Tuesday, December 27, 2011

To Wiser New Year's Resolutions...

Think Now!

What were your New Year’s resolutions for 2011?

What did you achieve?

What is there left to do?

One of the things we carry from one year to another is dieting. Oh yes! Reaching that desired weight has never been easy and making changes in your life has never been really achieved. This year, it’s going to be different. I know you’ve said that for the past decade. But, hopefully, with our tips, you will be able to cross that item off your list.

Before making any changes, you should find out why you’re doing this. Then, you should know exactly what to do and how.

Why are you dieting? – Find a good reason

Sometimes, it’s because you have a wedding and you want to fit in that beautiful dress; other times, it’s because summer’s almost here and no swimsuit looks good with the extra fat; sometimes it’s because you heard a humiliating comment on how you’ve gained weight, etc. These are wrong reasons to diet because as soon as you lose the purpose, you lose the will! We always tend to focus on what we’re missing out on by dieting; however, we never think of what we’re gaining. So, this year, try to think of the benefits:

“I’m losing weight so I can be healthier” 

“I’m losing weight so I’d look better”

“I’m losing weight so I’d feel better about myself”, etc.

Find a sustainable reason to lose weight and it will keep you going!

What should you do? – Set reachable and meaningful goals

Imagine yourself road tripping with your friends, heading north. You have no specific destination, but you’re driving and all is well. You may reach Jbeil or you can go all the way to Tripoli. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s a fun ride! Well, it’s the same when you’re dieting. If you don’t have a number to reach, you will make a u-turn as soon as the road gets rocky. So, set a goal and work hard to reach it.

“I want to lose 10 kg by the end of 2012; 7kg in the first 6 months, and then I’ll take my time with the last 3 kg.”

It is very important to be realistic. No one should expect to lose 10kg in a month. It just doesn’t happen and you know very well that when someone fails at something they get really demotivated. So why pressure yourself into something that won’t work?

Also, don’t set too many goals. Don’t overwhelm yourself because you can’t change too many things at a time. You know that, in order to succeed, you must give full energy and focus to something. The more objectives you have, the less attention you can give to each one of them.

Finally, set deadlines to attain your targets. Write them down and open the envelopes every 3 months for example to see if you have reached them or not.

How should you do it?

I, personally, don’t believe in radical changes. Turning your life upside down was never easy or pleasurable. Why do it? Take it one step at a time and you’ll feel like you’ve done nothing while you would have gone a long way. If your eating habits are poorly organized, you can’t change them overnight. You can’t go from one meal a day to 4 in one giant leap! You can try to introduce breakfast, then lunch, then snacks. Or you can fix the quality of your food then the quantity. Any changes will give you results. You just need to make that first step and the rest will follow.

Quantify things: We always say “I should eat less chocolate”. Ok! What’s the definition of less chocolate? Is it one bar? 2? 3? Evaluate your consumption and give yourself a limited period of time to decrease it. Let’s say you eat 2 bars of chocolate per day; you can tell yourself that you’re going to start by having 1. When you maintain that for a couple of weeks, you can reduce it further to 3 times a week, and so on…

Keep a food journal: I know this sounds like a lot of work; however, keeping record of what you’re eating everyday can help you detect the small changes you can make.

Prepare yourself for obstacles: Thinking that the journey will be all rainbows and butterflies will only lead to failure. Know that there will be road blocks and that you will have to face downs. When you hit rock bottom, try to motivate yourself again and get yourself up. Stay away from negative thinking because it never helped and it never will.

Ask for help: This was never a bad idea! And we’re not only talking about professional help but also your friends and family. Consulting with a dietitian is very important in order for him/her to assist you in the process; however, having support from the people you love is extremely motivating.

It’s not easy to make lifestyle changes, but it’s not hard when you do it the right way. Don’t forget to stay positive and reward yourself from time to time for a job well done.

Happy New Year and Happy New Resolutions! :D


Monday, December 19, 2011

Smart Tips To Survive Christmas

“It’s the season to be jolly…”

But it’s also the season of anxiousness, stress and fear of gaining weight.
Research shows that people tend to gain around 2 to 3 kg during the holidays, with an inability or a difficulty losing that extra weight.
During this season, there’s nowhere to hide. Everywhere you go, someone’s after you with a shot of liqueur, some comfits, a box of chocolate and of course the “buche de noel”. You want to stay faithful to your diet and simply say no, but of course, it’s rude! So you give up and often lose control.
We will NOT let this happen! Together we will find ways to relieve you from this burden and prevent this weight gain. Try these tips, and let us know the results!

The Holidays

Be realistic: Let’s face it: No one’s losing weight during the holidays, well almost. Trying to do so will only bring you down because it’s the busiest time of the year even on the stomach level. So your goal should be to maintain your current weight and prevent any increases.

Learn the word “NO”: You don’t have to say yes to everyone; and if you think it’s rude, then say “No, but…” and try to find a healthier alternative to what they’re offering. For example, when someone says “have some fries”; you can say “No thanks, but I’ll have some more of that delicious salad of yours.” And you’re off the hook!

The Christmas dinner and all the other feasts…

No starvation: When you know you’re having quite a big dinner, you tend not to eat all day so that you don’t exceed your required calorie intake. This is absolutely wrong! Starving yourself all day will only get you to lose control at night and shove absolutely anything in your mouth during dinner. Goodbye healthy! So even though you’ll be eating more than usual, have a good breakfast, a light lunch and a healthy snack. We don’t want you to have dinner on an empty stomach!

Healthy cooking: If you or your mom are cooking, try to either prepare/ask for a healthy dish or modify the recipes so they become lower in fat (less oil in cooking, less frying and more grilling, low fat ingredients, etc.)

Plan your meal: Take a quick look at the dining table. Pick out the foods that attracted you the most, the ones you would definitely love to try and of course the healthiest ones. Try to eliminate the items you can have every day. Now, plan a way to divide your calories. We’re not asking you to count the calories but to have an idea of what your meal is going to look like so you won’t exceed by far your usual calorie intake.

Use a small plate: You don’t like seeing your plate half empty? Easy! Use half a plate and make it full! It will allow you to eat less while trying all the different items offered.

Food choices: Start by filling at least 50% of your plate with vegetables. Research shows that eating a salad before a meal can help you eat fewer calories. Try to stay away from the high calorie, low in nutrients appetizers such as mini pizzas, samboussik, and rakakat.

Eat slowly: Savor every bite you’re having. Challenge yourself: try to be the last person to finish eating, not by eating more of course but by taking your time. That way, your plate will always look full and neither your aunt nor your grandmother will nag about your plate being empty and that it needs to be filled.

Eat only what sits in your plate: We have that habit of picking out of the serving dish: some hummus from here, fries from over there and a lot more. And these are the calories we never count. It s very important to visualize the quantities we’re having. Let the food sit in your plate, look at it, watch how much you’re eating and then start using your fork.

Avoid excess alcohol: Save the calories for the actual food. For tips on how to reduce your alcohol intake, read our article: Raise your glass.

Socialize: When you’re at a restaurant with some friends, you’re chatting and laughing and making noise; suddenly, the food comes and everyone gets so silent because they are so focused on eating. Now, be your own lab rat. Try to engage in a conversation at the table and notice how you eat less and feel full quicker. So this year, focus on catching up with that cousin you never see, that aunt you haven’t visited in a while or that relative that’s coming from abroad, rather than the food itself.
Pause: Give yourself 10 minutes before you fill your plate again to see if you are still hungry.

Don’t leave your plate empty: You don’t have to empty your plate. Leaving that extra food can help you save a lot of unnecessary calories.

Eat until satisfied: There’s a long way between full and stuffed. Make sure you can still breathe at the end of the meal.

Walk away: Try to stay away from the dining table as soon as you feel satiated so you won’t be tempted to eat more. Propose to move to the sitting room as it is “more comfortable”.

Physical activity: Only the courageous ones are reading this paragraph. Yes! Physical activity is very important during this period. First of all, you should consider a physical activity after every feast. We’re not talking about a jog or a basketball game here (we don’t want anyone throwing up). You can simply clear the table, help with the dishes, go for a walk with the family, etc. Second of all, you should exercise more to compensate for the extra calories you’re ingesting. Everyone has more vacation days during this time of year, that’s why you should benefit from this and be more active. You never know, you might make a habit out of it.

Being healthy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the holidays. You can simply eat responsibly!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Always Prepared!

I have a friend, Jo, who lives alone in her very cozy and cute apartment in Ashrafieh. I love hanging out there with her. When I walk into her kitchen, I open the fridge and all I see is water, a bottle of wine, a small Tupperware of food prepared by her mom, an apple maybe and… that’s it! I open the cabinets and I see coffee, sugar, 1 pack of spaghettis and… that’s also it! When I take a look at her delivery menus, all I can see is fast food restaurants and some bakeries.

12% of Lebanese live alone and I can say that most of them are just like Jo. They don’t really fill their kitchens with healthy food or any food at all.

So this article is dedicated to all the Jos out there who would like to take that step and go from an unhealthy kitchen to an “Always prepared” one!

Let’s go to the supermarket…
Your kitchen has to have all the ingredients for breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course snacks.

What can you have for breakfast? A sandwich, some cereals, milk, eggs, etc. So in your fridge, you should always have at least one of each of the following food groups:

Breads: pita bread, toast, baguette, pain de mie.

Proteins: Your fridge should have one pack of labne, halloum, akkawi, double crème or Sylphide etc. Any kind of cheese would do; just try to go for white cheeses as they are less fatty than yellow ones. You can also replace cheese with ham, turkey, salami etc. Be careful! All of them, except turkey of course, are high in fat. So it would be preferable to consume them once a week or once every two weeks. Eggs are also a good idea every once in a while.

Milk: go for low fat milk.

Cereals:  You can have the sugar coated ones; however, it would be much healthier to focus on whole grain cereals such as Fitness and Special K.

For those of you who have a relative who can cook for them, they’ve got the best deal! I know some of you bring a couple of dishes from home and eat out during the rest of the week. Perfect! Let’s say Monday and Tuesday are covered. We still have around 3 days to fill. I know you won’t cook something very complicated or maybe you won’t cook at all. But try to do the effort of having at least one of each of the following food groups in your kitchen:

Carbs: potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles. You can always buy read-to-eat sauces for pasta and prepare a dish in 5 minutes!

Meat, chicken or poultry: Always have steak, kafta, kibbi, chicken breasts or fish filet in your freezer. Tuna can be a healthy and quick lunch for you.

Vegetables: when you eat out all the time, you start craving something fresh. Always be prepared! Have lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe some rocket leaves, purslane, etc. Any type of vegetables would be a good idea. I’m sure you’re thinking about the time it takes to wash them, chop them and make a salad out of them. Well, I have an idea for that. You can always wash them as soon as you come back from the supermarket; you leave them to dry out and you pack them in a Tupperware with a napkin underneath and above them. It is very important for vegetables to be dry or else they will be spoiled very soon.

Cans: peas, corn, etc. are a great way to garnish your meat or chicken. Plus they are nutritive and satiating. 

If you have the ingredients for breakfast and lunch then you definitely have everything you need for dinner. You can have a sandwich and a salad or if you’re too hungry, there’s always that steak you have in the freezer. Add to that, soups for the winter season. I know what you’re thinking, ready to eat soups are a bit high in fat and sodium. Not exactly the best choice, but hey! Better than a burger with fries and a soda!

I’m sure you’re thinking about chips, chocolate bars, nuts, etc. Well, you can have them from time to time. You know that nothing is forbidden! But try to fill most of the space in the cabinet with light biscuits, cereals and cereal bars. Pack your fridge with fruits and yoghurt.
Finally, try to look for places that serve “plat du jour” and keep their menus on top of the fast food ones. Trick your mind into choosing the first menu that your eyes see.  

I know that this is a huge change and it cannot be done overnight. I know it’s easy to talk but a lot harder to do. However, you can always take things one step at a time and think twice before you dial that fast food restaurant’s number!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Clean Hands Save Lives!

This week (4-10 December) is the National Hand-washing Awareness Week.
So there’s a whole week dedicated for hand-washing?! You think it’s weird, right? Well, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, hand-washing is “one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others”. So let’s find out together why this act is so important and how we can stay on the safe side.

How can hand-washing save lives?

When done correctly, hand-washing can prevent the transmission of germs, thus prevent infectious diseases. Just think about where your hands have been all day; you touch everything from the elevator to the door handle of your office. You go to the bathroom and it’s filled with germs you can’t shield yourself from. You sneeze, you cough, etc.

Diseases may spread through:

- Fecal-oral contamination: you go to the bathroom, wash your hands inappropriately, then go for lunch. These diseases are spread through the ingestion of even the tiniest particles of fecal material.
Indirect contact with respiratory secretions: You sneeze, you cough, or you shake hands with someone who’s been sneezing or coughing.
- Contamination with urine, saliva or moist body substances: they are transmitted from person to person or indirectly by contamination of food or innate objects such as toys.

Exposure to germs is inevitable! You can’t prevent it; you can only treat it by washing your hands with the right techniques.

When should you wash your hands?

- Before, during or after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After touching garbage

What is the right way to wash your hands?

What type of soap should be used?

You can use any type of plain soap. However, soap bars should be kept in self-draining holders, cleaned properly when new bars are put out. Liquid soap containers should be used and thrown away when empty. This means, refilling the soap container is not preferable.
Alcohol based sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol can be used only when soap and water are not available. They can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations. However, they cannot eliminate all types of germs. These gels are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.
In case you want to use hand sanitizers, make sure you rub the product all over your hands and fingers until they dry out.

What are the mistakes you should avoid making?

Don’t use a single damp cloth to wash a group of children’s hands.
Don’t use a standing basin of water to rinse hands.
Don’t use a common hand towel. Use the disposable ones.
Don't use sponges or non-disposable cleaning cloths unless you launder them on a regular basis, adding chlorine bleach to the wash water. Remember that germs thrive on moist surfaces!

Researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths can be prevented. Start taking action now and give a good example to your brothers and sisters, children, nieces and nephews.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Heart-loving, Satiating Dessert!

You know how the sweet taste of dessert leaves you hungry and craving salty foods? And then you fall into the vicious circle of sweet/salty, sweet/salty, etc. Well, here’s a dessert that will make you full and that isn’t sweet enough to get you to crave salty food. It’s a traditional dessert prepared mostly during the Lebanese Halloween (Barbara). We call it “Amhie” (قمحية ).

It is made of wheat, water, anise, sugar and nuts.

How do you prepare it? It’s simple:

Soak the wheat in warm water overnight.
Boil the wheat in clean water, adding anise, for up to 60 minutes (depending on your cooker) until it becomes tender.

Now all you need to do is pour some into a bowl, add the amount of sugar you want and decorate it with almonds, pines and walnuts. You can also flavor it with rose water.

The thing with this dessert is you can control the number of calories you ingest:

1/3 cup of wheat
1 teaspoon sugar
6-8 almonds
1 teaspoon of pine nuts
3-4 walnuts

So, let’s say your dessert is made of 2/3 cup of wheat, water, 3 tsp of sugar, 3 almonds, 1 tsp of pine nuts and 3 walnuts; your total is around 300 calories!

Now I know that 300 calories is not a small amount. However, take into consideration that it’s rich in carbohydrates and water which give you satiety. Plus, it contains nuts, rich in fats that are good for your heart!