Food For Thought

A colorful salad surrounded by fresh pepper and tomato ingredients

Are You Eating Enough?

Coach Caroline, 07/22/2016

A commonly held belief among weight loss enthusiasts is this: in order to lose weight, you must reduce portion size. Certainly, if you intend to continue consuming calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods like meat, potatoes, pasta, olive oil, cheese, and crackers then you will have to eat less.

However,  whole food, plant-based eaters have the opposite problem. If you are switching from some version of the standard American diet to a nutrient-dense way of eating, diminishing your waistline will require you to expand your notion of portion size, especially as it relates to vegetables.

Don’t repeat my mistake

Way back when (in the late 80’s), green salads made entry into my otherwise highly refined vegetarian diet. I didn’t know anything about nutrients  or phytochemicals, and the notion of free radicals was no more than a footnote at the end of some chemist’s research paper. But I knew how to count calories and knew that my perpetual efforts at weight loss would not succeed without reducing my intake of calorie-rich staples like late-night pizza, cafeteria waffle fries, and 35¢ Suzy Q’s (calories were cheap in the late ‘80s!).

A common pitfall

Due to its high calorie content, sugary, salty, oily salad dressing significantly lessens the nutrient-density of an otherwise healthy dish. Luckily, I was aware of that pitfall and avoided it by using vinegar and lemon juice (today, I make delicious, healthy salad dressings). However, I never felt satisfied when I finished my salad, and that lack of satiation made me so vulnerable to between-meal cravings that I’d inevitably end up caving to unhealthy urges later in the day.

Size matters

My problem was two-fold. First, I was basing the size of my leafy creations on salad entrees I’d encountered in restaurants. Upon first glance, those “main course” salads give the illusion of heft with their fluffy greens piled high—but they turn out to be all air with only a smattering of grated carrot and a cucumber slice or two.

Y’all, that’s not enough food.

One way your brain knows you’ve had enough to eat is by receiving signals from stretch receptors in your stomach, and a couple leaves of lettuce, while pleasing to the eye, will not suffice.

The fix?

Today, I make my salads with a food scale. I start with four ounces of green leaves, and then I add about four ounces of a sliced or shredded crucifer (broccoli, cauliflower, radish, cabbage, etc.). Finally, I toss in some onion, bell peppers, and tomatoes (or whatever’s in season at my local Farmer’s Market) so that the finished product is about a pound of raw veggies and greens.

Problem #2

Raw vegetables alone are not satisfying enough for most folks. My clients discover this the hard way when they arrive at restaurants unprepared (without their beans and nut-based dressing) and wonder why they end up licking their dining companion’s plate clean.

Enter the unassuming legume.

Due to their blood sugar-sustaining ability, resistant starch, and numerous phytochemicals, beans are the preferred starch source for the high-nutrient dieter. They give you a healthy something to sink your teeth into! I never have a salad without ½ to 1 cup of beans. Any bean will do, and the more variety, the better.

The take-away

Remember that nutrient-dense food is, by definition, low in calories (it contains a large amount of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants per calorie).

When it comes to low-starch veggies, increase your notion of portion size and use a kitchen scale to make sure you’re eating enough of these nutrition powerhouses. Also, beans will become your BFF when you see how easily they serve as the “meat” of your meal and how well they maintain your energy levels throughout the day.

Oh, that reminds me of a great song!

“Beans, beans, they're good for your heart...”


Want to know more about Caroline’s strategies for sticking with a healthy diet? Schedule a call with her today and learn how to build willpower!

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