Weatherford Democrat

December 29, 2013

EXTENSION NEWS: Enjoy comfort foods with fewer calories


Weatherford Democrat

— BY KATHY SMITH

Cold weather, holiday gathering, stress and any other occasions we eat and we may not be hungry. Although nutrients are required to sustain us, it is common for us to rely on food when we are upset, angry and lonely, or with others.

Whether you prefer sweet or salty food, it is possible to enjoy your favorite foods while still maintaining a balanced diet.

Emotional eating is a result of both physiological and psychological drives. Certain foods can seem to temporarily improve your mood and make you feel better. By attaching feelings to food, it becomes easy to rely on that food such as chocolate when you need an emotional lift. Comfort food preferences also vary with age and gender. Women tend to prefer snack foods while men tend to prefer meals.

To curb emotional eating, avoid using food as a reward or punishment. This might include giving a child candy for good behavior or threatening to serve broccoli if their room is messy. Such associations with food can have long-term and sometimes irreversible relationships with food.

Provide non-food rewards for yourself and your children. If you hit your goal weigh or have been recognized for an achievement, reward your accomplishment with a mini vacation, a new tool or clothing. Any of these will be much more memorable than a piece of candy.

When a craving arises, take a 30-minute break, away from all temptations. Go for a walk, stretch or do yoga in the meantime. If you consider yourself an impulsive eater, chances are you will be less interested in satisfying your craving was when the time is up.

Food in many cultures shows love and appreciation. It is unrealistic and unhealthy to dissociate yourself from food completely.  However, it is essential to keep special occasion foods limited to occasions that are actually special.

If you turn to food when you are stressed, reconsider whether you should purchase foods to which you have a weakness. Having accessible a wide variety of healthy options, along with foods that are considered treats, is a good idea to ensure a variety of nutrients is consumed.

Some foods taste richer than they are. Foods like hummus, bruschetta and pumpkin bread are rich in flavor, nutritious and have fewer calories.

You can increase nutrition while decreasing calories by sneaking in whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds into your meals. You can do this by adding oat bran to pancakes, peppers and onions to meatloaf, and spinach to your lasagna. Try to incorporate beans to a salad, flaxseeds to smoothies and nuts to oatmeal.

Desserts can be very tempting when you are stressed, and sometime fruits don’t do. A combination of low-fat cheese can provide very satisfying combinations of carbohydrates, protein and fats. The same applies to foods like yogurt and fruits and trail mix.

Small changes can go a long way and some of these strategies will help as well:

• Avoid eating in front of the television, and always eat from a plate or bowl.

• Listen to your body’s satiety cues to understand when to stop eating. If you stop when you feel 80 percent full, it will only take a few minutes to be satisfied.

• Plan snacks and meals in advance, and never leave the house hungry.

• Use portion control. Your body will not know the difference between smaller portions.

• Consume foods high in water and fiber. Drink water or eat a broth-based soup before meals and load up on fruits and vegetables.

• Set small goals that are measurable. For example purchasing additional fruit rather than the ice cream or chips.