Menounos shows how be an ‘EveryGirl’

Submitted by Kendra Newton / Today
Cover@Elise Donoghue

In the “The EveryGirl’s Guide to Life,” TV journalist Maria Menounos shares her personal experiences from her life and career, offering advice on everything from health and relationships to renovations and recreation. Here, Menounos offers tips on eating healthy, growing your own food and more. Read an excerpt:

Chapter Thirteen: EveryGirl recipes

Food as fuel

When you think about food as a source of fuel more than as a source of pleasure, it’s much easier to choose the salad with chicken rather than the burger melts. I also learned portion control and that I didn’t need to eat that much to be full. The key here is to really listen to your body. When you feel full, put down your fork. If you can, walk away from the table or simply push your food away.

Ways to feel full

• Load up on veggies and salad because they will fill you up fast and have fewer calories.

• Eat protein at every meal because it keeps you full for hours.

• Don’t have carb-only meals because your blood sugar will spike and then drop. You’ll also be hungry all the time. That’s why you really need the protein.

• Keep a small bag of almonds on hand. Eating them is a quick way to feel full when you’re starving, and they will also help you stay away from bad snacks or fast food.

• When you feel full, listen to your stomach. Stop eating.

• In restaurants, ask to have half of your huge entrée wrapped to take home before they even serve it. Most restaurant portions can easily feed two people or make two meals for you.

• Eat only when you are hungry. A lot of times we reach for food because we think it will “taste” good or it “looks” good, when the reality is you’re not hungry!

• Drink hot water, it fills you up and curbs your appetite.

My LA story — The food edition

By the time I moved to California, I had lost the weight and kept it off, and my career was soaring. I ended up working around the clock, just as my advisors had warned me. I was traveling constantly, and the only thing I had time for was fast food. In LA, I saw too few quality mom-and-pop sandwich shops and more fast-food joints than I’d ever seen.

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Because of limited time and money, I picked up breakfast, lunch and dinner at all of them, often eating in my car, on my way to shoots. I worked forty-eight out of fifty-two weekends while at "Entertainment Tonight," at about fifteen-plus hours per day. With my schedule, I thought it was impossible to eat any other way. Luckily, my weight didn’t fluctuate, probably because my portions weren’t that big. Plus, I was so busy working and running around that my metabolism burned everything off. Having lost the weight over such a long period no doubt prevented it from piling back on, too.

But there were serious consequences when overindulging in so much fast food. As I said before, the initial purpose of my losing weight was more for my health than for my looks. Well, now my health was failing. The crazy work schedule, combined with my disorganization and unhealthy diet, was taking its toll. As I touched upon earlier in the book, I was continually in and out of the hospital for stuff like exhaustion, malnutrition and dehydration.

My fast-food dependence was only curbed through my friend Rachel. Rachel is highly educated, and many members of her family are in the medical field. (Remember what I said about having a diverse set of friends and an advisory committee?) Rachel understood the health ramifications of consuming fast food and, as a result, has never eaten it. She was the one who connected my poor health to my diet. Because of her, I cut out fast food for a year and stopped getting sick as a result — not even a cold. Today, I’ll do fast food if I’m in a rush, but unless it’s a treat, I’ll select from the healthy menus.

The smart way to do fast food

A few possibilities include:

• A salad, veggie burger, or grilled-chicken sandwich at Burger King

• A salad, grilled-chicken sandwich, or grilled-chicken wrap at McDonalds

• Diet Fresco items at Taco Bell

• A grilled-chicken sandwich and baked potato at Carl’s Jr.

• Subway is also a great stop for quick and healthy choices with a vast selection of vegetables to add to your sandwiches. Subway is a place I take out from all the time.

Maria’s meal plan

Being a part of "Today," "Nightly News" and "Access Hollywood" exposed me to some of the best dietitians and health-care practitioners. The more I’ve learned, the more I realize that my father may just be the best example to follow. As I said, he’s in his mid-sixties but has the energy and body of a twenty-five-year-old, even after enduring forty years of type 1 diabetes. This is due in great part because of his diet.

As I touched upon earlier, Dad ate very little meat, avoided sugars, kept his carb intake and consumption of processed foods to a minimum, and included a variety of fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables in his diet, along with plenty of garlic and olive oil. His food portions are small to moderate. He doesn’t smoke but will indulge in the occasional glass of homemade red wine. And he is active. He’s not doing triathlons or hitting the gym, mind you, but he’s always doing chores and finding ways to burn energy.

If food is fuel to our bodies, then my father has run his on high-octane. Just as high-octane fuel is designed to make an engine run stronger and last longer, so, too, does a high-octane diet. The people from his village who eat and behave in this manner have lived well into their hundreds.

On the following pages, I’ll explain how my dad does it — and you can, too

Try growing your own food

Having a garden of your own is fun, rewarding, cost-effective, convenient, and healthy, too. Recently I did a segment with a great company called GroOrganic. Representatives from the company came to the house and taught me how to plant an organic garden. We installed two four-by-eight planters in my yard, filled them with dirt, and planted tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, eggplant, basil, garlic, carrots, cantaloupes, and more. Within months, the garden flourished, and I was so inspired that I started cooking more.

Before I had the garden, I would work till I was starving, then be forced to go out to eat. With my garden, I can whip up almost anything because I usually have the veggies or ingredients right outside my window. The meals are much healthier, too. You can’t get more high-octane than toxin-free fresh veggies.

The garden’s great for my wallet, too, as I eat out less and make fewer trips to the supermarket.

From "The EveryGirl's Guide to Life" by Maria Menounos. Copyright © 2011. Reprinted by permission of It Book/HarperCollins Publishers.