The nutritionist shares how the best meals follow three rules

We all know how to eat a meal, right? Maybe not. A dietitian shares how to eat meals in ways that make you feel your best.

There can be something worrisome about large meals.

Whether you’re gathering for a holiday meal or interrupting your usual routine of meeting up at a restaurant, those fun occasions can be tainted by feelings of shyness or being out of control.

But fun moments don’t have to be this way, according to Natalie Mucary, a registered dietitian in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Homemade fresh wild rice salad with grilled teriyaki salmon fillet
Eating the right foods rather than restricting them will lead to weight loss in the long run. (GT)

Many of the ways people approach eating are shaped by diet culture or societal beliefs that encourage food restriction to achieve a leaner body. But research – and many people’s personal experience – has shown that a restricted diet rarely results in long-term weight loss.

Nutritionist Steve Grasso previously told CNN that restrictive diets “can do more harm than good.” “You may lose a lot of weight, but eventually that weight will come back, and then you may gain more because you’ve restricted yourself so much.”

Mokari recommended that people rethink how they eat as they embark on this new year. When it comes to treating yourself, depending on your current state of health, you don’t necessarily need to rank sugary or salty foods as off-limits, experts say.

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In fact, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you focus 85 percent of your food on nourishing your body and leaving the rest for foods that you find interesting and enjoyable. Everyone is different, of course, and it’s important to consult a doctor before indulging if you have dietary restrictions related to certain health conditions, said Mucary.

Eating a meal may seem so basic that you don’t need instructions, but Mokari suggested using the following three strategies to do it better—both for your holiday gatherings and if you’re trying to rethink your approach to eating in the new year.

1. Consider the satisfaction factor

The first step is to order and provide things that feel good for yourself, not just what goes along with a restricted diet. Choosing something you know you don’t want as much can lead to overeating after the meal is over, Mokari said.

She added, “Diet culture tells us that grilled chicken salad is what we should order in a restaurant to be healthier, but that doesn’t have to be the answer.”

When checking out a menu or holiday spread, Mokari said she likes to make decisions based on how satisfied she feels after a meal.

Woman looking for potato chips
Sometimes a salty, crunchy snack may not be the best fit for us. (GT)

This means listening to occasional cravings rather than fighting back, thinking about what you haven’t had in a while that would be fun to eat, and what will make you feel satisfied based on what your body needs.

Maybe this salad is perfect for a summer day snack, but a tasty burger will feel even better when it’s cold out and you need some carbs to fill you up, she said.

If you are looking to increase your nutrients, you can always add a side of vegetables.

Grasso said that for many health goals, adding nutrients to meals rather than eliminating things you enjoy is more effective and sustainable.

But knowing what you need and honoring your desires can help maintain a balanced diet.

“Eventually order something that satisfies you and makes you feel good when you walk out of the restaurant, so you don’t spend like $20 on lunch and left feeling hungry still looking for snacks,” Mokari said. “The more satisfied you are with what you eat, the less you will feel the need to unconsciously snack.”

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2. Listen for hunger and fullness cues

The human body is well-equipped to tell you when you need to eat, what you need to eat, and when to stop, Mucary said, but diet culture has messed up those signals.

Restricting what you eat and how much you eat—like telling yourself you can’t have that burger or that ice cream instead of allowing yourself to enjoy the treat—is a behavior that can lead to eating more than you feel comfortable later to make up for, she added.

McCary said resetting the internal signals for hunger and fullness is an important step in eating a satisfying, nutritious meal.

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This means not starving yourself all day in order to “save up” for an interesting meal later.

“Ideally, you don’t come into a restaurant very hungry,” McCary said. “It just leads to decisions based more on portion size just to realign that hunger and stay away from that binge feeling.”

I also suggested trying sticking the fork in between bites. Slowing down gives your body time to send signals to your brain that tell you you’re satisfied without the uncomfortable feeling of fullness.

3. Enjoy the experience

Finally, let go of fear and shame so you can enjoy the experience, she said.

This means savoring the meal, Mokari said, using all of your senses to appreciate what you’re eating.

She said eating doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can have ice cream on Wednesday and a salad for lunch on Saturday.

“The more you can balance over the course of the week, the more balanced you’ll become,” Mucary said.

Display classic Italian gourmet ice cream gelato gelato in the shop
A nice spoonful of Italian gelato once in a while is fine. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

She added that most people have favorite foods – sweet, salty or fried – or alcoholic beverages that they do not want to give up, so include them in your diet in a measured way, even if they feel uncomfortable.

And when you build it, don’t shame yourself.

Guilt about your food choices causes you to make more bad choices, so it becomes a cyclical pattern, said Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian and author of The Diet Detox: Why Your Diet Is Making You Fat and What to Do About It. In an interview in 2022.

There is a time and place for french fries, pizza and a piece of cake.

Finally, have fun. Food and dining are important to many cultural and social events, she said, and you don’t want to miss out because you’re worried about meeting certain restrictions.

“Sharing a meal with people is, in my opinion, one of the joys of life,” McCary added.

“Enjoy your company.”

This article has been republished from CNN Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.

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