11 Proven Ways To Get Kids To Eat More Vegetables

by | Jun 5, 2013

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Adults can be absurdly stubborn about eating their vegetables. But when it comes to picky eating, children take the cake.

I don’t have children myself, but many people have asked me for tips to get their kids eating healthier. So for the past few months I’ve been reading the scientific literature and talking to parents around the world to uncover the secrets of getting kids to eat their greens.

The good news is it is not impossible. The bad news is that it requires consistency and persistance from the parents, and it won’t be easy. But if you’re willing to stick to your guns, you should come out triumphant in the end.
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Oops, I accidentally lost too much weight. Now what?

by | May 20, 2013

Photo by austinanomic

Most people don’t start reading Summer Tomato with a desire to gain weight, but I’ve been surprised to receive more than a few emails over the past few years that read something like this:

“Thanks so much for all your work on Summer Tomato. I’ve been following your advice for about a year and absolutely love my new healthstyle. I’m exploring foods I never knew existed, and feel absolutely great. My only question is, what if I want to stop losing weight or even gain a few pounds? I hardly noticed that I’ve slipped below my ideal weight, and a few friends and family members have mentioned that I was looking especially thin. Is there a way I can put on some healthy weight without resorting to eating unhealthy foods?”

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6 Ways Eating Out Causes Overeating (And How To Stop It)

by | Apr 22, 2013

Photo by Sebastian Fritzon

Among my health conscious friends, we unanimously agree that eating out is the biggest barrier to weight loss.

San Francisco residents are fortunate that local, high-quality ingredients are the standard in almost every dining establishment (same is true for NYC, LA and other US foodie cities). We have gastropubs serving up grass-fed beef burgers, street carts offering sustainable fish tacos and small neighborhood spots dishing up heirloom vegetables and artisan ingredients.

I know, we’re spoiled rotten. But there’s a downside to all these wonderful options.

Ironically, the problem is that everything tastes amazing and is relatively healthy. Also, the menus tend to change regularly (often daily) depending on what is in season. So there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever be able to enjoy a particular dish more than once.

These things make it really easy to justify overeating.

There are many factors that cause us to overeat when we’re out. Here are the most common, and what to do about them.
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It’s A Texture Thing: How To Get Over Slimy, Spongy And Other Unfamiliar Food Textures

by | Mar 13, 2013

Photo by Sushicam

Taste is the sensation we usually associate with food, but picky eaters can be just as fixated on texture as flavor. Ask someone who doesn’t like mushrooms or eggplant what turns them off and they are just as likely (if not more likely) to say the food is “slimy” or “mushy” as they are to complain about the taste.

Of course texture is important. It is the essential difference between fresh and stale popcorn, and the springy crunch of a fresh grilled shrimp versus the rubbery give of an over-boiled one. But for most picky eaters, the issue is rarely a matter of cooking preference.

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How To Break A Sugar Addiction

by | Feb 18, 2013
Photo by joe.oconnell

Photo by joe.oconnell

“I eat way too much sugar and have constant cravings for it that make me feel like I am addicted … do you have any suggestions for cutting back?”

There is still a debate over whether or not sugar is an addictive substance. From the data I’ve seen and people I’ve talked to, I’d guess it probably is.

But whatever the answer, the important question for most of us is how to kill the cravings that have us eating so much sugar in the first place.

Cravings exist in both the body and the mind, and you will have the best luck overcoming them if you address both simultaneously.

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8 Simple Tips To Avoid Late Night Snacking

by | Feb 6, 2013

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Snacking can be a mixed blessing for anyone learning to eat healthy. On one hand, a small healthy snack after a workout or an hour or so before a late meal can help you avoid making bad, hunger-induced food decisions later. On the other hand, snacking can easily grow out of control and be a source of hundreds of excess calories.

Late night snacking almost never falls into the good snacking category and is usually driven by cravings or habit rather than legitimate hunger. Here are a few tips to help you make healthy post-dinner food decisions and break the habit of late night snacking.
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10 Tips To Save Money While Eating Healthy

by | Feb 4, 2013

Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe (click for recipe)

Most people consider it common knowledge that healthy food is expensive and unhealthy food is cheap—that’s why we’re all so fat, right?

But for most people it does not need to be this way. Since I upgraded my healthstyle not only have I lost weight and become healthier, I have also managed to save more money.

How?

In a nut shell, I started cooking more at home.

It is a sad reflection on our culture that so many people rely on fast food for their daily sustenance, and my heart goes out to those who truly cannot afford better. But I contend that many of the bad decisions we make about food each day are more an issue of (perceived) convenience than price.

Last I checked burritos in San Francisco averaged over $5. And if you have properly set up your kitchen you will find it actually takes less time to cook a healthy meal than it does to place and fill your order at El Farolito.

Every penny counts in this brutal economy. Here are a few tricks you can use to save a buck and get a little healthier too.

10 Tips For Eating Healthy On A Budget

  • Cook at home The most important change I made to save money was to turn cooking at home into my default option rather than rely on neighborhood eateries as my go-to cop out. Eating out is expensive, no matter which way you cut it.
  • Shop on weekends If you already have fresh food in the fridge you will be more motivated to cook for yourself instead of going out and spending money. Make the habit of buying food ahead of time and you won’t be as tempted to waste money going out.
  • Shop seasonally When choosing what to eat, taste trumps health 90% of the time. (That’s why you rolled your eyes when I suggested you eat fewer burritos.) If you really want to start eating healthy you must want to eat vegetables, and that will only happen if the ones you buy taste delicious. Seasonal, farm fresh produce can completely change how you feel about vegetables and fruits—it also tends to be the best deal in the produce section.
  • Shop at the farmers market In my experience the best tasting produce in a chain grocery store is at Whole Foods. But if you have ever been shopping there you know what a dent it can put in your wallet (this does not apply to their non-fresh items, which are competitively priced and often cheaper than other stores). Rather than handing over your Whole Paycheck or settling for less than inspiring options at Safeway, do your weekly produce shopping at your local farmers market. If you shop intelligently (see below) you can get 2 meals for the cost of one burrito.
  • Focus on leafy greens Leafy greens like kale, chard, collards, spinach and broccoli are some of the most nutritious, least expensive things you can buy. And this is true at any grocery store, not just the farmers market. Frequently, half a bunch of kale with some beans, grains and herbs is my entire dinner and costs around $1.50. It also takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Can you beat that?
  • Buy in bulk Canned beans are fine, but dried beans taste better and are way cheaper. Grains from the bulk bins at your local health food store are only pennies per serving. Cook these staples in large batches and save them in your freezer for cheap, quick and nutritious food anytime. This is also true of lentils. Just add some greens and you’re good to go.
  • Eat less meat This is probably the easiest way to save money. Whether at the grocery store or at restaurants meat is always the most expensive thing on the menu. I do not advocate a vegetarian diet, but limiting meat to once or twice a week is an easy way to cut back on both calories and expenses. If you are worried about protein (you needn’t be) you can eat beans, eggs and lentils instead.
  • Use fish from cans Fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but fresh fish can be expensive (especially the wild sustainable kinds). Canned salmon, sardines (boneless, skinless), smoked mackerel and anchovies are inexpensive alternatives for protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Make fruit dessert If you think the farmers market is expensive my bet is you spend most of your money on fruits. I am the first to admit that fruit can be very expensive, especially summertime berries and stone fruits. While I do recommend you invest in some high-quality farmers market fruit, it will be easier on your wallet if you consider fruit a treat.
  • Think long term I am not arguing that buying every single food item at the farmers market is the cheapest way to shop, but it is almost certainly the healthiest. Our hedonistic tendencies may incline us toward cheap, greasy foods but you should consider what you are really paying for in the long run. Poor diet can be attributed to most cases of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and a generally difficult, painful life. And I probably don’t need to convince you that a farm fresh salad costs less than a hospital trip and a lifetime of medication. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, but unhealthy eating can cost you your life.

What are your favorite money saving tips for healthy eating?

This post was originally published on May 20, 2009.

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Healthy Snacking 101

by | Jan 14, 2013

Photo by zlakfoto

Americans love to snack. We snack at work, at parties, at the movies, in the car… pretty much anywhere we can get a few fingers free to grab a bite of food. As a nation we’ve elevated snacking to an art form, and on the surface it seems like it has no boundaries.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with snacking. Having a small bite to eat between meals is a great way to give your metabolism a little kick and keep you from becoming ravenously hungry later, which can lead to overeating. Snacking is also fun, and can be a great way to socialize and connect with others.

But there is a difference between snacking and compulsive, emotional or hormonal eating. There is also a difference between snacking and bingeing.

The Purpose of Snacking

Snacking always has a purpose. If we were less emotional beings, it would almost always serve to prevent hunger. But since our motivations for eating tend to be complex, identifying all the reasons we snack is important in helping us decide how to approach it.

1. Regain attention

Being hungry is exceptionally uncomfortable. Knowing it will still be awhile before the next meal, a small snack is a great way to buy a few hours of focus and attention, allowing us to be more productive without disrupting our schedule.

2. Curb overeating

As mentioned above, snacking can also be important in preventing overeating. When you’re starving, your eyes can easily become larger than your stomach. And since it takes at least 20 minutes for your satisfied stomach to communicate to your brain via your bloodstream that you are no longer starving, that time can be the difference between a sensible meal and a binge. It’s best to avoid becoming deliriously hungry in the first place by having a small snack in the interim.

3. Socializing

Between meal eating can be initiated for less utilitarian purposes as well. For instance, snacking is a fabulous epicenter for a social event. As many awesome organizations have discovered, food is a great leveler and platform for fostering interaction and collaboration, a value far greater than the price of a cheese plate.

4. Tasty taste

Sometimes the best reason for a snack is that food just tastes good. Maybe you didn’t anticipate your officemate bringing in samples of her mom’s famous baklava, but some foods are just worth making a little extra room for. This kind of snacking may bring in some extra calories, but it isn’t the end of the world so long as you adjust for it later (a slightly smaller dinner or longer workout).

5. Cravings

Food cravings are the least awesome reason for snacking. They can be caused by nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, mental disquietude, and can seem to come out of nowhere. Though giving into cravings sounds like a bad idea, attempting to ignore them can be distracting and often pointless. (How many of you can actually ignore your cravings if the food you want is available? Yeah, I didn’t think so.) So it is better to have a strategy for dealing with cravings rather than waste your time and energy putting off the inevitable.

Goals of Snacking

No matter what your reason for snacking, the goal should always be satiation. If you are hungry, you want to eat enough to regain your attention and avoid later overeating, and that’s it. If you’re snacking at a social event and aren’t hungry, a few bites should be enough to get you chatting. If a mid-day hors d’oeuvre tastes amazing, a bite or two should satisfy your curiosity. If you’re craving something, you want to stop the craving as quickly and effectively as possible.

Snacking should be a clearly defined occurrence, not something that drags out over the course of hours. It helps if your snacks come in defined quantities to prevent mindless eating. Choose foods that are dense and slowly digesting so you feel like you’ve eaten enough and aren’t tempted to return for round two.

Thinking about foods in terms of their macronutrients is rarely useful, but as a rule of thumb the most filling foods tend to have:

  • protein
  • fat
  • fiber
  • water

Or some combination of these. Foods that have a lot of sugar or refined carbohydrates tend to do the opposite, and encourage continuous eating.

When eating for hunger, it is also a good idea to find snacks that are on the healthier side–nutrient dense, whole and unprocessed foods.

Snacking should be enjoyable and mentally satisfying as well. You should love the food that you eat as much as the clothes you wear and books you read. Eating is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Cravings are a different beast, and can often be alleviated without the specific food you think you need. For cravings, healthy options should be your first resort. Low-calorie beverages such as sparkling water or herbal tea can also be effective.

Healthy Snack Ideas

Here are some snack ideas to get you started, but don’t feel limited by this list. Start with foods you enjoy and work from there.

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Melon
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange

Nuts

  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Trailmix
  • Nut butters

Preserved meats (highly processed meats aren’t healthy, but small quantities can be useful for curbing your appetite)

  • Smoked salmon
  • Jerky
  • Charcuterie
  • Sardines

Cheeses

  • String cheese
  • Fancy cheeses

Vegetables

  • Kale chips
  • Carrots
  • Avocado
  • Celery
  • Bell pepper
  • Zucchini

Beans/other protein

  • Hummus
  • Edamame
  • Lentils
  • Boiled eggs

Beverages

  • Sparkling water
  • Tea
  • Tisane (herbal tea)

Sweet tooth

  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried fruit
  • Mint/herbal tea
  • Juice spritzer (mixed with sparkling water)
  • Fruits
  • Fruit/nut bars (e.g. KIND)

What are your favorite healthy snacks?

Originally published December 1, 2010.

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6 Tips To Make Dessert Worth It

by | Dec 12, 2012

Photo by http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2248/2149319173_8bcab71ba4_z.jpg

Never trust anyone who believes dessert isn’t an essential part of life.

There may be some small, joyless percentage of the population who can live indefinitely without sugar, but in my experience those who attempt it are kidding themselves and will inevitably fail.

Sugar is wonderful sometimes, and in general it is easier to find a way to live with it than without it.

But I’m not here to propagate any illusions either. The scientific literature makes it is pretty clear that sugars, specifically sucrose (table sugar) and fructose (the sweet stuff in fruit and corn syrup), are some of the worst foods you can eat and should generally be considered dangerous.

Sugars promote aging, weight gain and most chronic diseases. Sugar is also regarded as addictive by many in the field of obesity and weight loss.

So how should you deal with it?

Keeping desserts in perspective goes a long way to helping you make smart choices.

Keep these tips in mind to make sure the desserts you choose are worth it.

6 Tips To Optimize Your Dessert Choices

1. Make it formal

Self-control is not the easiest thing to practice when dessert is involved. You probably know this from experience.

Make a rule for yourself to not eat dessert in an informal setting. That is, do not eat sweets between meals and always sit down and be fully present when you eat treats.

Resist the piles of cookies, brownies and candies set out around the house. If you do choose to eat one, do not make light of it. Sit down with a chair, table and napkin and enjoy every bite.

Try to wait until after a meal so you are eating for indulgence and not to satisfy your hunger. Trying to feel full from dessert is a losing battle (see tip #4).

2. Size matters

Dessert has an obscene amount of calories. I know this is not fun to think about, but you should be aware that if you are eating something with sugar and fat there is an excellent chance you are putting down 50-100 calories PER BITE.

A single Godiva or See’s truffle runs at about 100 calories. A slice of Oreo cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory has 600-800 calories. It is hard to overemphasize how huge this really is. If you eat a reasonably healthy diet, this is likely more calories than you consume in an entire meal.

When you do sit down and eat dessert, remember that you do not have to eat everything that is put in front of you. The first two bites are always the most satisfying. There is no need to test the hypothesis that the 12th bite doesn’t live up to them.

3. Make an allowance

You should keep tabs on how often you eat dessert, and one or two per week is a reasonable goal for someone looking to maintain their weight. Zero to one serving is best for someone trying to lose weight.

For most people, weekly allowances are easier to manage than daily or monthly allowances.

Rules likes this help you make smarter choices. Do you really want to waste your only treat this week on a cookie from a box or a cake from Costco?

If you are ever going to be a picky eater, dessert is the best place to turn up your nose.

4. Don’t treat yourself when hungry

Sugar does not satisfy hunger. In fact, repeated sugar exposure creates spikes and dips in blood sugar that make you feel hungry again sooner than you should.

For this reason, sugary foods should never be substituted for real food and you should not rely on them to satisfy your hunger. Not only is this ineffective, it also makes it more likely you will overeat. Remember tips #1 and #2 and eat your small desserts after a real meal.

5. Eat healthy meals

Having an overall healthy, balanced diet is another effective way to avoid dessert binges. If you already feel satisfied with what you have eaten, dessert will truly be a treat and not an overcompensation for poor nutrition.

Healthy meals can also go far to prevent emotional eating, since they help create a feeling of fulfillment, comfort and satisfaction.

6. Stay on the bandwagon

Slip-ups happen with dessert, and it is not the end of the world.

Remember point #2, that size matters.

Just as 5 bites of dessert is much, much better than 10 bites of dessert, one slip-up is better than 3-4 slip-ups. Don’t let one holiday uh-oh send you into a week of unbridled gluttony.

When it comes to sugar, less is always better. Avoid the temptation to throw in the towel.

Are your desserts worth it?

Originally published December 21, 2009.

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Healthy Snacks For After Your Workout

by | Nov 5, 2012
Delicious Nuts

Delicious Nuts

“When I work out at the gym, I am there for a couple of hours and by the end of the first hour, I am still energized but start getting hungry. I read your article on packing food for lunch but wanted to specifically ask if you recommend any specific store bought bars.”

I frequently get questions about different nutrition and energy bars. Generally I think they are a bad idea, since they are usually just processed food with added vitamins and/or other trendy diet ingredients—a hallmark of food from the Matrix.

Energy and meal replacement bars serve only one purpose: convenience. Some may be better than others (check the ingredients to be sure), but don’t fool yourself into thinking these are health foods.

That said, I understand that quick calories can be incredibly useful, particularly when intense workouts are a regular part of your day. If you get hungry and don’t have anything around to eat, the chances of you breaking down and eating something you’ll really regret increase substantially. But I think there are better things to carry around than energy bars.

My quick snack of choice is nuts or trail mix. I always have a small stash of nuts hidden somewhere in my gym bag (which comes with me everywhere). My personal favorites are almonds, pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts. When I’m feeling ambitious I’ll combine a few different kinds together in a plastic zipper bag along with some dried fruit, just to mix things up.

One of the only drawbacks of snacking on nuts is if you are really hungry it is easy to eat too many and ruin your appetite for dinner. Too many nuts can also be difficult to digest. To avoid this I recommend getting into the habit of counting the nuts you eat, drinking water and waiting 20 minutes before eating more. The protein and fat in nuts can be very satisfying, but it takes awhile for the satiety signals to reach your brain.

For almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts 10 is a good number to start with. For shelled pistachios and peanuts, 15-20 nuts is more realistic. You are aiming for a single serving size of 1/4 cup. After some practice, eating the proper amount will come naturally to you. But at the beginning you should either count the nuts or measure them out in advance so it is easier to make good decisions.

There are a few other easily transportable foods that can serve as good substitutes for energy bars. Fruit is a great option, particularly filling fruits with lots of fiber like apples and oranges. Be careful with soft fruits, however, or you may end up with a gym bag filled with goo. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

(Read: How to transport soft fruits and vegetables)

Another option that I don’t often use but am not opposed to is jerky. Beef and turkey jerky are generally high in protein and very satisfying. Just be careful about the teriyaki flavor that is often high in added sugar.

As a final thought, I wonder if you are maybe spending too much time in the gym? For weight loss and fat burning, more than an hour is really overkill and may actually work against you. If you are training for a specific athletic event, you’ve gotta do what you gotta do. But for the rest of us mortals one hour in the gym is more than enough to accomplish our goals. Maybe your hunger is a signal to you that it’s time to shower up and head home?

One of the most essential aspects of a great healthstyle is planning for moments of hunger throughout your day, but processed foods are hardly ever the answer, no matter how convenient.

What are your favorite post-workout snacks?

Originally published November 16, 2009.

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