Eat with your mind, not your eyes

Still struggling to get into your cruise wear?

With winter stoking your appetite and get-togethers boasting hearty dinner spreads and delicious desserts, it’s challenging not to opt for the most scrumptious — and often unhealthy — offerings. (For us Waggers, this usually means seconds of cheese, cake and a combination of the two.)

But unfortunately, these selections, though quite alluring, can affect our mood, health and waistline. 

Elyssa Hurlbut, registered dietician, nutrition counselor and the founder of EH Nutrition LLC in Harrison, recently stopped by TotalFusion Studios, a boutique fitness studio, also in Harrison, to offer 10 tips on remaining in control during parties and other social gatherings.

1. EAT WHAT YOU LOVE.

“First thing’s first,” Hurlbut said. “Eliminate the guilt.”

“As soon as you put the ‘restrict, deny, avoid’ labels on food, you want it even more,” she added. 

Gatherings are not the times to push weight loss, but rather, to maintain. Instead of total restriction, it’s OK to indulge in favorites but not to excess.

2. DRINK TO YOUR HEALTH.

People drink more during gatherings, she said. But the key is to ask yourself: “How do I want to feel after the event that I’m going to, and how does alcohol affect that?”

While the host or hostess accommodates guests by filling their glasses, it’s better to decline politely and finish the drink in its entirety before refilling. Accepting refills before the drink is finished makes it difficult to determine how much alcohol you’re consuming. 

Fill your own glass on your own time. And be sure to have a glass of water between alcoholic beverages.

3. POSITION IS EVERYTHING.

“If you’re at a pool party,” Hurlbut said, “and positioned by the pool with one drink, you’ll socialize. But if you’re standing near the food, you’ll consume more calories.”

Standing in the social scene and away from the food table will prevent unwanted snacking and allow for better awareness. Also, using a dish, rather than snacking directly from the table or bowl, Hurlbut suggested, offers a better visual as to how much — and what — we’re eating.

4. MINDFULNESS VS. MINDLESSNESS.

When arriving at a party hungry, we tend to eat unconsciously and just consume and consume without awareness of how much we’re actually eating, she said. When hors d’oeuvres are being passed, pause after five to ask, “Am I hungry?” Ask this question again after finishing two-thirds of the entrée. 

When possible, opt for healthier options. For example, if you’re dining at a restaurant and the meal is served with fries, ask for a salad. Or ask for the fries to be served on a different plate and place this plate in the middle of the table for everyone to share.

5. WHAT’S COOKING?

Home-cooked meals guarantee the use of less oil, less fat and better ingredients than those at a restaurant, she said. Try intense ingredients, like truffle oil, for better flavoring or substituting ingredients, like using Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise and sour cream. And always “bump up the vegetables.”

6. HOW BIG IS YOUR PLATE?

“If you’re going to a buffet, start with a small plate, because you eat with your eyes,” she said. When using a large plate, the tendency is to pile food rather than portion correctly. 

“This is a place where size matters,” she said jokingly. The solution:  Always begin with a smaller plate, whenever possible.

7. SLOW DOWN – YOU EAT TOO FAST.

“Taste, savor and slow down,” she said. “People are often getting ready for the next bite before they’ve even finished the first.” To slow down the process, she suggested eating with your nondominant hand. This goes hand-in-hand, so to speak, with plate size. When people have a smaller amount of food in front of them, they have a tendency to eat slower, “because they want to make it last.”

8. SLEEP IN, STRESS LESS.

“Most people need at least six hours of interrupted sleep to function best,” Hurlbut said. 

And less sleep causes greater hunger. This is because less sleep produces ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” which boosts appetite, while more sleep produces leptin, the “satiety hormone,” which indicates fullness. So overall, sleep is your nutritional friend.

9. MAXIMIZE YOUR MOTION.

“They say it’s not smoking that’s killing us anymore, it’s sedentary behavior,” she said.

Therefore, any type of motion during the day is effective. Hurlbut suggested making small changes, which can be as minimal as using the bathroom on the floor below you or taking an exercise class, which boosts motivation to continue making healthy choices throughout the day.

10. WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE IN 2017?

Regardless of your personal goals, Hurlbut suggested maintaining a willingness to change, doing your best and continuing to raise the bar. “Nobody’s perfect,” she added, “but we can all be better.”

# # # 

ELYSSA’S RED PEPPER PESTO RECIPE 

INGREDIENTS:

 1 12-ounce jar of roasted peppers, drained well
 1 tablespoon tomato paste
 1 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar
→ 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
 3 cloves minced garlic
 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
 ½ teaspoon paprika
 ½ teaspoon chili powder
 ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
 2 cups coarsely grounded roasted almonds (add as needed)
 ½ cup cilantro (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Pulse the first nine ingredients in the food processor.
2. Once blended, add 1 1/2 cups of almonds.
3. Pulse lightly. Add more almonds as needed to create a thick, spreadable pesto.
4. Mix in chopped cilantro, if desired.
5. Serve on flatbread, crackers or baguette.

Hurlbut’s services include nutrition counseling for weight loss, heart health, sports nutrition, women’s health, pediatric nutrition, cancer prevention and recovery, insulin resistance and gastrointestinal issues. For more, visit ehnutrition.com.

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