We’ve all been there, said we’d bypass the appetizers at the annual office picnic or told ourselves ahead of time that we absolutely don’t need a slice of birthday cake, but before you know it you’re stuffing bacon-laden potato skins (potato – of all things!) into your mouth or reaching for yet another slice of Fudgy the Whale cake.
The bottom line is that temptation is lurking around just about every corner, and with the soon-to-come slew of summer barbeques (hello flag cake!) and other excuses to chow down, we figured you could use a few strategies to help you stay the course.
Just like last week’s post on foraging for food at junk food joints this post aims to provide some real world skills that would make your Primal ancestors proud. The dietary landscape may have changed, but the need to forage has not.
So, make like a boy scout and adopt the mantra “always be prepared” and approach potential diet derailers with these ten trusty (and Mark-approved) tips.
As the temperature heats up, suddenly it’s not as convenient (or tasty!) to throw an apple or some raw veggies in the bottom of your bag and head out for the day. Instead, consider stowing nuts, sunflower seeds or other healthy snacks (preferably that won’t melt!) in your purse, car, gym bag, desk drawer or other convenient location. Not only will it save you a buck or two (have you seen vending machine prices lately?), but your waistline will thank you for it too.
Being a road warrior doesn’t have to mean evenings spent seated alone at a restaurant with nothing but a book for company. Your best bet? Ask the hotel concierge to direct you to the nearest grocery store. Not only can you score the meat, fresh vegetables, berries and nuts necessary to put together a great entrée, many grocery stores now offer full salad bars and hot-meal options (but, as always, use common sense when selecting items).
3. Customize your Cuisine
Not too long ago, the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” (no, not that one!) where Meg Ryan’s character customizes every aspect of a meal would have ensured a booger-laced entrée, but these days, restaurants – and, more importantly, wait staff – barely bat an eye when you ask them to skip the bread, add more tomatoes, put the dressing on the side, or grill instead of fry the main dish. The bottom line? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want!
If you’re too shy to customize, a great rule of thumb for dining (both in restaurants, at parties or just at home) is to only eat those items that exist in nature. A recent post by Scott Kustes at the Modern Forager sums it up to a tee: Eat real foods, preferably in their natural state. Need further clarification? Scott defines food as items that grow and die and cannot be created; that wilt, rot or otherwise become unappetizing at a fairly rapid clip; that doesn’t require packaging or an ingredient label; that have no celebrity endorsements and that don’t make any outrageous health claims. In fact, Scott notes that if you stick to only natural foods, you will virtually eliminate any need to count calories, carbs or any other nutrient. In essence, if you’re having trouble deciphering the menu, just ask yourself if it exists in nature – it really is as simple as that.
Select your restaurant choice based on the availability of your favorite beverage? Even if you’re hunting down the best in diet sodas, the reality is there is really no excuse to be drinking soda. To keep it primal, ditch the monster soda fountain drinks and instead opt for a glass of water (only if you’re thirsty!).
6. Fast forward
Can’t find anything to eat? Perhaps skipping a meal wouldn’t be a bad option. Obviously, if you’re feeling light-headed or are otherwise famished, this isn’t an option, but in some instances, simply shunning food can be quite satisfying. To learn more about the benefits of fasting, check out Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy? Or, if you have some travel in your future, seriously consider reading this one: Fasting May Stave Off Jet Lag.
7. Perfect Plans
Of course, it should be noted at some point, the most obvious solution is to avoid these “up-against-the-wall” situations altogether. Although this isn’t always realistic, simply planning ahead (i.e. packing a healthy lunch before so you aren’t left high and dry if you hit the snooze button one too many times) can be the best way to avoid making compromises to your diet.
Local grocery store doesn’t stock the produce you need? Sometimes foraging for food on your own terrain (i.e. your garden) can be that much easier. Don’t have acres to dedicate to your very own farmers’ market? Consider joining a community supported agriculture program (CSA), where you essentially pay to join a farm in return for a share in the crops (and the knowledge that you’re keeping your local farmers in business!) To read more about CSA’s and the benefits of growing your own food, visit Community Supported Agriculture.
There’s no law in existence (at least as far as we know!) that says that you can’t turn down food. While we’ll be the first to admit it’s sometimes not easy to turn down your overbearing mother-in-law who just insists that her secret recipe lasagna will be just the ticket to “put some meat on your bones,” the reality is, you can always (kindly and politely) just say no.
10. Don’t worry by happy!
If you absolutely love cake (and have noticed that we’ve referred to it now three times in this post!) and it’s your son’s birthday and you haven’t had a slice since… well, probably his last birthday, don’t beat yourself up about it. A treat such as a little slice of cake isn’t going to derail a lifetime of good eating – just so long as you see it as just that: a treat and something that is to be enjoyed only in rare instances. Just remember, if you stay the course 90% of the time you are doing better than 99% of people. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: Impact Inquest: Observing Sugar’s Effects.
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