What Should You Eat for Dinner?

January 5, 2016   47 Comments

This is the time of year when people try to start anew. We are a few days in to 2016 and I have been sick in bed for days.

What's For Dinner?

The good news about being sick is that it forces you to think (since you can’t do much else). I have been ruminating on dietary recommendations because I want to help people make better choices.

What I have learned after years of study is that the field of nutrition science is very new and the conclusions so far about what to eat are conflicting. I wish that I could say that there was a clear answer because that would make your life easier (mine too).

For example in the 1980’s, the FDA recommended that we eat less fat based on nutrition science that indicated that fat and cholesterol in our diets caused heart disease – which led to a literal ton of non-fat and low-fat foods packed with SUGAR. Since the 1980’s there has been an epidemic of obesity leading nutrition scientists to believe that fat is okay (and necessary) and added sugar is the enemy.

Red meat is considered a bad boy but then protein is important in satiety (and red meat is packed with protein) – so should you rule it out? Eggs were a problem because of their high cholesterol but now are okay (we think) because they are a low calorie, high protein food.

Coffee is bad because of caffeine but good because of anti-oxidants.

I could go on and on and on. Frankly, I think most Americans choose the nutritional science that they like and ignore the advice that they don’t like – which makes sense to me.

What if the reason for all the conflicts is that we are all different? When I meet someone new (and they discover that I am Snack Girl), they are always ready to tell me the healthy choices that they believe work. Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, no complex carbohydrates, berries, kale, salads, quinoa, chia seeds, juicing, raw food diets, high protein meals, eating before 6 PM – whatever concept they have picked from all the myriad of advice out there.

I cannot say which thing (if any of them) will solve your healthy eating dilemma.

What I know is this – cookies, chips, soda, and candy (and anything that is masquerading as a healthy version of these things) should be limited. Fast food and eating out is rarely healthy. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of cooked food will mean that you eat fewer calories and feel fuller.

As we start 2016, why not take a look at one section of your day and make one change? For example, if you eat a frozen waffle for breakfast with butter – try a sprouted grain bread with some peanut butter or avocado.

Find times in your day or week where you are leaning on fast food or a sugary snack and try to change just that ONE instance.

I think you will be far more successful with one doable step than a complete overhaul of everything you eat.

And now I will lead by example!

Next week, I will not drink a Starbucks specialty drink. I will stick to black coffee.

Even your fearless leader has her mountains to climb. I got hooked on Frappucinos which are not only packed with sugar but expensive and I need to get my habit under control. I believe one tall per month would be okay. I have to start next week because I already drank a mocha (not kidding). I managed to buy a mocha when I went to the pharmacy to pick up medicine for my cough. So sad.

Please post one step below in the comment section as a pledge for you to attempt.

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Feel better, Snack Girl! I will pledge to eat vegan most of the time. But I also pledge not to be too hard on myself if I slip-up from time to time. Food is delicious and nourishes should not be a source of shame and guilt. We are all doing our best on our journey through life :-)

I will halve my normal portion sizes.

Lisa, you crack me up! I find it awesome that you have your vises like the rest of us!! I've decided to stay away from Scooter's (our smaller version of Starbuck's) and have a coffee with sugar free creamer instead. It saves money and points, a lot of points. Anyway, hope you feel better and thanks for the guidance.

To cut down and/or eliminate Diet Pepsi intake!

I promise to try to include unprocessed foods and not be afraid to eat normal amounts of healthy foods. Moderation and smart choices along with logging on MFP will keep me in control!

To cut down on the Coke Zero intake!

I have found in my recent research that our brains need fat. I have also found that when I eat anything with flour or sugar in it, I crave like crazy afterwards. My pledge is to eat mostly protein/fat/non starchy vegetables and fruit. Good luck everyone!

Thank you for always sharing how you struggle like the rest of us and that this is not about perfection. Feel better!

I am going to try and eat mainly lean meats, fruits and vegetables. 10 pounds over my goal weight and trying to learn this new SmartPoints has my head reeling! LOL

I always tell people, different strokes for different folks. diets are not one size fit all. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. if all else fails go to your doctor and they'll tell you what you need and what you don't to help you make a lifestyle change instead of dieting. Dieting never works, you have to make the lifestyle change. Since my husband is home from Iraq we have been dining out a lot, so for me it's not dining out so much. It's more healthy to eat at home and it saves money.

Feel better.

I pledge to pretend that Home Bake & Candy Shoppe is in a galaxy far far away rather than just up the street. I am SERIOUSLY addicted to their buttercream frosting. Yesterday I skipped getting my friend a birthday cupcake from there because I knew I would never be able to leave without one for myself!

Hope you feel better soon. I have decided to choose a low carb healthy eating lifestyle. I'm diabetic so eliminating starches and surgar will help me maintain better blood sugar levels. I'm also bact to drinking water in place of diet soda.

I am with you. I have gained back over 20 pounds of the over 50 I had lost. Instead of being angry at myself, I am learning what normal eating looks like for me. My change for the next week is to focus on eating real food, maybe just a smaller portion, rather than low fat or low anything. Thank you for the incentive.

I pledge to stay away from sugar and reduce the wheat in my diet to start!

Love your honesty!! Thanks for the great tips on changing ONE instance at a time.

Get well soon, Lisa! I love how you pretty closely summed up what Michael Pollan not only presented in his best seller, "In Defense of Food" but also on his PBS special recently [which is still available to view free until Jan 28 if anyone is interested]. I'm in total agreement with taking one not-so-healthy habit at a time and replace it with a better one. I'm so over-loaded with cookies, pies, and cheese from the holidays so my first step was to cut up cakes, pies and cheeses to store in my freezer--out of sight and temptation and not wasted. My second step was make 2 pots of favorite soups [I think they classify as detox]: Kale & Bean and Mushroom Barley. Packed up into pts for freezer. These soups make it easy to lighten my meat consumption to once weekly or less. My snacks are going back to fruit/1oz cheese; fruit/plain yogurt, fruit/nuts etc. I think as long as our ''default'' eating pattern is in agreement with our nutrition and health beliefs the occasional splurge will not hurt us in the long run. Like Pollan says, ''eat food, not too much, mostly plants''. The big challenge, to me anyway, is to remind myself what, for thousands of years, constitutes 'food' vs. 'edible food-like substances'; namely everything directly from earth or animals, with no labels of health claims, stuff with limited shelf-life. :)

Thank you again and again for keeping it real, Lisa!

I am trying to lose 15 pounds that I have put on since having ankle surgery and being unable to do any exercise, or even walk without a boot, and I still can't. I have a closet full of clothes I want to get back in. I just hope I can stay motivated.

Lisa!! Feel better!! Here's my latest discovery. I love chai but it is alway served too sweet. SO, I made the recipe I found on line without adding the brown sugar.. Duh. And now, I warm it up a cup at a time with 2% milk in it and it needs no sweetening and it is really yummy and a treat. I like adding milk to things because I believe it is nourishing and my body doesn't complain.

I love the idea about one change at a time. That is really good.

I am also trying to cut down/give up diet soda!!


I love chai also. If you don't mind sharing what's your recipe? I found a chai made by Oregon chai that has 30 calories 8 carbohydrates and 7 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup serving size. I mix that with 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk. Would live to try your chai though. Always looking for more recipes. Laura

I eat far too much pizza - not on purpose really but I always end up with the leftovers and as I live alone, it's easy to heat up a piece or 2 for dinner instead of cooking. I pledge to stop going for easy and do something better.

I have pledged to eat vegetables in at least two of three meals every day. On Sunday I chopped up and steamed bell peppers and broccoli to throw in omelets, and made a few salads to keep in the fridge and put in my lunch bag. It's going well so far!


I love chai also. If you don't mind sharing what's your recipe? I found a chai made by Oregon chai that has 30 calories 8 carbohydrates and 7 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup serving size. I mix that with 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk. Would live to try your chai though. Always looking for more recipes. Laura

Feel better soon !

Has anyone had any success with Whole30?

Interested in chai recipe also.

@Denise, I hear you on the leftover pizza for I too, live alone :) My action is to freeze it individually right away. As my daily mindset is to only eat one bready carb per day I'd defrost a slice on occasion as a side not my entree. That way a slice might end up chopped in a salad as a tasty crouton or floating in a veg-heavy soup [like I did today, 1sm slice cubed into my kale & bean soup]. And the upside to living alone means more control over when to eat the main meal. As a retiree, I've settled on 1-2pm for the best time for me. A light salad, tea at night seems to satisfy, once holidays are over that is!

I'm interested in the chai recipe too! I pledge to cut back on carbs and to eliminate unnatural sugars.

The struggle is real.

So true. Making small changes over time, add up. I remember a time when some people thought carrots were not the best choice due to a higher level of natural sugars then other vegetables. I remember the weight watchers leader saying that "we aren't all here because we ate too many carrots". Lol. I agree and try to focus on whats real and not all the hype.

My one change is to reduce my coffee intake.

I pledge to eliminate potato chips for a nightly snack and choose popcorn either air popped or the new natural (low fat low sodium) for my snacks. Thank you for showing us everyone has a problem food, even you!

I am working on small goals - I'm adding more vegetables to my routine by eating five salads a week. It's been doable for the last three weeks. This week I'm adding "eating more meals at home". That sounds good but I'm still working on quantifying what "more" means. I made a conscious effort to grocery shop for things that are quick and simple to make for my family on those days where we are running to activities. Sandwich and soup can easily fit the bill. This will help me in both my "healthful" and "financial" goals.

There are many things I need to do, but here's the first step: I pledge to start drinking at least 24 ounces or more of water per day. I was doing well for a while, but have been backsliding.

And here's a tip from me to you re Starbucks: Assuming you have a Gold Card, make it a rule that you can never pay for a specialty drink, that you can only have one when you have earned a reward drink. And then make it a tall or a grande rather than venti...and I usually make it nonfat. (I can't handle artificial sweeteners; they wreak havoc on my body. So I don't make them light, but if I could, I probably would.)

In Defense of Food is awesome. Thanks for the link. Hang in there everyone. One small healthy choice a day. Salt-Sugar-Fat (another great book) are highly addictive!

Not to eat junk food ..

Overeating, even healthy foods, is my biggist issue. I will use smaller size dinner plates for portion control.

Gute Besserung, Lisa. I love to cook and enjoy your recipes. My meals are not the problem, as I cook real food and avoid processed food-like-substances, and we don't eat out often. But I get hungry mid-morning and mid-afternoon, no matter what I eat for breakfast and lunch. Rather than just try to power through, as I've done in the past (leaving me cranky and unfocused), I want to find plant-based, not-too-calorific snacks to keep my going until the next healthy meal. My default snack has been either Triscuits and cheese or a handful of nuts--tasty and filling, but those calories add up. I know that I love crunching carrots and hummus--let's see what else I can come up with that's satisfying, healthful and low in calories.

I too have made some healthier substitutes when it comes to coffee from my favorite coffee stand...I changed up my 16oz nonfat mocha to a 16oz Americano, a half or 1 pump of chocolate, and an inch of nonfat milk instead of cream. I'm also changing to half decaf. I just can't do black coffee & I'm always impressed when someone else can! That's one of my biggest changes this year.

Feel better soon Lisa! Kudos for starting off the year right with a good example :) My trouble spot is just before bedtime. I don't just get "snacky", I am HUNGRY and would really love a bedtime sandwich (and crackers, and a pickle) pretty much every night :) I eat pretty well most days up until this time. So, my solution is A) make sure I'm not skimping on healthy fats as well as complex carbs during dinner, which help me to feel fuller longer, and B) go to bed earlier! I'm sure my body would prefer that anyway.

I'm going to quit grumbling my displeasure with the glitches in the new SmartPoints WW program and the way it was unleashed on us right before the holidays.

I'm going to embrace the task of transitioning away from my PointsPlus go-to foods as I learn what will work for me under SmartPoints.

With God's help, I will get honest about weight gain the last coupla months of 2015 (lost 80, regained 30) and use the reality of the scale to reignite my compliance with healthier eating.

All the best to you & your readers along the weight loss/improved health journey of 2016! =)

I just bought Chocolate tea. Yum! If Weight Watchers up the points there is always a way to get a fix!!

Lisa, hope you are feeling better now!

My one change is to ut back on added sugar by eating my oatmeal without adding dried fruit.

I loved soda of and kind but had issues with diet versions. Then about 5 yrs ago discovered Seltzer. It has no calories and feels like soda in your mouth with the bubbly. I converted my daughter also. Try it out, you'll be surprised.

Hope you lick that cough SOON Lisa! Bless you for sharpening or awareness of what's happening in the food world. You are offering a great service through your constant research. I trust your recommendations for healthy eating over all others because the actually WORK for me! I'm feeling and looking better than I have in years after just six months of faithfully applying your suggestions. Best of all, it hasn't been a battle; i haven't felt deprived!

Sugar is my biggest food vice. I eat a lot of sweets. If I could replace sugary treats with healthier stuff, I would be much better off. I am vegetarian and rarely drink soda. I don't eat junk food often at all. I drink coffee, but not all day long. But the sweets! Oi! That will be my focus. To try not to graze on everyone's chocolate they put out in little bowls at the office. I need to find a good replacement snack - probably fruit and nuts.

I would try to go only for mineral water and herb tea without sugar. Cutting my sugar down.

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