Expense Your Dinner, Not Your Health

Q: Dear Miranda,
My job requires me to entertain clients two to three times per week. I always start off the week eating healthy, but by Wednesday I’m indulging in another gourmet meal at a Toronto hot spot eating rich food and washing it down with a few cocktails. Are there any eating tricks that will help me to maintain good health even though I have to entertain so often?

– Drew

A: Dear Drew,
As a food enthusiast, I am always eager to explore the culinary experiences that many Toronto restaurants offer. However, as a nutritionist, I’m also aware of the ingredients that make some of the dishes taste so irresistible: cream, butter, salt and sugar.

So, moderation is key.

In your situation, and for many young professionals who are required to be out on the town as frequently as you, I offer you the following three tips:

#1 Love your Liver
Your liver is a major filtration organ and has over 500 jobs in your body. It is the major fat burning organ. The liver processes everything you eat, drink, breathe and otherwise absorb. Top of the list of liver stressors are fatty foods, sugar, and alcohol.

Instead: support your liver by increasing the amount of liver-friendly foods

– Start your day with a big glass of water with fresh lemon or lime
– Pomegranate, dandelion greens, artichoke, dark organic berries, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, onions, ginger.

#2 Don’t Skip Meals
I see it time and time again. You know you are going to indulge in a heavy dinner, so you avoid eating all day to save on calories so you won’t gain weight, right? Wrong!

One of the worst things to do for your metabolism is starve yourself as the body can easily slip into a non-burning mode resulting in a decreased metabolic rate.

Instead: Graze on nutrient-dense snacks and small meals

My favorite health bars are:
– Vega Vibrancy
– Ruth’s Flax & Hemp
– Larabar
– Macrobar
– Greens+

You may also want to look into keeping a protein powder mix at the office to maintain your nutrient requirements. One of my favorites is the Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer. Mix it in water and drink. Fruit, raw vegetables, nuts & seeds also make excellent snack that will provide you with good quality fuel. Aim to eat for every 3-4 hours, especially on the days where you entertain.

#3 Make Smart Menu Choices
When in doubt, come back to living the 80/20 rule. Try to feed your body with the best healthy food possible 80% of the time and then enjoy what you want 20% of the time. If you are frequently going out, try to avoid always ordering a high-fat meal like the 10 oz. steak with crisp frites or a heavy cream risotto and feature cheesecake.  

Instead: Find the healthiest offering on the menu 

Fish & Seafood (cold water fish, mussels, shrimp, grilled calamari) Fish and some seafood contain essential fats that your body needs.

Leaner Cuts of Meat (chicken breast, turkey, filet mignon, venison, bison) These leaner cuts are easier for the body to digest.

Vegetarian Options (lentils, beans, tempeh) Many hot spots are using more vegetarian proteins and creating fabulous dishes. They are often higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Greens (romaine, arugula, rapini, kale, collards, swiss chard) Greens are water dense and help to maintain proper hydration levels when you are slamming back another cocktail.

Roots (sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips, carrots, & beets) Opt for these antioxidant rich root vegetables to help fight free radical damage.

Whole grains  (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, spelt, buckwheat) Avoid white flour and reach for these whole grains, which have less impact on your blood sugar.

Don’t add extra salt, skip the cheese platter regardless how delish the Niagara Gold cheese looks & drink a glass of water for every cocktail you consume.

I’m going to tell it to you straight, alcohol is metabolized first by the body so it slows down fat burning. Also, frequent high consumption can be harmful to your long-term health. However, if you are looking for the drink that does the least damage, I would always reach for one that makes you feel best. What I mean by this is that we all metabolize differently and some people cannot tolerate one liquor or wine where as the other person is the opposite. Red wine is always a better choice for its antioxidant levels if you are able to digest. If you prefer liquor, avoid fruit juice and bar mixes. These drinks double the amount of calories and will affect your blood sugar more dramatically. For example, a shot of whiskey contains approximately 90 calories, whereas a whiskey sour has 185 calories. If you prefer beer, the darker the better, as it contains higher levels of flavonoids, which help to reduce bad cholesterol. It contains higher calories, but you tend to drink it slower due to the density of a dark beer.

Remember also that after a night of indulging in alcohol or high-sugar foods your blood sugar will be on a roller coaster and may either wake you up in the middle of the night hungry or make you starving the next day. Start your day off with a lean protein and leafy green if you can. Think egg white omelet with spinach and mushrooms. This will help to stabilize your blood sugar and perk up your brain.