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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Food inspections stall in government shutdown, snack drawers teach kids moderation, and the optimal diet for humans

by | Jan 11, 2019

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

This week food inspections stall in government shutdown, snack drawers teach kids moderation, and the optimal diet for humans.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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A Life-Changing (But Unsexy) New Year’s Resolution

by | Jan 5, 2016
Photo by melodramababs

Photo by melodramababs

I know, I know. You’d really love to lose 25 lbs this year so you’re cutting out sugar and signed up for a half marathon this spring. I admire your ambition, and I do hope it works out for you.

Lofty goals make you feel good, like you’re committing to something that will have a real and lasting impact on your life. And the New Year is as good a time as any to set your eyes on greatness.

But as we’re looking for big, meaningful new goals to kickstart the New Year, it’s easy to forget that sometimes it’s the little, unsexy habits that help you make the most progress.

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Need Help Staying on Track in 2015?

by | Dec 29, 2014

Photo by erikthenorsk

I always struggle with how to advise people during the New Year.

On one hand I know that willpower-based New Year’s resolutions are a ridiculous farce that are bound to fail. On the other, I think any time of year is great for getting serious about making real healthy changes.

The key difference, as usual, is whether you focus on restraining yourself from pursuing your physical and emotional needs (certain failure), or whether you focus on building lasting habits you actually enjoy.

If you’re serious about building better habits, step one is being aware of your current habits. Step two is being realistic about which habits you can improve and how to go about doing it. Once you figure those out, you must consolidate the new habits with repetition.

Easy, right? Not a chance.

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Best of Summer Tomato 2009

by | Jan 1, 2010
Photo by ginnerobot

Photo by ginnerobot

Happy New Year!!!

I hope you had a happy and safe time yesterday and a wonderful 2009!

Thank you all for helping Summer Tomato grow, it has been a pleasure getting to know you the past 9 months.

Today I want to share some highlights from 2009. My greatest hope is that each of you find value in what I write here at Summer Tomato. These are the posts you “voted” for with your comments and retweets, thank you dearly for your support.

Best of Summer Tomato 2009

1. Better Than Pasta Subtitutes: Summer Squash Noodle Recipe

This recipe and video where I show how to easily make noodles out of zucchini in less than 5 minutes got featured on Lifehacker, making it the most popular post of 2009. It was delicious too 🙂

2. Should I Buy Whole Grain Pasta?

Distinguishing between real healthy food and fake “health food” is not as straight forward as it should be. Whole grain pasta is a perfect example.

3. Mindful Eating And Portion Control

A brilliant guest post by neuroscientist Jyoti Mishra Ramanathan about the importance of mindful eating and how a single grape can change your life.

4. Don’t Eat This, Don’t Eat That: Why Fast Food Is Never Healthy

Eating slightly-less-bad fast food is not a winning strategy for health. It also tastes disgusting. Treat yourself to a better life and learn to eat decent food.

5. 10 People You Can’t Trust For Diet Advice

Snake oil comes in many forms. Think you can trust the government or doctors for diet advice? Think again.

6. 10 Reasons To Never Eat Free Food

Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Learn to recognize real value and real cost when you see it.

7. How To Eat In Restaurants: Healthy advice from SF food critic Michael Bauer

Usually eating out makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight, but renowned San Francisco food critic Michael Bauer says otherwise. I learned his secret in an interview last summer.

8. How I Lost 20 Pounds In 9 Months Without Dieting

Losing 2 lbs a month may not seem like a huge success, but that is only because you are used to those pounds coming back. Would you feel the same if they stay off? This Summer Tomato success story is amazingly simple, and an impressive update is on its way….

9. Automatic Health: Lessons From Personal Finance

My favorite analogy for health and weight loss has always been finance. Why do people feel strongly enough to devote their lives to a secure financial future while ignoring their personal health? Does one really matter without the other? The principles are the same, and you can approach them in the same way.

10. How To Become A Slow Eater

How you eat can be just as important as what you eat. Learn to eat slowly and appreciate flavors and textures, your life will be better for it.

11. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – It’s NEAT!

Even if you don’t have time to make it to the gym, regular physical activity can be part of your life. Learn all about getting exercise without going to the gym by exercise physiologist and scientist, Travis Saunders.

12. Are You Eating In The Matrix?

Do you know what you are eating? Is it really food? This isn’t a joke, it is time to consider what is and isn’t food.

13. 30 Ways To Slow and Prevent Aging

I turned 30 in 2009, but am often mistaken as being younger than my 23-year-old brother. Woohoo! This year I spilled all my secrets.

14. Orthorexia, Bacon Worship And The Power of Food Culture

How is it that we live in a society where both obesity and anorexia are more prevalent than ever? The breakdown of food culture may be the cause, and may also point to the solution.

15. Learning To Love Foods You Don’t Like

Can you name one way you are a happier person because you hate Brussels sprouts? If you can, please email me. If you can’t, please read this article and consider expanding your palate (and your mind). Who knows, you might actually enjoy it….

Thanks again for all your contributions this year. I’ve learned as much from you all as you’ve learned from me. You guys rock!!

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A New Decade’s Resolution: Quit Dieting

by | Dec 30, 2009
Photo by melloveschallah

Photo by melloveschallah

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

Rita Mae Brown


2010 marks the beginning of not just a new year, but a new decade. Rather than using this as an excuse to set and/or stick to diet resolutions of years past, consider setting an anti-resolution to stop the cycle:

Decide today to quit diets and never pick up another one.

For some people (my former self included) chronic dieting is a way of life. Structured diets help us feel secure and in control of our fate, while giving us something to strive for and accomplish.

In a twisted way, diets can be comforting and giving them up can be as difficult for some as quitting smoking.

But most people are not trying to stop dieting, they are trying to do it better. Dieting is usually seen as a positive ambition, a form of self-improvement.

But what if diets do more harm than good? What if they lower instead of raise your quality of life?

Weight loss and better health through food and exercise are wonderful aspirations, but contrary to popular wisdom they are not synonymous with dieting. If your goals are long-term and not for specific or imminent events, then dieting will never help you achieve them.

Healthy eating and regular exercise need to be your default, automatic behaviors and not a special case scenario; weight loss diets by definition are temporary–an exception, not the rule. This is another way of saying our daily, habitual behaviors are unhealthy and promote weight gain.

Typical diets address the symptom, but ignore the problem.

Most of us will sidestep this logic by convincing ourselves that once our desired weight loss is achieved through dieting (and that’s a big IF it is achieved) we will enter into a “maintenance stage.” But maintenance is only a theoretical purgatory that looks just like the original diet dressed up to be a little sexier.

The real test of a diet’s success is not weeks or months, but years and decades later. And since we never think of diets on these long time scales, most will fail eventually. This is an uphill battle of regular slip-ups and constant restriction.

How about a different strategy?

This decade instead of picking a diet with the goal of losing X number of pounds, decide on a list of healthy habits you want to adopt over the next several months and years that will help you reach your long-term health goals. Building habits may not result in the same quick results you’d experience on a traditional diet (though they can), but you will continue to see results for many months and the changes will be permanent.

Habits take approximately 4-6 weeks to form, and most people can only adopt 2-3 new habits simultaneously. Use your list to set up short-term behavioral goals throughout the year to gauge your progress.

To start, choose the habits that are easiest and most fun for you personally. Set an end date to examine your progress in 1-2 months. Write it in your calendar and set aside 15-30 minutes that day for the analysis. (e.g. By February 15, I will bring my own lunch to work at least 4 days a week).

Remember that habits can be either positive or negative, such as the proactive taking the stairs at least twice per day versus the reductive limiting dessert to once per week. A good strategy is to pair a negative habit with a positive one that can replace it. For instance, limit red meat to once per week pairs nicely with eat fish 3 times per week, particularly if you are accustomed to eating lots of protein.

Once you have successfully integrated a few new habits into your healthstyle, pick 1 or 2 more for the following months. Continue to add new habits, minimize bad ones and assess your progress at regular intervals. Start now, and don’t wait until next January to evaluate your results.

By the end of 2010 you should be able to adopt 5-10 new habits that will significantly improve your health both immediately and in decades to come. As your health improves, your goals may evolve to reflect new and possibly more advanced ambitions. This is good, it means you’re making progress.

Not everyone will have the same aspirations or be able to tolerate the same daily routines, so you should think carefully and set goals you think you can achieve. Whenever possible, try to write your goals in specific rather than general terms. For example, instead of writing eat more vegetables, write eat something green at both lunch and dinner.

Don’t get hung up on setting guidelines you can follow 100% of the time, the goal is to set routines you can achieve most of the time. Remember, exceptions are okay and an inevitable part of life. For this exercise we are focusing on what you do as habit. That is, your average meals where you have control over what you eat.

Here are just a few examples of healthy habits to get you started, but these are only meant as inspiration. Spend some time making your own list and assigning priority to each habit. If you have any questions or suggestions, please write them below in the comments.

Healthy habits for a new decade

  1. Make vegetables the centerpiece of dinner at least 5 days per week.
  2. Limit dessert to once per week or less.
  3. Replace soda with sparkling water during lunch.
  4. Do not eat from the bread basket at restaurants.
  5. Include legumes in at least 4 meals per week.
  6. Take the stairs to the office at least 4 times per week.
  7. Eat breakfast everyday.
  8. Do not eat foods with added sugar.
  9. Shop at the farmers market every weekend.
  10. Put down your fork between each bite of food.

What’s on your list?

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New Year’s Solution?

by | Jan 2, 2009

To be honest, I don’t really believe in the New Year’s Resolution. By nature I am a person of action and do not need an excuse to make my own life better.

If there is something important in my daily routine that I feel needs improvement I don’t wait for January to make the change. Instead I live by the Nike slogan and Just Do It.

Thus the first question I pose to readers today is:

Does a new digit at the end of the calendar really make it easier to go to the gym or eat a salad?


Next there is the issue of sticking to your Resolution. From what I understand, most people abandon their New Year’s ambitions after a couple months (or even weeks) of half-hearted effort.

To me this proves that resolving to do something is relatively meaningless. In my opinion, if there is any point to this year-end exercise at all, things must actually get done.

Maybe we should change the name to New Year’s Solution?


But perhaps I am too harsh.

Rather than hoping for change, for many people the New Year may simply be a time for reflection and evaluation:

What has and hasn’t worked in 2008? Should I approach anything differently in 2009?

This kind of personal reflection I applaud, but what still troubles me is that so many people make the same Resolutions year after year without ever achieving their goals.

This year I will lose weight! This year I will get in shape! This year I will use my gym membership!

If you don’t believe me take a stroll through your local Borders or Barnes & Noble bookstore and check out the number of diet books on display at the front. Notice their bright pinks and yellows designed to get your attention.

Never is the promotion of weight loss books as shameless as it is in January.

We are all supposed to try our failed resolutions again this year, keeping the hope alive that one of those neon programs will become our salvation and finally we will achieve our lifelong dream of being thin and happy.


I am not interested in this phony brand of Resolution.

Over and over diets have been shown not to work and even promote weight gain, so they are not your answer.

Health problems and body fat do not appear in a single splurge, but rather accumulate bit at a time as a result of poor lifestyle decisions. So it is not logical to believe that a quick, short-term weight loss will correct them.

This year (as in every year) I recommend moderation as the best solution for health. And I propose that the most effective way to build good habits and reduce bad ones is to make small, gradual changes to your daily routine.

Moderate changes that you can easily manage are the ones that can be maintained and built upon.


If you do intend to make changes to your habits this year, I wish you the best of luck. I designed this blog to provide tips, advice and information to help cultivate a practical, healthy lifestyle.

My approach begins with establishing the mentality that diets don’t work and health is achieved through habits, not single actions. With a handful of tools and simple tricks, even the busiest among us can streamline health to be an automatic part of our lives.

To get the most out of Thought for Food, subscribe via email or RSS feed.


On a final note, the road to health begins with inspiration.

This year I would love to learn your personal New Year’s Resolution success stories. Were you ever able to quit smoking? Maintain your workout routine? Lose weight? Adopt a new hobby?

I invite you to share with us your New Year’s Solution and tell us what obstacles you overcame and why you think you were able to achieve your goal.

Your success could inspire the rest of us to find New Year’s Solutions of our own!


Discuss Thought for Food:

  1. Does the New Year help you make improvements in your life?
  2. Do you think there is a difference between a Resolution and a Solution?
  3. Is moderation a reasonable alternative to dieting?
  4. Do you have a New Year’s Solution to share?
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