Now, never in a million years did I ever intend for this to become a diet blog, but good eating is always key. So in the spirit of New Year's, instead of the usual crash diet and "I swear I will go to the gym 4 times a week" resolutions, here are some very easy changes you can make that can actually make a big difference, whether you're trying to lose weight, live healthier, or even save some money.
1. Share the wealth
Do you have a spouse/SO/friend/dog? Take them with you to lunch. Whatever diet is hip at the time will tell you "Oh carbs are bad" or "No fats are bad" but really the fact of the matter is that what you eat is not nearly as important as how much you eat. Anywhere you go out to eat, the portion size will likely be bigger than you need it to be, so go ahead and split it. Whether it's a burrito or a steak dinner, sharing your meal with a friend (or at least just taking half home) can make any meal more reasonable.
2. Ditch the fries
You might think of fries as just a side dish, but in most cases a side of fries can have as many calories as the main dish, sometimes even more. Luckily, most places today, even fast food restaurants, are letting you switch out your fries for healthier options. At McDonalds, a Big Mac (no cheese) with a side salad and unsweetened iced tea or diet Coke is less than 600 calories.
3. Use smaller plates
Han read an article about the 9-inch diet in People (couldn't find the direct link, sorry), and although the exact details of the diet are a bit controversial, the idea behind it is pretty solid. The author of the diet, Alex Bogusky, got the idea when he moved into his new house, which was built in the 1940s. He found that none of his plates fit in the cabinets. After doing some research, he found that the plates that everyday Americans use have actually grown from 8.5 inches in diameter to 12. Needless to say, this corresponds almost identically to the rise in obesity rates. As a child we are always taught that we should finish everything on our plates because there are starving children in [insert Third World Country of your mother's choosing]. And I don't know about you guys, but a lot of times I end up eating things even if I'm full "just because it's there." The 9-inch diet basically states that you can eat whatever you want, but just make sure that it all fits on a 9-inch plate. I think even if you don't follow that exactly, even just getting in the mindset of preparing/ordering slightly less than what you think you want to eat can go a very long way. (See #1)
4. Eat at least one vegetable or fruit at each meal
Most of us do not eat three servings of fruit or vegetables a day, let alone the five that the USDA recommends. Remembering specifically to eat a banana or a side salad with every meal serves two purposes. One is that it will get you more of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Two, it will take up space in your stomach and take the place of other higher calorie side dishes.
5. Treat red meat like a luxury, not a necessity
I went over this briefly in my Austin Land and Cattle review. Back in the day, meat was usually only eaten during a celebration, usually by the wealthy. You always hear bible-era stories about "slaughtering a cow" whenever something awesome happened and they had to throw a party. Over time, modern farming techniques (which I won't even get started on) has made beef and other red meats much more affordable, and nowadays people are used to eating beef two or three times a day. But the fact of the matter is beef and pork have almost twice as many calories and saturated fat as chicken or fish for the same serving size. Not to mention the environmental impact each industry has. When it comes down to it, just because we can afford to eat something every day doesn't mean we should. We could all afford to eat a hot fudge sundae three times a day but we know not to do that. Of course, vegetarianism isn't for everybody (there's no way I could do it for very long), but if you want to save your gut and the planet some grief, do it like they did in the Bible days: wait until a special occasion to slaughter that cow.
Happy eating in 2009 everybody!