Experience Stretching: Why I No Longer Love In-N-Out Burgers

by | Sep 10, 2014

Photo by Peter Fuchs

I grew up in southern California and, like most people there, I thought In-N-Out Burger made the best cheeseburgers in the universe. In-N-Out is legendary in SoCal, and I longed for their iconic burgers and shakes for years after leaving for college.

Even later as a blossoming foodist in my early years of graduate school, I gave In-N-Out the benefit of the doubt among fast food chains because of their commitment to “freshness”, and would occasionally stop there on the long drives home down the I-5.

But as the years went by and my dedication to real, fresh and insanely delicious food continued to develop, I noticed my taste for In-N-Out declined. Today it would take a substantial bribe (think 4-figures) to get me to even consider taking a single bite of a Double Double.

WTF happened?

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For the Love of Food

by | Mar 28, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week Real Food lays the smack down on diets, running won’t combat poor eating, and beer is meat’s best friend.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).
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Decoding Menuspeak: Navigating the Perilous World of Restaurant Menus

by | Jun 10, 2013

Photo by SweetOnVeg (a fitting name for the photog)

One of the most difficult things for a foodist is finding healthy options when you aren’t in your own kitchen.

In restaurants eating healthy is particularly tricky, since even healthy sounding dishes can harbor ingredients that add hundreds more calories than you expect. This effect is known as the health halo.

Of course, if you want to splurge every now and then I more than encourage it. The trick is making sure you know when you are or aren’t making healthy choices, and doing so intentionally.

Below is an excerpt from my new book, Foodist, on how to decode the secret language of restaurant menus to avoid unnecessary healthstyle pitfalls.
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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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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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For The Love Of Food

by | Nov 9, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week sitting goes out of style, mindful eating competes with nutritionists, and we learn the truth about boxers vs briefs.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

by | Aug 1, 2012

Photo by basheertome

I pity the fool who puts health over pleasure every time they enter a restaurant, but if you eat out often all those French fries could get the better of you.

When nothing on the menu perfectly fits my preferences (particularly at low to mid-range places more tailored to the Standard American Diet crowd), I don’t hesitate to swap out whatever I don’t want with something better.

Whether it’s to avoid processed foods or simply add vibrance and color to my plate, here are 10 simple swaps to make the most of your restaurant meals.

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

1. Mixed greens instead of ice burg or romaine lettuce

I enjoy cobb salads, but for some reason they’re usually served with boring industrial lettuce. Most places these days carry mixed greens or spinach as well, and are usually happy to make the switch.

2. Fruit instead of toast

I’m not sure why breakfast spots think you need two giant pieces of toast on top of your potatoes, eggs and pancakes, but if you don’t want it they’ll often offer you fruit instead. This is one of the best upgrades you can get away with.

3. Salad instead of potatoes

Speaking of potatoes, while they are real food and have their place in a healthy diet, they’re so often fried in rancid industrial oils that it’s best to skip them. Swapping them out for salad or cooked greens is rarely a problem.

4. Avocado instead of mayo

Real mayonnaise, the kind made from egg yolks and olive oil is perfectly healthy (and delicious). Unfortunately that isn’t what most places are putting on your sandwich. Instead commercial mayos are typically made with soybean or canola oils, AKA hyper-processed industrial oils. It may cost a little extra, but avocado is a fantastic alternative to gooey up your lunch.

5. Cheese plate instead of dessert

One of the things I love about France is that it’s perfectly acceptable to have cheese after dinner instead of sugar. If everyone is ordering crème brûlée and you don’t want to be a party pooper, get the cheese plate instead. Good cheese is healthy.

6. Brown rice instead of white

I don’t mind white rice in small quantities, but if I’m stuck eating somewhere I know the food isn’t very healthy I swap out my white rice for brown (and order as many vegetables as possible) if the option is available.

7. Drink wine instead of cocktails

Dinner often starts with a drink selection. While wine certainly has calories, cocktails usually have hundreds more thanks to the liqueurs and syrups typically used. Mixed drinks have their place, but if you’ll also be eating  a few hundred calories then wine is a better choice.

8. Beans instead of rice

If I see beans or lentils anywhere on the menu I’ll often ask if the kitchen can use them instead of one of the faster digesting starches on my plate. Your waiter may be confused, but he’ll usually do it if you ask.

9. Olive oil and vinegar instead of sugary dressing

At some point in the past 20 years salad dressings started being made with ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt, probably to cover up the completely flavorless vegetables from the industrial food chain. Good ol’ fashioned olive oil and vinegar is a better choice, and most kitchens have them.

10. Anything instead of American cheese

Have you ever looked at the ingredients for American cheese? Besides water, the first ingredient is usually trans fat. The second is cornstarch. All the way at the bottom it says, “Contains: Milk.” Replacing it with real cheddar, gruyere, provolone, or even nothing would be healthier.

What are your favorite restaurant substitution tricks?

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How Mindful Eating Can Help You Eat Less

by | Aug 8, 2011
Red Flame Grapes

Red Flame Grapes

Today’s guest post is by Jyoti Mishra Ramanathan, a fellow UCSF neuroscientist who studies attention and distraction in the human mind. In her article Jyoti reveals how attention impacts our experience of food and how we can harness this power to help us eat less without feeling deprived.

Learning to be a mindful eater will permanently change your relationship with food and is essential for upgrading your healthstyle.

Mindful Eating and Portion Control

by Jyoti Mishra Ramanathan

I grew up in India where life revolves around food. One wakes up to plan breakfast and as soon as that is over plans lunch, then immediately prepares for a typical 3-4 course dinner. When I visit aunts or my grandma, I’m barraged with food at every moment: eat this, eat that! Oh! You aren’t eating enough! Oh! Do you not like my dishes?

If you don’t accept all or any food that comes your way, it is seen as a sign of disrespect. And if this isn’t enough to make you over-eat, remember too that food is sacred in India. How could one waste the grains on one’s plate when there are millions around us suffering from hunger? Consequently, I grew up believing it is normal to forever be bursting at my seams–to eat to the point where taking another bite might even make me sick.

But a few years ago my eating habits changed.

I was at a meditation workshop and one evening we were told we’d be given one grape for dinner. This sounded impossible. However, I obediently sat cross-legged with the other attendees and was handed my single juicy purple grape.

As I popped it in my mouth, I was told to shut my eyes and sense the grape in its totality: I rolled my tongue around it becoming aware of the soft and smooth exterior of the tiny fruit, I imagined its rich purple color, and then as I slowly bit into it, I savored every trickle of juice that I could extract from the grape.

The process took me a full five minutes and never in my life have I remembered eating such a delicious grape, although it was from no extraordinary vine. Miraculously, I felt full as well.

Try the grape exercise. I do not promise the satisfaction of a full meal, but it is a beautiful exemplar of mindful eating that consequently taught me portion control.

4 Simple mindful eating tips

1. Never eat distracted, i.e. while watching TV or running to catch the bus. Observe the deliciousness on the plate, the colors, textures, flavors and smells, savoring each bite. As the meal makes its way to the stomach, start to notice the fullness in your tummy. I found that there is an initial satiation simply from this sensory overload of observant eating.

One could stop here, but this is not enough nourishment and hunger tugs again relatively soon. But as you slowly chew on your food and enjoy each bite, you experience a real fullness that completely satisfies your hunger. This sensation precedes the contentment of the taste buds, which may still desire a few extra bites of that rich chocolate cake. But as I learned to identify the hunger satiety point at each meal, I found I could also control the desires of my taste buds.

2. Do not visit a restaurant starving. It is harder to control how much you eat when faced with novel delicacies at a restaurant, especially when you get there on an empty stomach. My best defense against this is to eat a small snack right before. My favorite is a quick salad.

At home I always keep miscellaneous salad ingredients on hand: mixed greens, cheese, raisins, walnuts, candied almonds, grains like quinoa, blueberries, avocado, sundried or cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, figs, grilled chicken strips, smoked salmon, etc. Mix-and-match any of these in varying proportions and add some homemade dressing. Each time you will have a novel salad that never gets boring. After a light snack it is much easier to have restraint while ordering and eating, keeping both waistline and budget in check.

3. Share a meal. My husband and I more often than not share an appetizer, entrée and dessert at a restaurant. This is not because we can’t afford more. We simply enjoy sharing–describing the new tastes to each other, immersing ourselves in the experience and appreciating new food. In these happy moments satiety emerges effortlessly.

Try this even when out with a group of friends: order for 3 with a group of 4 and share. If there is still food left over and there are no pets or family at home, I offer my extras to the homeless. I just gave away a carrot cake a couple of nights ago and the delight in those eyes was like someone who had just found a treasure!

4. Don’t aim for 100% full. Hara Hachi Bu is Japanese for eating until 80% full. Okinawan islanders practice this and are known to be one of the longest living people on the planet. Their longevity is attributed to this moderate calorie restriction in combination with consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, which protect against free radicals that damage your body’s cells.

Conclusion

In summary, there are many benefits to portion control: feeling better right after a meal, long-term health, weight management, saving cash by eating less and perhaps even living longer.

Practice mindful eating to make portion control a reality for you.

How do you control your portion sizes?

Originally published September 2, 2009.

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Office Hours: Restaurants, Calories and Hydroponics

by | Jul 26, 2011

I’m holding office hours today at 12pm PST. I’ll be answering questions and discussing the latest food and health news. Specifically I’ll be discussing the latest report that restaurants are underreporting calorie counts of food.

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

To keep up with live events, get access to exclusive content and have Darya personally answer your food and health questions, sign up for the Tomato Slice newsletter.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 8, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Wow, please don’t skip your reading this week. There are two excellent stories about the dangers of food imports, an exposé on the bogus “nitrate free” food labels and a fascinating tale of finding zen in the kitchen. All that and more on my top 10 food and health links this week.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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