Monday, September 29, 2008

Gaining new habits--food choices

Before having lunch with me a little while back, Tech thought I was a vegetarian. There's good reason for this: I tend to enjoy eating "weird" stuff like kale and brown rice and tofu, which leads people to think that I never eat things like sausage or fried chicken or hamburgers. I love all of them! In fact, it's pretty safe to say that I love food in general. But quality counts. I'd rather have one of my dad's incredible hamburgers a few times a year than get a sad, pathetic excuse for a beef patty at McDonald's once a week.

In addition to avoiding fast food--which I'd been eating almost every day for lunch due to time pressures from the job--I also have added in as much unprocessed or low-processed food as possible. And I make sure to read the labels on everything. For example, instead of buying instant oatmeal, which has all sorts of additives and preservatives and things I can't even identify, I buy whole, rolled oats. Not only do they take a whopping six minutes to make in the microwave (good), but they're a whole grain (very good) and a whole lot cheaper than their processed cousins (even better). Generally speaking, for two equivalent items I buy the one with more identifiable ingredients listed on the label.

One thing I discovered through label-reading was that eating foods with high fructose corn syrup tended to cause my energy levels to drop much more quickly than when I ate equivalent foods without HFCS, which meant I got hungry faster and ate more. After a few months of avoiding HFCS almost entirely (can't vouch for restaurant food, for example) I noticed that I was no longer having such difficulty with hypoglycemia despite the fact that I hadn't yet lost much weight. And not getting hungry so quickly after meals eventually helped quite a bit with loosing weight. HFCS might not affect you in the same way, but paying attention to food labels will help you to figure out whether it is.

Now, the other side of food choice is actually eating what you buy. There's no sense, or cents, in letting food go to waste. A few months ago I was visiting a friend in Kansas City. While at the grocery store she bought a container of fruit pieces and I commented that buying the whole fruit and chopping it up herself would be a lot less expensive. However, she had learned that in order to have fruit in her diet she needed to make it as simple as possible. Sometimes we have to strike a balance between what we'd like to do and what is convenient. Since there was no sugar added to the packaged fruit, my friend felt like the added cost for convenience was an acceptable trade-off.

So if you want to add in more vegetables but don't like to wash and chop them, get the frozen ones. Just be sure to get the plain ones, not the ones with overly salty sauces added. If you like beans, cook them yourself instead of buying them canned. You'll be avoiding a lot of salt, and beans freeze quite well. For chicken, find packages of normal-sized, not gargantuan, pieces and wrap them singly to freeze. In addition to buying better food, this will also help you control portion sizes more easily.

I could go on and on, but for me food choice boils down to one simple rule: don't settle for foods that are bad for you. We think of convenience foods as time savers, but then end up spending more time exercising, at the doctor's, and at the pharmacy to make up for eating them.


TECH said...

Good advice. I took it while at Braums tonight and actually bought -- don't faint -- salad and tomatoes and fruit.

Kirsten said...

Yay, you!

The new Braums? I keep meaning to go in there--have heard the produce is good and reasonably priced.