It's a phrase I hear on an almost daily basis - “I've gone off track”. Usually, the client is referring to one ore more of the following situations:
- They have stopped recording or are less complete in their food tracking.
- They have consumed more calories than usual.
- They have consumed unhealthy foods.
Well I'm here to tell you that by doing one or more of the above does not mean that you've gone off track as these experiences are part of the journey.
Allow me to explain.
Stopping recording – it is unrealistic to expect that you will record completely one hundred per cent of the time. While you want to record as accurately and as often as you can, undoubtedly there will be times when you can't. For example, let's say you are on vacation in Thailand and are served a local delicacy by someone who does not speak English. Knowing the amount and caloric content may be extremely difficult, if not impossible. You can at the very least record the name of the dish (or failing that, its ingredients) and then guess at the amounts and calories. You won't be accurate, but at least you’re recording something. Even simply writing “lunch at 1PM” is better than nothing. If you have stopped recording completely, don't worry about the day(s) you have missed. Simply start back as soon as possible.
Consuming more calories that usual – there are times when consuming more calories is the norm and worthwhile. Examples include Holidays and special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. Of course, if several of these events occur over a short period of time you may not lose weight. Adjusting your expectations during those times, e.g. maintaining or gaining only a pound or two is recommended as by doing so you'll be less strict, reducing the likelihood of depriving yourself (imagine a birthday without cake!). You can help minimize the number of excess calories by ensuring to record and by staying organized with your eating prior to the event i.e. eating every two to three hours, including protein at all meals and snacks.
Consuming unhealthy foods – cake, chips, ice-cream and chicken wings are part of an overall healthy eating pattern as these foods can provide great joy and satisfaction. The trick is to have those types of foods as infrequently as possible and in the smallest possible serving needed to feel satisfied. I am unable to give you specific frequency or serving size amounts as it will vary from person to person. Some may be perfectly content only having chips once a month. For others, once a week may be needed. Others still may be content to never have them.
Mark McGill, RD
When you keep a food log you double your chances of weight loss and will, on average, decrease your caloric intake by just under 400 calories per day. While both of those facts should in theory be enough motivation for people to keep a diary, many clients I see struggle with consistently keeping a food journal. In practice, keeping a food diary is simple and shouldn’t take more than about five minutes per day (it will probably take longer at the beginning as one is learning the ropes, but this is normal).
Some may have difficulty because tracking is a rather uneventful activity that may not offer an immediate reward. Here’s what I mean: after exercise class (which takes far more effort and time compared to tracking), you feel good. You’re sweating, out of breath and feel like you accomplished something – which of course, you did. You have an endorphin rush and feel like you’re on top of the world. You probably don’t get this by keeping a food journal.
After seeing many clients struggle with tracking, here are some suggestions on how to make it more sustainable and interesting:
- Record at least something every day (even if it’s a guess at the amount, calories or contains incomplete information). This will help you both build and then sustain the habit.
- Change the way you track. Record in advance (e.g. the night before), buy a new food diary or use an online tracking site or smart phone app.
- If you track online or via an app, trial a different site/app. You may find that a different interface and user options work better for you. Some of the best sites: myfitnesspal, loseit, mynetdiary, sparkpeople.
- Set goals and monitor them through tracking. For example, examine your liquid calorie intake and see if you can reduce, or set a time goal i.e. complete recording for two weeks straight.
It’s important to note that in order for something to become a habit it must be consistently practiced for up to a year and a half.
If you struggle with tracking and wish to comment, email me at email@example.com
Mark McGill, RD
As far as bread goes, this is probably one of the best products I've seen. It's not perfect as it has 165mg of sodium per slice (to be fair though that is on par with most major brands), but overall the nutritional values are excellent. A couple of mentionables: each slice contains 4.5g protein, 20% of your daily iron requirement and 3.5g fibre. That's a hefty amount of protein and fibre per two slice serving. Combine this with its great taste and it's hard to go wrong. The fact that there is no added fat is pretty much meaningless other than the calorie savings that go along with it. No added sugar is great as too much increases the risk of weight gain and heart disease.
As of now, I've only been able to find it at Costco in a three-loaf package, but according to their website, it is available at other retailers.
Note: storing bread in the fridge will result in it turning stale more quickly - store at room temperature, instead. You can also freeze bread for up to two months.
Nutritional Information (per 2 slice serving – 80g)
9 grams protein
7 grams fibre
Mark McGill, RD
In previous posts, I've made mention of meeting minimum calorie and protein amounts at meals and snacks. To refresh: men should aim for 400 calories, 20 grams protein at meals and 200 calories, 10 grams protein at snacks, while woman should target 300 calories, 20 grams protein at meals and 150 calories and 10g protein at snacks. These targets are particularly important earlier in the day as meeting them can lead to feeling less hungry and therefore, hopefully consuming fewer calories later in the day.
Achieving these caloric and protein levels can be difficult for some, especially in the morning – a time when many report not being hungry. Others need to increase their calories in order to avoid losing weight too quickly which can lead to complications such as gallstones and muscle loss. For some, this may mean a 500+ calorie breakfast which might seem daunting.
The good news is that you don't have to add a large volume of food to a meal in order to significantly increase the calories and/or protein.
- 1oz unsalted nuts (any kind) added to oatmeal, cold cereal, yogurt, salads or paired with fruit will increase your intake by approximately 175 calories and 6-7 grams of protein. The fibre and healthy fats will also help to fill you up.
- 1oz cheese added to eggs, toast, salads, sandwiches, meat, potatoes, rice, fruit, or melted over vegetables will add ~120 calories and ~7g protein.
- 0.5oz oil (e.g. olive, canola) used for salad dressing or as part of a marinade for your protein will add ~120 calories.
- ½ (approximately 7oz) sliced avocado added to salads, pureed as part of a dip or used as a sandwich spread will add ~160 calories.
- 1 scoop protein powder (approx 35g) will add ~130 calories and 30g protein. \
- 1 tbsp nut butter (15g) added to toast, mixed into oatmeal, a smoothie or melted and used as a dip for fruits or vegetables will add ~100 calories.
Mark McGill, RD
Ensuring that you are properly hydrated is important. Not consuming enough fluids can lead to fatigue, irritability, headaches and hunger. All fluids contribute to your daily requirement including those in soups, yogurt, fruits and vegetables. Coffee and tea also count (watch the caffeine, however). Your best bet to stay on the happy side of fluid balance though, is water as it's free of calories. Yet, many tell me that they do not like water; that it's too boring. The good news is that there are many ways to liven-up your H2O if need be. Adding lemon, lime, cucumber or trying sparkling water such as Perrier are options. You can also add products such as Crystal Light Liquid Drink Mix (pictured). These are great as they are free of calories and you can add a little or a lot, depending on your preference. Whatever you decide to do, aim for at least 1500mL/day with 2-3 litres being ideal for most adults.
Mark McGill, RD
Here’s an easy and delicious stuffing put together literally with what we had available in our fridge. Of course, the vegetable ingredient possibilities are endless, depending on what you have on hand. It works very well with pork tenderloin (what we had – note that you can add apples for great flavour), or poultry.
¼ red pepper (10 calories)
1 slice whole-grain bread (110 calories)
5 mushrooms (25 calories)
2 slices onion (10 calories)
½ stalk celery (1 calorie)
- Finely chop vegetables and break bread into small pieces.
- Mix all ingredients.
- Add seasoning(s) of your choice (e.g. low-sodium poultry seasoning).
- Cut meat down centre.
- Add stuffing.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional Information (per ¼ of recipe)
Mark McGill, RD