I think of my mother, whose birthday is this week. She had a delightfully understated sense of humor, especially when it came to food.
A long-running joke was in response to open bags of food she “suddenly” discovered when unpacking groceries.
“Would you like to watch this?” This store sold me this packet of cookies…and two are missing!
I learned to play with it. “This is terrible! I wouldn’t go back to this store if I were you!
I also tend to play the same games. I can convince myself that there is less caloric damage from M&M’s if I slip a few at a time into the candy jar.
I can also convince myself that a particular food is good for me… no matter how much I eat.
Walnuts are a good example. I love nuts and preach their nutritional benefits to my clients. They are a good source of energy protein. They contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats. They are a convenient snack and can keep me from biting my arm when a meal is delayed or never arrives. They even provide the necessary dietary fiber. Not bad at all.
If I’m not careful, however, I could easily snack on a boatload of calories from this healthy food. Indeed, nuts are rich in nutrients but also concentrated in calories. Just 4 lean tablespoons (1/4 cup) of nuts contain 170 calories. It’s reasonable for a snack. But a whole cup – ingested without thinking – is 680 calories; enough to qualify for a hearty meal.
So here is the game I play with myself: I fill a quarter cup with my beloved nuts and watch it for a while. This, I tell myself, is a serving… a serving. Enjoy! When that portion disappears, that’s it. No more. Ended.
I asked my eldest daughter if she played food games.
“I pour sparkling water into a wine glass,” she said. “It makes me feel festive without adding alcohol or calories. Or I’ll make a cup of tea and drink it out of a nice mug. She says she’s noticed how much those extra doses of healthy fluids have improved hydration of his skin.
After a recent column on late night snacks, I got some reader ideas. Jan J.’s suggestion was simple: “Jello without sugar”.
Joan M, who reads the column in the Quincy Herald-Whig (Illinois) says we are bombarded with gross amounts of food advertisements when we watch television at night. “So maybe the dieter could switch to a non-commercial station like PBS or stream a movie,” she suggests. Or maybe an exercise video?
Now if I can only think of a game to deal with those leftover jellybeans.
Barbara Quinn-Intermill is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care Specialist affiliated with Monterey Peninsula Community Hospital. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating”. Email her at [email protected]