HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Chowhounding and nutrition [Moved from General Topics]

How do you strike a balance between good chowhounding and good nutrition? Many years of indulging in rich foods like duck, pork, fried chicken and the like, has lead to some cholesterol issues for me. I have always maintained a fairly balanced diet including lots of fresh veggies and fruit, but have not always been able to exercise great restraint when confronted with a great foie gras preparation.

Personally, I have embarked on a 21-day detoxification program for starters. And, I am making a conscious effort to look and menus more healthfully. I will try the halibut instead of the pork chop, even though I enjoy pork more.

Just curious as to what other 'hounds do. How do you keep from eating with reckless abandon? I know the simple answer is to exercise more discipline, but I'm interested in hearing your collective thoughts.....

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My rule is moderation in all things, including moderation.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I think that's a great rule - plus regular exercise

      1. re: pescatarian

        Oh yeah. I average around an hour of exercise a day.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Exactly... plus hounding to me is a hobby, something I enjoy... if I did it all the time, I would burn out and would have to invest in a new woredrobe. So we have plenty of borning but healthy meals (Almost every lunch and breakfast we have) and then splurge a few times a week...)


          1. re: Dommy

            Well put. And remember, there is plenty of lean pork available now. At my place we try to eat a lot of poultry, fish occassionally, I've been trying to use whole grains instead of all refined flour stuff (but I still hate wholewheat pasta), and of course lots of vegs and fruits (thatpart is easy, love fruits and vegs). Use less fat when you cook, olive oil is good for you, but you don't need as much as most recipes will tell you to use. It's not so bad, really, and you will feel much better. Think how much more you will appreciate that occassional pork chop! Oh, and eat oatmeal, it is supposed to help lower your cholestrol. But don't torture yourself either, if you don't get any pleasure out of eating, you will have trouble sticking to it. Stay away from cheese for a while, I never keep it in the house. That's harder for some people than it is for me though. One more tip, citrus is your friend...use it instead of butter (Oh I know, it's so hard!) on vegs so they don't taste flat and blah.

            1. re: Dommy

              Lean pork is horrible. Better to substitute turkey than eat that crap.

      2. That's a good question.

        I try to eat fish several times a week, try to substitute fruit (peaches/melons/berries) for sugary desserts, drink skim milk, rarely drink alcohol (occasionally Scotch) or coffee (but one cup of caffeinated soda per workday), swim. I do what I can. Hopefully that will compensate for my excesses with chocolate, bacon, etc.

        1. Exercise is my vital element every morning. That and a bowl of oatmeal or cream of wheat. I actually feel tired if I miss a morning at the gym.
          I really try to watch what I eat during the work week, and I let it all hang out on the weekend.
          But a daily exercise routine has been working for me.

          1. I eat in moderation just about all the time. I seldom pig out on very rich foods simply because I can't eat much of it. I love fresh vegetables and fruit and always have these as a big part of my diet. We eat a lot of fish, seafood and vegetarian foods. I try to exercise, though work sometimes supercedes that.

            I'm not sure how much damage is done by saturated fats. I grew up eating a fair amount of pork and food cooked in pork fat. My cholesterol count is low and HDL/LDL ratio high. I think processed foods, particularly refined sugars, are more harmful, but that's mostly JMO.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cheryl_h

              There's no question that the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils found in many processed foods are far worse for you than any natural fat, even butter or lard. I started a topic about that on the Not About Food board:


            2. Cooking at home helps me keep things in moderation; I control the fat, sodium, sugar, etc. in whatever I'm cooking. Plus, I decide what to cook, so beef and pork are rarely used. Staying active each day and controlling my own portions has worked pretty well for me so far...I eat dinner on a sandwich plate, not a dinner plate.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Val

                Yes, that's my strategy too, not that there aren't also times when I overindulge at home :) But you're right about controlling ingredients and portion size, and it's nice to have the flexibility to eat whatever combinations appeal at the time. Last night I had arugula and cherry tomato salad with a glass of good champagne, and I was happy.

                Plus, starting to prepare dinner right away is the best way I've found to head off that bad impulse of getting home tired and mindlessly grazing from the fridge.

              2. 1. Know your portions (weigh them until you can identify by eye) and their nutritional values; keeping a diary is a huge help (cheap software is abundant on the Web). Chains and packaged foods can be a help to newbies on this, because it's easier to calculate info. Asian restaurants are the one thing I tend to avoid now, because the oil factor is so immensely easy to hide and therefore immensely difficult to calculate; and I do not go out to restaurants to eat steamed veggies and fish.

                2. No type of food as such is bad (unless you have religious scrictures on food, food is a-moral); so eat what you want in moderation, keeping in mind #1. Treating foods as "bad" tends to make you want more of them.... Food is not a penance unless you voluntarily adopt it as one for other spiritual reasons.

                3. Exercise regularly (5-6 days a week).

                4. Do not regret the past or worry about the future; focus on today.

                5. Be patient. There are no quick fixes that are sustainable (and the ones that seem more worthwhile only work for reasons other than those specified -- like simply eliminating large food groups that you love, which means you will eat less, but you could do that using #1 above and eat all types of food you love....). None. None. None. Got that? People make oodles of money trying to sell such fixes, and they are only helping themselves.

                6. If you are tempted by gimmickry, you must work with your doctor or, ideally, a registered dietician, to avoid damage to your system (e.g., kidneys) that can be hidden for years without symptoms.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Karl S

                  Exercise regularly but don't wear yourself out. I work out at a bodybuilding gym and they say more than 3 days a week it too much. But that probably doesn't apply to other forms of exercise. Still, do as much as you can, but don't feel you are failing if you don't do it 5-6 times a week.

                  1. re: prunefeet

                    No more than 3 days a week with HIT, which is how these body builders get so LEAN and build muscles... Most people don't even use heart rate monitors when working out... and are doing "moderate" excersise (I also go to a specialized gym, but for the squishy executive crowd. I see it all the time where the trainers push and people are surprised at what they are being asked to do and when they actually do it!!) which for results require more than 3 days...


                    1. re: Dommy

                      Trust me, most of these guys are big musclewise, but are carrying around a big spare tire. I've got a small one myself. Lol. Can't get me to stick to the turkey and egg white crap. What is HIT?

                      1. re: prunefeet

                        HIT is High Intensity Training. The idea is to work in intervals where you are constantly pushing your upper heart rate limit.

                        I do interval training in my running. Run like mad to get up to upper rate, then jog to get rate down, then Run and get and even higher rate, then jog, then RUN and get even higher... There are lots of ways to use HIT in both cardio and lifting menthods. Because you are really working your muscles and heart to the MAX, it's best to take a rest day (hence the 3 day cycle during the week). But again, this is HARD core training and should be done with a trainer or with a program done by a trainer. Also, the book Body for Life has a simple run down on how use HIT to get maximum results.


                        1. re: prunefeet

                          There was no "reply" button on your reply below, Dommy, so I'm replying here. Ok, thanks for the response! You are way more hardcore than I. My husb used to be a certified personal trainer, and he trains me, but I don't let him train me too hard, and since he IS my husband, I am able to say NO, I am not doing another rep! But I do pretty well, seriously. Bravo to you for your dedication. I bet your heart is in great shape! As for the 3 times a week thing, the guys in the gym and my husb agree that you have to give your muscles a day of rest to recover after being pushed hard. Works for me, I can't commit more than 3 evenings a week anyway! Ok, I know this is not a fitness forum, I'll hang it up. But thanks!

                      2. re: prunefeet

                        I try to swim an hour a day, six days a week. I am very large, so I am not fast, about 1.2 miles an hour. And I add walking (3mph) on top of that. Due to prior leg fractures/ligament tears, I cannot go much faster without risk of falling because I tend to lose balance and trip (I lost some sensation in my ankle that I've never recovered).

                        The last thing I need is to build muscle; I've got an extra 90 lbs of muscle on me from the days I did weights exercises; my muscular therapist assures me it's all there and that my intramuscular fat has virtually vanished.

                        The current recommendations for people who are trying to keep weight off are at least 5-6 hours a week of moderate exercise.

                    2. Portion control, calorie counting, and so on take too much fun out of life. So long as I can keep my weight under control with exercise, forget it.

                      Give me liberty or give me death.

                      1. Some components of cholesterol are sensitive to carbs (esp. triglycerides) and others to the type of oils you eat. It's difficult to generalize, but the most dramatic changes seem to result from severely cutting "high glycemic" carbs, adding moderate exercise, and shifting fat consumption toward monounsaturates (e.g., olive oil) and fish fats. No need to renounce pork chops if you're at the place that does the best pork chop for miles around. Just trade off something else (like french fries) that offers "comfort fat" without all that much actual pleasure. And maybe pop a fish oil capsule while you're at it. ;-)

                        (P.S. I need to lose 20 pounds and I don't exercise regularly, so I know a little of the problem. Fortunately, though, cholesterol is not an issue, at least not so far!)

                        1. Something to think about is whether or not you have any other health issues. If you haven't gained a lot of weight, if your cholesterol levels are simply elevated and if there isn't anything else wrong then why make yourself miserable by completely changing your diet?

                          Just cut back a bit on portions, replace some of the simple carbs with green vegetables and go for a short walk every day. After all, the increase in your cholesterol level might simply be part of your genetic make-up, not due to what you've been eating.

                          1. What kind of detoxification program?? Not eating slows your metabolism to a crawl. Not good.

                            Portion control, eat low fat most of the time, and exercise regularly! Get that heart rate up.

                            1. Nothing new, but I guess the best diet is one that includes a good variety of fruits, vegetables of different colors, whole grains and lean protein, good fats like canola or olive oil, nuts and hard cheese instead of soft. I try to avoid eating anything "white" like rice, bread or refined sugar and make it to the gym at least 3 times a week.

                              I also recently made a rule to only eat half of what is on my plate whenever I eat at a restaurant, and take the rest home or give it to a friend. Portion sizes are so crazy in America. It became impossible to avoid the fact that at most meals I was in fact eating for two (and I'm not pregnant!).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bolletje

                                Hard cheese vs. soft is not a nutritionally meaningful distinction.

                                Canola oil tastes bad. Eating that crap is going way too far.


                              2. I needed to lose weight and start exercising. I started going to Curves 3 times a week when one opened near where I work and I lost the excuse that it was hard to get to a gym. When a 6 week diet program was offered, I did that and learned to change my eating habits. The diet book offers a lot of guidance that starts off with a 1 week 1200 calorie plan to boost your metabolism and then a 1600 calorie/day diet. Basically we stopped having easy to cook peas and microwaved baked potato so frequently. I learned that I could eat plenty of food. I had thought dieting met starving. I do not stay on this diet 100 percent but have managed a significant and necessary weight loss in the past year. I've learned to love apples (hurrah for Galas) but I rarely eat potato. I will enjoy a restaurant meal (the first week on my diet we went on a culinary tour of Boston's North End and there was no way I was going to skip the pastry shop!) but most of my meals are much higher in vegetables and fruits than in the past. Salads are huge (3 cups of lettuce plus the other stuff) but I have learned to love the homemade vinegarette. I've been told the Curves diet is similar to what a diabetic would eat, 3 meals plus 2 snacks. I'm actually eating more than I used to but a snack might be an apple and a piece of string cheese. So I've lowered my carb in-take. Right now, since it's the best time of the year for fresh sweet corn, I'm eating too many carbs but I'll recover. We are eating smaller portions of meat and more fish. My husband's nutritionist recommends pork tenderloin and we have buffalo instead of hamburgers. I buy Cooking Light magazine and love to experiment with recipes. Moosewood's Low Fat Cookbook and Daily Specials are a wonderful source of interesting recipes. There are 4 places in my area that sell homemade ice cream ... I just don't have it often. We still have onion rings with our lobster rolls but I'll have more salads at lunch time to compensate.

                                1. Channel your obsessions!

                                  I lost about 60 pounds on weight watchers 3-4 years ago, and the emphasis on portion control and keeping track of what you eat is essential. When i started, a friend of mine (someone with a naugahyde palate) said, "The problem with weightwatchers is that you have to think about what you are eating all the time." My reaction was "Bingo!" i was already thinking about what I was eating all the time, and my guess is that most of the rest of you posting on these boards are doing it as well. i found that losing weight merely involved being obsessed with food in different ways. I am not recommending Weight Watchers per se, just using it as an example of one way of rechanneling your obsessions.

                                  In terms of practical tips, much of what has already been posted gets to the core of changes that are needed, esp portion control, excercise, and keeping track of what you eat. A few things to add:

                                  --You can eat whatever you want, just not as much as you want.
                                  --The fifth bite is not necessarily any better than the first or second. Focus on enjoying those.
                                  --Go out in groups and talk-- this works great in asian restaurants. Share a lot of dishes, taste a bit of them all, and talk alot. You will eat less.
                                  --Eat your veggies; lots of veggies. I found that when steaming got tiresome, oven and panroasting (in a nonstick skillet) works great.
                                  --Fitting into new clothing is a different kind of physical enjoyment than eating, but not necessarily a lesser one.

                                  1. I posted about this a while back (on the old Not About Food) while I was not working and not doing much of anything except chowhounding and home cooking chowhounding, as well as getting in my last vacation of chowhounding before I went to grad school.
                                    I hate to say this, but if you are inclined to have a large appetite, the only thing you can do to keep from gaining weight is to think about things other than food. Become more busy, more involved with work or your family or whatever else, and you will end up eating less.

                                    Also, save the really great cookathons for once or twice a week and don't eat processed foods, any kind of snack, and try to avoid restaurant chain entrees (Hello HCFS anyone? it is an appetite stimulant IMHO).

                                    1. I train for marathons, teach fitness and walk instead of drive a car. I love food and luckily I love exercise as well.
                                      You HAVE to know what you are eating, in terms of what it does to your body and the quality of the ingredients. And moderation is key. I indulge, fairly regularly in drinking alcohol, eating desserts etc., but I pick and choose when, where and with whom. When it becomes and every day occurence is when I start to put on weight and feel sluggish.

                                      1. I work out most days. About 2 hours of fairly high intensity cardio to get rid of about 1600 calories. Some days I burn up to 3500 calories in the gym alone. I think this helps the most. The rest of the day I try to move around as much as possible. I eat several servings of fruits and vegetables everyday. I eat rich food too, cheese especially. I eat fish once or twice a week. I don't avoid high cholesterol foods although I never felt the need to eat a 24 oz steak all at once or drink a stick of butter. I rarely drink sugary drinks. I prefer to eat my calories, not to drink them. I like wines but I hardly ever drink any because alcohol makes me very hot and sweaty and then makes me very sleepy soon after. I try to keep my weight between 120 and 125. When I get lazy and not work out, it does go up to 130 quickly, at that point, I sorta lose my appetite, then the weight gain slows down. My blood pressure is 108 over 40-60. It actually changes quite a lot. My pulse rate is quite slow, 38-50 at rest. My breath rate is 3 to 4 a min at most. I don't know my cholesterol, I hope it is ok. I am usually quite energetic throughout the day, but when it comes to bed time I tend to fall asleep so fast it feels like passing out. My eating schedule is very bad. I almost never have any breakfast because I hate doing cardio with a full stomach. And frankly, if I don't head straight to the gym right after i wash up in the morning, I always always end up not going. There is simply no way out of it. Fortunately I never ever feel hungry in the morning. I eat very little lunch and light snacks throughout the day and then for dinner I pretty much go all out. Dinner is followed by lots of fruits and then a fair amount of cheese. After that I have some sweet dessert (as if cheese and fruits aren't desserts already, lol). It is summer time, my dessert usually consists of half sorbet half ice cream. When it gets colder, I enjoy a slice of pie or whatever. And finally, I snack on whatever chips I find tasty, even random cold cuts and bread / olive oil. til I finally go to bed.

                                        I love all sorts of food - even though I don't usually eat a large portion of any one particular kind, I eat so many different things that the calories really add up. There is no way to naturally burn up all the calories without staying active. I see no way out of the 2 hour a day cardio which I some days love and some days hate.

                                        1. I don't see chowhounding as bad for you. Yes, that half a roast duck I shared with D at HKE last Friday was probably "bad" according to most people, but it was delicious and I loved it. Then again, I don't eat a 1/4 of a duck every day.

                                          I think what was said above about moderation and movement is pretty head on. I'm a runner and run 5-6 mornings each week. I also live in a city, so I walk everywhere. A typical weekday menu looks like this for me:

                                          Breakfast: Organic plain yogurt & fruit
                                          Lunch: Salad w/various veggies, cheese & wasa with no dressing
                                          Snack: Piece of fruit or cup of berries (whatever's in season)
                                          Dinner: Piece of fish & veggies (maybe a starch or grain of some sort it I have it around)
                                          Dessert: Cheese & Fruit or homemade baked good or ice cream

                                          I don't eat low fat or "diet" foods, sodas or anything processed. I drink alcohol and eat chocolate & cheese - why deny yourself such pleasures?

                                          We eat out 1 or 2 times a week - usually something I don't want to make at home (Korean, Indian, sushi) and once a month we go out for a high-end meal. I don't limit my menu choices because it's a treat and I want to eat what I want to eat.

                                          My last check up found me in perfect health - things that others have mentioned like low cholesterol and on the low end of the healthy body weight for my height. If your physician says you are in good health, why change what you do?