Break food ruts with a day-long “different” diet

by SARA on April 13, 2010

This deliciousness is, somehow, vegan...

Ever since Thursday’s post, I’ve been thinking about the power of small changes. Something I’d especially liked about the notion of Meatless Mondays was the opportunity to totally switch your diet up for a day. Lately, I’ve developed some pretty deplorable food ruts: Gum, for example. (Not the worst thing in the world, but I don’t think I need it every time I sit down with my computer.) Or Starbuck’s reduced-fat coffee cake. (Really. I mean, can’t I at least shake it up a little?)

Increasingly, we’re seeing research that foods can be psychologically addicting–some, like sugar, are even physically so. We all know that breaking habits using “don’ts” is pretty miserable. And swearing off favorites indefinitely can seem so overwhelming it’s easy to break down. So wouldn’t a “small steps” approach be worth a shot here? Instead of permanently cutting out foods you’re really liking, just give yourself a short break, making sure to replace the overused ones with interesting things or ways of eating you want to try. As you’re focusing on the new stuff, you give your body a chance to detox a little, so when you go back to normal, your cravings won’t be quite as strong (and maybe you’ll add to your menu). I emailed nutritionist and Svelte Gourmand regular Stephanie Middleburg about this. It turns out she’s way ahead of me.

Here’s what she wrote (I loved the tone of her response): “Totally! I like mixing things up and providing clients with the specific day-long diet plans to get them out of their normal eating routine. They have a chance to break some food ruts and try new things.”

Specifically, Stephanie’s a big fan of “vegan days,” which she often implements once a week (kind of a Meatless Monday plus). Below, she’s put together a typical such day. (Looks intriguing. I’m in!) In italics, I’ve added a few chicken scratches, questions, and possible recipes…

Breakfast: Oatmeal made with soy or hemp milk plus 1 cup berries and cinnamon.
Snack: Fruit (oranges–and papaya–are in season right now, among many) plus walnuts
Lunch: Quinoa salad (Chef Matt’s recipe might be a good one to try for this), or a salad made of chickpeas, 3-4 vegetables, avocado, and a little extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.
Snack: Lara bar (I didn’t know what these were! Turns out they’re vegan, gluten-free bars made of unsweetened fruits, nuts, and spices. They look pretty good. Thoughts…?)
Dinner: Tofu Stir-Fry (The New York Times has about a million amazing recipes. Here’s one with a great, easy soy-and-sherry sauce; I’ve made a similar version and love it. And, here’s a funny Mark Bittman post about pumpkin-chive-garlic-etc. tofu that I just happen to love. It’s called “A good Stir Fry Hides a Lot of Faults.” I couldn’t agree more!)

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Easy, healthy and in-season recipes: Cucumber salad and “After Eight” pears
April 16, 2010 at 2:02 am


Sarah April 14, 2010 at 9:25 am

You know, I’ve been thinking about trying what Bittman is doing with his “vegan before 6pm” lifestyle-I don’t eat meat (except fish a couple times a month), but I am cheese OBSESSED and I think it’s starting to show!! I think the “small steps” approach is really a very reasonable idea!

Kathleen April 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm

My small steps plan was to add one thing for a day, and then try again for another day to see if it would last a week. Like a glass of water before each meal. Or a snack at 11 on the days I was having lunch at 2. Or just eating breakfast every morning. One good thing often bumped 2 or more not so good things off the day.

Barb April 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Love this idea. I will get on board for Meatless Mondays, because I’m headed that way already…will try a vegan before 6, too–interesting and a good approach: Better to have MUST eats than MUSTN’T eats.

SARA April 15, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Sarah and Barb, I’d completely forgotten about that vegan before six thing! It’s great because it really is so easy to do, so you feel good about the whole process (which, I believe, is key). And, Kathleen, I think you’re approach is really, really smart. Research shows that it takes something close to ten days, I think, for a new behavior to become a habit (something we just do and don’t think about). I’ve talked to experts who’ve absolutely suggested that one-at-a-time approach for all sorts of things. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Sarah Jio April 16, 2010 at 1:17 am

Ha! I’m so with you on the Starbucks’ reduced fat coffee cake. Cinnamon swirl, no? What is with the lure of that cake? I can’t order a coffee without feeling tempted. :) Glad to see I’m not the only one!

SARA April 20, 2010 at 7:55 pm

It is, indeed, the cinnamon swirl. The deliciousness therein. Oh my! You know, I bet there’s a fan page for that out there…..

Jennifer October 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

They pick the best combinations of fruit and nuts and name each combo with the most similar, & really yummy, desserts!
They make mini versions which I find great for an on-the-go snack or an after meal sweet! Wholefoods sells the minis in a packaged set or just check out the LARABAR website!
My favorites are Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Cashew Cookie.
I also believe they come in a chocolate variety, I have yet to try ‘em, but for those of you that need a little chocolate on your bars this could be a great one!

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