Listen to My Mother
Among the best-known axioms in advertising is this: Sex sells. Hence, print and broadcast ads featuring scantily clad young women pitching everything from cars to home appliances. These ads can be so ludicrous that viewers wonder to themselves, just as one of my children once did out loud, “Why that girl has on her bathing suit in the kitchen?”
If sex sells, so too does food, and food sells itself especially well. Scenes of happy people cooking and eating together make us want to have whatever is being pitched so we will be happy, too. Images of people enjoying a particular food make us want that food, too.
I find myself drawn to a current television ad for a national restaurant chain featuring a slightly chubby, middle-aged fellow gazing lovingly at a tub of fried chicken which he begins nibbling, of course. Ditto for images of all the food at the State Fair, bizarre concoctions of incongruous ingredients so fat laden and salt infused that the words “calorie bomb” come immediately to mind.
The inescapable conclusion is that images are so powerful that we might find ourselves the surprised new owners of red convertibles and eating drippy cheeseburgers served on glazed donuts.
If my mother were here, she would say that once a year is probably okay for such donut burgers or even a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but such consumption is a real problem if indulged in regularly, or — heaven forbid — daily.
So what are we to do in the face of images of what passes for yumminess everywhere we turn?
There are a myriad of eating tips out there from mothers, nutritionists and people who have just learned the hard way. I confess up front that I do not always follow hints I know to be helpful and prudent, but I take comfort in the fact that I do think of them and increasingly do what I know I should do.
Here, in no particular order, are some eating tips I have found helpful from people I know, from various published sources and some that just seem like common sense.
• When you are shopping in the grocery store and pick up a product with more ingredients that sound like a chemistry lab than ones you recognize as coming from plants or animals, you might consider putting that one back on the shelf.
Ditto if the word “processed” is on the packaging, especially if it is on it more than once.
• Shop the “perimeter” of your grocery store. This way you get fresh produce, fresh dairy and fresh meats, poultry and fish. Avoid the proceessd items generally on middle-of-the-store shelves. These include crackers, chips, cookies and many other things which provide little nutrition and lots of calories
.• Portions should be different for women and men and for children and adults, but generally speaking, meat portions should be about the size of your palm, whatever size you might be
.• Keep an eye on people you know who are healthy and of normal weight. Watch not only what they are eating but how much of it. Chances are they are doing it right, so consider following their examples.
• Sometimes you can trick your eye and your stomach by using smaller plates with smaller portions. This does not always work for me, but it might if I did it more consistently.
• Acknowledge to yourself that restaurant portions are often way too generous. I know one smart eater who, when she places her order with the server, also asks for a “to go” box. When it all arrives, she puts as much as half her meal in the box and takes it home. This saves her from overeating at one meal and provides her one for another time.
• Face the fact that buffets, as wonderful and varied as they can be, are dangerous places. Self-control is the operative word, and many of us are simply not good at this, especially if we are hungry and the food is good. I am in this camp too often.
• Try not to let yourself get too hungry lest your next meal or next raid of the fridge turnsw into a complete rout of everything in sight with no vestige of self control in sight.
I suspect you have plenty of healthy eating tips that help you on occasion and which you thoroughly ignore on others. I would love for you to share them with me by email as I am always in the market for ways to stay healthy.
In the meantime, with Thanksgiving less than a month away, just remember that getting and staying healthy is a journey, not an event, and that if we fall off the wagon one day, we can climb back on the next.
I also hear my mother’s words, “Margaret, you can eat anything you want as long as you do so in moderation.”
Photo: here are many tips for healthy eating. One of the easiest is to always remember to buy fresh first.