling festive. When I’m feeling the opposite of festive. When I don’t know what to eat for dinner, and when I know exactly what I want to serve for a dinner party. These are just some of the times I make creamy, silky puréed vegetable soups.
Learning how to make vegetable soup is soothing in itself: the repetitive motion of blending, the forgiving and adaptable form leaving room for daydreaming. And you don’t need broth or stock to do it, nor do you need cream or any other dairy to make it rich. All you need are vegetables and a blender. (I like to use an immersion blender for easier cleanup, but if you happen to have a Vitamix, soup-making is absolutely the time to bust it out.)
Follow these simple steps, and you’re on your way to a fall and winter full of the best soups ever:
1. PREPARE THE VEGETABLES
Pick the veggies you want to turn into soup and start chopping. You’ll want at least one allium: an onion or a shallot or a leek. The rest is up to you: carrot, butternut squash, zucchini, cauliflower, sunchoke, peas, celery root, cauliflower, corn, sweet potato, etc. Pair a couple together or stick with just one type, and peel and chop them into somewhat uniform chunks. (Don’t worry about how they look: no one is going to see the chopped veggies except you. Isn’t that a nice break?) For a thicker soup, add a potato to your mix, but don’t add too many—they can make a pureed soup gluey. For a sweeter soup, add an apple or a pear. Today I used a mix of yellow onions, carrots, sweet potato, and apples for an autumnal bowl perfect for the month of October.
2. SWEAT THE VEGETABLES
Melt some fat (about a tablespoon) in your favorite soup pot: butter, olive oil, coconut oil—whatever you like. (Me? I like butter.) Toss your chopped onion or other allium in the fat as soon as it’s melted. Let the onion (or shallots, or leeks) sweat for a few minutes to soften, then add the rest of your chopped veggies. Give everything a stir, and add a bit more oil or butter if you need it. Sprinkle with some salt, stir one more time, and let everything sweat for a few more minutes to get the flavor juices flowing.
3. ADD AROMATICS
While the vegetables are sweating, add some aromatics to season the soup. Finely chopped ginger and garlic are always great options; so is curry powder and garam masala. A sprig of thyme and/or a few bay leaves are almost never out of place, or you can use a rosemary sprig, cinnamon stick, or a dried chile to spice things up.
4. ADD LIQUID
All you need is water. I know, I know—you think you need stock, or cream, or beer. But the pure flavor of the vegetables is going to shine through so much better if you just use water. If you want to get a little fancy, you can deglaze the pot with a bit of wine or fortified wine such as sherry, madeira, port, or vermouth before you add the water. This can lend a nice depth of flavor, but it’s not essential to soup success.
When you add the water, add enough to cover all the vegetables completely, then put the lid on your pot and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and let everything simmer until it’s all tender (you want to be able to very easily mash the chunks of vegetables against the side of the pot). Depending on the size of your vegetables, this should take about half an hour. Is the water evaporating too quickly? Just add more.
5. PURÉE THE SOUP
First, remove any aromatics like thyme sprigs or bay leaves . Then stick in your immersion blender and start buzzing, or transfer the contents to the jar of a blender and give it a whirl. To thin the soup out, simply add more water. To make it creamier, add some milk, cream or coconut milk. A dollop of yogurt or sour cream are also good additions as you blend the soup together. Have a taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice or a splash of vinegar may be needed to balance the flavors. And salt will almost definitely be necessary.
6. GARNISH AND SERVE
Fact: prettier bowls of soup taste better. So find something to swirl into your soup. Yogurt or sour cream, a swirl of herbed oil, chimichurri, or chutney—it all looks good. Especially when you add an extra garnish of fresh herbs, toasted nuts, seeds, coconut chips, or croutons.
7. FREEZE THE LEFTOVERS
Extra soup is a good thing. Pack it up in individual portions in resealable jars or containers, making sure to leave a bit of extra space in the container, and freeze them for those days later this season when you’re too tired, or too cold, or too festive, or…well, you know what I mean. Now that you know how to make vegetable soup, you can make it any old time you want.
What You Can Do
Going to a relative’s house for dinner can trigger feelings of guilt for making specific meal requests. The hosts may feel you don’t appreciate their efforts. Family members might feel shamed or judged for their food choices.
Going “out with girls or the guys,” or going out to business dinners, you may feel that you stand out because of your choices. Your choices might cause people to reflect on their own choices and feel bad about themselves or judged by you. People may encourage you to “join in” with what they are doing: “Just have one bite…” or “Have the steak, it’s a business account…”
This focus on your own consumption can be uncomfortable and unwelcome. Pressure from friends, family, or colleagues may be hard to take when you are already struggling with the challenges that come with making positive life changes. You stand out. Without intending to call attention to your own choices or those of others, the situation brings everyone’s feelings to the fore.
The comments can feel personal and hurtful.
You can take charge of your safety by protecting your feelings in the moment, projecting calm and confidence, setting clear boundaries, and using other tactics such as ‘changing the subject.’
By remembering that people have their own personal concerns around their health and their choices and protecting your own feelings, you can avoid being confrontational, work towards de-escalating the trigger and take the focus away from you.
Here are some ideas to set boundaries in a positive way:
- Make it about you: Everyone has their own issues around what they eat and don’t eat. Instead of saying “I’m not eating it because it’s not good for me,” you could say “I’ve noticed I don’t feel well when I eat…” People are usually less triggered when issues are around illness, for example, if you are allergic to something, most people won’t continue to push if you let them know. You could just say, “I have a sensitivity to [gluten, dairy, certain meats, etc.].”
- Give it a time frame: People are often triggered by what seems like an extraordinary permanent change. Don’t make it permanent, you can say “Right now, I’ve been eliminating sugar and I have been feeling really good.”
- Thank people for their efforts: “This looks so good! I am disappointed to be missing out. I will have to try it another time, when…” When they do take the time to make a meal that accommodates your dietary needs, make sure to thank them.
- Find ways to celebrate and connect without food: Meet friends for a walk or hike rather than a meal. Go to a “make your own” art studio with groups of friends to spend time together. Avoiding a situation that will lead to problems can prevent the unwanted attention.
- Let your partner know that you can be close without sharing the same foods and without drinking alcohol: Reassure your partner that you can have fun together and enjoy each other’s company in new ways that allow for your healthy choices. Have open conversations with your partner about why the changes are important to you. You may even enlist their help: “I wish I could eat these tasty snacks, and I’m glad you enjoy them. It’s hard for me when they are in the house. Can you choose to have those snacks when you are away from home?”
- Change the subject: Take charge of the direction of conversation by following up your boundaries with other topics, such as questions about your friend’s activities or family. “I’ve been trying to reduce my sugar. How is your mom? Did she have fun on her trip?”
Being aware and understanding of people’s triggers, using an emotional shield and not taking comments personally, using skills to de-escalate triggers, and communicating your needs and goals without judgment can help empower your interactions with others while you make a positive lifestyle change for yourself.
What have you done to set boundaries for yourself? How has this helped you? Please leave a comment below, this may help others.