Is Diet Soda Making You Gain Weight?

Is Diet Soda Making You Gain Weight?

Diet soda sounds like an easy way to cut calories, but new research shows it may not be good for weight loss. Learn why diet soda may actually cause you to gain weight, among other problems.


If you feel better about having a burger and fries for lunch because you ordered a diet soda, you shouldn’t. Studies show that diet soda may not be any better for you than regular soda. In fact, it may even be worse.

Close to 60 percent of Americans drink diet soda on a regular basis. Many of them believe diet soda helps them with weight loss, but there is mounting evidence that diet soda may actually cause you to gain weight.

Diet Soda and Weight Loss: What Research Revealed

“Recent literature suggests that those who drink diet soda weigh more than those who don’t. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Does diet soda cause weight gain? I think that is the wrong question. I don’t think people should drink diet soda, whether they have weight problems or not,” says Darwin Deen, MD, senior attending physician at Montefiore Medical Center’s Department of Family and Social Medicine in the Bronx, New York.

Of top concern, drinking diet soda has been linked to developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that include expanding waist size, increased blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, lower levels of good cholesterol, and high fasting blood sugar levels. Having three or more of these findings increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Here are some other research findings you should know about diet soda:

  • According to the San Antonio Heart Study, the more diet sodas you drink, the greater the chance that you will be overweight or obese. For each diet soda you drink there is a 65 percent increase in your risk of becoming overweight.
  • According to the Framingham Heart Study, if you drink diet soda you are at risk for weight gain and metabolic syndrome.
  • According to research done at Purdue University, rats that were fed artificial sweeteners gained more weight than rats fed normal sugar.
  • Findings from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, show that meat, fried food, and diet soda are all significantly associated with metabolic syndrome.

Diet Soda and Weight Loss: Why the Weight Gain?

Although researchers can’t say for sure why diet soda sets the stage for weight gain, there are several possible reasons. “I discourage my patients from drinking diet sodas because while they have no calories, they are created to simulate the sweetness of a regular soda. This leaves the drinker’s taste buds completely overwhelmed. For an example of this, take a sip of water and then bite into your favorite fruit. Then try the same experiment with diet soda. Note that the real food tastes flat after drinking soda,” explains Dr. Deen. The distortion of taste may cause the diet soda drinker to seek higher calorie foods.

Another possibility is that people just eat more because they think they are saving calories from drinking a diet soda. A direct link between artificial sweeteners and a craving for high-calorie foods may exist. There is also the possibility that the link is related to unknown factors involving diet, exercise, or other personal characteristics.

Diet Soda and Weight Loss: Caffeine’s Role

Although diet soda has fewer calories than regular soda, the caffeine content may be greater. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a 12-ounce regular Coke contains 35 milligrams of caffeine and a Diet Coke contains 47 mg. At low levels, caffeine can stimulate energy, make you more alert, and may be beneficial for weight loss. In higher amounts it can cause nervousness, increased heart rate, and difficulty concentrating. You may also get withdrawal symptoms such as headache, irritability, or depression if you stop taking caffeine suddenly.

“Although caffeine can be helpful for weight loss, I recommend getting your caffeine from iced coffee. If you need to add sugar, add as little as possible for taste,” says Deen. “I advise my patients to drink water. For a healthy alternative to diet soda, try adding one-third cup of fruit juice to seltzer water for a low-calorie and not-too-sweet beverage.”

Although the exact relationship of diet soda to weight gain and metabolic syndrome is not clear, it is obvious that diet soda should not be considered a “healthy” alternative to regular soda. When you choose to drink any soda, you are choosing to drink a beverage that is just not as healthy for you as milk, juice, or water.

By Chris Iliades, MD at Everyday Health

Need some ideas of some easy shifts to more healthier choices, contact me at

Oh, That Nighttime Snack

Oh, That Nighttime Snack

 A nutritionally balanced diet and staying on top of your emotional needs go a long way in keeping that nighttime snack to a minimum. Developing healthy habits is also key to maintaining weight loss.

A nighttime snack isn’t always harmful, but if you understand the reasons behind late-night eating and then modify your diet accordingly, chances are your midnight cravings will be reduced or eliminated, and weight loss can move full steam ahead.

Simple as it seems, many people overeat in the evening because they have not consumed enough calories during the day. Skipping breakfast, starting the day with foods high in sugar, and limiting your food to lose weight all make it harder for your body to sustain itself later into the evening.

Besides hunger, a nighttime snack can stem from stress, boredom, or habit. “Emotions and feelings like depression, anxiety, sadness, and frustration also trigger eating, particularly in people who have not developed healthy coping strategies to deal with negative emotions,” says Cathy Leman, RD, a personal trainer and owner of NutriFit, Inc., nutrition consultants in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Leman also notes that any positive psychological effects of eating tend to wear off quickly, leaving the person with a full belly, stressed digestive system, and unsettled sleep at night.

“Eating at night when you aren’t hungry feeds a vicious cycle,” says Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. “You wake up in the morning feeling guilty and not hungry for breakfast, so you starve yourself all day to pay penance and binge again at night, or by mid-morning you are starving so you grab whatever is in the break room — usually doughnuts or bagels — which begins a downward spiral of overeating and guilt that lasts into the night again.”

Nighttime Snack: Fight the Urge

To stave off the urge for a nighttime snack and to stick with your weight-loss strategy, keep your metabolism rolling during the day by eating breakfast and getting adequate portions of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, and proteins. Then, if the urge for a nighttime snack arises, Dr. May recommends asking yourself, “Am I hungry?” She suggests look for physical signs that you need food. “Your metabolism doesn’t shut off at 7:01 p.m.,” May says. “The problem is that most after-hours eating is not done because you need fuel, so the calories you consume are stored.”

Eating out of boredom or habit can be controlled by introducing a new hobby that keeps your mind engaged. Sewing, reading, and playing cards are good options. “Finding an alternative can help develop a different habit that doesn’t include food,” says Leman.

Emotional eating is trickier to curb. Just as finding a new hobby engages your mind, it also helps you separate mentally from the stress of your day. Another strategy is to find a way to ease into the change of pace at night. An evening walk, yoga, and sipping herbal tea are effective ways to transition to a relaxed state of being.

Nighttime Snack: Give Yourself the Go-Ahead

Many people think late-night eating causes weight gain, but it’s not when you eat that matters, it’s what and how much you eat. If you find that you are truly hungry late at night, wait 10 minutes to shift the focus away from food, then if the craving doesn’t subside, choose a small portion of a healthy nighttime snack such as yogurt, fruit, popcorn, rice cakes, cottage cheese, turkey deli meat, or crackers and cheese. Says Leman, “Giving in can sometimes stave off a binge later.”

By Heidi Tyline King at Everyday Health, Inc.

My favorite nighttime snack is warmed up chocolate hemp milk with a spoonful of coconut oil.

Thinking Small without Guilt: Setting Your Minimum Goal Standards

Thinking Small without Guilt: Setting Your Minimum Goal Standards

Have you ever – perhaps in January – come up with some grand plan for self-improvement? Perhaps you promised yourself that you’d jog daily. Maybe you resolved to cook every night instead of eating out. You might even have written down goals, drawn up timetables and charts, and pumped up your willpower as much as possible.

And yet, somewhere along the way, you stopped. Going to the gym five times a week just wasn’t working. You ended up impulse shopping. You never managed to get up on time. Whatever it was, you felt like you’d failed.

The problem is, we’re prone to all-or-nothing thinking. We set ourselves high standards, and give up completely when we can’t meet them.

There’s another way. Rather than aiming for some maximum level of perfection, think small instead. Decide on a minimum standard which you’ll have no excuses for not achieving.

I first came across this idea from Shauna Reid, also known as Diet Girl, lamenting her own all-or-nothing thinking, she wrote:

2009 Minimum Standards Agreement!

  • Write down what I eat
  • Exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes
  • 10.30 PM Internet curfew! […]

I know 20 minutes doesn’t sound like much to you hardcore dames out there, but last year I kept going from one extreme to another. I’d do a 16 miler for my Moonwalk training then do nowt for a week. Even if it’s just twenty minutes of Pilates or a quick jaunt around the village, I need to set a minimum.

Why a Minimum Standard Agreement Works
You’re probably still tempted to come up with grand, perfectionist goals. You’re thinking “I won’t get the same results if I just shoot for the minimum”. But is that really true?

How often have you set grand goals only to give up days later?

How often have you undone your hard work – by having an eating or spending binge after a period of too-harsh restriction?

When you set a Minimum Standard, you feel empowered, because you can easily achieve what you’ve promised yourself. Even on a really busy day, you can find time to write three sentences in your journal. Isn’t it better to do those three sentences daily, rather than aim for three pages and give up after a week?

Plus, when things are going well, your Minimum Standards Agreement doesn’t limit you at all. Let’s say you’ve promised yourself that you’ll walk for just 15 minutes each day. On a nice day, when you’ve got some extra time, you might decide to walk for 30 minutes – or even an hour. And the best part is, this will be a bonus achievement – above and beyond the minimum which you said you’d do.

You’ll feel great about hitting your targets, which means you’ll want to keep going. After all, if you manage to do your 15 minute walk for five weeks in a row, you won’t want to skip a day just because it’s raining.

Examples of Minimum Standards Agreements
So what does a minimum standards agreement look like? And which areas of your life should you focus on?

You’ll want to think about whether to make your targets:

  • Daily, weekly or monthly
  • Time-based or outcome-based
  • Focused on one key area, or split across several

I’d suggest that you pick one to three areas of your life where you’re struggling. Perhaps your two priorities are losing weight and saving money. You could set several simple targets like:

  • Have one day each week when I don’t spend anything (makes you more aware of your spending habits, should help you save money)
  • Take a packed lunch to work at least two days a week (good for money-saving and eating a healthier diet)
  • Spend at least 15 minutes exercising each day (walking, cycling, etc)

Start small: you can always up your commitments if you really feel that this is too easy. Of course, the most effective minimum standards agreements will be the ones which you come up with yourself – but if you’re stuck for ideas, you might want to try some of the below ones.

Remember, you can always do more. These are minimums that you’re supposed to be able to do without fail – even on bad days!

Health and Fitness ideas

Money ideas

  • Empty the spare change from your pockets or wallet into a jar every evening
  • Have a “no spend” day once a week (or once a month)
  • Ban yourself from online shopping in the evenings (or at particular points when you’re prone to impulse buy)
  • Start saving $5/week towards Christmas right now
  • Write down everything you spend on food/drinks out

Work ideas

  • Spend five minutes each day working on that dreaded report or presentation
  • Tidy your desk once a week (or once a month)
  • Take two minutes to plan your morning when you first get in to work
  • If you have a side business or personal project, spend fifteen minutes working on this each evening
  • Clear three emails from your backlog every day
  • Read one chapter of a relevant book each week (or a few pages each day)

Have you ever used a minimum standards agreement with yourself, in the past? How did it work out? If you’ve never tried it before, what could you put into practice today?

by Ali Hale. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life.

Healthy Porta-Foods…

We need to learn to create healthy, nurturing meals out of commonly available “porta-foods”. This food needs to be stuff that travels well, are available everywhere and still passes nutritional muster.

Here are my top ten tips for how to do just that:

  1. Think Proactive. Most of the trouble comes from waiting till you’re in the middle of an emergency hunger situation before taking action (like being without food all afternoon and coming face to face with a convenient snack machine). A little planning in advance goes a long way. If you know you’re gonna be stuck in a meeting, take along something you can eat quickly and discretely that will keep your blood sugar from plummeting and your cravings at bay.
  2. Lettuce is a great container. You can wrap some leftover chicken in a lettuce leaf and eat it in the car, or anywhere else a sandwich would work. Throw on some tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and you’ve got a decent mini-meal. A couple of leaves of red-leaf lettuce make a great “wrap” and the contents are limited only by your imagination.
  3. Find healthy food that travels well. Some suggestions: cottage cheese, yogurt, celery, peppers, carrots and apples. Throw some berries into a Tupperware with some cottage cheese and nuts and take it in the car with you.
  4. Make it the night before. (This is the collorary of “think proactively”). At my house, we sometimes cook a weeks worth of sweet potatoes on a Sunday, and take them with us as snacks during the week. They’re as portable as you can get, they taste great cold and are a veritable vitamin store.
  5. Think unusual foods. Sally Fallon, the great exponent of traditional nourishing foods, says that the best “energy bar” is a homemade, nitrous-free, lean-meat sausage. If you can find a local butcher who still makes sausage like this, grab it.
  6. Think outside the box. One person’s “unusual” is another person’s delicious. Experiment. I’ve found cutting up an apple and eating it with a single serving of tuna adds crunchiness and sweetness to the tuna that makes it a taste treat. Ditto with celery. A single serving can of tuna can be gotten almost anywhere and also goes great with that baked sweet potato you made last Sunday. Or discover your own combinations. You can always find nuts, cheese, fruit and seeds. Use them creatively, or eat them right out of the package. Hint: String cheese is a really easy snack to take on the run and is available everywhere.
  7. Use your blender. Many office-bound people forget that a blender is an easy accessory to keep in a desk or in the company kitchen. In a pinch, packaged meal replacements like MetRx and MyoPlex can be made quickly and are way better for you than most of the stuff at the food court.
  8. Ditto for the microwave. It only takes about four minutes to make real oatmeal (not the packaged kind), and you can add some berries or soy milk and take it with you anywhere in a plain take-out coffee cup. Plus if you sweeten it a little with a good maple syrup and then let it get cold, it almost tastes like desert.
  9. Make a list: Until you get good at this, don’t try to think on your feet. Make a list in advance of possible combinations that might be available while you’re traveling, or that you could easily take with you . One of my favorites is celery with cream cheese. There’s got to be at least a half dozen others just as good. Discover them.
  10. Vegetable juice is a lifesaver. When all else fails, have a V-8. Fresh vegetable juice is always better, and possibly one of the best things you can put in your body, but in a pinch there’s always canned tomato juice and V-8. It takes the edge off your appetite and quenches cravings like nothing else around, and you can get it anywhere. Add celery, leave out the vodka, and you’ll almost feel like it’s happy hour.

By Dr. Jonny Bowden

If you need more snack ideas, check out my Power Breakfast and Snacks.

How To Ditch Artificial Sweeteners

How To Ditch Artificial Sweeteners

I dropped artificial from sweeteners from my diet a long while ago, it wasn’t easy but it has been worth it. This is coming from someone who would sweeten their coffee with splenda and drink a few diet drinks a day on top of a bunch of gum sweetened with aspartame.

The reason I quit was not because I was having any adverse reactions. Rather that I saw it as an addiction of sorts and something so unnatural that it must have damaging effects on the body. Whether they are immediate or long term I am unsure. Saying this is growing evidence linking artificial sweeteners with:

  • § Obesity/Weight Gain
  • § Insulin Resistance
  • § Psychological Disorders (Anxiety, Depression and Brain Fog)
  • § Sugar Addiction
  • § Cancer

Take for instance this study linking Artificial Sweeteners with weight gain in rats.

Scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, studied rats that were fed food with the artificial sweetener saccharin and rats fed food with glucose, a natural sugar.

In comparison to rats given yogurt sweetened with glucose, those that ate yogurt sweetened with saccharin went on to consume more calories and put on more weight and body fat.

The researchers said sweet foods may prompt the body to get ready to take in a lot of calories, but when sweetness in the form of artificial sweeteners is not followed by a large amount of calories, the body gets confused, which may lead to eating more or expending less energy than normal.

This is pretty worrying considering that most people are using artificially sweetened products in an effort to lose weight and be “healthier” and I can say for certain that they are not helping in either of those areas. And are most probably having detrimental effects in both areas.

Identify Artificial Sweeteners In Your Diet

Most people think they are hardly getting any sorts of artificial sweetener each day, Little do they know small bits can add up. Think about it this way — you may just have 1 diet drink per day and some flavored whey protein after the gym, plus a few sticks of sugar free gum. Add that up and it amounts to a pretty sizeable amount of chemicals ingested everyday, now compound those days and think about how much you are getting each month or year.

Some of the most common sources of Artificial Sweeteners in the modern diet are:

  • § Diet Drinks
  • § Low Calorie flavored Yoghurts
  • § Sugar Free Gum
  • § Flavored Whey Protein

These are all things we can see being consumed everyday in our society. What is more worrying though is that they seem to be more popular with people trying to improve their health and lose weight — Think gym goers and serial dieters. This is because these diet foods are the perfect “free” food to tide people over to the next meal or mask the flavor of things that we just don’t want to eat or drink. Often they are packed into caffeinated beverages like Coke, Coffee and Tea making for a double disaster to your health.

Inform yourself of the dangers

Before we take action we must want to change. And therefore getting clued up on the dangers of Artificial Sweeteners is the first step. There are a host of websites detailing many of the potential dangers (I have put a few at the bottom of the article). And here is a great video I came across it is quite long but worth the watch.

One thing to take into account is that some of these sites employ scare mongering tactics, and although the dangers are real they can sometimes be overblown. So take what you read with a pinch of salt.

Cut down the intake steadily

Slow and steady wins the race. — Aesop

There is no need to go cold turkey if you currently have artificially sweetened things in your diet. Rather cut things out slowly, here is how I cut out Diet Drinks, Flavored Protein and Chewing Gum……..

  1. Reduced my consumption of diet drinks
  2. Started buying unflavored Whey Protein
  3. Stopped all diet drinks
  4. Reduced my consumption of Sugar Free gum
  5. Totally cut out Artificially Sweetened products

So as you can see it took me a while but eventually it was done. And although I am by no means perfect now I rarely have artificial sweeteners bar the odd piece of gum and maybe a diet drink once or twice a year.

Trust that you are doing what makes sense

Many of us will feel fine in spite of consuming loads of artificial sweeteners and ultimately the choice is for you to make on whether you want to reduce your consumption. One thing that really make me make the switch was that “It Made Sense” I knew that these chemicals and manmade sweeteners must be causing some pretty bad stuff to happen within my body. After that I did some reading about the dangers and how artificial sweeteners can have a damaging effect on the metabolism and thought enough is enough.

Considering there is also a link between Artificial Sweeteners and chronic dieting and the consumption of empty calorie foods. I think it is important to cut the stuff from your diet not only for the effect they may have on the body right now but we should also take into account the long term consequences and the potential damage this stuff may do over 20 or 30 year……
By Zen to Fitness

Don’t Eat This, Don’t Eat That: How To Eat Healthy Without Fast Food

Here is an excellent article by Darya Pino from the Summer Tomato

Don’t Eat This, Don’t Eat That: How To Eat Healthy Without Fast Food

Last week in For The Love of Food I called out Men’s Health as B.S. of the Week for their article, “Eat healthy at the airport.” There seems to be a growing trend in the number of weight loss programs that support eating fast food. The idea is that some menu items have slightly fewer calories than others and do not contribute (as much?) to weight gain.

It is true you can lose weight eating anything (so long as you do not eat very much of it), but that does not make eating fast food a good idea. What is misleading about these programs is the grossly inappropriate use of the word “healthy.”

Credit the book Eat This, Not That for this special brand of quackery on which Men’s Health bases their article. They begin with the example of McDonald’s (because, you know, where else are you supposed to go eat?) and suggest you order the Quarter Pounder without cheese (and without fries and soda) over the Premium Grilled Chicken Club.

The reason?

The Quarter Pounder has only 410 calories compared to the 570 calories of the chicken sandwich, a 30% reduction.

To me this sounds the same as saying 7 cigarettes is healthier than 10 cigarettes.

Sure it might be “better” to smoke a little less, but do you really believe you are doing yourself any favors? You’re still ingesting something toxic. Would you be happy if China promised to put a little less melamine in your child’s baby formula?

After decades of consuming slightly smaller doses of poison is it logical to think you’d be a more sprightly 80 year old than you would have been eating full dose poison? I don’t think so.


Rationalization is the name of the game here:

“Some people are going to eat fast food no matter what, it might as well have fewer calories.”

“It’s impractical to not eat fast food. What if I’m in a hurry?”

“There’s nothing else to eat at the airport, do you want me to starve?”

“I cannot afford to eat anything healthier. Value meals are the best!”

“I just eat crap then spend extra time in the gym, so it balances out.”

“I love junk food and could never stop eating at McDonald’s.”


The problem with all these faux arguments is that they are based on the assumption that fast food is an inevitable part of life, too powerful to resist or avoid. My guess is we can thank the McDonald’s marketing team for this twisted bit of psychology, but that does not mean we have to accept it.

Here is why those arguments don’t hold water:

  • § The “fact” that some people will continue to eat fast food does not preclude the need to have a diet that endorses it.
  • § There is always something to eat besides fast food. In fact, there was actually a time when Burger King didn’t exist!
  • § A few healthy-ish options can be found at the airport, but if you do a tiny bit of planning beforehand you don’t have to be stuck eating there in the first place. Another thing to consider is that starving would be healthier, since caloric restriction has been consistently shown to improve health, prevent disease and extend life. (But don’t worry, going hungry isn’t necessary.)
  • § The organic kale and tempeh I ate for dinner last night cost the same (~$3.50) as that flacid Quarter Pounder in the photo, and smelled 1000% better (yeah, I actually bought one). [For the record: I did ask for it without cheese and they just botched my order–can you imagine it looking even more tasteless? Blah. So much for tricking yourself into eating fewer calories.]
  • § Working out is very important for your health, but it does not give you essential vitamins, minerals and all the other wonderful things offered by whole foods–exercise cannot substitute for a healthy diet.
  • § There is room in your healthstyle for any food on special occasions. Personally I prefer to use my occasions for exquisite (rather than cheap) meals, but for some of you special may mean going out with the guys for game night or a road trip from L.A. to S.F. (i.e. the In-N-Out in Kettleman City). What is important is that you make sure foods that do not contribute (or are detrimental) to your health make up an extremely small proportion of your diet.

The Real Problem

I contend that the real issue is not that there is nothing else to eat besides fast food, but that we are not trained to recognize any other option. There is a whole world of food out there that does not include unsanitary chain restaurants.

The little secret those of us who don’t eat fast food know is that this other world is far tastier than the one of processed foods and chain restaurants. Also, the convenience factor is easily overcome if you approach it right.

The Answers

Your first defense against eating foods you didn’t plan for (isn’t that what fast food really is?) is to make sure you have a plan. Always.

Rule #1 is to know what, when and where you are going to eat all your meals throughout the day by the time you leave your house in the morning. Not doing this is setting yourself up for an uh-oh. If you are not able to know for certain the specifics of your meal plans, at least try to envision the most likely scenarios and think of ways to make them as healthy as possible. Trust me, these decisions are a lot easier if you make them before you are starving and willing to eat a deep-fried shoe.

Rule #2 is to always have a back up plan. Is there any chance that your friend will bail on you for dinner? Or that you will get stuck at work so long your neighborhood grocery will close? In cases like this it is best to have a plan B. I keep stuff in my freezer and pantry that can be whipped up at any given moment. I also store food in my desk at work for emergencies.

My go-to back up plan is carrying a small bag of nuts like almonds or cashews around with me where ever I go. That way I have something to snack on until I can get myself into a more favorable eating environment. Keep a small bag of nuts in your purse, glove compartment of your car, gym bag, desk drawer or carry on luggage. Your hidden snack should be in whatever container you will be sure to have with you at all times.

Nuts make a particularly good snack because their high fat and protein content (the super good-for-you kinds) make them very satisfying. One day when you are not starving try eating exactly 8 almonds, take a sip of water and wait half an hour. For me, this usually staves off hunger for at least another 45-60 minutes, and sometimes up to 2 hours.

It is more difficult to restrict your intake to 8 or 10 nuts when you are starving, however. But it is easier to exercise self-control if you believe (through experience) that a certain quantity is sufficient to satisfy your appetite. This is why I recommend you try this once before you find yourself in an emergency situation.

If for some reason you end up hungry and do not have your handy bag of nuts, you still have non-Whopper options:

  • § Grocery stores Most grocery stores have fresh sections with cut up vegetables, fruits, hummus, lean meats and lots of other healthy items (nuts included). Pretend like you are having a picnic and nibble on a few of these things instead or resorting to the drive-thru. You will get plenty of calories, I promise.
  • § Delis A small sandwich with lean meats and vegetables is a pretty good, easy option if you can find a deli. I would not call this an ideal meal, but it’s better than a BigMac for sure.
  • § Non-chain restaurants If I am resigned to eating in a restaurant I haven’t planned on the first thing I look for is a non-chain restaurant, preferably a place that specializes in soups, salads and sandwiches. These places are usually well stocked in vegetables and often boast organic produce. They can be a little pricier than a Happy Meal, but it is worth it if you don’t have to eat a gray colored mystery meat patty, right?
  • § Colorful plates Wherever I decide to dine, I search the menu for dishes that sound like they have a high percentage of vegetables, preferably multicolored. Ordering a side salad or vegetables instead of potatoes is an easy way to accomplish this mission.
  • § Little bread Giant servings of generic, processed breads made of refined white flour are the biggest problem at most mediocre restaurants. If you can, try to order something that doesn’t require too much bread. This is especially true if you will be sitting on an airplane for the next several hours.
  • § Avoid cheese Cheese is delicious and I love to eat it occasionally. However, it is common these days for restaurants to bury plates in cheese to mask the crappy ingredients they used for the rest of the dish. Chili’s low quality cheese is hardly worth the extra few hundred calories being used to cover up the fattening, mediocre food you ordered.
  • § No sweets Sugar is one of the most dangerous things you can eat and should always be consumed with caution. We all love desserts, but you will be much better off saving your sweet tooth for truly special occasions. Airport terminals really aren’t that special.
  • § Healthy fats I go out of my way to find healthy fats like nuts, fish and salad oils when I am eating solely to satisfy my hunger. These fats will make sure you stay full as long as possible.
  • § Lean proteins As far as satisfaction goes, what is true for fats is true for proteins. Because they digest so slowly proteins help you feel full longer. Fish, eggs, nuts, beans and even whole grains like brown rice can give your meal a more satisfying impact.
  • § Eat simply When you are eating on-the-go and in restaurants you are unsure about, your best bet is to stick to simple items. Avoid menu descriptors like glazed, gooey, cheesy, creamy, fiesta, piled, smothered, etc. Sauces are really a problem at airport-style restaurants. Stick to predictable items to keep yourself out of trouble. A turkey sandwich or chop salad are usually pretty safe.

The basic message is to find fresh foods and eat as balanced as possible. No matter what you order this is probably not going to be the most delicious meal of your life, so you may as well try to make it as healthy as possible. A little planning–like eating before heading to the airport–can go a long way in saving special occasions for food that is truly special.

What are the biggest obstacles you encounter when stuck somewhere without food?

Mistakes That Keep You Fat

Mistakes That Keep You Fat 

The less body fat you carry, the better your abs will show. And it makes sense to start your summer beach-body program long before shirtless weather arrives. Your goal is to strip your winter flab so your core work can show through.

Start by performing triage on your eating habits. “Target one or two behaviors that you can make the most difference by changing”. Take a moment to think about your typical day, and pick your worst habit (weekend pig-outs? salty snacks and beer?). Then work for a week on eliminating that habit. The following week, move to your next-weakest link.

We have only so much willpower, a recent study in Psychology and Health shows. That’s why trying to break several bad habits at once can be overwhelming: You drain your capacity for willpower—what researchers call “self-regulation”. This is one time when being too ambitious can backfire.

Skipping Meals or Snacks

Not eating can mess with your body’s ability to control your appetite. But it also destroys willpower, which is just as damaging. “Regulating yourself is a brain activity, and your brain runs on glucose”. If you skip breakfast or a healthy snack, your brain doesn’t have the energy to say no to the inevitable chowfest.

So skipping a feed helps turn us into gluttons at night. Your starving brain “just doesn’t have the fuel it needs to keep you on track, monitoring your diet.”

Break it: Change your mindset. Think I’m going to start a new routine, not I’m going to restrict myself. Restriction leads to overeating.


Use the nondiet approach: You’re not denying yourself food, you’re just eating it more slowly. Savoring it. Allowing your body some time so you don’t keep eating when you’re full.

In an experiment published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 17 healthy men ate 11/4 cups of ice cream. They either scarfed it in 5 minutes or took half an hour to savor it. According to study author, levels of fullness-causing hormones (called PYY and GLP-1), which signal the brain to stop eating, were higher among the 30-minute men. In real life, the scarfers wouldn’t feel as full and could be moving on to another course.

Break it:
Your body is trying to tell you something, so give it a chance. Slow down and enjoy your food. Put away the newspaper and turn off the TV. Try this breathing trick from The Yoga Body Diet: Inhale while counting slowly to five; exhale and count slowly to five; repeat three to five times before eating. A study in a 2009 issue of Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that yoga increases mindful eating and results in less weight gain over time.

Pigging Out on Weekends

Weekend feasts can cause trouble beyond Sunday. In a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers used rats to examine the effects of palmitic acid on leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. Palmitic acid is found in saturated fat, an ingredient often featured in your favorite weekend grub.

“We found that within 3 days, the saturated fat blunts or blocks the ability of leptin to regulate food intake and body weight”. So a Friday to Sunday of burgers, fries, and wings may prime your brain to overeat on Monday.

Break it: You don’t have to go cold turkey (though turkey on whole wheat is always smart). Your reward for a healthy week should be one cheat meal, not an entire weekend of them. After all, having an all-you-can-eat weekend is like eating poorly for nearly 30 percent of your week. That means you’d be eating well just 70 percent of the time. We call that a C minus. Do you really want below-average results?


Alcohol, that is. Here’s an exercise to start tonight: Write down how much beer, wine, and other drinks you consume in a week. (Use that cocktail napkin.) You may surprise yourself. Calculate the calories and expect another surprise. A reasonable-sounding two beers a night can mean more than 2,000 calories a week—almost an extra day’s worth. It can take more than 2 hours of running to burn that off . You call that a weight-loss plan? Besides the empty calories, booze undermines your willpower, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Which leads to impulse orders of, say, Buffalo wings.

Break it: Try quitting—for just a week. Check your weight and how your pants fit. See if you can live on less. When you do drink, switch to lower-carb dry red wine (about 4 grams of carbohydrates compared with almost 13 in a regular beer) or low-carb beer.

Eating in Front of the TV, Then Dozing Off

It’s a double whammy with a twist. You ingest calories while burning none, and sabotage your secret weight-loss weapon: sleep. Research confirms that people who eat in front of the tube consume more calories (nearly 300, in one study) than those who don’t, and that the more TV they watch, the less active they are. And University of Chicago researchers found that people who lost 3 hours of sleep ate about 200 more calories the next day in snacks than those who slept 81/2 hours.

Break it: “If you want to watch TV, be active at the same time or go work out and come back—then you can treat yourself with some TV.” And make your DVR earn its keep so you can go to bed on a regular schedule. Sleep is a fine habit when done correctly.

Adapted from Men’s Health