The problem with dieting is that it really only works when you have total control over what you are eating. And seriously, who has the time to count, measure and weigh your food? Even if you are choosing low-fat foods, sometimes you just don't have that option.
The handy-sized guidebook "Eat This, Not That" (Rodale Books, 2008, $19.95) is for real people with real (busy) lives who want to make better eating choices without having to count pretzels or live on lettuce. There's also a kids and family edition of the book, so parents and kids alike can tailor meals to fit their lifestyles. Authors Matt Goulding and David Zinczenko, who is the editor in chief of Men's Health Magazine, say, "The No. 1 principle of the book is to cut out empty calories and add in nutrition."
For example, if you chose a Chick-fil-A chargrilled chicken sandwich instead of a chicken Caesar cool wrap, you would save 210 calories, 12.5 grams of fat, and 700 milligrams of sodium. The book is full of other examples, all illustrated with glossy, colorful pictures. No more excuses about how healthy eating is rocket science.
The great thing about this guide is that the authors don't assume that you will give up pizza or never have a cocktail again. Instead, they show you very practical ways to make the best choice when faced with options. In fact, this guidebook allows you to eat (gasp!) ice cream, steak and pizza. How? By helping you choose the healthiest ice cream, steak, and pizza options.
For more healthy eating tips, videos and items inspired by the book, be sure to check out menshealth.com/eatthis, and sign up for their newsletter. The authors have also written a "kids" version, targeted to families.
If all this talk about what not to eat is making you hungry, here is a list of "8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day," taken directly from "Eat This, Not That":
SPINACH: Make your salad with spinach; add spinach to scrambled eggs; drape over pizza.
YOGURT: Yogurt topped with blueberries, walnuts, flaxseed and honey is the ultimate breakfastor dessert.
TOMATOES: Pile on the ketchup and Ragu; guzzle low-sodium V8 and gazpacho.
CARROTS (or any other yellow, red or orange vegetables and fruits): Raw baby carrots, sliced raw yellow pepper, butternut squash soup, baked sweet potato, pumpkin pie, mango sorbet, carrot cake.
BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries maintain most of their power in dried, frozen or jam form.
OATS: Eat granolas and cereals that have a fiber content of at least 5 grams per serving.
BLACK BEANS: Wrap black beans in a breakfast burrito; use both black beans and kidney beans in your chili; puree one cup black beans with 1/4 cup olive oil and roasted garlic for a healthy dip.
WALNUTS: Sprinkle on top of salads; chop and add to pancake batter; grind and mix with olive oil to make a marinade for grilled fish or chicken.
Eating Out, Eating Healthy
Did you know Americans spend more than 41 percent of their total food budget on food purchased outside the home? Not so bad, you might say, because you always choose what's healthy on the menu, right? Well, the big surprise is that food you might consider "healthy" when dining out might actually be sabotaging your diet.
Try these 10 tips for eating healthy away from home:
• Buy a glass of your favorite wine instead of a bottle. Sip it slowly over the course of your whole meal. Too much alcohol actually blocks your body's natural inhibitors, including the ones that tell you you're full.
• Split an entrée. Most restaurant entrées are big enough to feed two or three people.
• Watch out for descriptors like "cream sauce," "fried" and "breaded." Anything that's grilled, poached, roasted, steamed or baked is your best bet.
• Choose lean cuts of beef, like loin or flank.
• Don't be afraid to ask for your veggies without butter or a light sauce.
• Always ask for salad dressing on the side. And do you really need all that cheese, bacon and croutons?
• When you order a burger or sandwich, eat it "open-face," meaning you eat only half the bread. Most buns and bread slices are so huge that half is plenty.
• Stop drinking your calories away, and I'm not talking about booze. That large caramel latte with whipped cream from your favorite coffee shop has more calories and fat than an entire meal. The problem with high-calorie drinks is that you don't feel full afterward, and you still want to eat a regular meal.
• Don't clean your plate! Yes, I know, there are people in the world who don't have enough to eat, but does that mean you should eat their share for them?
• If you are going out to dinner, eat a snack an hour or two before you go. Nothing hugea small handful of almonds or a piece of fruit is perfect. That way, when you get to the restaurant, you won't be famished and devour the entire basket of bread before getting your entrée.