Posts Tagged ‘food’

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Getting Back on Track

March 27, 2012

It’s time to get back on track…the Weight Watchers track. For the week before the half marathon and the week after, I didn’t track anything except my weight. Four weeks ago, I weighed the same amount that I did this morning. In the grand scheme of the number of cupcakes I ate before the half (2.5), among other mindless eating choices, that’s not so bad.

But now I’m not training for a half marathon, and I’m also not trying to maintain my current weight…

It’s been ridiculously easy to slip back into some old habits. Fortunately not every old habit, but I know I’m not eating as well as I should. The obvious answer to regaining control is to just start tracking again, which I’m doing, but I also wanted to reflect on the things that worked well during the first 25 pounds that I lost, and get myself excited about eating well to lose more.

Things that worked

  • Less alcohol. No big secret here. I just drank less. It helped that I was also training for two races: I usually skipped drinking the night before my weekend long run. When I went out with friends, I drank fewer drinks, better quality.
  • Less cheese. Not necessarily less dairy; Greek yogurt and I have a fantastic relationship. But less cheese, and better cheese. The more flavorful, the less you need to make an impact.
  • I nixed French fries for the most part. They are truly a rarity in my diet now.
  • Less animal meat, more other protein. Lentils, lentils, lentils.
  • Small substitutions. Make an omelet with one egg and one egg white instead of two eggs.
  • Giving myself permission to eat a s***-ton of fruits and vegetables. I’m not sure why I ever saw them as luxury, but I used to see fresh fruit and vegetables as such…and as too expensive. I’m glad it dawned on me that it was costlier in the end to see them as a luxury.
  • One-pot meals. If I can just toss everything into one-pot, I’m much more likely to eat a balanced meal. Left to cook veggies separately, I usually get away with a salad, maybe some carrot sticks. Sometimes all that ends up in my mouth if I don’t cook everything together is whatever carb/protein I’m eating. But if I can make some sort of stew or frittata or other dish where you can really pack in the vegetables? I eat well, friends. So well.
Remembering the proper care and feeding of me
So the next step is to remember what got me here (not too far off from how I’ve been eating lately…just need to remind myself when I get off course), and then to remember that I enjoy cooking, I know how to cook, and there are fun things to make that don’t have to break the Weight Watchers bank.

Need a quick meal? Lentils. Vegetable broth or water. Onion and garlic if you have it. Canned tomatoes. Any green. Any other random vegetables you have around. Any ratio, really. Had it on the table and portioned out into work lunches in less than 30. This version was 3 WW PointsPlus per serving.

A go-to for me is any kind of lentil soup. I think I was originally inspired by Heidi at 101 Cookbooks and her recipe for Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup, but in the last few years, I make it with whatever random vegetables I have around. Last night I had kale and sweet potatoes from the farmers market and pre-chopped garlic, shallots, and onions from Trader Joe’s (amazing. Less than $2, ready to go). In the fridge? Random amount of vegetable broth. The cupboard? Random quantity of lentils. I’ve put together similar soups for anywhere from 3-5 WW PointsPlus.

It was good to poke my head around the farmers market and get inspired again. I picked up a small loaf of sunflower flax bread from a Baltimore-based (but they sell all over the DC area!) bakery that I love.

But this brings me to one of the things I really don’t like about Weight Watchers (and yet have a solution to, other than to guesstimate): how you track things that don’t have a barcode, you didn’t make yourself, or weren’t made by a huge chain store. If I want to accurately track bread, I’d have to: buy something with a nutritional label; bake a loaf myself; or go to a chain restaurant whose items have been included in the WW database. Not much room for accurately tracking the little guy… (Although, good news: Atwater’s actually does include their nutrition information on their website, but many places don’t have that information readily available.)

I suppose it’s just a reminder that what’s easy or convenient isn’t always better. I’ll continue to figure out ways to track the “good” stuff, it just takes a little more effort.

And now for my new favorite “splurge” item (OK, not really a huge splurge – it’s just 1 WW PointsPlus for 1 Tbsp.):

OH NO THEY DIDN'T! They did! And it's so good!

You could do a lot worse, folks.

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New To Me: Chia Seeds

March 9, 2012

I was recruited by a friend to join a small group of women who are virtually supporting each other in weight loss, healthy eating, and fitness goals. [The Guest Post with a recipe for whole wheat chocolate chip cookies is from Leah, one of the other women in the group.] This group periodically issues challenges, and a recent one was to try a new healthful food.

I’m pretty versed in the art of fruit and vegetable consumption, so I thought about all the various blog posts I read about chia seeds, and decided I’d give them a try. It seems like most healthy eating bloggers talk about them at some point, so I won’t go into too much detail explaining all the benefits or details of chia seeds (seriously…the search results are unreal…try it).

I will say that if you can get over the fact that you’re eating a ch-ch-chia pet, you’ll get a pretty quick and easy (but not necessarily cheap – although a little goes a long way) serving of fiber and omega-3s.

I purchased mine pre-packaged, but later found some in a bulk aisle for cheaper.

 

First chia seed attempt? Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding.

Ingredients!

I made the recipe true to form the first time around, and found that it was sweeter than I needed it to be. If you make the recipe as indicated, it’s 8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus. If you just want a small treat, it’s still a nice-sized portion to make this recipe and split it into two servings. I cut the agave in half to 1 Tbsp. and the recipe drops to 6 WW PointsPlus for the full amount or 3 if you split it. Not too shabby for a chocolate treat!

Don't judge based on my picture...it was tastier than it looks!

Here’s the thing that the recipe doesn’t tell you but that you MUST know: you cannot just mix these ingredients! Chia seeds clump almost immediately if you dump them into the almond milk, and you’ll get an unfortunate bite of all-seed, no-sweetness or chocolate if you don’t mix it well (and really attractive chia seeds in between your teeth – hot stuff!). Using a whisk or fork, stir the chia seeds into the almond milk a little at a time. Then let it sit.

Second attempt: chia fresca.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m reading Born to Run and curiosity got the better of me. Again, whisking is going to be crucial to this recipe.

Possibly too reminiscent of tadpoles in a spring pond for some.

Looks…well, putting it mildly, it looks pretty gross. Despite the fact that these are hard little seeds, though, they absorb liquid quickly and easily and form a gel. So when you actually drink it (it being water, chia seeds, a little agave, and lemon or lime juice), it’s pretty smooth. The blogger from whom I got the recipe wasn’t a big fan, but I thought it was pretty refreshing. The Weight Watchers PointsPlus value is 3.

I’m 100% sure that it will not suddenly enable me to run hundreds of miles in tiny sandals over sun-baked canyons, but if you’re looking for a refreshing, fiber-filled drink, it will serve your needs.

Have you tried chia seeds? What did you think? How do you use them?

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Guest Post: Leah’s Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

February 8, 2012

Guest Post today! This is from a new friend of mine, Leah, who is a doctor, wife, and mom, and knows the challenges of trying to eat healthful foods! Leah posted this recipe and her comments to a group of women trying to make changes toward a healthier lifestyle. I really liked it as an example of how we can make small changes, while still honoring that we live in relationships and communities where 1) not everyone may be “dieting” or trying to eat healthier, 2) people may be wary of items touted as whole wheat, 3) we still celebrate things. Trying to manage weight or swap out ingredients for healthier options shouldn’t ignore that it’s nice to have a treat sometimes. So, without further ado: Leah’s Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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By: Leah

Let me start my stating the obvious this is a cookie recipe NOT a health food recipe.  I am posting it here as a springboard to talk about moderation and the spectrum of what makes food healthy. Clearly we are all committed to being healthier people, which for all of us means moderating something. I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy. Instead I’m admitting that it is a lesson I learn over, and over, and over again! One cookie is not going to wreck a week, but eating the whole batch by myself is a different matter. That is why I sent about 2/3 of the cookies to work with my husband. Out of site and out of mind 🙂

This weekend I thought a lot about whether or not these cookies are healthy.  In the end; yes and no.  I believe that anything made from scratch is healthier than a store bought version. This is because cooking at home eliminates preservatives and high fructose corn syrup, and allows you to control your ingredients. These cookies go from there and step it up a notch.  The whole wheat flour and raw turbinado sugar are processed differently by your body than their white flour and sugar counterparts.  There will be a lower spike in your blood sugar (a.ka. lower glycemic index) and will take longer to digest because of the whole grain flour. They also give the cookies a delicious nutty quality.  Of course there is no escaping the fact that this is a recipe for cookies. In moderation or for a treat these are a great choice.  I would argue you should buy the best quality chocolate you can afford since this is something you’re not likely to make and eat every week. I bought my ingredients at Whole Foods and chose to use Ghirardelli semi sweet baking bars that I chopped up myself.  Taking into account that I did not use the whole bag of sugar or flour I estimated I spent about $15 on ingredients, and with 64 cookies to a batch that’s about $0.23 per cookie. Not so bad after all.

 

This recipe has been modified from one written by Jennie Perillo. (Side note: Jennie recently and unexpectedly lost her husband. She is a brave, humble, and honest women. Her blog reflects that, so have tissues handy when you read it.)

 

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 64 cookies

 

Ingredients:

4 cups (490 grams) whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt (kosher or fleur de sel if you have it)

2 cups (400 grams)  raw turbinado sugar

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons (30 ml) molasses

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 ounces chocolate chips

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and fleur de sel.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the butter, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

If you can wait consider ‘dry aging’ the dough by covering the top with plastic wrap and allowing it to rest in the fridge overnight.

Use your tablespoon measure and place 1 tablespoon of dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes on the center rack of the oven. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for exactly 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely, or at least until cool enough to eat without burning your the roof of your mouth or tongue.

Weight watchers points plus (I can’t explain why, but for your reference)

1 cookie=3

2 cookies= 5

3 cookies = 8

4 cookies= 10

And how do I know that 4 cookies equals 10 points plus?  Because I had trouble moderating myself when they were warm and gooey out of the oven 🙂

 

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Good Day, Sunshine

February 2, 2012

It’s only Wednesday, but…what a week! A pretty terrible migraine slayed me on Monday, but yesterday brought some exciting things at work (and a subsequent 14-hour workday…that I…loved. Please check me for signs of delusion). I didn’t get to take advantage of the nice weather yesterday, but did get out for an afternoon stroll today. When I journal (or, oh hey, blog), it’s easy for me to write about the bad things; I get caught up in dwelling pretty easily. But when things are going well, I am typically too excited about how well things are going that I neglect keeping a record of the good times. So, here’s a random, apropos of not much post about some brief snippets of the good days that were yesterday and today. Apologies in advance for total self-indulgence.

For one, the last two days I’ve had the opportunity to fight the good fight at work. Without going into detail (sorry – this isn’t really the venue for that!), I’ll just say that it’s a great feeling to work alongside dedicated, talented colleagues, and it’s a damn good feeling to fight for something you really care about and to let new talents and skills emerge…and be noticed for them.

So I came home from work today (after a nice, standard 8-hour day!), opened the door to the balcony, and relaxed with a little Mason jar o’ red and “Death Comes to Pemberley” on my Nook. The feline roommate (seen in the background) appreciated the nice weather, too. Little dude loves the balcony.

And how can I forget that I did a ton of running around (literally – running) at work yesterday, went up and down stairs a bunch today, and walked home from the Metro – just shy of 1.5 miles….and no heel/ankle pain through all of that! Still going to rest for a couple days before I try to run, but, man, that’s some improvement!

On the nutrition front, I made another Salad in a Jar on Monday; this time I was inspired to make a burrito-themed salad. Olé!

Salsa as dressing; 1/2 cup rinsed, canned black beans; grape tomatoes; orange bell pepper; 1/2 cup white rice (spiced up with sauteed onions, paprika, cayenne, cumin, and Cholula); 1/4 cup Trader Joe's lite cheese mix; spinach. WW PointsPlus = 8 (7 if you don't add in the onions that were cooked in olive oil...or if you use a points-free oil/amount to cook them).

This one also plated pretty well, although the spinach is kind of lost. Coach, is this variation worthy of being called a Perfectionist Salad?

Incredibly filling.

Thinking back to Monday, post-migraine, that was a good day, too. I missed my regular Monday night yoga class last week, but went on Monday and…yeah…that’s definitely an “appointment” class for me. It was a little crowded after the New Year, but now is a pretty manageable size and a mix of folks who have been attending for a while and new folks. If you’re thinking of trying a yoga class, but unsure of the differences between types of yoga, Fit Bottomed Girls can hook you up with an explanation.

And, finally, no picture to prove it, but I had a damn good hair day today. And with incredibly minimal effort. Bonus.

So, something at which to direct my passion, good health news, a little fruit of the vine, the written word, good food, some exercise, and a good hair day. Pretty simple stuff. It’s all about the little victories and little joys.

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Peanut, Peanut Butter…Jelly

January 28, 2012

Anyone else remember that song? No? Now you do!

I love peanut butter. Outside of people with nut allergies, are there folks who don’t like peanut butter? If so, I’m pretty sure I don’t know those folks. The thing I don’t like about peanut butter is that 1 Tbsp. of the good stuff is 3 WW points (80-100 calories, and averaging about 8 grams of fat), and I don’t remember the last time I easily limited myself to 1 Tbsp. If I do, it’s usually under great duress.

Shopping with my mom, we came across powdered peanut butter (it was on a military base…I haven’t seen it sold anywhere else except the Interwebs). The jar boasts that a serving has 85% fewer calories than traditional peanut butter. Appealing, no? So I decided to experiment, figuring that if I didn’t like the taste for everyday noshing, I could at least take it backpacking, where I care about weight and not as much about taste.

 

Overall, not too bad! It’s not the same as Jif, Peter Pan, or even organic or all-natural peanut butters, so if you’re expecting the same consistency or taste, you may be a  little disappointed. But it’s doesn’t taste bad, and I can see enjoying it in recipes, spread on baked goods, or mixed into oatmeal. Emily at the Daily Garnish explains the process used to make powdered peanut butter (oil is squeezed out of roasted peanuts) and provides a review of PB2 and two other options; I was sad to read in a later post on her site that the Trader Joe’s Peanut Flour was discontinued.

So much “diet” food seems to be chock full of strange chemicals or less-than-optimal substitutions (ahem, I’m looking at you, lower-fat but higher-sugar foods!). It’s nice to see an alternative like PB2.

What swaps have you made in trying to eat fewer calories or have a healthier diet?

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Manic Meal Monday 2

January 24, 2012

It’s Monday, and yesterday brought both manic food shopping and preparation. It would be hard to top the last Manic Meal Monday in terms of ease of preparation, but this comes close, especially if you purchase pre-cut butternut squash and/or pre-cut beef.

The meal o’ the week was inspired by Dominique over at Will Run For Beer, who posted this Burgundy-Style Beef Stew recipe. It was already a WW recipe, but she made it even more WW-friendly by subbing butternut squash for potatoes. The damage is a mere 8 PointsPlus for a very hearty stew.

Recipe (with modifications, based on preference/availability; mine are in bold, hers are in italics):

Ingredients
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb boneless beef bottom round, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth [I used vegetable broth since I already had some open.]
1/2 cup dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon) [I used a Carmenere and hated that I cooked with such a good win, but it needed to be consumed.]
20 oz chopped butternut squash the original recipe calls for 3/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 lb mushrooms [I am not a ‘shroom fan, so this was omitted.]
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup pearl onions (the original recipe calls for frozen, but I could not find them in my store) [I cut up one whole, medium yellow onion.]
2 cloves if garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried savory [I’m not sure what savory is, and I don’t have it, so…I tossed in a bunch of spices that I like, including cayenne pepper, ginger, oregano, and a little cinnamon, and I liked what came out of the crock pot.]

Directions

1. Mix together flour, salt and pepper into a shallow dish. Coat beef with seasoned flour and shake off the excess.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add coated beef and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer browned beef to your crock pot.

3. Add remaining ingredients to the crock pot. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low, or until the beef and vegetables are tender.

This makes 4 servings. Oh, look…lunch!

And, funny story related to this recipe:

My mom is in town visiting, and we went to the grocery store together. I was in the meat department, and didn’t find the cut specified in the recipe, so I asked a woman working there about it.

Me: Oh, OK. Hmm…three pounds. Well, I need to find the smallest package. I only need one pound.

Her: Just a pound? What are you making?

Me: A stew.

Her: Blech. You want to use this in a stew?

Me: Yeah…will this not work for stew?

Her: It’s so lean. You need some meat with some FAT.

My mom: Well, she’s kind of on a diet, so I think she wants the lean.

Her: Oh, well, if you’re doing that diety thing, I guess this will work. But I wouldn’t eat that stew.

For the record, the stew was great, and the meat was tender. Enjoy!

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Three Things Thursday: The DL Edition

January 20, 2012

I’m on the DL. The Disabled List. I’m benched. I’ve got a dull, persistent pain in my lower left leg (discomfort particularly felt near the ankle and into the heel), punctuated by occasional acute pain associated with extra or different impact. Sure, stairs hurt, but did you know that the force of a Metro stopping haphazardly while you’re standing up could send shooting pain up through your hip? No? Now you do! Don’t try this at home, DC, it’s a hot mess on the Metro some days.

Anyway, I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s pretty clear to me that this is one of those times that I shouldn’t try to run through the pain. Although I’m still learning where that line falls. How do you know when you should push through or rest up?

So here are my Three Things…what I’ll do while I’m on the DL:

1. Eat my feelings. Mmmm. If you’re in the DC area, be sure to check out the DC Shawarma food truck. Not into the goodness that is shawarma? Boom: Food Truck Fiesta.

2. Become a crazy cat lady.

How could you resist that face? Don't you just want to sit around on your ass all day with that face?

3. Drink my feelings. Ahhh, analgesic side effects. Fantastic.

Home-infused fig vodka and fig gin. Tip: the vodka tastes better, but the gin is probably better for sorrow-drowning.

OK, OK, I kid, I kid. I did eat lunch from the shawarma truck (get the pulled lamb), I do have a pretty damned cute cat, and I enjoy sharing my home-infused fig vodka with others. But these things probably aren’t going to make me feel better in the long run. Right now I’m feeling pretty frustrated, hamstrung (actually, no pain there, thankfully), and stifled in my fitness/weight loss efforts.

Here’s a better Three Things list:

1. Try some new recipes to keep things interesting and try to be more mindful of my WW plan while I can’t exercise as much as I’d like (and maybe not rush to every food truck that comes near my office…). Tonight I made Mark Bittman’s Red Bean Paella with Tomatoes (page 300 of The Food Matters Cookbook). I skipped the saffron (didn’t have any) and cut back a little on the amount of olive oil; this was quite the delightful dish.

2. Educate myself. Starting with researching my health insurance and calling around to find out who I can see about this. And learning a little more about leg anatomy, so I can accurately describe where I have pain.

3. Get myself excited about low impact workouts. Serves a dual purpose of fending off the eating-of-feelings and keeping me away from Googling symptoms and freaking out. I haven’t spent much time swimming since I was a kid, but a combo of asthma and occasional bad reaction to chlorine have kept me out of the pool. I’m willing to give it another shot, and a former swim coach friend of mine has promised to help me, starting with sticking my head in a bathtub or bowl of water and re-learning how to breathe. Oh, you want pictures? Ha.

Bring on the rest days…but hopefully for not too long…?

What do you do to keep active (and keep your frustration level down) when you’re on the DL?