Sorry for the hiatus! Been settling down to my new job. … :<)
So the doctor just told you it’s time to adjust the food intake: Cut the fat and cholesterol, tone down the salt, increase the fiber. But if you love burgers and pizza and ice cream, what’s a person to do?
Well, let’s face it — we know what we must do. But we can make adjustments to help the “medicine go down” a little more easily — and still keep eating (some of) the foods we love.
For most of us, changing our diets isn’t “all or nothing.” Being diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes or whatever doesn’t mean NEVER again having a chimichanga or brownie. But it does mean rationing some foods and making them treats, rather than daily fare. Thinking of those forbidden foods as occasional rewards (emphasis on “occasional”) will make whatever “deprivation” you’re facing much more bearable.
With that in mind, first take a deep breath, then tell yourself, “Yes, I can still have the occasional pizza slice or ice cream or french fries. But first I need to be eating my oatmeal/salad/applesauce/beans religiously. (And exercising more.) THEN I can reward myself.”
Here are a few ways to go:
— Go low, not no. When it comes to fat, low-fat versions are preferable to non-fat versions, IMHO. Nonfat is often full of sugar and chemical filler. I think reduced-fat cheese tastes better and cooks better than the nonfat stuff. And reduced-fat ice cream (try that slow-churned version that’s less fat) is pretty good. Just don’t think you can now eat twice as much.
— Go slowly (if your condition allows). A good way to transition from whole-fat versions to low-fat is to blend them until everyone is used to the new flavor. Here’s a way to wean yourself from whole milk to skim (our preference), for example. Instead of your usual gallon, buy a smaller container each of whole milk and 2 percent milk. When you use it on cereal or in coffee or for recipes, pour a mix of half whole milk, half 2 percent. That way everyone gets used to the lighter milk taste. When you buy milk again, get 2 percent and 1 percent this time and repeat the process. Last, buy 1 percent and skim, and then transition all the way to skim. Not everyone likes skim milk, though, so if your diet allows it, stop at the 1 percent level. You’ll still be “skimming” off a lot of fat. (Read the label.)
— Go halves, Part 1: When you’re ready for that reward, go halves with someone. Half a chimichanga or a dessert is better than none. So when it’s time for a treat, share it with a pal or spouse. Eating solo? Ask that half the order be wrapped to-go by the kitchen, which puts it a little more out of your reach. Then stash it in the fridge — or better yet, the freezer — for another time. (Like after you’ve eaten a bunch more salads.)
— Go halves, Part 2: Did you know you can order pizza with just half the cheese? Well, you can. And remember, half is always better than none.
— Go “easy.” My eyes were opened to “easy” when I asked a waitress whether I could get a spinach-bacon omelet with just a little bacon in it. “Sure, just ask for ‘easy bacon,'” she told me. Surprise — you won’t be the first person to try to cut some of the fat or salt out of an entree. And most kitchens will be glad to accommodate reasonably “easy” requests.
— Go naked. And by that I mean — skip the sauces, which are usually mayo-based. Like when you order that burger (occasional, remember!): Hold the cheese, hold the mayo and especially hold the special sauce. Get reacquainted with ketchup and/or mustard. Or, if it’s a high-end burger, eat it with just the lettuce, tomato and onion (raw, not grilled), so you can actually taste the meat. Fish tacos? Hold the sauce. Add lots of onions and chopped cilantro. Etc.
Not all these hints will work for everyone, but perhaps you’ll find some of them useful. My philosophy is, every little bit helps — and a lot of little bits add up.
It’s not easy changing dietary habits, but when needs must, I hope you’ll find success. Remember, people love you and want you to be around for quite a while longer.
(c) Copyright Laura Groch 2014