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Skinny food

It seems that every time I visit the grocery store, the tabloids at the checkout line are boasting a new diet that is sure to work. We buy the magazine and a month later can't figure out why the "nicotine and coconut juice diet" failed us when so many celebrities achieved super skinny status, seemingly, overnight. Truthfully, the only way to naturally and healthily lose weight is to watch what you eat and to exercise. I'm not a personal trainer, but I am a professional foodie, and I know that by simply adjusting your approach to a meal it may help you achieve your goals.

The appetizer course is often chocked full of unhealthy items in most restaurants. Beware of the word "crispy" as it is a sneaky version of fried. Instead, try a vegetable soup or a salad at the start of the meal. They provide a great source of fiber and aid in filling you up with healthy food prior to the main course. If you opt for a salad, use olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing to save calories. One serving of Hidden Valley Ranch contains 140 calories of which 130 are from fat. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar contain only about 50 calories with 36 of those from fat. If you must keep a traditional dressing for your salad, ask for it on the side. Dip a little of your fork in the dressing before spearing the lettuce and you will find that you use significantly less.

Shrimp cocktail is also a healthy starter. It is one of the best sources for lean protein and only carries around 8 calories. Just use a little squeeze of lemon and avoid any sauce that accompanies the dish as it may contain sugar.

Once you get to the main course, it is vital to recognize the "I'm full" point and stop eating at that moment. I can't imagine that I'm the only one who heard tales of starving children in far away lands or was rewarded with dessert for a clean plate. These parenting tricks conditioned us to eat well past our capacity from an early age.

How do you recognize the "I'm full" point? It takes roughly 20 minutes for the stomach to let the brain know that it's full. If we slow the eating process down, we will begin to recognize these feelings more often. I know it's easier said than done as most of my meals are eaten standing up and in less than five minutes. However, if you portion correctly, then you won't have much trouble even eating while on the run. Allocate a portion that gives you an 80 percent full feeling and stick with that size meal.

Spicy foods can act as eating speed bumps. It has been proven that spicy foods slow our eating and, thus, reduce the chance of eating past the "I'm full" point. Keep in mind that we aren't talking about Buffalo wings here. Grilled, baked or poached chicken and seafood is best with your preferred spice. If the spice source comes from a natural place, such as peppers, then it is more beneficial than from a traditional hot sauce which may contain preservatives and added sugar.

Beverage choices can also influence your caloric intake. Try drinking ginger green tea instead of soda or sweet tea. Aside from becoming very trendy, ginger green tea is a great remedy for stress. If you can replace an unhealthy beverage with something that promotes circulation, stimulates the palate and calms the nerves, then the results may be more rewarding than just being a size smaller.

The three dessert items to aim for are fruit, nuts and chocolate. Fresh fruits provide a natural sweetness that tends to quench the palate after a meal. Nuts should be used moderately as they do contain more carbohydrates and protein, but are still far better than baked items or ice cream. Finally, chocolate is a great source for an after-dinner sweet and has been proven to relax the blood vessels. Avoid any chocolate with hydrogenated oils, such as milk chocolate or white chocolate (which is merely cocoa butter). A rich, mildly sweetened dark chocolate is the most satisfying to our health. Remember, a little goes a long way, so portion very moderately.

There are no short cuts that have been proven healthful in the long run aside from proper diet and exercise, in my experience at least. Moderation is a significant factor in eating foods that we enjoy while being mindful of our waistline. If you incorporate habits such as these into your routine, then you will not necessarily have to give up too much to reach your goals. Cheers!