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9 Tricks To Make Halloween A Treat

by | Oct 22, 2012

Photo by pasukaru76

With extra candy, alcohol and fun everywhere, there is no point in pretending health will be your top priority by the time the weekend rolls around. But that’s a good thing.

Being healthy is important, but if you don’t learn to make room in your life for fun too then what’s the point?

My challenge to you is to use this Halloween weekend as an opportunity to practice rational indulgence. That is, enjoy things you have a reason to enjoy (i.e. foods you like) in quantities that leave you satisfied, but don’t abandon your health or get too obsessive about what you should or should not eat.

This is not the same as practicing “moderation” (an overused word, in my opinion). Instead I’m talking about a head change. Generally the term moderation is used to mean restraint for restraint’s sake. On Halloween this might involve consciously eating only half a cookie or counting out pieces of candy for your allowance.

Boring!

Moderation is fine for daily life, especially when you are just learning to cook and eat healthy foods. But equally important is getting in tune with the real reasons you eat: taste, pleasure and enjoyment, and using this awareness to guide your behavior and create natural boundaries.

Embrace Halloween as a special occasion for you to live and enjoy, while understanding that this is not the first nor will it be the last time you get to eat a cupcake. There is no need to go out of your way to be “good” or “bad.” Just have fun and try not to think in terms of guilt or temptation. It is thoughts like these which lead to too many drinks and eating that entire bowl of peanut butter cups on your friend’s coffee table.

But, of course, for rational indulgence to mean anything it requires a context of healthy eating. If your typical daily food intake isn’t already mostly healthy, then Halloween isn’t really an indulgence so much as an excuse. But that doesn’t mean this advice isn’t applicable to you. No matter what your baseline, it is easier to indulge rationally if you are well-nourished and in the right state of mind.

Strive for the general goal of eating healthy, nourishing and satisfying foods and feel free to add a few Halloween treats along the way.

Here are 9 strategies to help make rational indulgence a little easier.

9 Tricks To Make Halloween A Treat

  1. Leave your guilt at the door. Halloween will probably not be ideal for your health, but if you are going to indulge you may as well enjoy it.
  2. Eat what you want, but not any more than that. Remember that indulgence is not a race. You don’t need to eat everything in sight just because you allow yourself a couple days off. Stop occasionally and ask yourself if you are eating for pleasure or from compulsion.
  3. Do not skip meals. Halloween usually involves late night parties and candy, things that should not interfere too much with your regularly scheduled food program. Trying to eat light during the day to compensate for eating junk food later will probably just cause you to eat even more junk when you find yourself starving at 2am—not a wise strategy.
  4. Have a healthy, satisfying dinner. You would be surprised how easy it is to skip the third mini-Snickers if you are not hungry or are even a little full. Better to be full of stir fry than trans fat and sugar.
  5. Eat protein, vegetables and healthy fats before you go out. The main danger on Halloween is sugar. Too much sugar causes blood sugar to rise and insulin to skyrocket. Ultimately this leads to insulin resistance, weight gain and more hunger. To avoid this, slow down the digestion process by eating healthy foods first.
  6. Easy on the carbs. You will probably be getting more than your fair share of sugars and starches this weekend. Minimize extraneous carbohydrates in your meals by skipping bread and pasta. Limit carbohydrates to vegetables, fruit and legumes.
  7. Keep moving. One easy way to make up ground if you are eating extra calories is to burn them off as you go. If you are out at a party, be sure to keep moving. Walk to your destination, play Halloween Twister and be the last to leave the dance floor.
  8. Brush up. Toothpaste can make candy taste pretty bad, so be sure to brush and rinse with fluoride before you leave your house and as soon as you get home. Sugar is also really bad for your teeth.
  9. Be safe. No matter what you do or do not eat, it is always important to make good decisions when you go out on the town. Be smart and make it home in one piece or none of this advice will do you any good.

How do you practice rational indulgence?

Originally published October 28, 2009.

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5 Things To Consider Before Eating Something Naughty

by | Sep 17, 2012

Photo by Aldo Fonticiella

Sometimes foods are super unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them.

In my opinion, the purpose of food should be to optimize quality of life. Food is delicious, it makes you healthy and brings you closer to friends and loved ones. At any given meal, I try my best to maximize each of these goals. And if it falls short in one, I try to make it up in another.

Inevitably there are situations where the best option is not particularly obvious. For example, how important is it to eat healthy when you’re on vacation?

Consider dessert. By no stretch of the imagination do you need dessert to live, and if we are being honest with ourselves most of the time we probably shouldn’t eat it. But sometimes (err, often) we want to anyway.

Ideally you should get your healthstyle to a place where you can occasionally go a little wild without it having a significant impact on your health goals. But getting there takes practice and a healthy dose of self awareness.

Here are 5 questions to help you make the right decision before letting loose.

5 Things To Consider Before Eating Something Naughty

1. What else have you eaten today? This week?

To be able to indulge occasionally, you need to understand what “occasionally” really means. Depending on your body size and activity levels, you can get away with maybe one or two treats a week. If you find yourself giving in once or more a day, it may be time to reevaluate your definition of special occasion.

2. Have you been to the gym?

Using the gym to justify a bad diet is a losing battle. But if you do eat a few too many quickly digesting calories, it’s much better that they go to fuel your muscles rather than your waistline. I’ve found that some of my best runs at the gym are on birthday cake days at the office.

3. Will you be drinking later?

Alcohol fuels weight gain in a number of ways. Sugary drinks add hundreds of calories to your day and should be considered an indulgence in their own right. Alcohol also has a way of convincing you to opt for late night burrito runs or greasy morning brunches. If you’re heading out with friends later, you might want to skip the after dinner cheesecake.

4. Are you trying to lose weight?

Believe it or not, asking yourself your health goals before you eat something can really help you make better decisions. I don’t recommend strict diets when you’re finding your healthstyle, but if you still have weight to lose desserts and heavy meals won’t make your life any easier. If you’d still like to drop some pounds, it pays to be picky with your indulgences.

5. Is it worth it? Really?

One of the best things about avoiding diets is you have the freedom to fit your favorite foods into your life. But one of the down sides is that you need to be able to make good choices for yourself, which isn’t always easy. It can be very tempting to consider every cupcake that is brought to the office a special occasion and lose track of the truly valuable indulgences that actually make your life better. Birthdays, anniversaries and great restaurants are things you will remember for your entire life. Junk food at the office is rarely more than an excuse to avoid work for another half hour. Be honest with yourself about the true value of a food before inviting it into your life.

What helps you make quality food choices?

Originally published September 20, 2010.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 18, 2010

For The Love of Food

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

Some great reads this week. There’s scary news for those of us who spend a lot of time at the computer, as well as a terrifying example of what it means to be a food-like product. On the other side, there’s some good news about cholesterol.

I’m still participating in the Inkwell interview at The Well with David Gans and Diane Brown until June 23. Have questions for me or just want to eavesdrop? Come join us! http://bit.ly/9n1v8O

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

by | Jan 13, 2010

Photo by ReneS

For some people cooking alone is a chore rather than a treat, but those people don’t know what they’re missing.

If cooking for yourself seems like more hassle than it’s worth, it may be time to start thinking more selfishly about the whole business.

Eating is a deeply personal, private experience that stimulates all of your senses. We each have our own particular tastes, preferences and memories associated with different foods, and each of these can elicit an entire universe of physical and emotional responses.

When you cook for yourself, especially when you aren’t beholden to the desires of others, you have a perfect opportunity to indulge some of your favorite pleasures. Cook something fancy and high brow, enjoy a favorite childhood dish or just throw 12 odd flavors together and see what happens. You have the freedom to make what you want, exactly the way you like it.

We eat alone for different reasons at different times. Sometimes we are in a hurry. Sometimes family is out of town. Whatever the reason, taking the opportunity to cook for yourself is almost always the most interesting, convenient and pleasurable option.

I began this list on my own, but some of the points were inspired by a book I recently picked up, What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison. It is a quick read and a good source for more inspiration and recipes.

10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

  1. Splurge. Buying exquisite ingredients to feed a crowd can be prohibitively expensive, but a single serving of white truffle can be had without breaking the bank. That is, so long as you prepare the rest of the meal yourself. If you adore Kobe beef or lobster tail, why not use a weekend alone to treat yourself to a fabulous dinner without going out?
  2. Indulge. Have you always wanted to try bacon on your oatmeal? Go for it, no one’s looking.
  3. Impress. Cooking someone a meal and sharing it can be one of the most intimate experiences on earth. Being alone is a great time to practice. Hone your cooking skills and show that special someone what a great catch you are. If you’re already spoken for, adding a few interesting meals to your repertoire is also a great way to impress your family and friends.
  4. Save. My favorite burrito at the place down the street costs about $6. At home I can make the exact same burrito for $2. Plus if I already have the ingredients around I can make it in a fraction of the time. How is that for thrift?
  5. Thrive. My personal favorite reason to cook for myself is that I have complete control over what goes in my food. Here in San Francisco, splurging and indulgence can be bought within a quarter mile in any direction. When I’m home I enjoy making healthy, nourishing food cooked exactly the way I like it.
  6. Improve. Don’t consider yourself a particularly good cook? The only way to get better is to practice. Trying out new things in the kitchen can be much less stressful when you’re alone, so take the opportunity of solitude to make mistakes without inspiring disappointment or ridicule.
  7. Hurry. If you cook regularly and have a decently stocked kitchen, you can make yourself a meal faster than most places can make one for you. Driving somewhere, waiting in line, ordering and waiting for your food may seem like the fastest option but it usually isn’t.
  8. Perfect. Is there a dish at your favorite restaurant that you wish you could recreate at home? Try it one day when you have some free time. You might not get it exactly right the first time, but you can probably get pretty good at it eventually.
  9. Relax. No one is home? The pressure is off! There’s no one to please but yourself. Cook at your leisure, make pancakes for dinner, break all the rules. When it’s just you there are no expectations.
  10. Experiment. Maybe you’ve always wished for a quick and easy dessert that doesn’t have any added sugar. Maybe you’re curious if lasagna can be made in a skillet instead of the oven (it can). Indulge your cooking curiosities when no one is looking and you have a little extra time to play around.

What do you love about cooking alone?

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