I Don't Know What to Eat

I recently returned from a 6-day trip to Rochester, Minnesota to attend a conference. The Mastocytosis Society put on a most impressive event, inviting mast cell specialists from all over the world to teach other physicians and patients the newest info about mast cell diseases. As a patient with mast cell disease and an RN, I was thrilled to attend. So I let all of my perishable food run out before I left, only to return to very little in the house to eat the night of my return. My first thought was, “I don’t know what to eat.”

You would think as someone who teaches others every day how to mindfully eat that I would have been better prepared. But the truth is that I spent so much energy on what nutritious snacks I could pack for the plane and to have in my hotel room in case the food was not something I could tolerate, that I did not think ahead to my return.

Luckily, I only had to deal with that Sunday evening, having arrived at the Albany airport around 6 pm. First thing Monday morning, I was able to go to the grocery store and stock up on some yummy, nutritious foods. I am very lucky to live within 5-15 minutes of every major grocery store: Hannaford, Price Chopper, Shop Rite, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, not to mention my local favorites, Honest Weight Food Co-op and Niskayuna Co-op.

Our immediate environment (the food we keep on hand) absolutely determines our success with either nourishing our body with the food it needs to feel fabulous or stuffing it with whatever happens to be the easiest and quickest. It is so easy to order take-out or eat processed foods rather than take the time to make real, whole foods. But then you ultimately pay for it by feeling less than stellar.

The one really positive thing I did remember to do was make a big batch of homemade minestrone soup. I had 3 containers I could thaw. As you can see from this photo, I’m down to one container. This is our tiny freezer in our temporary apartment, as our house is being built. I can still cram in a lot of frozen veggies and fruits. Now, I don’ have to worry about what to eat.

Do you plan your meals and then go grocery shopping, or is every night a mystery?photo (2)

Are Sugar Cravings Learned Behavior?

Have you ever wondered if those intense sugar cravings are learned behavior or genetically passed on to you from your sugar craving family? It’s all part of that nature vs. nurture dilemma that we been tossing around for decades. Since learned behavior is a conditioned response to a stimuli, you’ll see why I think that’s what it is. Although I don’t think it really matters who or what is to blame, if you understand a little bit about it, you may be better able to manage when those cookies call your name.

When my kids were little, I was considered (early 80’s) a “health nut”. I ate organic foods before it was the cool thing to do, made my own baby food, cooked from scratch instead of packaged food and did not introduce my kids to sugar or snack foods when they were little. I firmly believed that food was our fuel and gave them a wide variety of foods. I never made a big deal about what to eat, how much to eat or named “good” or “bad” foods. I just offered them the best possible nutrition.

When my daughter was 5 years old, she went to a birthday party for a friend’s daughter. Carrie was introduced to M&M’s for the first time. My friend thought I was strange because I had never given them to Carrie, but I made sure to give her plenty of healthy options. If you offered either of my kids a plate of fresh cut up fruit or a piece of cake, they always chose the fruit. I did bake but I used whole grains, low sugar and fruit in the recipe.

Fast forward to the teenage years when peers are way more important than parents. My kids were introduced to junk food by their friends. They often stayed at friends houses where junk food was their only choice. You see, their parents did not buy into my philosophy. Interestingly, their friends LOVED our healthy food. As a matter of fact, they would devour every last bit of it. But my kids began to get a taste of sugar, salt and fat. They are the foods that affect the reward center in the brain, releasing dopamine and serotonin. And so, they began to crave the junk food.

That was in the 90’s. Now, they have both lived on their own for many years. Who knows what they eat. I do know my daughter occasionally asks me about healthy foods because she comments that she feels so much better when she eats well. But my point is, sugar cravings is a cycle of learned behavior. If you never had it, you don’t miss it. Once you start eating it, you crave it more. Have you eaten sugar since you were little or did it start in your later years?sweets and fruit

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Say Yes to Snacks

There are a couple of popular ideas out there about snacks… eat only 3 meals a day and no snacks or eat frequent small meals. I guess I fit somewhere in the middle. Eat only when you’re hungry. It doesn’t matter what you call it, meal or snack. Instead of trying to go long periods of time without eating, especially when lunch might be at noon and dinner not until 6:30, when your body signals hunger, feed it.

Snacks have gotten a bum rap. They are not bad for you, but what you choose matters. If you get the 3 o’clock slump and grab a candy bar, that causes your blood sugar to rapidly increase, but then quickly drop, leaving you feeling even more tired and hungry. Those sweets eventually cause weight gain too.

Instead, fuel your body with a protein and fiber snack when hunger strikes in between meals. This will maintain your blood sugar, keep you full and your energy up. The 100-calorie bags of snacks are not the best choice. They are highly processed, minimal protein or fiber (if any) and not whole foods. There are so many better choices.

If you’d like a copy of my snack list that I give to my clients, fill in the box below. Happy snacking!  [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

apple and almond butter