I’m not a doctor nor, a weight loss guru who has all of the answers but, there are simple things that make a difference and having dessert is one of them. As are planned snacks.
Let me take you back with me to my grandparents. None of them were farmers with heavy loads of physical activities. Yet, they were all slim people. Not one of them ever had a weight problem….even by today’s standards. Well, that’s not entirely true because today’s fashion and envy standards are eating disordered looking. However, let’s say that they were slim, healthy weights which has made me wonder if I was adopted or had missed that set of “Slim Genes”.
I’m not exactly the most active of people. Most of what I do for work and pleasure are more or less sedentary pursuits so, I have been working on getting in some form of daily activity for at least a half hour to an hour a day. I’ve cut back portion sizes, cut out junk foods but, it really hasn’t made much of a difference so, I’ve thought back to my grandparents and parents and what they did. What I’ve discovered was shockingly simple.
They all ate desserts and snacks.
When most of us think of dessert, we automatically think “fat” and pass it by. If there’s one thing we’ll cut out, it’s the desserts first, snacking second.
I remember staying with both sets of grandparents during summers when I had to work to pay my way through university. Dinners weren’t exactly diet menus. There was roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravies, hams (not yams), beef stews, real butter, hefty white breads and all of the foods that one would be banishing pretty much from today’s fad diets. I scratch my head at how they all lived until their late 80’s to mid-90’s and didn’t die of heart attacks and blocked arteries but, that’s beside the point. In spite of what we’ve been told, these people were all slim and lived healthy, good long lives.
That gave me pause and confused me to no end. How did that work? Here I am, eating salads with lemon juice or vinegar, fat-free yogurt, only fish and chicken breasts, tons of veggies and fruits, low fat everything and only whole grains yet, still wasn’t budging much. What was going wrong?
It wasn’t until I was recounting dinner menus from both grandparents’ homes to my husband that I realized a few things that were key.
Dinner plates were what we would call, “bread and butter plates”. They were approximately 8 to 10 inches in diameter, not the 12 and 14 inch plates we have today. They always looked far fuller than what they really were so, it fooled the eye and stomach into thinking we were eating tremendous amounts. In reality, if we put those portions onto one of today’s plates, we’d be asking when dinner was going to be served. Somehow though, it always seemed like we had a full meal and didn’t feel deprived.
There was always bread and butter and potatoes of some kind with every meal and, while the carb-haters of the world would gasp at this concept, they were not the evils we’d think that they were. While I would now prefer whole grain breads for its nutritional and fiber value (versus empty white bread calories), carb avoidance was certainly not an issue. As a matter of fact, it was a staple and the meats were of lesser quantities but, still there.
Every meal had fruit and vegetables. Breakfasts were small bowls of cereal like oatmeal or, cream of wheat, shredded wheat and topped with berries or peaches and tea.
Lunches were sandwiches of salmon or cheese, lettuce and tomato, sometimes, left over chicken breasts, sliced and loads of vegetables cut up to munch on, then some sort of fruit like canned (store-bought or home jarred) peaches or fruit cocktail, topped with a tablespoon of whipped topping.
Mid-afternoon, was always tea. Along with the tea, came some sort of snack. While I would hesitate on that now because of the trans fat content, it was usually, some sort of sweet cookies or angel food cake or something light and not much of it. Just enough to feel we’d had something. It was never on-the-go fare. It was a sit-down affair. Concentrating on the actual taste of both the sweet and the tea.
Dinners were as described above but, after each dinner, there was always a dessert like a small portion of pudding or jello or more fruit cocktail with whipped topping or a small portion of ice cream with fruit. We’re not talking soup bowl sizes, but those small dessert bowls that one often sees at a fancy dinner party. And, of course, more tea with dessert.
Mid-evening, there was more tea and usually some form of a small snack such as a couple of digestive biscuits or crackers with cheese or peanut butter.
No one ever went hungry and it was that point which was key.
The small portions on the breakfast, lunch and dinner plates never felt small because there was always a tasty treat coming next it to look forward to so, no one went back for second helpings or loaded their plates. Everyone left room for dessert and tea, which filled us up to just satisfaction level, not stuffed feeling. No one walked away bloated or nauseous.
I think the biggest key was that meals were treated as a social time. It was never eaten on the run. It was tasted fully, savoured and enjoyed. It was never mindless eating. Conversations also slowed the eating down, which signalled our brains as to our stomachs being full and we didn’t require more to satisfy us. Tea, dessert and talking were key factors to slowing down and eating less.
With all of the diets out there on the market, all of the talk about good foods-bad foods, all of the warnings about sugar, sodium, trans fats, preservative content, our hurried lifestyles, our self-deprivation, our fat-free, carb-free, we’re literally making ourselves FAT and putting ourselves in jeopardy of heart problems and diabetes. We’ve become a nutrition conscious society of fat, unhealthy people because no one really knows what to eat anymore, how or when. We’re fumbling and making ourselves sicker because we’re too worried about the next study that will come out to tell us we’re eating wrong.
We’re giving up because it’s too much to think about and remember. We’re confused as to what to eat so, we either end up with eating disorders or, we pig-out purely out of frustration.
There’s a plethora of foods now available to us. We have choices so, dessert doesn’t need to be unhealthy. It may contain some sugar. It may contain some sort of fats but, as long as it’s in small portions and well enjoyed, the weight won’t be an issue. When the weight is not a factor, diabetes won’t be either.
So, eat healthy choices like lean meats, chicken and fish. Eat potatoes and bread but, switch to whole grain breads and sweet potatoes. Have oils and fats but, keep them healthy fats and oils like canola. Eat butter sometimes but, keep it in small amounts and make it margarines instead the rest of the time. Have the fruits and vegetables and dress them up. Just keep everything smaller portion sizes.
Take your time with your meals. We can all cut out something in our days to make time to sit down and enjoy our meals and snacks. If possible, make it a social time. Remember that the more we are talking, the less we eat and the more we enjoy our food.
Most of all, add a dessert. Make it a healthy, small portion dessert but, have dessert and treat yourself.
All things in moderation. That’s the key.