Tag Archives: dieting

Crisis averted on the "Weak-End"

Well, I was busy doing my thing this Sunday and suddenly realized it was lunch time and I was famished. Thoughts of Cheezits ran through my head..my dark self whispered it would be much easier and faster to just grab the box and munch, “after all we’re soooo hungry, just do it”. Then I remembered I had leftovers in the fridge…These leftovers were not a run of the mill soggy casserole that no one wanted to finish, but a fresh salad together with rice and beans. It took only a minute to have a nice bowl of half salad, half rice, beans, hot sauce, cilantro and onions. Whew! I was SAVED. Now sitting here thoroughly satisfied I had to reflect a little on this intervention. If I hadn’t had what I really loved in that fridge and it wasn’t waiting for me I would have been a goner. In diet books I always read that we should keep something ready in the fridge for such times and I think trying to be virtuous we dutifully peel carrots and scrape celery and put them in bags stocking up our Frigidaire with what we think we should eat. It occurs to me that this is a nice idea but if you can’t get excited about veggie sticks then that isn’t going to help you when the hunger pangs hit. Also just having leftovers available really isn’t going to cut it either if you weren’t crazy about the meal the first time around. I am frugal but it finally dawned on me a few years ago what leftovers were going to “sell” in the family and which were going to sit around until they changed their molecular structure and had to be discarded with nose held. Now, the only leftovers that end up on the shelf are the ones we really love. Mexican food is big for us so anything of that nationality gets boxed or bagged. I try and make extra of whatever we love when I am cooking for the purpose of tasty meals later on. Whole wheat pasta, even plain, in a plastic dish has many fast lunch possibilities as long as Olive Oil and Parmesan cheese are around the house. Rice, ditto. Whenever I make salad I make a huge bowlful and then it is ready for a side dish or a meal with cottage cheese, nuts, whole wheat toast or even a slice of cheese. These leftovers can obviously come in handy for a quick dinner too! The point is: have what you really love that is healthy (not what you think you should love) sitting around, prepared in a way that is ready for fast consumption and then just watch the portions (that’s why a side salad helps). You can have a healthy lunch that you can really enjoy and still feel virtuous.       

Our Disconnect with Digestion

All my life I have had digestive issues. For some unknown reason this is the weakest link in my body and I am prone to all sorts of miserable maladies. Since this blog is more about eating than the results of it, I won’t go too far into the gory details, but those who share these problems know what I mean: constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, flatulence, irritable bowel, you name it, I’ve had it. To make matters even worse I have food allergies/sensitivities and hypothyroidism. Even if these problems only plague you once in a while they are a sign that food isn’t being processed the way it should and that is not a good thing for your overall health. Our digestive system is comprised of some of the largest organs in the body, the intestines alone are, on average, 25 feet long or ten times the length of the body. When they aren’t working right it’s going to be pretty noticeable. Right up there with the heart and brain, the digestive system is what keeps the body running. It must take all the food and drink that we consume and turn it into something our bodies can use. Not just energy giving fuel but nutrients to renew and replace every cell in our bodies. Think about this for a moment, really think about it. Whatever you eat or drink is ALL your body has to accomplish the monumental task of  making all new cells, nourishing all the organs, provide internal heat, growing nails, hair, etc.and having enough left over to give you the energy to get out of bed every morning and think about your day. That’s a pretty tall order. This is the thing that stops me dead every time I start to eat a donut or a bag of chips. I ask myself: “Is this going to help my body with it’s goal of keeping me going and feeling good about it? What am I providing for the processes it must get done today?” We’ve got to have some sympathy for this vehicle of ours, working so hard to keep us moving so we can live our lives the way we want to. When I hear people say things like: “I don’t eat much I just live on diet soda” or “The only vegetable I’ll eat is potato” I cringe. How can their bodies work without the variety of foods it so desperately needs? We hear a lot about eating right to prevent disease but there isn’t much discussion about eating for the daily regulation of the body. This is the most basic and supremely important thing to eat for; to help your body thrive. If you do this you don’t have to worry about diseases.    
Although it doesn’t feel like it, maybe I’ve been lucky to have had digestive problems since age 4 because without them I may not have found the will power to change my 50’s era diet into something healthier. When you collapse on the bathroom floor in pain you don’t run back to the table to have another slice of pizza. When the digestive system revolts you can’t fight it you have to work with it. My system certainly has made me aware of it, what it needed and where I was going wrong. For everyone else not on the bathroom floor there’s a difficulty in comprehending what the body needs or is asking for. When it ain’t broke we don’t fix it. Except that it is broke. The incidence of diseases rising every day are telling us that we are doing things wrong, but as long as we are able to get up and get going we won’t think about it until we get that life changing diagnosis. Then it’s too late. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a saint. I love pizza and cookies and chips just as much as the next guy. I just do my darndest to cram my diet as much as possible with fresh veggies, fruit, and whole grains. Then I have a cookie or two or a handful of chips (putting them in a small bowl so I don’t pig out, because I will if I am not careful!) I just try and remember that my body needs me as much as I need it. I want to feel good every day, I want to have a lot of energy to accomplish my goals. To have quality of life, that’s what we all want. So please think of your body, of all it’s doing for you every day of your life and give it something good to go on today and always. You’ll be glad you did.          

Volumetric style Quesadilla

Here is an example of increasing the volume in an otherwise fattening and less healthy dish. Everyone loves Quesadillas, all that melted cheese! However, if you add veggies and other better-for-you items like beans for fiber, you get a very satisfying dish, filling, healthy and still delicious!                                                                              
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadilla
Can of Black Beans
Sweet Potato or Yam
Poblano Peppers
Can of chopped Green Chilies
Fresh Spinach
Jack Cheese, grated 
Flour Tortillas, plain or flavored
Butter or Butter Substitute 

Roast Poblano pepper under broiler until skin is black, put in paper bag for 10 minutes to sweat. In the meantime roast sweet potato in 365 degree oven until soft (about 30 minutes). Using a paper towel pull blackened skin off of the pepper, core and strip seeds out and slice into strips. You can do these steps earlier in the day or night before for faster dinner prep later. Mash sweet potato in a bowl with salt, pepper, paprika and a little chili powder. Drain black beans and rinse. Heat all these items in the microwave if they are cold. Butter a tortilla on one side and set buttered side down on a plate, on ONE HALF of the UN-buttered side of the tortilla, spread the sweet potato, layer black beans, Poblano pepper strips, green chilies, fresh spinach and Jack cheese. Set buttered side down tortilla in medium heated large frying pan and fold over. Fry until tortilla turns golden brown and then flip over and brown other side, by that time the cheese has melted. Slice into wedges. Serve with your choice of low fat sour cream, salsa or sliced avocado.  

Portion Control

The more time and energy I devote to my diet the more I am convinced that the real key to weight loss for anyone is portion control. Since I don’t believe in diet”ing” eating less must be where the calorie factor is figured in. I am also quite aware through personal experience that putting less on your plate is an exercise in panic and frustration. My body knows and remembers how much food it has been getting and it wants that same amount today that it had yesterday. When it didn’t get it, it made me feel like I was starving. This is the thing that makes losing weight so dang hard. Depending on how much we have been over eating the feeling of lack when we trim it down can really amount to torture. Fortunately I found a book with an idea that really helped me in that department. It’s called The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan by Barbara Rolls PhD. Her point of view opened my eyes to new possibilities. I will say right up front here that I do not follow this book religiously, as this is not my only regime. I just took some of the great ideas she had and apply it where I can because they are brilliant. Basically it boils down to this. Eat more of the foods that are dense, (or low in calories but filling), like vegetables, fresh fruit and beans and less of foods that are higher in calories but lighter so they don’t fill you up like crackers, chips, french fries and cheese. I am looking to increase the volume in my meals while lowering the calories. For example: I love spaghetti, well, who doesn’t? Now, I can switch to a better made pasta with some grains added and that is a fine idea but it’s still pretty much a heaping plate of the higher calorie stuff. If I eat only half of my usual portion I will feel cheated and hungry. So what if I take out half the the noodles and then add back in enough tasty vegetables to bring the amount back up to snuff? Instant satisfaction! So, for a year now I make spaghetti sauce, adding to it chopped tomatoes, roasted eggplant, sauteed zucchini and mushrooms. Toss with the pasta and cover with Parmesan cheese. It’s delicious and I can eat till I am full with the added advantage of getting my daily dose of recommended vegetables as a bonus.

Here is a sample recipe for an easy, healthy, and delicious smoothie but remember: just use the fruit, water and vanilla extract for the lowest calorie count. They are still very good!

Strawberry Mango Smoothie
1 Cup of strawberries
½ C Mango
1 small or a half banana
Vanilla yogurt or soymilk or just water for low calorie
1 tsp Vanilla extract or more
Blend

Liquid Fruit, A Smooth Idea

   I first noticed a discrepancy in my diet when my daughter came along 18 years ago. Fruit is her favorite food. So much so she is practically a Fruititarian and watching her gobble up every apple and berry that came her way got me thinking: why isn’t fruit part of my diet? We hear about the dietary recommendations asking us to eat at least 5 servings of fruit a day but I’ve never been much of a fruit fan. I really don’t know why exactly, maybe it’s the texture of the skins. That’s why whoever invented smoothies has my undying gratitude. I know eating whole fruit is better for you than grinding it up but, hey, at least I am eating (drinking) fruit. Smoothies can be made in many different ways with almost any fruit and a blender. For the liquid, there are smoothies that use Vanilla Soymilk, vanilla or other flavored yogurt, fruit juice or even Chai Tea which is wonderful with mixed berries. Occasionally I do use one of these fillers when I’m not eating anything else and I am hungry. Most of the time though, all I use is water! It’s makes the drink low in calories and still so good. This, with a half of a peanut butter sandwich is my typical lunch. The combination goes well together and keeps me until dinner. I vary the fruit for variety and use fresh fruit where I can in the summer and frozen in the winter. I even buy some quantity of the fresh, like strawberries, in the summer when they are cheap, freeze them on a tray and pop them into a large Ziplock for use over the winter months.I never use fresh Mango because it is so expensive, luckily there are bags of frozen mango pieces in almost all the grocery store’s freezers.

In Praise of Peanut Butter

Lunch

Well, I have lost another couple pounds and am now the lowest weight I’ve been in years. All the time I wonder if I can keep it up or will it creep back up again? Especially with the holidays coming up. That will be a challenge. I just read an article (can’t remember where!) that said that eating at the same time every day and similar meals for breakfast and lunch helps to keep weight gain in check. I began to do the breakfast and lunch thing more out of convenience and the fact that I don’t like to spend a lot of time on those meals while I am working. Breakfast has always bored me and since I am mostly vegetarian there are not a lot of fast, easy options for lunch without making a study of it. I fell into a routine. Every week day I have 2/3 of a cup of my granola (recipe below) for breakfast, and for lunch a half a peanut butter sandwich (open faced) on whole wheat or whole grain bread and some kind of fruit. My favorite fruit is a combination fruit low cal smoothie (recipe later). On the weekends I eat whatever I want including pancakes for breakfast and leftovers for lunch. I just try and watch the calorie count. The grains in my granola hold me until lunch and the peanut butter is very filling. Peanut butter is not low calorie yet the trade-off is in the hunger department. 2 Tablespoons is 190 calories but you don’t need more than that to feel pretty full. I don’t really get tired of it, it always tastes good and when I change the fruit it is a nice lunch. This has really worked for me. I think the key is to find something you like (if peanut butter is not your thing) that has:
a) reasonable caloric content
b) fairly healthy
c) filling (whole grains really help in departments b and c)
Enjoy it 5 days a week. During hectic weekdays you’ll always know how many calories you are eating and that it will keep you satisfied until dinner time. That’s nice to know.