Posts Tagged ‘Weight Watchers’

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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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What a “Love”ly Surprise!

February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day! I woke up to a lovely surprise!

There was a gigantic pink stuffed teddy bear

Tuesday is my Weight Watchers weigh-in day (I do WW online, and weigh myself wearing the same thing – I’ll leave it up to you to imagine – at approximately the same time on the same day of the week). I suppose wearing winter clothing this wouldn’t be true, but sans sweaters…today’s weight was my first goal weight!

Perhaps someday I'll reveal the hard numbers, but, yes, that's 23 pounds lost. And, ignore the points averages at the bottom - there were some weeks of not tracking, and I don't track every activity....lazy Weight Watcher, right here.

So! Now what? Well, first, I’m really excited. See?

This is my new stock excited pose!

When you reach your goal weight, you get the option to start maintenance or set a new goal. I set a new goal. At the rate I’ve been losing, I should lose 16 more pounds just in time for my year WW anniversary. But that’s at the rate I’ve been going, which, lately, has been pretty comfortable. At the beginning, I was pickier about what I ate at restaurants, I fretted over food, and appropriate portion sizes haunted me in my sleep were something I thought about quite a bit. Now I’ve taken a more relaxed approach where I still track and pay attention to portion sizes, but I’m a slacker less precise and if I get off course, I try to gently steer back on course. If I want to speed up the weight loss a little (I averaged 0.7 pounds per week for the 7 months I’ve been on WW), then I know I can make some adjustments to get back on a steeper slope, if you will:

Yeah…so that looks like right around…November…that I started slacking a little. Makes sense.

Another day, when I’m not frantically trying to get to work, I’ll write about this milestone from the perspective of what’s changed. When I think back, honestly, nothing too drastic. I am proud and confident in this victory because it hasn’t compromised my lifestyle (too much). I’ve certainly made some sacrifices, but, truly, they’ve been pretty easy and 100% worth it.

Onward toward the new goal!

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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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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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Salad in a Jar Success

January 12, 2012

Just an update to Monday’s post about my Salad in a Jar mania: I deem it a success! This is what the salad I made on Sunday looked like when I shook it up and dumped it onto my plate at work today.

It tasted just as good as Monday’s salad, too!

I’m on a thinking-about-food-kick this week, so here’s my favorite hearty snack/light meal before or after a solid workout:

Pretty basic, folks: whole wheat or multigrain sandwich thins, toasted; 1-2 Tbsp. peanut butter; sliced banana. Depending on the amount of peanut butter you use, it’s 5-7 WW PointsPlus, and in my mind, in terms of its lasting power through a good workout, points-less.