The valuable lesson I learned on vacation that you need to know - Stacey Hawkins
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The valuable lesson I learned on vacation that you need to know

As many of you know, I’ve just returned from a foodie-adventure to Thailand where I had the opportunity to experience many new flavors, sights, sounds and a culture full of truly wonderful people.  While I was there, I had an interesting observation- as a whole, the people of Thailand are thin, fit and relatively healthy in spite of the fact that they have a huge vice:  sugar.

The northern part of Thailand where we stayed (Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai) was gorgeous farm land and as far as the eye could see was planted with sugar cane, rice and pineapples.  All staple products.  All loaded with sugar.  So how do they eat all the sugar and stay so thin?

gathering-pineapples

Workers hand-picking rice in the local fields

While the blessings of genetics definitely do help, what I discovered was a very simple and life-changing lesson that can benefit us all.  Eat wholesome, unprocessed sugar, and do it in moderation.  Never feel deprived, and don’t overindulge.  It’s that simple.  But in America, our reality with sugar has gotten out of hand and our views pretty skewed as a result.  The answer?  Go back to simple.

The Thai love their desserts, their sweets, their fruit and their carbs.  But they eat them as whole as possible.  Fresh fruit vendors are everywhere, peeling right in front of you.  A small cup of fruit is available as a cheap grab and go on almost every corner, as are fresh made sweets, dumplings and even donuts- all made with raw cane sugar, and not a ton of it.

pineapple

Fresh pineapple from a cart in Myanmar- notice the size!

So how can we be more like the Thai and enjoy our sweets, enjoy our rice and enjoy the sugar without packing on the pounds?  I’ve got 3 suggestions to help you make i

t easy and realistic, even under the constraints of todays crazy busy lifestyle.

3 Easy Hacks for having your cake and eating it too

  1. Watch out for hidden sugars.  Sugar can be in the most unusual places.  Hidden sugars can add to your waistline in a hurry, especially when you don’t know you’re eating them.  Read the labels and pay attention to where it says carbohydrates- under that it will list the grams of sugar.  Remember, less is more.
  2. Reduce portion sizes. This one has gotten so out of hand, even the NY Times reported on  the soda industry taking action to reduce the size of sugary soft drinks.  It’s up to us to pay attention- indulge in sweets, but do it responsibly.  I’m all for eating cookies, but make sure its one or two really good cookies worth eating, not a whole package that will leave you unsatisfied and feeling guilty.
  3. Consume less processed sugar. Again, this one is easy.  When you find yourself using granulated sugar, simply cut back on the amount you are using.  If it’s in your coffee, use 1 tsp instead of 2.  If you’re baking, cut back up to 1/2 of the amount and you really won’t miss it.  You can also switch to raw sugar, cane sugar or other unprocessed sugars as they are marginally better for you as reported in a recent post by Livestrong.

Living a healthy Lean and Green lifestyle does not mean that you have to completely eliminate sugars, sweets or things you love.  Simply by paying attention to what you are eating, enjoying smaller portions in their whole state (like fresh whole fruit or unprocessed sugar) and consuming responsibly, you too can be like the Thai and relish your sweet tooth without paying the price of an expanded waistline.

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