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Healthy diet? Graze wisely!

Updated on May 26, 2012
One of my indulgences: light whole wheat pasta
One of my indulgences: light whole wheat pasta | Source

Yes, I must admit: one of my occasional indulgences is a plate of pasta. But I am very careful to make sure it’s the right kind of pasta. I only purchase whole grain wheat pasta (or occasionally vegetable or spinach pasta). Rather than preparing it in water and then adding a heavy sauce, I cook it in a moderate amount of low-salt low-fat no-MSG chicken broth, and season it with only a bit of sea salt, pepper, parsley, minced or powdered garlic, and some cold-pressed virgin olive oil. (For a bit more decadence, I may dust the final dish with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.) The result is a hearty and tasty white pasta that’s light in fat, calories and sodium, yet high in fiber and enjoyment.

But an important component of any dieting plan is grazing wisely.

First, smart grazing can slake some of your food cravings, without destroying your overall diet in the process. Second, the right kind of intermittent nibbling through a day can be a way of spoiling yourself with taste sensations without spoiling your weight-control aims. Thirdly, judicious choice of snacks can round out your nutrition without rounding out your waistline. Fourth, good grazing can remind you that there are many interesting food options out there, far more than can be passed through a drive-up window.

As a first step down the grazing path, you must learn to shop. Find out which stores in your area have consistent ready supplies of a range of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, certain canned or prepared foods, and, yes, even candies. Get in the habit of purchasing modest quantities of a wide variety of foods, and try to include some you don’t often eat (or may not even like all that much). When possible, buy organic, fresh, pesticide-free, and locally grown,

Here, for example, is a list of some of the various grazing foods I am likely to buy throughout the course of just a few weeks: fresh mushrooms, black olives, pistachios, baby carrots, orange juice, cheese, organic celery, avocados, organic apples, ‘natural’ peanut butter, seedless grapes, low-fat milk, dark unsweetened chocolate, zucchini, cucumber, grape tomatoes, Clementine oranges, green olives, sliced lean roast beef (with a minimum of additives), red pepper, bananas, mixed nuts, raisins, kiwi, and a bottle or two of inexpensive red table wine. (Note that this list includes NO potatoes, corn, granola, crackers, cereals, breads, pretzels, chips, etc. Many of these contain sugars, salt and empty carbs, and can actually heighten hunger and cravings.)

Next, always meet your initial cravings with a snack. If you’ve been dreaming of a thick slice of New York cheesecake, try a handful of raisins or a half-dozen seedless grapes to satisfy your sweet tooth. If it’s a juicy drive-thru burger you are aching for, have a slice or two of lean roast beef. By matching your grazing to your craving, you’ll begin to substitute healthier choices for questionable ones, making smarter food selection easier and easier over time.

Also, be sure to always measure out or portion your grazing before you begin eating. NEVER eat from an open container or a large quantity of any snack. By counting out pieces or calibrating quantities, you’ll begin to develop a sane approach to portion sizes, and are far less likely to binge. And the very act of counting or subdividing a portion takes time, as does eating individual small pieces or multiple small food items. As you slow down the process of snacking, you’ll begin to sense your hunger being slaked and your craving being crushed, making it easier to stop overeating.

Finally, sample foods of a wide variety. You’ll awaken your taste buds to new sensations, making the act of eating more rich and pleasurable. You’ll also be rounding out your nutrition, making it less likely that you’ll develop or worsen bad food illnesses like excess weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, indigestion, and so on.

Bear in mind that mankind originated as a species of hunter-gatherers and grazers, irregularly eating a wide range of natural foods in smallish quantities, with only the occasional belly-filling meat meal. Mimic caveman ways and you just might turn the clock to end up as wiry, muscular and tough.

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