I often get comments about my “skinniness.” How do I stay so thin? Am I just a freak of nature? Well, genetics do play a part, but I also value what goes in my mouth, and the mouths of my family. We generally eat healthy and have a few fun snacks once in a while. I see so many fad diets out there, and so many women doing it for a while, then backsliding because it’s just no fun to diet. I agree! If the diet keeps you hungry or axes all your favorite foods, it’s never going to work. No, I am not a licensed nutritionist. But, I’m going to lay out what works for me and my family.
First, let’s talk about calories. There are 3 main kinds. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Your body NEEDS all three. Proteins help repair damaged cells and provide energy for much needed cellular communication. That’s why the high protein diets are such a hit right now. But, if you eat too much protein, the leftovers will be stored as fat. Fats do two things for your body. First, they feel yummy in your mouth and the brain releases those feel good chemicals- this is also what signals your brain that you are full. Secondly, fats are needed for insulation. Not just whole body insulation, but fat surrounds your neurons and muscle cells for speedy transmissions. Extra fat is stored as, you guessed it, extra fat. Carbohydrates are quickly broken down into sugars that your body can use right away. A lot of popular diets are low-carb, or even no carbs for a while. But that’s just not sustainable. Our bodies do need carbs, because they start working right after you eat while the proteins and fats need more time to digest.
Empty Calories. They are banned from my house! Well, for the most part. Empty calories are drinks and snacks with zero nutritional value, yet packed with salt and/or sugar. When we humans were hunter-gatherers, our bodies evolved to reward ourselves with good feelings whenever we found salt or sugar. Since those things were hard to come by, our bodies became very good at storing them. Yes, we all need salt and sugar, just not in the ridiculous amounts marketed at us today. Pop, juice, and candy are allowed at minimal amounts. Everybody likes a snack once in a while. That’s why my kids get so excited for birthdays, camping trips, and the holidays. Those are the only times they are allowed to drink pop. And I follow that rule, too. We don’t eat chips or little debbie snacks either. There’s just not much junk food to be found here. Except ice cream. We all love a little ice cream at night. We don’t, however, sit down and eat a pint. Just a scoop or two, and everyone has their favorite topping.
One more topic before I get to what we actually eat around here. Sugar and fat substitutes. Those are NOT HEALTHY for anybody! I’m not a crazy organic pusher, but I don’t think our bodies need all those nasty chemicals. I put food dyes in this category, too. Seeing kids drink Hawaiian Punch or Kool Aid makes me want to puke. Anyway, if you want a fun snack, don’t reach for the sweet-n-low. And not just because of the chemicals, but because of how our digestive system reacts to the fake stuff. When we eat sugar substitutes, our body is tricked into thinking we just ate sugar. It tasted sweet, right? So we release insulin for sugar that isn’t there. So far, that doesn’t sound too bad, right? But that insulin floats around until real sugar does come along, and then our bodies release even more insulin, and more sugar than needed is taken from our bloodstream and put into cells. More sugar in cells = need for more sugar in bloodstream = feeling hungry. After it’s all said and done, you are better off having a regular pop than the diet kind, or a dessert with sugar instead of splenda. I guarantee a diet pop drinker loads up on more carbs than a regular pop drinker. But just don’t drink a lot of pop. It is so bad for your body.
So what do we eat and drink? I am a huge fan of good ole vitamin D milk. It’s so yummy and creamy! Everyone has a cup at dinner. With breakfast and lunch, it’s usually water, but if the kids want milk, they can have it. Breakfast is just a small bowl of cereal. And speaking of breakfast, I have a little did-you-know fact. Big breakfast was created in the 1950’s or so to sell more pork. That’s why bacon, ham steak, and sausages are the main meats of breakfasts these days. Before that time, breakfast was usually some toast and fruit if it was in season (you need those carbs to get you going in the morning!) Anyway, If the kids want a snack between breakfast and lunch, we have granola bars, yogurt, and fruit. And goldfish once in a while. Yes, lots of salt there, but it’s okay in small quantities. But the snacks are SMALL. I don’t like filling up on snacks, because I don’t think it’s healthy. I think our bodies need to be in a rhythm of eating at the same times every day, and we also need to feel hungry. Letting your stomach empty out, and then filling it up, keeps it small. And a small stomach is key to a healthy weight. Lunchtime is fun time for the kids. We have mac n cheese, hot dogs, PB&J’s, cold-cut sandwiches with cheese. I usually let them pick the main course, and then add a canned veggie. The canned veggie is not quite as nutritious as a fresh one (the vitamins are a tad compromised and there is a lot of salt added) but the kids like the canned version better. In my mind, they are getting more nutrients out of the can because they eat more of it. And as far as salt consumption goes, maybe it’s a little high, but since we don’t eat salty snacks, I figure we even out. Then, if the kids want a snack between lunch and dinner, they can have a small one as long as they ask for it by 3pm. After that, they can wait for dinner, which is usually around 5:30.
Dinners are huge around here! Most of the time, it’s a meat, potatoes, and a fresh veggie. Once in a while, we have pizza night or go out for Chinese for something fun. As far as dinner at home goes, everybody gets a serving of each item and they do have to clear their plates. No, they don’t get adult servings, they are kid-sized. If they want more of something, all they have to do is eat the other stuff on their plates first. And they always finish their milk. So at dinner, we get all three of the calorie types- protein, fat, and carbs. We also get our vitamins from the veggies. Most of the time, we don’t do bedtime snacks. During the school year, bedtime is at 7, so no one is hungry for a snack anyway. In the summer, however, everyone likes to indulge in that scoop of ice cream.
Some people that know Luella might think, isn’t that girl supposed to be gaining as much weight as possible? She can’t even be on the charts as far as her weight goes! I used to worry about that all the time. She had special formula and everything. But then I did a test. For one week, I let her eat whenever she wanted and whatever she wanted (within reason- still no junk food.) I kept a food diary and recored what she ate, how much she ate, and when she ate. The next week, I put her on the plan that I have the other kids on and kept the same food diary. During the second week, she ate more good food at mealtimes and had an overall larger calorie intake. Junk food is no good for anyone. Not for the person trying to lose weight, and not for the person trying to gain weight.
So that’s it. We eat light and simple. And as far as what I eat and drink, here ya go: Three cups of black coffee to get me going in the morning, a bowl of cereal around 9 if I remember to eat. Sometimes I get busy and forget to eat until lunch. At lunch I have a sandwich or something small, then nothing until dinner. I keep my portions small, and I usually don’t drink anything with extra calories except my coffee and milk.