By Charles Platkin, PhD
These questions are designed to get you thinking. Answer Yes or No to the following:
1. Are you always planning to improve your eating or exercise habits but just never get around to it?
2. Have you been on every flashy new diet there is, with minimal results?
3. Do you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of any of these conditions?
4. Do you eat fewer than five servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day?
5. Do you feel chronically fatigued or irritable? Do you think these feelings are keeping you from living your life to the fullest?
6. Are most of your meals unplanned and eaten on the run?
7. Do you have to stop and really think to remember the last time you exercised?
8. Has your wardrobe been “shrinking” lately?
9. Is your medicine cabinet stocked with “miracles in a bottle” that promise to burn fat, firm muscle, suppress appetite, etc.?
10. Are you confused by all the conflicting nutrition and diet information out there and looking for some straight answers and explanations?
11. Is your stressful, busy life contributing to your poor eating and exercise habits?
If you mostly answered No: Not bad, but most of us can still do a little better.
Audit: Food Preparation
These questions are designed to get you thinking about how you prepare your foods. Answer Yes or No to the following:
1. Is your life calm, cool and collected? Planned and focused?
2. Do you know the ingredients in the meals you typically eat?
3. Is there a healthy meal you know you can prepare at a moment’s notice?
4. Do you have simple ingredients (i.e., canned tuna, lettuce and other greens, low-calorie dressing) on hand for quick and easy meals?
5. In your freezer, are there healthier meals (e.g., compared to fast food) you can quickly pop in the microwave?
6. Do you group foods in the refrigerator based on meals (i.e., chicken with leftover soup and lettuce for dinner; yogurt with fruit for breakfast) so that you don’t have to search for ingredients or be tempted by other ingredients?
7. Do you have tasty low-fat condiments such as balsamic vinegar, salsa, mustard or soy sauce on hand to quickly add kick to your meals?
If you answered mostly No (more than 3): You need to start planning your eating in advance.
If you think you’re going to be able to wing it and still prepare quality foods quickly at home, you’re mistaken. Planning meals and shopping in advance ensure that you don’t wind up walking into your kitchen, opening the fridge, closing it in frustration and gathering the kids to go to McDonald’s.
Cut It Up: Cut up vegetables, such as onions, broccoli, peppers and carrots, in advance. Put them in pre-portioned baggies or containers, and store them in the fridge.
Buy Ingredients Partially Prepared: Although this can sometimes be more expensive, it still costs less than eating out — or eating unhealthy meals. Get bags of pre-washed lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower florets, or pre-cut mixed vegetables. Check out the salad bar to stock up on other pre-cut veggies. Buy jars of crushed fresh garlic. You can even get egg whites in containers so you don’t have to crack any eggs — just pour the whites into a pan, add vegetables and pair with whole-wheat toast for a wonderful dinner omelet.
Cold Cuts: Low-calorie cold cuts, such as sliced turkey and chicken breast, are great to have on hand to create a quick and filling sandwich.
Pre-cook Foods: Cook and freeze foods in advance.
Plan Before Shopping: Come up with general categories, such as soups, stews, stir-fries and grains. Within each category, have a recipe in mind, and write out a list of the ingredients you’ll need before you go to the market.
Audit: Rate Your Plate
Do you super-size it? Or are you a member of the Pile High Club? For each question, choose 1 (not at all), 3 (somewhat) or 5 (completely).
1. Do you find yourself always super-sizing your fast-food meals?
2. At buffets, are you unable to see the color of your plate because the food is piled so high?
3. Does eating one huge portion make you feel less guilty than two mini portions?
4. When you’re choosing an entrée in a restaurant, do you pick the one that sounds like it has the most food?
5. Do you finish other people’s leftovers because you don’t want to “waste” good food?
6. Do you have trouble resisting second or third helpings at parties or restaurant buffets?
7. If you’re not hungry — do you eat anyway?
Now add up all your responses.
Most people just starting to change their lifestyle/diet score between 17 and 26. If that’s you, you have work to do, but it’s nothing unusual.
A score below 17 suggests that you have great willpower and portion control!