The term “diet food” has gone through a transformation in the last half century. In the 1970s and 80s, diet foods recalled images of small portions of grapefruit, cottage cheese, and celery sticks. Nowadays, the phrase still includes those items but has also expanded to welcome a series of other products to appeal to the fast paced world in which we live. From pre-prepared entrees (Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers) to desserts (Skinny Cow, Healthy Choice), we think that because these items are labeled as “healthy” we are gaining some dietary and nutritional edge. In reality, however, many of these foods are highly processed, chemically enhanced, and loaded with refined carbohydrates, which often can sabotage our dieting goals without us even realizing it. Rather than subsist on these prepackaged meals and snacks, try to focus on centering your diet around foods that are found in nature, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and milk. They will increase your stamina, raise your metabolism, and possibly even give you the motivation to head to the gym for an hour before the day’s end. Yesterday’s diet foods are today’s health and superfoods that come straight from the tree, ground, or sea.
As many nutritionists and physicians have pointed out, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your body has literally been fasting for hours and needs nourishment to start the day off right. Balance at breakfast, as with any meal, is key. Good carbohydrates, protein, and some fat should be represented. Three possible options to fuel your morning, including coffee or tea, but never diet colas, are: an egg white omelette with tomatoes and spinach, a slice of whole wheat toast with a teaspoon of peanut butter, two cut kiwi; oatmeal with raisins, cranberries, and walnuts and a sliced apple; plain Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries or blueberries, and half a whole wheat bagel with smoked salmon. If you take additions to your coffee or tea, try low fat or soy milk to lighten and agave syrup, which has a low gylcemic index, to sweeten.
The idea behind a smart lunch is to eat something that will give you energy rather than make you tired in order to get through the afternoon. If you opt for a salad, as many women do, remember to load it with the right ingredients. Almost any vegetable is a good choice, but start with a bed of vitamin dense dark greens, such as kale or spinach. From there you can add any number of fiber rich toppings (beets, legumes, carrots, peas, and broccoli). If you are a cheese lover, consider adding moderate amounts of goat or feta cheese. Either will boost the salad’s flavor and help keep you satiated. Do, however, avoid bottled salad dressings, as they can be high in saturated fats. A better option is to add a bit of virgin olive oil and a dash of good quality balsamic vinegar. Toss and enjoy!
Try not to make dinner your biggest meal of the day, especially if you eat after 7pm. A sound choice could consist of grilled trout, quinoa, and steamed cauliflower. Do not be afraid to use your spice rack for this meal, as rosemary, thyme, and sage will bring out the flavor in the fish. Salt can be used sparingly.
In sum, it is in our best interest to stop categorizing diet foods as those that deprive us or as temporary weight loss tools and instead start incorporating their more natural counterparts as part of a permanent, healthy lifestyle.