Bowled over: To eat less, use smaller plates

Little things mean a lot when it comes to retraining your eating habits. Lather mustard instead of mayo on your next turkey sandwich, and you'll save more than 100 calories. Chew every bite 25 times, and you'll feel fuller faster. Always, always, always order the dressing on the side, or your fully drenched restaurant salad can pack as many fat calories as a Big Mac.

Let us now praise the use of smaller plates and littler spoons. The research is in: Many people rely on how much food remains on their plate or in their bowl to tell them they have eaten enough. In the case of the bottomless-soup-bowl study done at Cornell University, subjects kept eating more and more soup without realizing the bowl was (secretly) refilling itself. These super-eaters ended up consuming 77 percent more soup than people who were served out of normal (non-refilling) bowls! They simply didn't know when to quit because there was always more soup in the bowl.

To help you and your brain know when to quit, eat your meals off smaller dishes, weight-loss experts advise. A proper portion of food will take up more space on a smaller plate, and when you finish it all, you will feel more satisfied. Smaller spoons also help create the illusion of more food.

One more sure-fire way to eat less and enjoy more: Don't eat while doing something else. Don't eat and drive. Don't eat and watch TV. And, except for this column, don't eat and read. When you eat, eat. Focus on the food, the taste, the pleasure. If you eat unconsciously, distracted by other things, you are unaware of what you've consumed. Before you know it, all the food's gone, you haven't tasted a bite, and, by the way, you're still hungry. This is a very bad combination of events and will make your jeans too tight in no time.

Q & A: Lift weights before or after a run?

Dear Marilynn: I run about 3 to 5 miles a day, three times a week. I'm turning 40 this year, and I want to add some strength training to my routine. Am I better off lifting weights after my run, or before? - T.L. via e-mail

Can you weight train on days you don't run? That would be best. It's great that you're adding strength training to your fitness routine, but why cram it in? Running takes time and energy, and so does lifting weights. Separate the two, and you can give it your all.

Also, be sure and get some expert advice (from a book, a class, a trainer) about proper form. Too many newbies to lifting injure themselves because they overdo it. Technique is important!

Learn to lift and lower in control, using your mind and your breath to ease the way and maximize the effort. If you absolutely cannot run one day and lift the next, then do your run first and strength train after, when your muscles are warm and your joints are juiced. In fact, a 5- to 10-minute warm-up (on the treadmill or a stationary bike) is a great way to start any day of strength training.

Eat this up! Don't overwater your veggies

Eat your veggies. How many times have you heard that? But all cooking methods are not created equal. If you cook your veggies in too much water, they lose a lot of their nutritional value. Take spinach, for instance, a great source of folic acid. Cook it on the stove, in water, and according to studies at Cornell University, it loses about 77 percent of its folate. Other heat-sensitive, water-soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and B, also wash away when you cook them in water. Bad news. One alternative is to microwave your veggies using little or no water. If you're a little leery about adding more radiation to your life, as I am, just buy a $5 steamer and cook your veggies in a pot on a burner. It takes a few minutes as opposed to a few seconds, but I'm willing to wait. I know microwave ovens are supposed to be perfectly safe. They say that about cell phones, too.

Energy express-o! Chew on this.

"Strength is the ability to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands -- and then eat just one of those pieces." -- Judith Viorst

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.

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