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Healthy food for the great outdoors

Healthy food for the great outdoors

Determined to make the most of the rest of summer, many of us are heading outdoors and on the waves to enjoy barbecues and picnics. But having to say 'no' to standard fare is no fun for people concerned about weight management - so Auckland nutritionist and registered dietitian Sarah Ley recommends a little planning.

"Think of luscious, fresh food with the emphasis on food being attractive," says Sarah. "A well-planned picnic or barbecue means having a variety of wholesome, easy-to-eat foods and all the necessary comforts to make the occasion enjoyable."

Sarah, who has a masters degree in nutritional science, is the New Zealand licensee for HUGS, a Canadian-based weight management programme which encourages people to forget the word "diet". Instead, the HUGS programme recommends a change of overall lifestyle and encourages participants to tune into their body's natural hunger signals. "The simple but enormously important lifestyle changes HUGS participants make most certainly have a significant impact over time on their ability to manage their weight. Today, it's common knowledge that long-term dieting can actually lead to weight gain instead of weight loss," Sarah says.

HUGS tips for a pleasant, healthy outdoor meal without overeating include: " Avoid getting too hungry before you eat or you will eat more than you need. It's like going to the supermarket when you're hungry and buying more than you intend. If you think the meal will be some time off, have a snack before you leave for the picnic.

" Check that what initially seems like hunger is actually hunger. It might be that you are just thirsty.

" Always quench your thirst before eating. Some interesting choices are fruit juice with added sparkling water and ice cubes, freshly squeezed juice with iced water; fruit syrup and soda, tea served over ice, lemonade or lemon soft drink diluted with soda or water and served with lemon, or Sarah's favourite - ginger ale, orange juice and soda in equal proportions.

" Avoid serving help-yourself buffet style meals - it's too easy to overeat if you pick at this and that throughout a meal.

" If you have to eat buffet style, make your selection and then place everything you need onto a plate in one hit. This way you are making a conscious decision about how much and what types of food you will eat.

" If there is a large range of foods on offer, think of what you like most while at the same time avoiding foods that contain high fat or a very concentrated sugar source. Both will be packed with concentrated energy that too readily converts to body fat.

" Find a comfortable seat and pleasant environment so you enjoy eating as an 'occasion'.

" Savour every mouthful of food you eat during the meal - by focussing on the taste, you are letting the brain know that you are getting satisfaction from the meal.

" Tune in to your hunger and fullness signals. Once you begin to feel satisfied you probably will be. Put down the plate and wait to see whether you really need to finish off what you have left on your plate. That way you are taking charge and making a conscious decision about how much you want. It's just fine to leave food on your plate at the end of a meal.

" Give the occasion of eating a definite beginning and end. If someone offers you more food once you feel you have had enough, tell them you are full. Among the range of topics covered during the eight sessions which comprise the HUGS course are the facts and myths of dieting, hidden fats, tuning in to natural hunger signals, combating automatic eating, learning how to read food labels, physical versus psychological hunger, setting goals that count, and the real benefits of physical activity.

There are 10 HUGS facilitators throughout New Zealand.

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