Restaurant and Party Tips

The month of February for me includes several close family members birthdays so it got me thinking about eating out and attending parties. I thought these tips might be helpful for you guys as well!

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  1. Check the menu in advance. Many restaurants now list their menus, including ingredients and nutrition information, online. Having a good idea of what you want before you go makes things less stressful. Of course, you might not be able to get an advance peak at the menu for a party, especially if its pot luck but if you know the  host very well you could ask a few strategic questions.
  2. If you are attending a pot luck party, make sure your contribution is something that fits with your nutrition plan and something you like. Then you know there will be at lease one thing for you!
  3. Think about your drinks. Certainly indulge in a good glass of wine or a fancy drink if its a celebration but make sure you drink some water too. You want to be able to enjoy the great food so don’t fill up on liquid calories.
  4. Get your veggies. Start your restaurant meal with a salad and if you can choose the sides for your meal, make sure to pick a vegetable, and no, french fries don’t count! If you’re at a party, hit the vegetable tray first.
  5. Enjoy yourself! This is the most important tip. There are lots of additional little tips I could tell you, like…dressing on the side, have the server remove the bread, packs doggie bag right away, blah, blah, blah…but honestly, if you’re at a party or out to dinner, just relax and enjoy yourself. One meal is not going to make or break your overall fitness plan. One caveat: If you eat out A LOT then don’t celebrate every time!

Happy Exercising!

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5 Steps to a Plant Based Diet

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Step 1: Setting Yourself Up for Change.

Changing your habits isn’t about deprivation or will power or punishing yourself. It’s about having a plan. The first step to a plant-based diet is to figure out your “why”. What are your reasons for wanting to eat a plant-based diet? Health reasons? Environmental reasons? Ethical reasons? A combination? Whatever your reasons are, they will help shape your journey. Having an idea of your end-goal can also help. Your goals could change along the journey but knowing if you intend to go fully plant-based or just reduce the amount of animal products you consume each week can help you plan.

Your first step is to answer these questions for yourself. Write down your answers if that helps but give them some serious thought.

1. Why have you decided to adopt a plant based diet? What do you hope you will gain from it?
2. Is everyone in your household on board? It’s ok if they’re not but it will make a difference in how you approach your journey. (I’m the only vegetarian in my house of 5 but we make it work!)
3. What is your end-goal? To be fully plant-based, meaning you plan to eliminate all animal products including eggs and dairy? To eliminate red meat only? To incorporate more plant-based foods into your existing diet? Some combination of these?

This step may be easy for you or require a lot of thought but don’t skip it.

Step 2. Pay Attention.

Be mindful of what you put in your mouth. Don’t worry about changing anything at this point. Just be aware. Keeping a food journal can be helpful but is not necessary. When we eat mindlessly, we tend to eat whatever is easy, quick and right in front of us. Often, we’re not even aware of how many animal products we consume in a day and how little fruits and vegetables we get. For this step, practice being purposefully mindful of everything you eat for the next two weeks. This behavior will likely result in changes to your diet naturally and that’s ok. Just paying attention often results in positive change.

Step 3. Your Surroundings.

Create the right environment. While I don’t advocate being wasteful and throwing out food, getting rid of stuff in your kitchen that doesn’t align with your new plan can be helpful. Donate it or make a plan to use it up and start fresh with your next shopping trip.

Being prepared when you’re out and about is key to supporting your plant-based diet. Everybody is busy and on the go. I get it. Eating out or grabbing food on the run can’t be helped sometimes, but isn’t a problem if you’re prepared. More and more, restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan options. For this step, investigate places in your area that offer plant-based options you might be interested in. If you have a usual lunch spot or favorite take-out place then check the menu for options that fit your needs BEFORE your next trip. When you’re in a hurry and starving is not the time to try to find new menu choices. Vegdining.com is a great resource to find plant-based-friendly restaurants.

Step 4. Make The Switch.

You might be the type of person that can jump in with both feet and make a total and complete switch all at once. But for most of us, tackling it in stages works better. For example, phase out red meat over a period of weeks, then pork and poultry, then seafood. Or instead of focusing on eliminating, focus on adding. Bring in one new vegetable a week. Take your time, this isn’t a sprint and going slowly allows you time to adjust. Use this opportunity to be creative. Enjoy your time exploring the produce department! Find new recipes to try. Forks Over Knives and Tasty Vegetarian are good sources for meal ideas and recipes. And Pinterest can be your new best friend!

Step 5. Adding and Subtracting.

When making your food choices, think fresh, whole food. Keep it simple and focus on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Rethink what a “meal” can look like. We’re so used to a meal centered around a piece of meat that we often think its not a real meal if we don’t have meat. If you choose to use fake “meats” and “cheeses” try to phase them out over time. They’re fine for transitioning but you’re simply swapping animal products for processed foods.

For Step 5, choose one item to add/eliminate and work on that for 2 weeks. For example, if you want to reduce or eliminate red meat, work on finding alternative recipes or meal ideas for red meat. Don’t worry about chicken, fish or dairy for now.

If you prefer to focus on adding rather than taking away, find 2 ways to add a plant-based food to your week. Perhaps oatmeal for breakfast instead of sugared cereal. Or your favorite fruit with lunch. Practice a new way to prepare a vegetable for dinner.

Continue slowly adding and eliminating foods over weeks or months. This will be a fun journey so enjoy it and take your time!

Bonus Step: Your Community.

Make connections and find resources. Finding like-minded people can be so helpful on your journey. Being able to ask questions, get advice and share recipes and resources is invaluable. Online groups and vegetarian websites, such as, veggieboards.com and happycow.net are excellent resources.

 

Happy Exercising! And Eating!!!

Moderation…what is it?

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Moderation!

So many people promote moderation especially with regards to diet. But what does moderation REALLY look like? What SHOULD it look like? Moderation is a very subjective sliding scale for most people but I’m not so sure that it’s “sliding” in the right direction. I know some people who consider cutting their McDonald’s run back to once a week is moderation for them.

Ummm….that’s a good start but I believe most people think tiny, moderate changes are good enough to make a significant difference in their health and well-being and to be honest, it’s just not. I’ve known many people to make a small change or two and stop there. Again, a good start, but our wellness goals should not be to stop when it’s “good enough”. Shouldn’t we always be striving towards better health? Even if we’re not always good at it?

Moderation should be different for everybody because everyone is different but it’s not a license to eat like crap and then justify it with “everything in moderation”. It may seem like I’m being harsh but moderation is a slippery slope. Don’t let it be your excuse or your crutch.

Let it lead you to success. Make conscious choices to eat healthy foods AND to indulge. Just make your indulgences count for something. Choose them thoughtfully. Don’t eat random junk out of the vending machine or drink empty calories and then justify it with moderation. Choose to indulge on occasion in your favorite homemade dessert or a decadent meal for a special occasion and TRULY enjoy it. That’s real moderation.

Moderation allows you to be flexible which is one of the best indicators of success in leading a healthier lifestyle. Being too restrictive or constantly over indulging will not lead to long-term success. When used correctly, moderation leads to real balance in your life. And, hopefully, that’s everyone’s goal!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Click here for a free download Healthy Eating On The Go!

What the Hell is a Flexitarian??

Me…apparently.
A flexitarian is someone who consumes a mostly planted-based diet but occasionally eats meat, poultry and/or seafood.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been pretty conscious of what I put in my mouth. I don’t always make good choices but I’m at least conscious of it! After I was diagnosed with cancer I redoubled my efforts to eat whole, clean foods and make a hard push towards a primarily planted based diet. I started by eliminating red meat. This wasn’t a stretch for me as I rarely ate red meat to begin with because I just don’t like it! 

I don’t have a nutrition degree but I’ve done an extensive amount of nutritional research and I feel that cutting out red meat and reducing animal products in my diet in general has dramatically improved my health. 
I then started to cut down on the amount of chicken I eat. At this point, I eat chicken or seafood just a few times a month. I also still eat eggs and dairy, for now. I’ve never felt deprived or like I’m missing out on anything. And, although close friends and family know my eating habits, I refuse to expect anyone to accommodate me. When I eat at someone’s home, I just eat extra of the side dishes!

As a fitness coach, I don’t advise my clients to follow a prescribed diet plan or program (unless there’s a clinical need for it) like Atkins or paleo or pescatarian or whatever. I know there are people who have had success with these kinds of things but generally speaking, they’re not sustainable long term and the “label” of being a certain kind of eater is very restrictive. I have friends and acquaintances who “can’t” eat certain foods because they’re on a diet program that doesn’t “allow” them. These kinds of programs are baffling to me! Sure, I choose to not eat certain things but I feel that that’s my personal choice. I’m not being TOLD that I CAN’T. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me!

Which brings me back to what a flexitarian is! I didn’t even know that was a thing until I started researching plant-based recipes. However, the description is perfect…”flexible eater.” That makes sense to me and is a label I can live with!

Happy Exercising!