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Resolution #5: It's All In the Timing

What's even more confusing than the research flip-flopping every decade or so on whether it's okay to eat buttered toast or not? Recent findings indicate that you really need to pay attention to the time of day to determine what to eat.

Yup. One more thing to think about. But the good news is, Resolution #5 is pretty easy to incorporate. You just have to remember two little rules about timing:

Watchman

1. The morning is the best time for protein and carbs. Go low-carb for the rest of the day.
2. ...Unless you work out. You have up to an hour after a hard workout (the "golden hour") to refuel your body with carbohydrates and protein.

The reasoning behind these rules is simple.

While you're sleeping, you're fasting. Carbohydrates at breakfast deliver glucose to your bloodstream, starting up your brain and muscles. If you eat a big breakfast, you're going to give your body what it needs to perform better mentally and physically (and you might even lose weight). Carbs eaten later in the day are more likely to be processed to make fat.

A few good carb + protein breakfast options:
  • Beans on Toast
  • Poached Eggs & Toast Points
  • Yogurt & Granola
  • La Crepe Complete
  • Spinach Omelette and Whole-Grain Toast
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • Cottage Cheese & Sliced Fruit
  • After a hard workout, your muscles need to rehydrate, regain their glycogen stores and repair damage. During the "golden hour" after a sweaty workout, you can eat the simple carbohydrates (like bananas) that you should normally avoid, because your body processes them differently. Eating enough carbs (and some protein) immediately after a workout will help you feel stronger the next day. Some research recommends chocolate milk.

    Here's a more elaborate version of chocolate milk that J sometimes gets post-workout at a local juice bar. Just the thing to dream of while you're on the last, most difficult stretch of your exertions...
    Bulldozer Smoothie
    1/2 banana
    1-2 Tbsp peanut butter
    1 scoop chocolate whey protein
    (or 1 scoop regular whey protein + 1 tsp cocoa powder)
    1 cup milk or soymilk
    2 ice cubes

    1. Combine banana, peanut butter, protein powder, milk/soymilk and ice in a blender.
    2. Blend until smooth, pour into a glass and serve immediately.
    And you'll find more recovery-ready smoothie variations here .

    So that's it for wellness resolutions this year:
    1. Better Brown Bagging
    2. Rearrange the Plate
    3. Get Cultured
    4. Keep it Low & Slow
    ...aaand #5: It's All in the Timing

    Know a great one you think I've missed? Working on something worth sharing? Spill the beans in the comments.

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.09.2009

    Resolution #4: Keep it Low & Slow

    I've learned a lot about healthful eating recently from J, who's interested in the topic for the sake of intellectual curiosity and athletic performance and also my brother Dan, who was diagnosed with diabetes last year.

    The most interesting thing I've learned is that although their goals are different, their methods are almost identical.

    Even though J wants to maximize his performance and Dan is looking to stay healthy, they've both adopted the same philosophy on diet and exercise.

    It mostly boils down to regular, vigorous exercise combined with careful monitoring of the glycemic index (GI) measure for the foods they eat.

    Happy Tummy

    Now, since I've never been on the South Beach Diet (which apparently relies heavily upon monitoring foods' GI), I missed out on the whole glycemic index bandwagon. It goes like this:

    Glucose is simple sugar. When you eat a low GI food (eggs, meat, fish, beans, nuts, most vegetables), glucose is released into your bloodstream slowly and steadily. You need a little to keep your muscles working and your brain happy.

    But when you eat high GI foods (sugar, white bread, baked potatoes, corn flakes) your blood sugar spikes and then crashes.

    You've probably actually felt your blood sugar spike. It's the "sugar crash" after you eat a piece of cake or the "I need to nap" feeling you get after devouring a big plate of pasta.

    Day after day, year after year, all that spiking and crashing can wear out your organs, fatten you up and even make you depressed.

    That's why my Resolution #4 this year is: Keep it Low (the GI) and Slow (the digestion)

    South Beach has a chart of where foods' glycemic index registers (high-medium-low) and there's another printable table over here at Diabetesnet.

    You'll notice that things like potatoes vary greatly depending on how they're cooked (the slow temperature increase of baking tends to convert more of the vegetable's starches to sugar), but it's generally a good bet to fill your weekly shopping list with foods that rate a GI of 55 or less.

    Compose your meals and snacks around:
  • Fish & Meat
  • Eggs & Dairy
  • Beans
  • Most Fruits (except for bananas, dates and watermelon)
  • Most Vegetables (except for potatoes & parsnips)
  • Whole grains

  • High fiber is good. Whole foods are good. Junkfood is evil. Looks kind of like what you should be eating anyway, right? No revelations there.

    The one major problem with eating this way is that it tends to be more expensive.

    All those cheap extenders (rice, pasta, potatoes bread, croutons and the like) tend to be high glycemic index foods. And restaurants just love to fill you up with extenders. Full customers are happy customers.

    That said, good old fashioned beans, oatmeal, apples, soy, barley and a bunch of other inexpensive ingredients are still low, slow and ready to go.

    With that in mind, why not ditch the breakfast cereal and start tomorrow morning with a bowl of yogurt or some oatmeal? Top it with chopped apples and cinnamon... or currants and walnuts, depending on how you're feeling. Happy pancreas, happy liver, happy belly, happy you.

    Just one more resolution tomorrow and that'll cap off the week.

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.08.2009

    Resolution #3: Get Cultured

    There's nothing like the zeal of the convert, and ever since I started getting regular doses of probiotics in my diet, I can't shut up about 'em.

    After years of having a constantly grumpy tummy, the belly is soothed and I feel my overall health is better. Thank you, gut flora.

    Fermented milk products like yogurt or kefir are an obvious way to get the probiotic party started, but not everyone eats dairy, so those folks can look to fermented plant products like pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso and kombucha for their healthy bacteria.

    Probiotic Party

    I eat yogurt almost daily now and have a happy flora party rocking out in my guts, so as a good party host, I want to make sure my little guests have snacks they enjoy.

    As it turns out, gut flora like soybeans, unrefined oats, wheat and barley and foods that contain inulin, like onions, garlic, jicama, burdock, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root and dandelion.

    So in that spirit, this wellness resolution is all about getting (and growing) my active cultures. I'll now be on the lookout for ways to boost inulin, like adding jicama to my favorite mango salsa. After all, what's a probiotic party without salsa?

    Jicama Mango Salsa (Makes 6 to 8 servings)
    1 lb jicama (1 medium root): peeled diced
    1 medium cucumber: peeled, seeded and diced
    2 mangoes, peeled and diced
    1 small red onion, minced
    1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
    2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
    Salt, to taste

    1. In a large bowl, combine diced jicama, cucumber and mango with minced onion, jalapeno and cilantro.
    2. In another bowl, mix together the cumin and lime juice. Slowly pour in the olive oil, incorporating it with a whisk.
    3. Dress the jicama-mango mix with the lime dressing and season to taste with salt. Spoon over grilled meat, chicken or fish, or serve with tortilla chips or tacos.

    Two more wellness resolutions on the way...

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.07.2009

    Resolution #2: Rearrange the Plate

    In culinary school, we did a lot of plate drawings. The elements were always different, but the formula was invariable: Protein, Veg, Starch. Protein, Veg, Starch.

    J recently started trying to drop weight to qualify for a lower weight division at tournaments, and he suggested that we drop the starch sector from our plates.

    "Just double the vegetables and put the meat on the side."

    At the time, this statement was revolutionary, and I must admit, not terribly welcome. Martin Luther pounding at the kitchen door. Drop the starch? But that was 1/3 of the plate! Utter madness!

    Reorganizing the Plate

    It's taken some trial and error (old habits die hard) and some dishes have been dropped entirely (pasta and potato dishes fail under this plan), but I'm endeavoring to change, and behold! J has lost weight and I've felt less dopey after meals.

    So my second resolution for the new year is to rearrange the plate that exists in the mind... the one that's been imprinted there by a lifetime of Protein, Veg, Starch combos.

    The new plate is steak and sautéed broccoli. Or chili and salad. Or turkey and Brussels sprouts. Or a big Greek salad. Or beans and collard greens. Or a stir-fry, hold the rice.

    Potatoes, rice, noodles and bread now become condiments to be used sparingly rather than major players on the plate.

    Now, I'm a big bread lover, so this is a resolution — and a revolution — in progress, but I think it's a worthy goal that will pay dividends in weight maintenance, more veggie consumption and just feeling good overall.

    Three more resolutions to come!

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.06.2009

    Resolution #1: Better Brown Bagging

    Get to (or stay at) a healthy weight. Enjoy variety. Save money. Control what goes into your body. Feel more organized.

    These are just a few of the many tasty benefits wrapped up in the resolution to pack more delicious lunches to take to work.

    Truth is, I've known all the terrific reasons to pack lunch for quite some time, but I've never quite been able to put the plan in action. Day after day, I end up ordering takeout from the same three or four places near work.



    But this year, I believe I've discovered the lunchbox grail: that essential key to making good lunches happen. It's planning ahead.

    That's not quantum mechanics, I realize, but I'm pretty sure this one simple flaw is why I've largely failed at lunch packing for years. Boffo brown-baggging just doesn't happen in that pre-coffee morning zombie mode.

    So watch out... This, dear friends, is the year I'm going to start packing.

    I've broken the process down into five easy steps to make it achievable for me, and maybe for you, too.

    Step One is identification of tasty, packable lunchtime candidates.

    The successful lunch-maker needs a small arsenal of go-to lunch recipes with a few variations to keep it interesting. Here's a few of my favorite options for ease, flavor and portability:
  • Desktop Panini
  • Basic French Lentil Salad
  • Bahn Mi Sandwiches
  • Spicy Peanut Soba Noodles
  • Any Bean Salad

  • Real Simple also has a list of four takes on the Tuna Sandwich and Martha Stewart features a handful of fast, healthy soups.

    Step Two is gathering up the equipment.

    I've had too many lunch plans quashed by a lack of appropriate containers.

    While it's not necessary to have a designer lunchbox, I think you'll be more proud of your efforts (and make your coworkers more jealous) if your pack is cool.

    You'll also broaden your lunchtime options if you keep a couple of cold packs and an insulated thermos on hand.

    I've got some ideas in my gear shop if you need inspiration.

    Step Three is gathering up the ingredients.

    Keep lunch in mind while doing the weekly shopping. Whether that's extra celery for celery sticks, enough beans to double the soup recipe, a few necessary condiments or a pack of string cheese for snacking, lunch isn't going to happen if you don't plan the details.

    Step Four is putting it into the schedule.

    Packing lunch needs to be a priority. Wash salad greens and cut carrot and celery sticks on Sunday. Make a bean dip or a simple soup while you're waiting for dinner to cook. Pack up the containers the night before so everything's ready to go in the morning.

    Step Five is not leaving lunch on the counter (or in the fridge) when walking out the door to go to work.

    Kind of self-explanatory, but it's happened to me more often than I'd like to remember.

    Additional tips:

    There's 1001 ways to make a sandwich, so don't burn out on the same 'ol thing every day. Switch from sliced bread to a roll, baguette or a wrap, add a savory spread, a different pickle or a new kind of cheese to make the difference between something you look forward to eating and something that sits sadly at the bottom of the sack.

    Plan for leftovers. Cooking up a bigger batch of something on the weekend (soups, stews, roasts, curries, casseroles) is a classic way to make both lunches and dinners happen.

    Think about what travels well. Roasted vegetable, pasta, meat/fish and bean salads make particularly good choices for lunch packing... Since they're already dressed, there's less risk of spilling vinaigrette on your pants (or across the inside of your bag).

    So that's the jist of it: Plot, Equip, Gather, Schedule and Follow Through. Five steps to better brown bagging.

    Look for more resolutions in the days to come...

    To our health!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.05.2009

    New Year's Wellness Resolutions

    Some people hate resolutions. I think they loathe setting themselves up for failure or feeling pressured to perform or something of that nature.

    I look at New Year's resolutions as a great time to stop and hit the reset button. Our national custom of resolution creation is a reminder that it's occasionally important to look across the landscape of one's life and work on some upgrades. What's bad about that?



    If you're a longtime reader, you may recall that I posted some wellness goals last year. They were essentially:

    1. Hydration
    2. Portion Control
    3. Making Good Health Convenient
    4. Seeking Out Unprocessed Food
    5. Eating in Season
    6. Embracing the Salad
    7. Eating More Seafood

    I did pretty well with those last year (life is always a work in progress, no?), so I'm feeling confident enough to plan out a brand-new set of wellness resolutions for this year. (Woo hoo!)

    Next week, I'll be posting five new health goals — a fresh one for each workday, starting on Monday.

    Wishing you all the best in the New Year!
    Miss Ginsu

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    1.01.2009

    Goal 7: Make a Date with a Fish

    In my experience, there's a lot of things the experts recommend for good health, but those things don't happen if you don't schedule them and/or make them into habits. Or, maybe more precisely, they do happen, but the occurrences are sporadic.

    The thought here is simple: If you want to make good health a priority, you need to make space for it. On your calendar. With a pen.

    Fish, for example, is recommended by nutritionists as part of a healthy diet, but how often do you manage to work it into your meals?

    trout duxelles
    Trout duxelles with roasted fingerling potatoes

    J and I have a running date with a fish every week (a threesome, if you will) for Fish & Film Friday. The Netflix show up, one of us brings the fish and we share a healthy habit that sticks... week after week.

    Need to work in more leafy greens? Figure out a Swiss Chard Saturday and a Turnip Greens Tuesday. Want to start taking a multivitamin? You'll have better luck making that habit stick if you attach it to something else you already do each day.

    The Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia had a similar idea when they started their Healthy Monday project (aka "The Day All Health Breaks Loose"). What if each and every Monday of every week became the day to start and sustain healthy behavior?

    Any goal becomes more real when you make it a concrete part of your life and your calendar. Set up salad time. Invite oatmeal along to cawfee tawk. Make a date with a cabbage. Share your Friday with a fish.

    Miss any of the previous resolutions? You'll find #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6 linked here.

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    1.07.2008

    Goal 6: Unlock the Salad Code

    My boss loves it when I make salads for our department lunches. He's not really into vegetables (he usually claims his favorite veggie is either the potato or the onion), so it's kind of a nice compliment when he takes a big portion of salad.

    I find it disturbing, however that he believes there's some kind of magic behind making a good salad. Shouldn't a set of basic salad skills be one of the rights and responsibilities befitting a modern citizen? (Just behind the our rights to participatory government and free speech, of course.)

    Salads shouldn't be relegated to the corner as "virtuous" food alongside culinary misfits like alfalfa sprouts, rutabaga and wheat germ.

    Though they invariably contain heaps of healthful vegetables, salads are often quite fatty. In my book, salads really have more in common with the food of jubilation than the food of deprivation.

    Granted, while I worked in a garde manger position, I did spend nine months of my life doing little more than making salads at high speed. One could say I have a certain expertise in the area.

    The thing is, most people have been buffaloed into believing salads are not only virtuous but maybe even difficult.

    I'm here to tell you it's not true, and I'll prove it with an infographic. Whee!

    I've broken down some popular salads based on their major components. You'll note that the pattern is pretty easy to follow...
      1. Take a bowl of the lettuce of your choice.
      2. Sprinkle on a sweetly savory component, such as roasted red peppers or cherry tomatoes.
      3. Chop up an herbaceous component.
      4. Add crumbled/diced cheese or boiled egg.
      5. If you wish, add cooked beans or a diced protein.
      6. Dress with a harmonious vinaigrette.
      7. Toss and serve.

    Salad Chart

    Just remember... every salad you make is an opportunity for a party on your plate.

    Miss any of the previous resolutions? You'll find #1, #2, #3, #4 & #5 linked here.

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    1.06.2008

    Goal 5: Eat In Season

    January is a grim season for locavores. I try to eat locally whenever I can, but there's no way I'm going to pass up a juicy Pomelo in January or a sweet box of clementines in December. Thankfully, citrus is in season during the winter months, even if it does have a lengthy sojourn on the way here.

    If you live on on the West Coast, you have a few more options. Om Organics has a nice chart of what's growing when in the Bay Area.

    For those of us out here in the East, things are pretty sparse at the farmers markets. What should you be eating now? Broccoli. Cauliflower. Root Vegetables. Pumpkins. Citrus fruits and all manner of hearty greens.

    Eating peak-season produce is a great food resolution because it's cheaper, it's more nutritious and when you buy locally, you support your farming neighbors. And that's just plain old good karma.

    I've made up a chart here to keep those of us in the Northeast region on track throughout the year. (Anything that's not grown locally is indicated with an asterisk.)

    Apples to Cabbages
    Apples through Cabbages

    Carrots to Grapefruit
    Carrots through Grapefruit

    Green Garlic to Sweet Onions
    Green Garlic through Sweet Onions

    Blood Oranges to Wild Ramps
    Blood Oranges through Wild Ramps

    Raspberries to Turnips
    Raspberries through Turnips

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    1.05.2008

    Goal 4: Snuggle up with a good label

    I think it's sad that Whole Foods Market has taken over the world. I can no longer proclaim my love of whole foods without people misconstruing it as a love of Whole Foods.

    Research continues to show us that best stuff we can choose to eat is the food we've had available to us for the several hundred thousand years we've been on the planet. Food that's as close to its natural form as possible. Carrots. Beans. Apples. Blueberries. Fishes. Honey. Walnuts. You know... whole foods.

    The category of "almost as good" includes very minimally processed things. Olive oil, nut butters, tomato juice, apple sauce, steel-cut oats, boiled lentils, plain yogurt, split pea soup... the ingredient list on these items is short and pronounceable.

    Then, there's the "sure, but don't pig out" food category. Vanilla ice cream. Couscous. Banana muffins. Lemon curd. More, and more processed, ingredients.

    Finally, the "really, you shouldn't" category: processed foods. Not sugar or honey, but high-fructose corn syrup or aspartame and acesulfame potassium. Not butter or oil, but partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed and/or palm kernel oil.

    Incidentally, do you know what that "and/or" means on a product label? It means they don't exactly know which product they're using. It means they're holding out to see what's cheapest on the ag markets.

    Food Value Pyramid

    I've created an infographic (because I love 'em) to demonstrate this point a little better. Clearly, it's my own reinterpretation of the USDA's food pyramid.

    All you need to do for better health is get in the habit of actually looking at nutrition labels on the food you're about to put in your mouth.

    Is the thing you're about to eat a whole food? It probably doesn't have a label at all. Great! Try to make sure your diet is filled with whole foods.

    Minimally-to-partially processed food with just a few things on the ingredient listing? Fine. If you're the one doing the processing, that's all the better.

    Food that's processed to the point at which nothing that grew or flew is verifiable in it? Can't readily explain to a 5-year-old how people make or find all the ingredients it contains? Those are bad signs, friend. Put that thing back on the shelf and back away. Or, if you really can't resist, keep consumption to a minimum. One or two Oreos. A small handful of pita chips. A candy bar in the "mini" size.

    We really are made up of what we eat. You can give your body far better building blocks than Doritos will ever provide.

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    1.04.2008

    Goal 3: Create Convenience

    The problem with convenience food is that convenience is its only attribute. It's there. It's available. It's shelf-stable.

    Sheetz Market, PA

    On the other hand, list of what convenience food is not goes on and on. It's not fresh, not nutritious, not vibrant, not wholesome, not flavorful, not sustainable, not natural...

    When we strive to offer ourselves the gift of a better, tastier, fresher, more healthful diet, we need to plan ahead to make the magic happen.

    Fruit & Cheese

    Sometimes life gives you a beautiful fruit stand. Far more often, the modern world will offer up its shelf-stable candy aisles and its fast food chains. The convenience is there, but you pay for that convenience with your health and your hard-earned dollars.

    If you can plan ahead, you'll create convenience on your own terms.

    1. Make sure you know where your next meal is coming from.

    Most people need three (or more) meals a day. Make sure you know how that's going to happen. Buy groceries with several meal plans in mind. Cook on Sunday and put soups and casseroles in the freezer. Pack lunches or look up in advance the local options for places that will feed you healthful foods. Don't leave your good intentions for nutritious, delicious meals in the hands of fate. She'll turn around and hand you a Ho-Ho.

    2. Pack food.

    You've packed your ipod, your sunglasses, your book and your sweater. What about snacks? Pack a water bottle. Pack an apple. Pack a banana. Pack a sandwich. Pack a bento box. Pack a hard-boiled egg in a plastic bag with a paper towel. When it comes to traveling (whether that's across town or across the country) it pays to be a little paranoid.

    3. Don't leave hungry.

    That party that's supposed to offer food? The appointment that's supposed to be a lunch meeting? Don't believe the hype. You never know what the future holds, so don't go anywhere with a ravenous hunger. You'll end up eating whatever's put in front of you, and because you're desperate, you'll probably eat far more of it than you normally would have. Life is uncertain, so make sure you at least eat a handful of nuts or an apple before leaving the house.

    4. Make fresh food convenient.

    We all have moments when our inner caveman takes over, and we stumble through the kitchen in search of something... anything... to eat. That's a particularly vulnerable state to be in.

    When you stock the house with easy, healthy snacks, you offer a gift to your hungry caveman. Make sure you always have healthful supplies on hand. Think fresh fruit, snack-sized vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, juices, yogurt, cottage cheese, granola, etc. Conversely, make convenience foods inconvenient. Keep them away from your home, your office and your car. They're just not allowed.


    A box of crackers will sit, inert, on a shelf for years. A banana goes brown and spotty after a week or less.

    So yes, eating fresh, nutritious foods takes some effort on a regular basis. But planning ahead for healthful meals and snacks means convenience foods... actually become a little less convenient.

    Miss out on previous days? Read Goal 1 and Goal 2.

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    1.03.2008

    Goal 2: Eat like Mr. Miyagi

    The good people of Okinawa, Japan, are known for more than mind-blowing karate. Okinawans are also some of the longest-lived people on the planet, and are reported to have the largest population of centenarians in the world.

    Of course, our modern era being what it is, that fact that has subsequently spurred the so-called Okinawa Diet, a reduced-calorie plan that's based, for the most part, around veggies and fish. (Gee whiz, Wally... doesn't that sound like the Mediterranean Diet? Maybe veggies and fish really are good for you...)

    There's been some interesting research lately into calorie-restricted diets and their effect on longevity. At least in smaller life forms, a calorie-restricted diet really does appear to translate to a slightly longer life.

    Although I don't think I could fully enact that notion (I enjoy hot chocolate and French pastries far too much), consuming a diet full of vegetables and fishes seems like it's just plain old good advice.

    That said, I think the best take-away from the Okinawa plan is their very savvy skills in portion control.

    We live in a land of plenty. More than plenty, really, so it's not surprising that most people in this culture have no idea how much they should actually eat at any given meal.

    That lack of skill in deciding what a portion should be is precisely why our nation's nutritionists try to give us visual cues. A portion of banana is half the banana. A portion of meat looks like a hockey puck, not a frisbee. A portion of nuts is a small handful, not a bag. A portion of Ben & Jerry's does not look like a pint container. Your dinner should not look like a plate loaded to the rim at the Old Country Buffet...

    Bento Box
    Sensei says... give those gyoza away and leave the rice behind.

    The Okinawa portion control rule is easy to remember and easy to execute. Just remember 80%.

    Step 1: Eat until you're 80% full.
    Step 2: Stop eating.

    Simple, right?

    Now, an enterprising soul could probably go publish an "Everything I need to know about my health I learned from Mr. Miyagi" tome, because there's a lot of solid principles in the Okinawa plan (Enjoy your food, eat vast quantities of vegetables, be a kick-ass mentor, paint the house, wash the car, etc.), but personally, I'm seeking a few small, achievable steps.

    Being a karate master takes a lifetime, but being good at 80% is something that can be achieved at any given meal.

    This post marks the second of Seven Food Resolutions. Miss out on Goal 1? Find it here.

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    1.02.2008

    Goal 1: Hydration

    I love resolutions. In fact, I love 'em so much, I tend to make biannual resolutions, because sometimes the things I resolve in January make less sense six months later.

    Thus, I'm embarking on seven days of healthy food resolutions this week.

    Each goal will support good health with good food without wrecking one of my other goals: saving money so I can pay down my student loans.

    Goal 1: Hydration

    One of the cheapest, most sensible tips I've found for maintaining a healthy weight and a happy body is bizarrely simple: Stay hydrated.

    There's so many compelling reasons to keep ample fluids in the body. When you drink enough water, you give yourself the gift of nourished skin, better breath, more energy, happy bowels and kidneys, easier digestion, more brainpower and very probably a decreased caloric intake (dehydrated people tend to snack).

    There was a period in my life several years ago when I didn't drink water. Ever. I drank milk, juice, sodas, tea, cocoa, lemonade... anything but water. To be honest, straight-up water kind of bored me.

    In retrospect, it's not surprising that I also had chapped lips, often felt dizzy and passed out in public places with concerning frequency. (They called an ambulance when I passed out in the Rainbow Foods checkout line.) My doctor took blood tests and did an EKG to try to figure out the fainting spells, but came to no conclusion.

    At some point, I realized I'd never really paid any attention at all to that whole "drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day" rule. I gave it a shot (though I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that the experiment was more for the promised energy boost than anything else).

    Suddenly, like the forgotten plant on the windowsill... water brought me back to life. Random headaches, swooning, dry skin, constipation and dry mouth? Gone. Turns out I had low blood pressure thanks to a mild, but chronic, dehydration.

    I haven't had a dizzy spell since, and I now begin every list of annual resolutions with this one simple statement: Drink more water.

    Washable Water Bottle
    Your ally in the war on dehydration

    There's a few easy ways to make this resolution stick.

    1. Figure out how much you need.

    Honestly, that whole six to eight glasses of water a day rule might not be right for you. If you exercise heavily, that's probably too little. If you drink a lot of other fluids, six to eight glasses might be too much. The proof is in the loo. Do Is your urine clear or pale yellow? You're probably doing fine. (Though it's important to note that B vitamins and some medications change the color of your fluids.)

    2. Get yourself a water bottle you love (and a brush to keep it clean).

    Most people are probably aware by now that disposable plastic water bottles are an environmental nightmare, so gift yourself a nice reusable water bottle. I've got a quart-sized Nalgene bottle on my desk at work and a smaller one that goes in my purse. Keep in mind that a bottle brush is key... nobody loves funky water.

    3. Bored by water? Cut it with a little juice.

    I mentioned this one a few months back in my post on workout foods, but somehow, it's even more valid in the winter. For some reason, I always think water tastes better in the summer. For the winter months, like to I hit my waterglass up with a wedge of lemon, lime or orange.

    4. Take pride in your city tap water.

    J was on the Staten Island Ferry recently when he overheard a young lady telling her friends, "Omigod, you guys... I am so broke. My parents didn't give me anything this week. You guys, I drank water... out of the water fountain!"

    First, it's funny. Then, it's sad. I realize not every municipality has tasty water, but darn it, I really believe New York City has some of the finest water in the country. (In fact, Jeffrey Steingarten had a great chapter on this topic in his book, The Man Who Ate Everything.)

    If your city water is horrible, then buy a tap filter and make it your civic duty to protest loudly, angrily and often. Bad city water needs to be an outrage, not a reason to give more money to Coke or Pepsi (Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani bottled waters are processed from municipal taps).

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    1.01.2008