Does being in love somehow pack on the pounds? Keep the man but lose the fatty foods! “Women’s Health” magazine tells how you can guy-proof your diet and use healthier substitutes:
If you’ve always suspected that love makes you fat, you can now feel vindicated, according to the October issue of “Women’s Health” magazine. Last April, a report published by the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University in England found that women tend to eat more foods that are higher in sugar and fat, and to exercise less, after moving in with a male counterpart.
We’ve all been in that situation. It’s a Sunday afternoon during football season and your significant other is deciding between pizza, nachos and a burrito and now that he’s talking about it, so are you. But be careful: At best, women burn about 26 percent fewer calories a day then guys do, so if you mimic his eating habits, you could end up piling on the pounds.
Here are the ways your significant other is unwittingly undermining your diet, and how you can balance the scales without giving up all your favorite guy foods.
His habit: Pretending vegetables don't exist
Research backs up what you already knew: Men and brussels sprouts do not mix. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of more than 300,000 people found that 10 percent more women than men eat three or more vegetables a day.
Your damage: Fewer veggies mean more of everything else. Trade one cup of steamed broccoli for the same portion of cooked rice, and you add 150 calories to your meal. To burn off the difference, you'd have to run at 5 mph for about 20 minutes.
Slim solution: Getting him to go green may be easier than you think. According to a survey by the National Cancer Institute, only 5 percent of the men surveyed said they don't like the taste of fruits and vegetables. So while your guy might not realize that tomato sauce alone doesn't fill his five-a-day quota, he also isn't likely to object if you send some chopped salad his way. Force yourself to throw some frozen, prechopped veggies (the kind with no added sauces or seasonings) into the supermarket cart. Then, at dinner, heat up a cup or two of chopped onions, peppers, broccoli florets, green and yellow wax beans, or spinach and mix them into your usual cooked rice or pasta. You'll be replacing processed carbs with filling fiber: Eating a cup and a half of frozen mixed Oriental-style veggies with a half-cup of cooked rice also saves you 130 calories, versus eating two cups of rice alone — enough to prevent a 14-pound weight gain every year.
His habit: Nonstop prime-time munching
If only yelling at the screen during football season were his worst habit. Turns out watching “Heroes” while you eat may make you lose track of that hero sandwich. A recent study at Johns Hopkins University found that the more people were into what was on the tube, the less aware they were of how much mac and cheese they were inhaling.
Your damage: No one, not even Gandhi, can resist delicious, crunchy snack foods that are right in front of them. But a 120-pound woman burns only about 54 calories an hour watching TV (a 180-pound man burns 74 calories per hour).
Putting away half a canister of Pringles during three hours of “Monday Night Football” leaves you with a 315-calorie surplus. That adds up to about one-tenth of a pound of fat per game.
Slim solution: First, you're better off watching a boring sports event than an easy-to-love show like “Big Love” or “Weeds.” The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago released a study in June showing that TV viewers ate an average of 44 percent more potato chips while watching a program they found entertaining, says Dr. Alan Hirsch, M.D., the foundation's neurological director. Are you as into the game as he is? Then fill a giant bowl with some light microwave popcorn and munch away. Most brands contain just 20 to 25 calories per cup popped, so even if you scarf six cups, you've consumed only 150 calories — the amount in less than one-sixth of a can of Pringles.
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You don't need a statistic to tell you that men like knocking back a cold one, but here's one anyway: In an online survey of nearly 2,000 adults, more than half of all beer drinkers were men.
Your damage: He hates to chug alone, so you become his de facto drinking buddy. Alas, even a 12-ounce ultra-low-carb beer has 95 calories. Have one four nights a week and you'll see a six-pound weight gain in a year's time (not including the junk you scarf while your guard is down).
Slim solution: Enjoying a beer with him at dinner isn't worth the calories, but you don't have to give up the tasty malt goodness altogether. Just skip it on weeknights — chances are, you'll enjoy the alcohol more if you save those calories for a mini-splurge at a future happy hour or during a weekend out. Ask him to stock the fridge with only enough bottles for himself so you'll be less tempted (and he'll be more possessive). And when you need to bounce back from a killer day, schedule a massage instead.
His habit: Meals on wheels
Count the Big Mac wrappers under his passenger's seat and you'll realize that most men live for the drive-through. A 2006 Mintel online survey of 2,000 people found that men eat fast food more often than women, and tend to choose burgers and French fries over salads and other healthy options.
Your damage: Sharing a ride makes you captive to his drive-through addiction. One fast-food grilled-chicken club sandwich has 570 calories. You could eat a half-pound of skinless chicken breast, a half-cup of couscous and a cup of cooked green beans and still save nearly 300 calories (even without the fries or soda). Indulging even once a week means you'll be about one pants size plumper in a year.
Slim solution: Before you hop into the car, throw your favorite portable healthy food — a peanut-butter protein bar, a banana and mozzarella string cheese, a cup of Greek yogurt with honey — in your bag. If you have something satisfying to chow on during his greasy rendezvous, you won't be so tempted to add to his order.
His habit: Full-fat everything
Most men would as soon buy tampons as tofu — low-fat labels drain the machismo right out of them. A 2006 study in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” backed this up with its finding that more women than men know they should limit the intake of fat and carbs in their diets.
Your damage: Making your tuna melt with a slice of regular Cheddar packs on 65 more calories than using a slice of reduced-fat cheese. Wash it down with an eight-ounce glass of whole milk instead of skim, and you've added 123 calories (plus a lot of fat) to your lunch for not much extra taste. If you don't spend almost 20 extra minutes on the treadmill each day, you'll gain eight pounds by swimsuit season.
Slim solution: If he insists he can tell “a huge difference” between whole and skim, compromise with 2 percent. Or take a tip from kosher kitchens and buy two of everything: Swap a gallon of whole milk for half-gallons of whole and skim; buy a pint of frozen yogurt for you and stock Ben & Jerry's for him; put your Diet Coke on the door and stash his cans of regular out of sight in the crisper drawer. Then cut out the previous paragraph and stick it to your refrigerator door — every time you start to think that doubling up isn't worth the trouble or expense, read it again.
Eat this:Amy’s Black Bean Vegetable Burrito, 6 oz
280 calories per burrito
8 g fat
(1 g saturated fat)
580 mg sodium
44 g carbohydrates
4 g fiber
9 g protein
Avoid:Taco Bell Bean Burrito, 7 oz
9 g fat
(3.5 g saturated fat)
1,190 mg sodium
54 g carbohydrates
8 g fiber
13 g protein
Why: Two words — convenience and control. Let’s face it, fast-food joints just don’t offer an array of healthy choices. Stocking the freezer with Amy’s guarantees you a fat-fighting option. Studies show that regular bean-eaters have a 22 percent lower risk of obesity. And the burritos are ready in minutes.
Eat this:Medium Thin ’N Crispy Pizza Hut Pizza 12" with Sauce, Cheese, Grilled Chicken, Green Pepper, Mushroom, Red Onion, Tomatoes
180 calories per slice
6 g fat
(3 g saturated fat)
540 mg sodium
22 g carbohydrates
1 g fiber
10 g protein
Avoid:Medium Pan Supreme
16 g fat
(6 g saturated fat)
720 mg sodium
28 g carbohydrates
2 g fiber
13 g protein
Why: It’s still a piping-hot fresh pie, and hey, is there any such thing as bad pizza? This version’s veggies up the flavor factor (especially those green peppers and onions), and with the addition of grilled chicken, he won’t even miss the red meat (or the pools of grease).
Eat this:Hormel Turkey Chili with Beans
200 calories per cup
3 g fat
(1 g saturated fat)
1,200 mg sodium
26 g carbohydrates
5 g fiber
17 g protein
Avoid:Bush’s Chunky Homestyle Chili with Beans
260 calories per cup
10 g fat
(3.5 g saturated fat)
1,250 mg sodium
28 g carbohydrates
8 g fiber
15 g protein
Why: Packed with veggies, the turkey chili is filling and so delicious he won’t start asking where the beef is. Spread it over some whole-wheat tortilla chips with low-fat cheese for a perfect game-time treat.
For more information and health tips, visit the Women's Health magazine Web site.