By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Editor’s note: This is part 3 of the publisher’s blog on diet and exercise.
A few of my friends have declared they will not go on cruises — for fear of overeating — irresistible temptations of 24-hour food service and worrying about dieting afterwards.
It’s true that many who cruise often gain a few to several pounds, especially after a long trip.
My husband and I have been on many cruises, but neither of us gained weight. It’s not because we eat less.
In fact, we eat more meals each day. It’s because we are selective in what we eat.
Organic or non-organic
Health experts claim organic food is better because you don’t put chemicals in your body. But it can be pricey. If you aim to live longer, grow your own food. A few of my friends, who are 90-something mothers, have attributed their longevity to eating fresh food from their own garden. I am lucky that one of my staff members shares tomatoes, cucumbers, and Chinese veggies from her plot at the Danny Woo Garden. They taste wonderful.
You can also shop for organic foods in regular grocery stores since they have become quite popular.
However, some organic items, such as peanut butter, taste weird to me. One doctor said if I cannot eat organic frequently, I should at least drink organic. I am 100 percent for that.
Limit your sugar
Several years ago, I was borderline diabetic. No one could tell since I didn’t have any weight issues. The damaging food I consumed was too much. My guilty pleasure was dessert.
When the health report card arrived, I realized what I had done to my own body. I eliminated sugar from my diet for months, except honey. Besides its antioxidant powers, one spoonful of honey makes my daily milk tea smooth and palatable. The drastic change resulted in my body not craving sugar as much as I used to. Today, I cannot tolerate anything that is too sweet. Just a little sweet is pleasurable enough.
While I still enjoy desserts, my self-control is also amazing.
What to eat when hungry
Always have soup, apples, and bananas at home. Soup is good for people who tend to overeat. A bowl of soup before you start your meal will fill your stomach. I am a soup person, though not because I want to curb my appetite. I feel more satisfied when I devour a tasty bowl of soup every night.
Unfortunately, we don’t always have time to make soup, so we use canned soup as a substitute. Miso soup, Italian Wedding soup, Thai coconut and beans are some of my favorites. To me, the dinner is incomplete without soup. Perhaps that’s the best thing about cruises — the chefs always prepare two to three kinds of soup.
Bananas and apples are part of my daily diet. I hated bananas when I was a child. After I found out about the importance of magnesium in bananas, I learned to like it. A deficiency in magnesium in our bodies is likely to cause depression and constipation. Magnesium helps us to cope with stress. If you have been avoiding the fruit, give banana cakes and bread a try. Yum. Or take magnesium pills. I eat two baby bananas for breakfast and take magnesium pills before I go to bed.
Need I say more about the benefits of eating apples? Washington state Fuji apples are the best for everything, especially when you wake up in the middle of the night looking for something to eat. One of my friends said it helps with insomnia.
No wonder my mood has improved tremendously over the past three years, thanks to those two beneficial fruits.
Have an egg every day
I love eggs. But the fear of high cholesterol eroded my love affair with eggs most of my adult life. For the past few years, new research has exonerated eggs of their bad reputation and they are touted as an important brain food. It is never too much to have one egg every day. I fry myself an egg every morning and sprinkle them with my favorite spices — a great start to the day.
When I shop, I look for jumbo-sized eggs, a contrast to my past behavior of shopping for smaller eggs (probably with smaller yolks). According to one study, one single medium sized egg contains a significant amount of protein and 186 milligrams of cholesterol, which is the recommended daily intake. It also consists of choline, a B vitamin-like nutrient, which is essential to fight diseases in your body.
Lots of fruits and veggies
I eat at least four servings of fruits daily. Fruits are my go-to snacks when I am hungry. Besides bananas and apples, I eat watermelon, an anti-aging fruit, and other fresh seasonal fruits.
We prepare two big plates of veggies — a salad and stir-fried veggie dish for dinner aside from the entrees.
My veggie list is long for the week.
Each day, we shop in the Chinatown International District for dinner. This way, we get the freshest and best priced items.
We cook Chinese greens, broccoli, watercress, cabbage, sweet potatoes, chards, eggplants, or tomatoes, depending on the season.
My salad dishes are tuna fish with beans and celery, beans and apple salad, or chicken with corn and beans salad.
Seafood has good fats and fewer calories than meat. We don’t deep-fry though. Deep-frying food uses way too much grease.
When we go out to eat, we never order deep-fried seafood for fear that some restaurants use stale or old oil in their cooking. That’s really harmful to the body.
Fresh fish and shellfish are usually steamed or baked at home with a little soy sauce, olive oil, ginger, and green onion. When they are fresh, you don’t need fancy sauces. Their natural taste makes you redefine and rediscover the essence of really good food.
For folks who want to lose weight, lean meat is a good source of protein and also filling.
Although a big veggie consumer, I am not a vegetarian. I can’t live without beef, pork, or chicken. Once in a while, I crave a juicy piece of prime rib.
The meat provides me with taste and texture. I enjoy the balance of having varieties of food. That’s why my dinner consists of delicious veggies and seafood, as well as meat.
My Indian friends introduced me to beans six years ago. I have added them to my diet. It’s a rich source of fiber, protein, and nutrients. They are good as salads and soups as mentioned earlier. I often cook them with pork and spices as a main entrée, because beans by themselves are quite bland.
Bread and olive oil
I am crazy about freshly baked bread, dipped in olive oil or butter. White flour is not good for you. Make sure to eat everything in moderation. We do need fats and carbohydrates every day for a balanced diet.
Most days, a piece of bread is on my daily food list. And I am content with small bites.
The mistake some people make while trying to lose weight is that they cut out fats and carbohydrates completely. Fats are important for our brain.
Just remember, don’t starve yourself even if you are on a diet. Attaining overall health is more important than having a lean body.
Remember to keep moving. Move your body while you can and when you can. Exercise every day. You will achieve your goals.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.