Posts Tagged ‘rules’

Photo by Rex SorgatzOh soda. What is it about you that makes you so hard to give up?

I’ve had a few conversations with friends about the challenges of giving up soda. It’s so familiar, it’s such a part of our lives. What else would you drink with a burger? At the movies? For that afternoon pick-me-up? It’s so very much second-nature to grab a soda, order a soda with work lunch, pay for gas and get a cold one. It’s a habit, one that is tough to quit.

There’s something about that cold, sugar-sweet beverage. Do a search for “quitting soda” and you’ll get 280,000 results! People have different reasons for quitting soda and there are a lot of bad things in soda. Carbonated water, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, flavorings, color…the list goes on.

There’s also the matter of soda being ubiquitous. Every other commercial on TV, signs in stores, vending machines, billboards, it’s availability at every turn, the list goes on. So, does it seem, do the soda marketing dollars.

So how do you quit? I quit soda once before for the year leading up to my son’s birth. It was easier that time because I was doing it for the health of my unborn child. This time I just have my health to do it for. Just my health. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty big important thing.

Photo by Tim NorrisSome people will tell you to wean yourself off soda, but I do better if I just cut the cord and go cold turkey. If I have one soda, then I start to feel bad about cheating and at the same time start working on convincing myself that if one was ok, then two wouldn’t be so bad… I recommend replacing soda with water. I like it very cold. I like it with lemon or lime. I also have some single serve drink mixes in my desk drawer at work for when I’m really craving something with flavor and there’s no fresh fruit around. The Crystal Light ones are pretty good. I do have a few Kool Aid tropical fruit punch singles too, for when it’s time to go hard-core. I’m not suggesting having these everyday, the ingredients in these are not exactly natural. But, at some point your going to crack and want a cold sugary soda. On that day, tear into your drink mix stash and feel good that you didn’t give into the soda temptation.


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Today is Presidents Day. Some people had the day off. I did not.

Today is also Monday, which is a good day (as good as any) to start Eating Like Alton. To help you out, I’ve created this chart.

This chart has boxes so you can check off your ‘everyday’ foods, your ‘three-times-a-week’ foods, your ‘once a week’ foods, and reminds you of the ‘never’ list. It also has the helpful reminder to ‘eat breakfast every day, no exceptions’. This chart can help you keep track day-to-day, but also will help you reflect on your week and see where you need improvement (hello, oily fish!). If you’re the cheating kind and need something to help you stay in line, it will also let you know when you’ve already had that one dessert or one drink of your week.

Here’s a PDF of the chart EatLikeAltonWorksheet_4up you can download and print on an 8.5″ x 11″ size sheet of paper. This will give you 4 weeks worth of charts.

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On Live and Let Diet, Alton jokes about writing a book. The book is featured in the episode, it’s called Buff Like Me. Sadly, it’s not a real book. There is talk that he will be writing a book at some point, but until then, there is some guesswork involved.

For instance, dessert is on the once-a-week list. Does that mean that nothing sweet should pass your lips except for that one precious dessert? And when you have that dessert, what size should it be, what should it consist of? Is it ok to eat 2 pieces of cheesecake for your one dessert? If you choose a candy bar for your dessert, do you have to eat it all at one sitting? I’m pretty sure I know the answer (everything within reason, aka, only one relatively smallish piece of cheesecake).

Avocado is a three-times-a-week food. Does that mean you should eat a whole avocado 3 times a week, or if you have a few sliced on a sandwich does that count? Carrots should be eaten everyday. How many carrots? Just orange carrots or do the fancy organic red carrots count too? Are baby carrots just as good? And tuna counts as oily fish when it’s fresh, so if I have sushi 3 times a week, am I fulfilling the quota?

Until Alton writes his book, I think ‘do the right thing’ should be our motto. I know that for me, 3 avocados a week might be too many, but if I can eat 2 as guacamole, and another half or so on a sandwich, then I feel like I’m doing good. I keep to the dessert once a week rule as much as possible, however, I did buy some dark chocolate and have a square when I’m feeling like I want dessert, but know I can’t have it. Dark chocolate is supposed to be good for you, and it’s not sicky-sweet, I only have a little at a time and I feel ok about it.

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It’s school vacation week here. I spent one of our vacation days taking my son to the planetarium and as I was driving home I spent some time thinking about how Eating Like Alton compared to the way I would have eaten in the past. Here’s a comparison:

On the way down I stopped at Cumberland Farms for coffee. You can see my earlier post about how I like my coffee, so I was off to a bad start, but my son reminded me that I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet and that I should get something to eat.

ELA choice: Coffee with cream and sugar & a Fiber One bar
Past choice: Coffee with cream and sugar and at least 2 donuts and maybe some candy

There was a cafe at the Planetarium with a full range of sandwiches, pastries, pizza, sodas, etc. After a little exploring, I chose

ELA choice: a chicken salad wrap with lettuce and tomato, a bag of Terra Chips and a bottle of water
Past choice: a reuben panini, a bag of Lays chips and a bottle of Coke

After the planetarium we stopped by the mall for a quick clothing exchange.

ELA choice: nothing
Past choice: another coffee from Dunkin Donuts, quite possibly a donut, or a cookie or pretzel from another food court vendor.

Then we stopped at Target to get some Method cleaner (this is the BEST stuff). It was getting late in the day at this point and I was weighing our dinner options. We were about to drive down a strip with all the fast food options imaginable, which of course is on the NEVER list. So, at Target we…

ELA choice: Kashi TLC Fruit & Grain Bars in Dark Chocolate Coconut and a bottle of water
Past choice: 10 piece chicken nuggets, large fries and a Coke at McHorrible

Then, if I’m being honest, I probably would have stopped in at a gas station or another fast food place and gotten another Coke or coffee and candy or a bag of chips or something else horrible. Instead we drove directly home, not stopping for snacks and feeling pretty great about it.

My conclusion was not that I was able to eat amazingly well and by the list, but that I ate dramatically better than I would have in the past and much, much less.

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A never list is a double-edged sword. In the past when I’ve tried to diet eat healthy I often create my own ‘never’ list. It’s easier for me to never have chips than to try to have a few and stop eating them. It’s easier for me to just know I can’t than to know I can within reason. I actually think the never list is easier than the once a week list. With the once a week list I have to be on the honor system with myself. I have to remember if I had dessert last Saturday, or was that Sunday? Am I in the clear to have it again or not? Or can I just cheat since it’s only one more day… But the never list. Well, never is a mighty long time.

Fast food: No matter how hard the Mc’s and the King’s try to convince us, we all know that stuff is bad. Tasty, but bad. It’s mass-produced, created with not nutritional value, but corporate bottom line in mind. I can avoid fast food. Where there’s a fast food restaurant, there’s usually a gas station or convenience store near by. And if you look hard enough in those places you can find granola bars, fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese, pretzels and bottled water. You can make a good lunch out of those things, and never ingest a fried or heat-lamped anything. I’m sure you have, but if you haven’t, be sure to watch Super Size Me. It’s not going to cure you of wanting fast food forever, but it sure will make you think.

Soda: Soda is bad stuff. Just google tooth in soda and you’ll see some nasty stuff. However, in my head, soda is linked to a lot of things. I really like a good cold fountain Coke at a restaurant. And it’s such a habit that sometimes I catch myself mindlessly ordering one and then have to take it back. In a store, it’s easy select 100% juice, or water, or tea. In the year before I had my son I gave up soda completely. I was trying to avoid all those chemicals and knew that since I wasn’t drinking soda I’d be drinking much more water and milk. The day my son was born they brought me a cup with ginger ale and chipped ice. It was amazing. Not as amazing as the birth of my son of course, but I do remember it quite well. Soda, you sure do make it tough on a girl.

Processed meals/frozen dinners: I talked about this one some before, but I do have to believe that there are exceptions to this one. I think if you do the work and find natural meals, without preservatives and other yucks, you can find good food that Alton would approve of. You’ve got to read the labels. Don’t eat anything that is cheap in price, cheaply made, or sold based on how stupidly heavy it is. I do think there are some companies out there that are elevating frozen meals. Kashi, evol, American Flatbread, they all seem to be doing it right.

Canned soup: I’m not a big fan of canned soup. If I’m really sick, I might seek out a traditional Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, but that’s about it. I know salt and MSG are two of the big problems with canned soup. The other is that it’s so dang easy to make your own soup. When you make your own soup, you can also add in so many of the items on the daily and three times a week list (barley, brown rice, leafy greens, carrots, fish, broccoli, sweet potato). Make 2 soups on the weekend and eat them all week-long for lunch.

“Diet” anything: This one I think is the easiest. I haven’t found anything yet that there isn’t a regular version of, and when there’s a regular version why or why would you want to eat the diet version?


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After a multi-month run of eating holidays (Thanksgiving through New Years) something needed to change. We’ve tried other things in the past, with some success, but always fleeting. We needed something different, something sustainable, something with rules that were easy to follow, wouldn’t be too expensive to launch and sustain and could be done while living our regular lives. Those lives involve working full-time jobs, parenting an 8-year-old, being active members in groups and clubs and social engagements.

We are huge fans of Good Eats, Alton Brown’s food/science show on the Food Network. Last year we watched his Live and Let Diet episode, where he explained how he lost 50 pounds. It made sense. So when it came time to start a new healthy eating plan at the beginning of February, we looked to Alton.

You can watch the episode here:

Or read a transcript of the episode here.

The rules seem simple. Here is what you eat:

whole grains
leafy greens
green tea

(at least) 3x/week
oily fish
sweet potato

(only) 1x/week
red meat

0x/week (aka NEVER!)
fast food
processed meals
canned soups
“diet” anything

This blog will follow along as we EAT LIKE ALTON. Recipes, experiences, challenges, suggestions and links to other resources. A disclaimer: I’m just a regular Joe Jill. I’m not a doctor, not a chef, not affiliated with Alton Brown, Good Eats, the Food Network, or anything else that puts me in a position to advise anyone else how to live a healthy life. This is a personal account of an experience, no more, no less.

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