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Calorie Count Blog

Is It Ok to Break Some Food Rules?


By +Elisa Zied on Feb 09, 2012 10:00 AM in Healthy Eating

By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, maintain a recent weight loss, or prevent future weight gain, it’s likely you try to abide by a few food rules. But while following certain rules—keeping snack foods like cookies or potato chips on a high shelf, behind closed doors, or not allowing certain foods you can’t control your intake of, such as ice cream or peanut butter, into your home—may help you stay on a healthy eating track, you can bend or break a few rules without sabotaging your healthy eating habits.   

Here are three food rules you may want to reconsider in your effort to eat well and manage your weight:  

Rule #1:  Eat every few hours. 

As a registered dietitian, eating every few hours, not skipping meals, and not being starved when it’s time to eat are ideas I advocate for a lot of people, especially those who tend to go several hours without food and wind up overeating or reaching for high calorie, nutrient poor comfort food at the next meal. But it turns out that for some people, eating only three times a day (but not less than that) may not be a diet buster after all—as long as portions are appropriate, you pace yourself, and you eat up to (but not beyond) your comfort point.    

A recent randomized controlled trial pilot study published in Obesity found that although dieters who grazed on at least 100 calories every 2 to 3 hours reported less hunger than those who consumed three meals per day, there were no differences in total calorie intake (1,200 to 1,500 calories) or body mass index (BMI) during a six month behavioral weight loss intervention.   

A previous review published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at controlled feeding studies and concluded that increased eating frequency (eating more than three times per day) has minimal, if any, impact on appetite control and food intake, but that eating less often (less than three times per day) may increase appetite and food intake.   

Rule #2:  Don’t eat while distracted.   

Of course it’s great to be mindful and to pay attention when you eat. It’s also great to eat at a table rather than when you’re on your feet. But I definitely break both of these rules more often than not when I prepare dinner for my family. I fill a bowl with a heaping portion of vegetables (favorites include raw baby carrots, steamed carrots or broccoli, or nuked, plain frozen Brussels sprouts) and pick at these while I prepare my family’s meal. This habit not only helps me meet my daily quota for vegetables (about 2.5 cups), but it fills me up so that I eat less of the rest of the meal.   

If you plan to break this rule, be sure to choose low calorie, nutrient-rich foods and choose appropriate portions to avoid taking in more calories than you need to maintain a healthy weight.   

Rule #3:  Don’t eat too close to bedtime.   

Several studies suggest that the less sleep you get, the more you weigh. Although cause and effect has not been proven, a new small study published in The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that a specific brain region associated with appetite is more activated in response to food images after one night of sleep loss than after one night of normal sleep. The researchers concluded that poor sleep habits may affect people’s risk of becoming overweight in the long run. But can certain foods really help you sleep?    

Although there’s little evidence that drinking a warm cup of milk really helps you snooze before bed, milk and turkey are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid linked with a more sound slumber. While it’s important to consume tryptophan-rich foods throughout the day, the body relies on foods rich in carbohydrate to move tryptophan into the brain to create the sleep-inducing neurotransmitter serotonin.   

If you want a small bedtime snack, choose 100 to 200 calories worth of a carbohydrate-rich food like air-popped popcorn, whole grain crackers, or ready-to-eat whole grain cereal. You may also want to give that warm cup of milk--rich in carbohydrate and protein—a try. Just be sure to factor your pre-bed snack calories into your daily meal plan to keep total calories in check.   


Your thoughts...

Are you a rule breaker?  Which rules do you break and which rules would you never break?

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and award-winning author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips," "Feed Your Family Right!," and "So What Can I Eat?!." She is also a past national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com.  Sign up for the free weekly ZIED GUIDE™ newsletter for nutrition tips and news you can use (go to right side of home page at elisazied.com).  Follow Elisa on Twitter/elisazied and on Facebook.



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Comments


I have a hard time with eating breakfast. If I really eat a large breakfast It seems like I am hungrier throughout the day. I like to hold off eating in the morning until about 10 a.m. (when I am hungry). I do best when I am mindful of asking myself if I am really hungry or just eating because it is a set time of the day.


I find that I am not hungry at breakfast time as well. I need to do some work for an hour or two before I feel hungry. I try to eat breakfast as late as possible and then I dont feel so hungry at lunch time. I don't see the point of eating when I am not hungry and I am trying to keep to a calory controlled diet!



If I break the rules its at night. I do well during the day, but at night I get hungry and want a snack. I usually crave something salty or crunchy. I am trying to get better at this. I have been doing really well with calories and exercising lately. If this does happen, I don't beat myself up about it. I just try to do better the next day.



I have heard that sleep and rest are important for weight loss.  Once when I was on vacation ( at my mother's)  I lost 7 lbs very fast because I was relaxed, not stressed and resting well.  I sometimes only get 5 hours of sleep  a night now....that needs to change....



I have terrible eating habits. I eat one thing at a time. Broccolli? Steam the head and I will eat the whole thing. Dried Figs? First day its 3 at a time; the third day is finish the package. Breakfast? Yesterday is was chicken and tomato sauce. Grazing? Once I start eating it doesn't seem to stop.

So I have to outsmart this problem child. I exercise (trot) for an hour/hour and a half almost every day. That keeps my body thinking there is a reason for all this food consumption.

No pastries, ice cream or any other ''damage'' food in the house.

Slow burning carbs (Barilla Plus Angel Hair or Spaghetti), dried beans of every kind, brown rice. Low on meat: buy a package, cut it up into palm size portions: freeze it for later. One chicken breast is three meals!

Juice stuff like veggies and fruits. Don't buy bread! Invest in WASA crackers -- the ''thins'' are only 20 calories a cracker -- okay, each cracker these days has a thin smear of butter and a dribble of honey.

As I am in the middle of these mean woods changing the way I eat, I study one thing: To stop feeding my face blinding and watch for signs of getting full. 

So I am making weird progress: If I don't feel full, I stop and wait and see if I get the full feeling in 15 to 20 minutes. I actually watch the clock!!! And the only food "I let myself eat like a cow" is vegetables. Then I can chomp on forever. But everything else, I'm learning how to count mouthfuls. Beyond 10 is over the top. 5 to 8 is acceptable. 3 bites is a snack.

Sugar is honey and agave nectar, although I like the agave nectar better -- that's a sweet that is over the top.

And no processed food at all. I do enough damage without having to worry about the ''hidden'' damage too.

Beverages are black coffee (one to three cups on a bad day, usually one to two); water; water with lemon; green tea with lemon and honey.

I cheat with a chive potatoe and chili from Wendies and an apple turnover from any bakery.

I'm losing weight.... very, very, very slowly. Its the exercise that is the highlight of my days now. Coming home soaking wet, body all tingling, a sense of accomplishment, clothes fitting differently, my complexion looking healthy, muscles aching, stretching, resting... and then the next day: all ready to go at it again!

My nutritionist says its a lifestyle change that can take up to two years!

 



Sounds like you are eating to many carbs. I call myself a sugar addict. Some sugar leads to more sugar. I have to stop and eliminate it from my diet completely in order to get rid of the cravings. Look at the amount of carbs and sugar you are eating.


2fatforme -- boy you hit the nail on the head! (too many carbs) I need fences in my head and I'm open to suggestions!!!!



I am allergic to whole grains, eggs, and milk so is difficult to eat the foods I need.  I crave sweets and cant resist the candy dish at work.

I do strength, interval training, and water aerobics and  get my 150 hours a week.  I need to step up on the exercise and eat more nutritinal foods to increase my calories.  I also am supposed to eat gluten free foods. I eat 1000-1200 calories and think my body is hanging onto the fat because of the lack of calories.  I have had serious health issues and high stress so don't feel hungry.  I eat breakfast every day but night time kills me because I get home at 7 pm after exercising.  I dont feel like making a meal so I graze and it is usually sweet.

I am thinking of talking to a nutritionist to help me choose a health meal plan.  I lack the motivation right now to eat healthy but am working on itl



My problem is that i used to do well with NOT eating after 8pm  but lately that's been an issue with my eating/craving aroudn 10pm. Lately its not carbs but proteins that Im going for even though I do eat a good amount of protein during the entire day so I dont understand this. I think however is that I havent gone to bed early enough. Mainly going to bed past ten(last night it was at midnight ugh!) and i have to be up at 5:30am for work. Just so much to do and not much time or energy to do it!

 



mmbohr - boy do I ever wish ''we got'' more balanced cravings instead of one person getting all ''this'' and another person getting ''that'' --- I'm thinking you meant 15 hours of exercise a week and not "150" -- I didn't know there was a number to it; but anyway, my nutritionist is Regina Porter, MD "Nutri-fit by Regina" -- www.nutri-fitoftheemeraldcoast.com and she has helped me because of the personal touch.

But the real work is still on my shoulders. So that's why I like Calorie Count because I get to talk to real people in the same struggle.



I'm not sure if "weighing once a week" is a rule, but my trainer seems to think so.  I weigh every day.  If my weight goes up or is the same, I feel motivated to be more careful about eating clean.  If my weight goes down, I celebrate, share with my husband, and feel motivated to keep going.



I am BAD only on the weekends.  More specifically on Sunday.  I eat what I want.  And it is a lot throughout the day.  However since I started counting calories, even though I still over eat on Sundays I eat more berries instead of chips and junk. 



I solved my late night snacking by going to bed and reading.  I don't eat in bed so this prevented the urge to snack.  This also helps me to fall asleep and have a better nights sleep.



Try eating a green olive when you get a sugar craving. Knocks the sugar mentality right out of there for me.


Original Post by: 2fatforme

I have a hard time with eating breakfast. If I really eat a large breakfast It seems like I am hungrier throughout the day. I like to hold off eating in the morning until about 10 a.m. (when I am hungry). I do best when I am mindful of asking myself if I am really hungry or just eating because it is a set time of the day.

I eat breakfast between 10-11:30 because that is after I woke up. lol I have insomnia problems, and it's easier for my body to sleep later in the morning then earlier at night, so I don't usually get out of bed until 10 anyway.
I consider breakfast to be the meal you eat anytime before 12 am. I did not realize there was a set time for breakfast anyway.



Izziann, thanks for you narrative. I think we all struggle with our eating habits because to be successful it must be a lifestyle change. Coming up with creative ways to trick ourselves can be a good thing used the right way.

I have started walking. When I began in early August. I measured with my car's odometer 2 miles that was a loop around my house. It would take me about 45 minutes to do the loop. The more I walked the faster my time became so I expanded my loop and now I walk for an hour to an hour & a half and I'm up to between 4 & 6 miles. I'm lucky because I found something that I love to do and did it. I didn't know I loved it until I did it.

I love BBQ and I cut it out. I love Ice cream and cut that out too. My weight is slowly declining but again it's a life style change and I know that I am healthier and happier, and first time in a long time feel really good about myself.

 



I appreciate having this conversation so much!  I have been looking for ways to change my thinking re: snacks/mealtime.  I do well with breakfast and lunch but when I get home from work I am ravenously hungry!  Anybody else experience that?  And that is the time I am working on dinner etc...which means a lot of temptation to graze as I go along.. and once you start its hard to stop!....any suggestions are welcome!



I don't agree with eating small meals throughout the day. This makes me hungry and I never feel satisfied. I have found that if I eat a snack in the afternoon and a good size dinner I feel good and am not bogged down by grogginess in the afternoon.



So ninav- you have the 3 meals plus an afternoon snack...is there anything in particular that you find works best for the snack and dinner?



Klynne...When you get home from work you might try taking a nice warm bath, putting on some soothing music, and calling the caterer:-) Seriously, though, if after breakfast & lunch you have consumed between 6 & 7 hundred calories you will be really, really hungry around dinner time and especially if you are the one fixing dinner. What I have found through trial & error is something that will quell my appetite and also allow me to eat a smaller dinner. What I do is have a bowl of corn flakes with 3/4 cup of skim milk, I use artificial sweetener and add 1/2 cup of strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries relax & enjoy before you begin preparing dinner for the family. Let there be about a 10 minute wait in between. Then you will feel satisfied and will not tend to graze. If not what I suggested then experiment with something healthy with a calorie count around 200, It might work for you. It sure works for me. Best of luck



Thank you marileejikey.  Its funny I was thinking about a similar idea with oatmeal...(I'm allergic to corn products)- so thank you- I'll consider that to be confirmation!  I really hadn't put time into planning  out the after work snack time .  I think I do well with the count on the meals because I do  plan them.  Thank you for sharing your "trial and error"!Smile



I eat three good meals a day but am always starving between lunch and dinner. I eat a 100 calorie chocolate vitalicious muffin top and it helps SO much! They are sweet but high in fiber and protein, which always fills me up. Sometimes I will have a banana in the morning, or eight ounces of 1 percent fat milk with sugar free torani syrup in it right after i exercise. All 100 calories. I am queen of the 100 calorie snack! I find it is better to eat a little snack than feel lightheaded and starved between meals. By eating something not too bad, I am less tempted by the brownies and cakes that always appear in the break room at work, too!


Original Post by: blanchesparks

I find that I am not hungry at breakfast time as well. I need to do some work for an hour or two before I feel hungry. I try to eat breakfast as late as possible and then I dont feel so hungry at lunch time. I don't see the point of eating when I am not hungry and I am trying to keep to a calory controlled diet!


The longer you wait to have your breakfast, the longer you wait for your metabolism to start back up again. It's best to immediatley eat at least a bite of something as soon as you wake up because not only will you slow down your metabolism, you will make yourself more hungry and a have higher chance of overeating.



i eat a good breakfast. but  today  and tommorow not  eating  any  starch. only fruit fresh  fruit breakfast  with soya yougert and large mug expresso  coffee very  strong  with  soya milk. both  lunch  and  supper  today  large  salad with  homemade soya  burgers made  with  out fat. today being  lazy not working out



i know i chat to much but im offten lonley and haqve  no one  to chat  with



Original Post by: izziann

I have terrible eating habits. I eat one thing at a time. Broccolli? Steam the head and I will eat the whole thing. Dried Figs? First day its 3 at a time; the third day is finish the package. Breakfast? Yesterday is was chicken and tomato sauce. Grazing? Once I start eating it doesn't seem to stop.

So I have to outsmart this problem child. I exercise (trot) for an hour/hour and a half almost every day. That keeps my body thinking there is a reason for all this food consumption.

No pastries, ice cream or any other ''damage'' food in the house.

Slow burning carbs (Barilla Plus Angel Hair or Spaghetti), dried beans of every kind, brown rice. Low on meat: buy a package, cut it up into palm size portions: freeze it for later. One chicken breast is three meals!

Juice stuff like veggies and fruits. Don't buy bread! Invest in WASA crackers -- the ''thins'' are only 20 calories a cracker -- okay, each cracker these days has a thin smear of butter and a dribble of honey.

As I am in the middle of these mean woods changing the way I eat, I study one thing: To stop feeding my face blinding and watch for signs of getting full. 

So I am making weird progress: If I don't feel full, I stop and wait and see if I get the full feeling in 15 to 20 minutes. I actually watch the clock!!! And the only food "I let myself eat like a cow" is vegetables. Then I can chomp on forever. But everything else, I'm learning how to count mouthfuls. Beyond 10 is over the top. 5 to 8 is acceptable. 3 bites is a snack.

Sugar is honey and agave nectar, although I like the agave nectar better -- that's a sweet that is over the top.

And no processed food at all. I do enough damage without having to worry about the ''hidden'' damage too.

Beverages are black coffee (one to three cups on a bad day, usually one to two); water; water with lemon; green tea with lemon and honey.

I cheat with a chive potatoe and chili from Wendies and an apple turnover from any bakery.

I'm losing weight.... very, very, very slowly. Its the exercise that is the highlight of my days now. Coming home soaking wet, body all tingling, a sense of accomplishment, clothes fitting differently, my complexion looking healthy, muscles aching, stretching, resting... and then the next day: all ready to go at it again!

My nutritionist says its a lifestyle change that can take up to two years!

 


sounds very similar to what I am doing, however I have recently started with 5 to 6 small meals a day, as my usual waiting 5 hrs between meals would make me really hungry and susceptible to overeating.  I decided I would rather lose 2 lbs a week and look at a close to 100 lbs lost in a year than have the thrill of losing 5 lbs and then not being able to keep it up.



Another article about eating many meals. I am convinced that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to dietary rules. I, for example, recently tried eating just twice a day - against the rules - but found that I have more energy and am losing weight. Maybe its not about rules but finding out what works for your body.



I eat right before bed as my rule breaker.  When I realized that I got hungry before bed time regardless of how well I ate that day I just started putting calories aside for the pre-bed snack and choosing something healthier.  It started as a big salad, but as I started lifting weights it has become protein shake time.  Depending on how many calories I have left, I will add fruit, natural peanut butter or anything I want to the shake to meet my nutritional and caloric intake goals.

I figure, why keep fighting my body?  If I'm hungry 30 minutes before bed, doesn't it make more sense to just plan to eat something healthy around that time everyday?  The other rules I bend is that my protein shake before bed is actually supposed to be consumed aftera  work out in the morning but I don't want a shake at that point in the day.  I want fruit.  So when I get home from the gym, I eat lots of fruit, and I drink the protein shake before bed.  It works for my body and keeps me happy (and more importantly not hungry).



I find that eating breakfast much later works for me - some call it 'intermittent fasting'. I will leave a 16-hour break between my evening meal and breakfast, which seems a little extreme but my body has got used to those times, and very often I find that if I drink a few cups of coffee and water in the morning then I don't feel hungry at all. 

On a normal day I will eat a healthy breakfast at 11am, decent sized lunch at 2pm and smaller dinner at 7pm. I try and work out with weights and some interval training at least twice a week.

And lastly, best lifestyle change that we made as a family was to get a dog - was supposed to be for the kids to walk but I brisk walk her for 45mins through the woods every morning before work and at least 20 mins in the evening. Gets your metabolism going very nicely!

I guess everyone is different but if you follow basic rules such as a clean diet and as much exercise as you can, you won't go far wrong...



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