I bought a bag of mini eggs at the pharmacy across the street on Monday and I have an internal fight with myself every time I open the drawer and see the bag. "There's a pear in your lunch bag, eat that, not the chocolate." "Why did you buy that massive bag, instead of just buying one of those little treat sized ones?" and then the inevitable response: "just take a few, those little balls of goodness are so good!!". I've now just left the drawer open so I can just reach in and have a constant flow throughout the afternoon. I suppose I should be congratulating myself as I've made the bag last right through until today and a couple of them may even make another sunrise.
My own internal warfare made me think of one of the many conversations about sugar I've had with clients. The main one is often surrounding the hopes of losing weight, and cutting "carbs" out of their diet. But the following sugar craving backlash is incredible. This is how the scenario plays out: They have maybe a smoothie with protein powder at breakfast, then a salad with chicken or fish at lunch. The plan then is to just have a tiiiny portion of that pasta that was made for dinner. Either dinner goes as planned or the portion size is way more than what would be deemed a healthy amount. In either scenario, sugar cravings have already hit mid-afternoon or late into the evening. A chocolate bar is bought from the office candy machine, chocolate is somehow found in the back of the baking cupboard, a leftover cookie somewhere else, pieces of toast, basically whatever can be rummaged up.
Clients get frustrated and say things like "I just don't have the willpower". "My late night sugar cravings are crazy".
But it's not willpower that is needed to keep this type of sugar craving atbay. Proper meal distribution will often get rid of these cravings completely. Our bodies need 60% of our calories from carbohydrates. If we don't get it through grains spread out throughout our day, we will crave them in the quick and easy fuel sources, such as sugar, candy, chocolate, etc.
What is proper meal distribution?
1) Have either whole wheat bread, pita, tortilla, quinoa, rice, couscous, or noodles at every meal. Proper portion sizing makes this healthy. Often a cup of the grain (rice, quinoa, etc) or 2 slices of bread is enough, some people need less or more. If you don't have it at that meal, then expect to pick this up at your next snack.
2) Add a low fat protein. This could be either a meat, beans, lentils, nuts, nut butter, seeds. Sometimes you can count cheese as your protein.
3) The rest is fruit or vegetables. Try to eat as much as you can to bulk up the meal.
The classic dietitian dinner plate looks like this:
But a well balanced meal could also look like a smoothie (no protein powder needed - check out some of these smoothie ideas) and a small homemade muffin for breakfast. It would also mean that the salad and chicken breast, in the example lunch in the scenario above, a bun or a pita would need to be added to complete the meal. It could even be a mix of a whole bunch of snacky type things, like a pita and hummus with veggie sticks and a latte, for lunch. Also planning that one would only eat a couple of tablespoons of rice at dinner isn't a fair expectation. Making realistic, yet healthy meals will allow you to stay on track longer, thus having greater success at maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Okay I can't eat any more of these chocolate eggs. I'm gonna stop now. :)