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NAP Challenge # 12: Minding My P's and Q's (Cues)

Leaf detail

The New American Plate

This week I will eat according to the New American Plate principles of proportion and portion and use cue strategies at least four days this week.


Eleven weeks ago you eagerly stepped up to the plate – the New American Plate Challenge to lose weight, become more active and lower your cancer risk. This week you are about to victoriously cross home plate scoring the winning run for your improved diet, fitness, health, and perhaps weight loss. This last week we combine all the plate and physical activity challenges and incorporate cue strategies to enhance our eating and moving.

Minding My P's Let's briefly recap and expand on the New American Plate Challenges.

  • 2/3 – 1/3 Rule Minding your P's – Proportion and Portions are pivotal. Proportion is two-thirds or more of our plates piled with plant based foods and one-third or less with lean animal protein foods. Knowing and measuring portions for the various food groups helps keep calories on par for weight loss or weight maintenance.
  • More Than Half Equals Whole. For most of your grain choices pick whole grains, not processed or refined grains. Enjoy 1-2 grain portions at each meal meal.
  • 3 x 6 = less than 18. Eat no more than 18 ounces of cooked red meat (beef, pork, lamb) weekly and avoid processed meat as much as possible. Keep portions of animal protein small (~2-3 ounces per meal or 4-5 1/2 ounces daily). Beans and nuts may replace animal protein foods (1/4 cup beans, 1/2 ounce nuts, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 2 tablespoons hummus, 1/4 cup tofu, 1 egg = 1 ounce animal protein).
  • Bye Soda, Hi Tea. Avoid calorie dense and nutrient poor sweetened beverages and limit sweets. For hydration and pleasure drink more water and tea and for desserts and treats eat more nutrient dense fruit.
  • Refresh and Relax with Fizzers and Spritzers. Limit alcohol to no more than one serving daily for women and no more than two servings daily for men, if consumed at all. Refresh and relax with mocktails and minitails that are fizzy water based peppered with fruit and fruit juices.
  • Cuckoo for Color. Paint your plate with the plant food palette. Feature multiple selections of colorful vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds providing carotenoids and other health promoting phytonutrients at each meal. Choose dark green, red and orange fruits and vegetables most often. Enjoy 3-5 portions each of fruit and vegetables daily, 1/2-2 cups or more of beans weekly (may replace animal protein), and 3-4 ounces of nuts and seeds weekly (also may replace animal protein).
  • Calcium Balance. Consume three servings of calcium rich foods to provide 1000-1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. Enjoy non-fat and 1% milk, non-fat or low-fat yogurt with little added sugar, and reduced fat cheese. If you don't eat three servings of traditional calcium sources, pick calcium fortified milk beverages (almond, rice, soy), juices, breads and cereals and pile on your plate calcium rich vegetables and beans.
  • person checking pedometerAdd UP or Step UP. Phase in more daily physical activity until you reach the goal of being moderately active 60 minutes or vigorously active 30 minutes every day. Pass the 10,000-12,000 steps range on your pedometer and you are well on your way to achieving the physical activity goal!
  • Increase the Intensity. Once light intensity activities are mastered, increase your intensity to more moderate activities and then proceed to more vigorous activities.
  • Variety is Key. Try new activities and vary your daily and weekly activities: walk, hike, jog, run, cycle, swim, row, do yoga, play sports, stand while working, use resistance bands, clean, vacuum, garden, dance… keep activities fun!
  • Be FITT – Every Step Counts. Frequency – be moderately to vigorously physically active everyday; Intensity - proceed to higher levels of activity intensity as you become more fit; Time – protect your "Me Time" to be moderately active for 60 minutes or vigorously active 30 minutes most days. Time may be divided during the day; Type – partake in all three major activity types: strength building with hand or gym weights; aerobic exercising such as brisk walking, jogging, biking, dancing and swimming; and flexibility activities like bending, stretching with resistance bands, and gardening.
  • Minding My P's and Q's. Put into practice all the challenge principles of proportion and portion, plate pointers, and pay attention to and use cue strategies.

Plate Pointers

  • Be Sodium Savvy
    Pare your salt and sodium intake. High levels of salt in the diet increase risk of stomach cancer and excess sodium and insufficient potassium are linked with hypertension. Choose foods lower in sodium (read labels), limit processed foods, and prepare and order foods with little or no salt. With 2/3rd plate proportion of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans potassium will prevail! Keep sodium intake below 2300 mg daily, better yet, work your way toward 1500 mg daily. The estimated average sodium intake is about 3400 mg daily. Let's cut sodium in half by eating more unprocessed, nutrient dense foods.
  • Watch Oils, Solid Fats and Trans Fats
    Preferred oils are olive, canola and safflower given their mostly monounsaturated fatty acid composition. Be prudent with amount since oils are calorically dense. A good rule of thumb for portioning oils is 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette per cup of salad, 1 teaspoon of oil per cup of cooked vegetables and 1 teaspoon of oil or 1 tablespoon of reduced fat mayonnaise per cup mixed dishes of vegetables, grains and/or beans and pasta based salads. If cooking animal protein, allow about 1 teaspoon for each 3-4 ounce portion of animal protein. Trim from your diet "solid fats" – choose poultry without skin, lean meats, non-fat or low-fat dairy products, and little butter or spreads. Track trans fat since it may be associated with inflammation, which plays a role in cancer. Best to avoid solid hydrogenated oils found in many processed foods and use small portions of trans fat free spreads. Prefer to brush lightly breads and veggies with EVOO – extra virgin olive oil!
  • 3 generations of Black Women CookingSelect Nutrient Dense Foods – Primary Play of the New American Plate
    Make every calorie count toward your optimal health. Nutrient dense foods provide essential vitamins and minerals and health promoting compounds. Whole foods, unadulterated with added fat and sugar and not refined or stripped of beneficial nutrients are what you want to eat mostly. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains also are considered low calorie dense or low energy dense because of high water and fiber content and bite for bite they have fewer calories than high calorie dense foods. Other nutrient dense foods include beans, split peas, nuts, seeds, non-fat and low-fat milk and yogurt, reduced fat cheese, eggs, poultry, seafood, and lean red meats (less than 18 ounces weekly). Eating mostly nutrient dense foods is your major play for success – weight loss – in the New American Plate Challenge!
  • Be a SoFAS Snob!
    SoFAS (acronym for Solid Fats and Added Sugar) are calories found in foods such as soda, energy and sports drinks, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, doughnuts, pies, many granola bars, breads, crackers, and pizza. On average, these foods add an extra 100-150 calories daily for most Americans. This amount of excess calories easily contributes to weight gain. Be a SoFAS Snob – carefully choose and enjoy quality treat foods in smaller portions less often. With the New American Plate Challenge, you may include 100-150 discretionary or treat calories daily. So, be a SoFAS Snob and chose those calories well. Remember, the primary play in the Challenge is to choose nutrient dense foods! Be mindful of the ever-present cues to eat and overeat weight-sabotaging foods rich in SoFAS!

These added calories contribute toward eating excess calories.

If we eat more nutrient dense whole foods we satisfy our hunger with fewer calories and are better able to attain and maintain a healthy weight.

Source: Building Healthy Eating Paterns page 47, Figure 5-2.


Minding My Q's - that is Cues

A cue is a stimulus or signal that excites us to action or triggers a response. We see cues, intentional and subtle guiding suggestions, to eat and overeat everywhere. There are good cues and bad cues, those we are aware of and those we are not, and those we choose to follow or choose to ignore. We need to be mindful of the cues that influence our eating and moving and use cue strategies for mindful eating and physical activity.

Internal Cues

  • Hunger. Be in touch with your hunger signals, to feel comfortably hungry before a meal or snack. Don't let more than 3 to 4 hours pass without eating if you become hungry because of the tendency then to overeat at the next meal. Don't let yourself get "starved" before your next meal. Satisfy your hunger with balanced meals or snack so you don't "overload" or overeat at the next meal or snack. Afternoon snacks are essential for most people since there is often a long time between lunch and dinner. Plan ahead for afternoon snacks and stock your New American Plate arsenal at home and work with fresh or dried fruit, nuts and yogurt. Americans do not consume enough fruit or calcium rich food; so guarantee eating these foods as snacks if you are hungry or to stave off overeating later.
  • Satiation. It's also important to stop eating once comfortably satiated, not overly full. Eating at a moderate pace, not too fast, allows time (about 20 minutes) for the filling stomach to signal the brain you are becoming full thus allowing you to eat calories within the range needed for attaining and maintaining healthy weight.
  • Emotions. Sadness, stress, boredom, and tiredness. Be aware of emotions that trigger overeating and disassociate eating for relief or comfort. Find non-food related "treats" to comfort, celebrate, reward and rejuvenate yourself and others – walk, plant flowers, go out, take a bubble bath, watch a movie, read, play cards, stretch or dance, call a friend or relative, engage in hobby or craft… remember relaxation and creativity are also essential to your well-being.
  • Taste. Great tasting food we tend to overeat if possible. Foods that taste just okay we may absentmindedly overeat too. Be a Food Snob. If it tastes really good and is made with quality ingredients, eat it and enjoy in proper proportion and portion. Food is to be enjoyed as well as to nourish the body. Select a smaller portion of more calorically dense food (high in calories and often low in nutrient quality).

External Cues

External cues to eat and overeat are everywhere. We see and smell food everywhere. Food is relatively inexpensive and abundant. Food and beverage advertising is omnipresent. Super Sizes. Value Meals. Bulk Deals. Food is the center of most social events. Take a few seconds to consider food and beverage cues, choices, and portion sizes. Make your calories count toward YOUR good health and wellbeing. Be a food, calorie, snack, SoFAS Snob. Ask, Is it good for me? Are the calories worth it? If considering a treat food, ask is it wise to spend my meal, snack, or discretionary calories on it? For example, let's say you allow yourself 100-150 discretionary calories a day. Is it worth spending those calories on a commercially produced cookie made with hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors or later on a homemade cookie made with quality ingredients that will taste truly authentic? Read Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods to find versions with lower calories, fat, sugar and sodium.

We wrap up the New American Plate Challenge with new and repeated Steps/Tips we'll call 32 Cues. Use these to improve the quality of what you eat, get moving, feel better, and lose weight. Here are your 32 Cue Strategies for Minding your P's and Q's (Cues).

Steps/Tips: 32 Cues

General Cue Strategies

  1. Be a mindful eater, don't be lured or fooled by external cues and be mindful of your subconscious and conscious internal cues.
  2. Listen to your hunger signals, eat when hungry, eat at a moderate pace, not fast, eat mindfully while relaxed enjoying the taste, smell, texture and color, and stop eating when comfortably full or satiated.
  3. Stock kitchen with mostly nutrient dense foods and limit foods that are not nutrient dense. Relegate "treat" foods to when you eat out (ice cream, pizza, hot dog, fries…). And when possible, go for healthier versions and smaller portions (fruit smoothie, thin wheat crust pizza with veggies, falafel sandwich, small fries with no added salt…).
  4. Read labels, low-fat does not necessarily mean lower calorie, often more sugar is added making calories similar and often more sodium too.
  5. Re-portion and repackage bulk foods to single servings or smaller containers.
  6. Put nutrient dense foods front and center in refrigerator, freezer, cabinets and pantry.
  7. Man and Woman BikingOut of sight, out of mind – best not to regularly bring home foods and snacks you're trying to limit; or, buy healthier versions and tuck them in back so you have a few seconds to reconsider.
  8. Eat a nutrient dense breakfast. Not eating breakfast is associated with excess body fat. Eating breakfast is associated with weight loss and weight maintenance. Bring breakfast with you in the car or commute, pack portable foods like banana, small whole grain bagel or English muffin, reduced fat cheese, high fiber, low sugar breakfast bar. At the coffee shop or fast food place choose yogurt parfaits with fruit, healthier versions of breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal with non-fat milk with fruit and nuts.
  9. Serve meals from the kitchen counter. Serve only non-starchy vegetables, salad and cut fruit on the table, leave the animal proteins, grains and starchy vegetables in the kitchen.
  10. Use 10 inch or smaller plates, smaller bowls, juice glasses for juice (only 1/2 cup daily – yet, better to eat fruit than drink fruit), eight-ounce glasses for milk, tall skinny glasses for smoothies, mocktails and minitails (not short fat tumblers, they tend to hold more).
  11. Be a "Snack Snob," select superior snacks and keep in your home and work arsenal, don't eat snack foods out of bags or packages, portion snacks.
  12. Balance treat foods with healthy meals, eat your discretionary calorie foods with lunch or dinner. You'll be less likely to overeat since you are likely already more satiated. Enjoy a small portion or sometimes just a bite will do.
  13. Stay hydrated, if feeling wilty or sluggish drink water or tea, not sugar laden beverages.
  14. Drink a mocktail or glass of water for every glass of wine, beer or cocktail, no more than one serving for women and no more than two servings for men daily, if consumed at all.
  15. Look for ways to accumulate 30 minutes or more (60 minutes is better!) of physical activity throughout each day.
  16. Get up and go even when tired – take a short brisk walk or stretch to feel more relaxed.
  17. Be mindful after exercising not to fall into the trap of rewarding yourself with sweets or by overeating.
  18. Self-monitor – yes, write down what you eat and your activities, weigh daily or weekly as often as is motivating. Periodically measure waist circumference too. Use online or mobile apps for tracking your progress.
  19. Get adequate sleep, 7- 9 hours nightly!

Eating Out Cue Strategies

  1. Don't be tempted by 21. Request a take out container when food is served, then place some of the food in the container at beginning of meal. Or share large meals.
  2. Don't super size unless sharing, in fact try to order half plate, small plate or petite plate – much better portion sizes. Order appetizer and salad or soup and salad as main meal.
  3. Choose meals with more vegetables, whole grains and beans.
  4. Be a food snob when it comes to fast food, look for healthiest choices possible (the more we order, the more choices there will be).
  5. Begin meals with salad, with vinaigrette based dressing on side, or with broth based vegetable or tomato based soup; ask for bread and chips to be removed from table; request pica de gallo sauce (salsa) and cut veggies.
  6. At prepared food counters select more colorful vegetables and whole grain salads and side dishes and order small portions of animal proteins made with little added fat.
  7. Eat healthy snack before going to parties; be a food snob, survey the offerings and select quality foods you normally don't eat; eat mostly nutrient dense foods, if food choices are good quality and calorically dense enjoy smaller portions!

Man and Womanclimbing Stairs, BluryWorkplace Cue Strategies

  1. Ask that vending machines, office candy bowls, and staff meetings with food feature fruit, low-fat, low sugar yogurt, low-fat string cheese, high fiber, low sugar energy bars and mini packs of dried fruits, nuts and seeds, and tea bags.
  2. Put posters at workplace to encourage stair walking and at desk exercising, talk to HR about AICR Health@Work.
  3. Wear your pedometer at work – change the work culture to encourage being more active.
  4. Take individual and workplace wide "mini recess" breaks to stretch, use resistance bands, lift hand weights, walk, brew tea – breaks are good for creativity too!
  5. Sit on an exercise ball office chair and use hand weights and resistance bands while on long calls, do some work standing to burn more calories.

To lose weight successfully make "Me Time" to eat smart and be active!

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