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How to Make Healthy Restaurant Choices

Restaurants have come a long way in offering healthier options, but dining out when you are trying to lose weight can still be challenging. Sometimes the problem isn't a lack of healthy options but the temptation to stray from your plan due to the environment and your peers.

Do your research.

You know how it goes when you dine out with others. People arrive and the conversations begin, leaving you little time to closely review the menu. The need to make a quick choice puts you at risk for ordering an unhealthy option, especially if others at the table are doing so. Most restaurant menus can now be found online, so take the time to research before you sit down at the table. Have an idea of 3 or 4 healthy options before you arrive. Then, if you are put in a position to make a quick decision, you can make a smart choice.

Don’t skip the appetizer.

A major goal while dining out should be to avoid eating excess food, but that doesn’t mean you should skip a course to do it. If you show up hungry and everyone else orders an appetizer, you will have to sit and wait while they begin eating. You will likely be offered a bite, and there is a good chance it won’t be a healthy choice. Satisfy your hunger and resist giving in to unhealthy choices by ordering a nutritious option like a house salad or a cup of broth-based soup. You will feel less deprived and in better control of your food choices for the entire meal.

Read the menu description.

Some menu options look healthy at first glance until you read the full description. Buzzwords, like vegetarian, gluten-free, or light, don’t automatically mean a food is more nutritious or lower in calories. Instead, look for healthy keywords like broiled, baked, and steamed. Keep an eye out for heavy sauces and excess dressing. Ask how foods are prepared. Don’t be afraid to request less butter or ask for sauces on the side. Many times, chefs are willing to accommodate. Servers can also make suggestions that fit your dietary needs better.

Rethink dessert.

Much like ordering an appetizer, it can be difficult to watch everyone else eat a dessert. If you’ve saved a few calories to enjoy something sweet, split a dessert with a friend and eat a few bites, just until your sweet tooth is satisfied. If you want to steer clear of dessert altogether, turn to the drink section. A decaf espresso or hot tea will allow you to have something to enjoy so that you don’t feel completely left out of the final course.

Reduce the Temptation to Eat Unhealthy Foods

Reduce the Temptation to Eat Unhealthy Foods

We all have days when we feel our willpower is not enough to resist food cravings. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, make a plan for how you will handle these days. Small, but conscious changes in your daily habits will renew your strength and help you reduce the temptation to eat unhealthy foods.

Eat when you are hungry.

When you let yourself get too hungry, the need for food puts you at risk for making unhealthy choices. If you let hunger go too far, it’s easy to be tempted by the donuts in the office lounge or a bag of chips from the vending machine. If you feel hunger coming on, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to eat. Grab something healthy right away.

Be prepared.

Don’t let hunger take you by surprise. Keep your pantry stocked with healthy snacks. Create a space at work for seeds, nuts, fresh fruits, yogurt, or fresh vegetables with hummus or bean dip. Pack individual servings of snacks at the start of every week and carry some with you at all times. When these foods are available, you’ll be less likely to grab an unhealthy option when hunger hits.

Allow for distractions.

A distraction can work wonders for reducing temptations. When you can’t seem to get your mind off an unhealthy food, change your focus. Make a phone call, deliver a message personally, or take a quick walk around the block. This allows you to revisit your goals and think twice about giving in to a temptation that will get you off track.

Move away from the serving table.

One of the best ways to resist temptation is to remove yourself from easy access to unhealthy foods. The worst place to be at a gathering is close to the food table. Mingling near the appetizers, snacks, and desserts can lead to mindless munching. Pick a seat or a place to stand that is across the room. You will enjoy the gathering just as much and will leave having eaten far fewer calories.

Purchase treats in single servings.

The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” doesn’t always work. If you know there are cookies in the pantry or ice cream in the freezer, it’s often difficult to resist when you crave something sweet. Rid yourself of the temptation and keep these foods out of the house. When you want to enjoy a treat, buy just one, not a whole box. Get one cookie from the bakery, a snack bag of chips, or a single-serve ice cream. Once you’ve enjoyed your treat, there won’t be any leftovers to tempt you later.

Keep the Weight Off for Good

Keep the Weight Off for Good

A healthy lifestyle is a long-term commitment and once you reach your weight loss goal, your good habits must continue. Stick with your nutritious eating and activity, and take note of these tips to keep the weight off for good.

Stay Active

Exercise is key for maintaining weight loss. Regular activity keeps you fit by building and maintaining muscle and keeping your heart healthy. As your weight changes, so do your daily calorie needs. Exercise will help you maintain the balance between calorie intake and output. Just like the weight loss process, weight maintenance also has it’s emotional ups and downs. You will have stressful days and motivating days. Exercise relieves stress, lifts your mood, and gives you a more positive outlook.

Keep Tracking

Tracking your food intake and exercise is as important after you reach your goal as it was when you were losing weight. What may change is how, when, and what you track. For example, perhaps you have no problem eating healthy on weekdays, but struggle on the weekend. You can transition to recording your food intake on days when you need extra motivation to stay committed. Now that the weight is off maybe you’ve set a goal of running a distance race. Your exercise tracking will likely transition from minutes to miles. It’s also important to keep tabs on your weight and record it regularly. According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), 75 percent of those who have successfully maintained weight loss weigh themselves weekly.

Eat a Morning Meal

According to the NWCR, 78 percent of those successful at maintaining weight loss eat a healthy breakfast each day. But don’t let the word breakfast define your meal. You simply need a healthy, balanced meal. If you prefer a quick smoothie, drink up. If last night’s leftover roasted chicken salad sounds good, grab a fork. Avoid letting labels define what you should eat and when you should eat it. Choose healthy foods and eat what will satisfy you.

Plan for the Weekend

The weekends are often the most challenging time because you are faced with a more relaxed schedule and opportunities to dine out and attend parties. There is no need to eliminate all treats or skip out on fun occasions. Just plan for them. Adjust your food intake before and after a special occasion. Instead of resting on the weekends, consider moving your rest day to a week day. Use the weekends for longer workouts or more challenging activities that will boost calorie burn. These workouts will help offset some of the extra weekend calories you consume when you stray from a strict eating plan.

Don’t Get in a Rut

Regardless of your stage of weight loss, there is a risk of falling into a rut. This is especially true during the maintenance phase as you find the right eating and exercise plan for your new weight. Often when we find a breakfast or lunch that works and we eat it over and over again. The same goes for a workout time or activity. Before you know it, you are burned out and the temptation of a high-calorie food or skipping a workout become too great to resist. Adapting your plan, incorporating new foods, and trying new activities is an ongoing process when you live a healthy lifestyle. Excitement and positive change are the keys to staying motivated.

What Is a Paleo Diet?

What Is a Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet refers to an eating plan that mimics what was likely eaten during the Paleolithic era, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers.

The diet is made up of foods that could be hunted or gathered such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The belief behind this style of eating is that foods like grains, legumes, and dairy are associated with the onset of chronic disease. Therefore, these foods are eliminated from the eating plan. Because it does not allow processed or pre-made foods, the Paleo diet limits sugar and sodium intake.

Not all Paleo diets are exactly the same. Many people eat variations of the diet, stick to it only during the week, or incorporate free days where they may eat anything they want. Others follow the guidelines strictly.

Even critics of the diet recognize that there are benefits with the reduction of sugar and sodium and with the increase in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats from fish, nuts, and seeds. But many health professionals are still concerned that excess meat increases saturated fat intake, and that the diet limits nutrient-rich foods. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, research still links the fiber from whole grains with a decreased risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and dairy may play a role in weight loss.

According to the Mayo Clinic, limited short-term clinical research conducted with small groups has shown that a Paleo diet may have moderate benefits when compared to eating plans that include whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy. There is evidence of increased weight loss, improved glucose tolerance, better blood pressure control, and better appetite control.

Larger, long-term studies are still needed. It’s possible that similar health benefits can be achieved with exercise and a balanced healthy diet, eliminating the need for such severe food restriction. Critics also argue that the basis of the diet may be oversimplified, leading to more confusion about healthy eating. Some archaeological research suggests that grains may have been present in the diets of our ancestors before the onset of farming. If this is true, it complicates the justification for eliminating them that is associated with the Paleo diet.

As always, when exploring new eating plans, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you find the best eating style that will give you the nutrients you need based on your health history and long-term fitness goals.

5 Ways to Stay Focused on Your Fitness Goals

Stay Focused on Your Fitness Goals

Your goals will be your number one priority when you set out to adopt healthier habits. As time goes on, without constant reminders, you may lose sight of why you started. To stay motivated and persevere, it’s important to keep the focus on your fitness goals.

Hang them up

Physically keeping your goals in plain sight helps you make smart choices when you are faced with tough decisions, like what to eat and whether or not to skip the gym. Write down your goals and use them to help guide your choices at the moment you need to make a decision. Stick them on the refrigerator and the snack drawer, list them on your daily calendar, hang them near your computer monitor, or set regular reminders on your smartphone.

Share them

A strong support system is important for reaching your fitness goals. Don’t keep your goals to yourself. Share them with those who you know will support you. These people can help cheer you on when you feel discouraged and join you in celebrating your successes.

Meditate

Add short sessions of meditation to your day that allow you to focus on your end goal. When you visualize yourself accomplishing it, this can boost your confidence and motivation to keep you on track.

Incorporate regular rewards

Don’t let small accomplishments go unnoticed. Incorporate rewards for each small step you conquer towards your goal. These rewards serve as reminders that you are working towards something worthwhile and continuing to make progress.

Revise them when necessary

Your goals should change as you do. As you lose weight, drop clothing sizes, or run further you will need to continue to set new goals to stay motivated. It’s also important to remember that the goals you set when you first start out may not be a good fit for you as you progress. Perhaps a scheduling conflict makes it impossible to attend a fitness class, or it turns out you’d rather jog than walk. Revisit your goals often and make sure they are challenging enough to keep you motivated.

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