Back to the Basics: Better Nutrition for You and Your Family
The key to loosing weight, and keeping it off, according to Ginger Tracy, CFT, CNC, a nutritionist and exercise consultant in Beverly Hills, can be summed up in one word: preparation.
Plan ahead, shop ahead, and expect the unexpected. This advice can certainly be applied to many aspects of your life—but especially in weight management, says Tracy.
“You have to be prepared. I remember when raising my two children I’d plan a few meals a week that would give good leftovers. Crock-pot dishes are easy to do, because you can throw it together before work and come home to a meal—just use good, organic meats and vegetables. Buy as good of quality as you can afford: grass-fed, organic all-natural foods,” says Tracy.
While many families no longer eat dinner together every night, (click here for article: How the Family Dinner Can Help Your Teen) it’s still important to plan meals.
Many moms fall for buying frozen prepared foods because they are fast and easy. Unfortunately, they are also high in salt, fat and preservatives and rarely use organic meats, so the meats may contain hormones. Parents short on time often rationalize cooking from scratch will be a long, complicated endeavor—which simply isn’t true, says Tracy.
Tracy suggests sitting down for an hour over the weekend to plan a few meals that reap leftovers. They key in preparation for the week, is to keep it simple.
“Make good choices and keep it simple. People think it has to be this whole bon appetite experience and I disagree. Use spices, but make it simple. … Put an organic chicken (in the crock pot), with a few bay leaves, onions and spices and cook it until the meat falls off the bone. Have a salad with it and you’ve got a nice meal and will be eating it for two nights. Simple meals are the best – it doesn’t have to be a gourmet endeavor,” Tracy explains.
Tracy quickly outlined healthy, fast meal options that clearly didn’t involve following complicated recipes. For instance, an easy meal is grilled fish, using olive oil and spices, and then accompanying it with fresh veggies. Another good choice is a stir-fry with shrimp and veggies. If you cook the brown rice the night before, you’ll shave 30 minutes off the prep time, as well.
While Tracy isn’t a fan of eating a lot of carbs or pasta, she says the occasional pasta (better if wholegrain) with good marina sauce (yes, a can is fine) with seafood or chicken thrown in provides a healthy, quick meal as well.
Tracy’s favorite crock-pot dish to prepare is her organic chili. For a recipe click here.
As mentioned, more important than your planning, is to buy organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.
“The most important thing is too keep to organic foods—leave out the pesticides and definitely don’t buy packaged foods that contain preservatives and other items. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it, that’s what I always say,” Tracy says.
How to Avoid The Junk-Food Trap
While meal prep is important, more often these days, you and your family will be eating on the run. That’s why you need to plan for these times by keeping an emergency stash in the car.
“You need an emergency fund of food: raw nuts, walnuts and almonds, and a piece of fruit in the car. I tell all my clients never to leave home without a piece of fruit and nuts in the car,” says Tracy.
The reason for this is simple: most people give in to cravings when stuck in their car. Unfortunately, many cities are log-jammed after work and moms especially can fall into the junk-food trap when rushing from one activity to after-school activities for their kids. If you don’t plan ahead, you and the kids end up eating fast food while stuck in traffic. Tracy contends you and the family would be healthier snacking on organic nut and fruit bars, or real nuts and fruit, rather than a big whopper. While these snacks don’t constitute a meal, they can tide you over until you can find healthier alternatives.
“You don’t want to go too long without eating. Your body starts to crave carbohydrates, so you reach for the junk or buy French fries. … I learned this as a mom of two in Los Angeles getting stuck in my car a lot. You need healthy alternatives for yourself and to give to the kids,” explains Tracy.
It’s okay to stock up on power-bars for the car, but just know that many contain as much fat and sugar as a candy bar. The best choices for power-bars, according to Tracy, are the Lara Bar – which is just fruit and nuts, with no added preservatives & sugar and the Cliff Organic Nectar Bar. The reason why Tracy likes these bars is that they are mainly nuts and fruit, a combination that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Don’t Fall for the Non-Fat Trap
Tracy explains that most Americans still don’t understand the importance of fat in their diets and fall prey to drinking diet sodas, non-fat lattes and ordering fat-free desserts.
“It’s a big mistake to order fat free. Good fats are our friends. They support our heart and help balance stress in our lives. … You need healthy fats in your diet. If you cut all fat out of your diet, it will affect your hormone levels, your hair, your skin, nails, even your ability to think clearly,” Tracy explains.
So in the end, you’re better off with an “everything in moderation” strategy when it comes to nutrition, although Tracy strongly urges people to avoid sodas, snacks with trans-fats and to cut back on coffee, as it is an energy robber.
And while you’ve undoubtedly heard from many sources about the importance of drinking water, did you know that when you’re dehydrated, you actually may eat more?
“When you’re dehydrated, you are often tricked into thinking you’re hungry. Keep extra water bottles in your car too,” Tracy suggests.
For other healthy snack options during the day, Tracy suggests: yogurt, nut butters, like organic almond or peanut with no sugar added, and hummus with whole wheat pitas as well as cottage cheese.