Diary of My Healthy Eating Day

I talk a lot about food and my ongoing effort to eat healthy and not return to my former eating habits. Plant-based diet, mindful eating, sugar reduction, whole foods, and macro tracking are all methods I have borrowed from to retool my meals. I avoid thinking in terms of ‘banned foods’ even as I certainly had removed some of my favorite meals while in weight loss mode. Cutting out foods had more to do with deciding between more food volume with lower calories to keep me full and get the right nutrition. As I moved into and now live in maintenance mode I keep the same trade-off mindset but I also think about portion size to keep things under control.

There is nothing boring, bland, or measly about how I eat. A healthy food addiction won’t allow any of that. And, I do change things up where my lunch looks more like dinner or I eat a big breakfast and then lighter meals the rest of the day.  I’m a petite woman so the amount of food I can eat is drastically lower than the average woman. The challenge is to keep my calories within 1400 per day and only allow myself 1600 on a given day when I have a particularly active week (climb a mountain one day, or paddle all day, or go on a longer run than usual). To be honest, if I didn’t run at least 4-5 times per week (get in at least 30 minutes) I would be eating 1200 – 1300 calories just to maintain. Doesn’t that sound like dieting?

While I talk/blog about all these things, sometimes it is easier to show what a typical day of eating looks like for me. Maybe it will help and inspire you to enjoy eating whether you are trying to maintain or on a weight loss program. Disclaimer, I arranged the food to look pretty for you but I am usually more interested in eating than creating food art. Calories and macros are from my MFP tracker.

Breakfast: Bagel and Cream Cheese with Lox and Strawberries
296 Calories 42% Carbs 31% Fat 26% Protein

My favorite meal has always been bagel and lox. On Mother’s Day my family knows that they need to always have this ready when I come down in the morning, its that important to me. Typically, a bagel when trying to lose weight is a big no-no – calories and big carbs. In keeping with my mantra of no banned foods,  I can get thin bagels at the market that are less than half the calories of regular ones. I can also use 1/3 less fat cream cheese. In addition, by right sizing my calories there I give myself room for strawberries.

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Lunch: Antipasti Plate 
211 Calories 38% Carbs 26% Fat 36% Protein

My favorite meals are nibbling meals using my fingers. In fact, last night for dinner my kitchen table looked like it belonged in Tuscany rather than a suburb outside of Boston. Italian meats, cheese, tortellini, roasted vegetables, olives, pickles, ciabatta, dipping oil, shrimp, and of course a bottle of Italian wine. Picking up on what was left over, I arranged my lunch plate with cold asparagus, cold ginger garlic carrots, plums, shrimp and smoked gruyere. You might not be able to tell, but this is on a regular dinner plate. Lots of food. Also a bit distorted, the fruit and vegetables is actually 2/3s the plate.

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Snacks: Anise Cookie, cut off piece of Framingham Baking Co cheese Pizza
Calories 196 58% Carbs 29% Fat 13% Protein

Yes, I do splurge. The Framingham Baking Co. is an institution and has some nostalgia for me. Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, my history with this gem started 30 years ago in high school. Me and my friends would jump in the car and head over after school for a big slice of focaccia pizza baked fresh that day. My son Matt is now hooked on the pizza himself. Today, I made a stop and picked up pizza, cookies, and homemade pasta. Not being able to wait until I made it home, I snuck an Anise cookie and took a strip off of a pizza slice (full slice shown). Yes, it was before I could have my lunch, but so worth it!

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Dinner: Chicken and gravy with mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and polenta, Can of Guinness
Calories 379 40% Carbs 28% Fat 32% Protein

We sat down to a Thanksgiving style meal (sub chicken for turkey) complete with mashed potatoes, butternut squash, stuffing, green beans, roasted carrots, and yes, gravy a few nights ago. Well, I have a lot of chicken left over and what better to do with it than turn it into chicken and gravy. I love a creamy garlicky polenta, but the boys don’t, so they had open faced hot chicken sandwiches while I had polenta. A small variation that isn’t hard to adjust for and we all get another fall comfort meal this week. And, let’s not forget that it is dinner, so what better to pair with this meal than a cold creamy Guinness.

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So far I’ve had 1182 calories. I’m going to add 100 ghost calories since I was tasting my food as I cooked and I’m still not completely sure that I got the calories right on my cookie and pizza. That brings me to 1282 – lets just round up to 1300. The plan is to chill with Tom watching Mr. Robot and then grab a chocolate pop for dessert with a few strawberries. That gets me to almost 1400 calories.

Chloe's Dark Chocolate

So that is it. A bit short for the day, but I’m full, enjoyed my meals, and feel like overall I succeeded in staying the course.

 

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Sabotaged By Gut Flora

I’ve been doing a ton of research on nutrition as I’ve worked toward healthy living. Gut flora is one of those things that is fascinating to me. It seems to be the key to eating healthy and even reinforce those habits. There is evidence that famished gut flora is linked to poor health. Not surprising to most of you. For example, we think of eating yogurt to re-bloom gut flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatments.

Also,  If you have limited your diet to primarily pasta and breads, then that is what your gut flora will ask for. If you divert from this, it is a factor in how hungry you feel as your gut flora is starving.

Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. “What the bacteria do for appetite is kind of like optimizing how long a car can run without needing to add more petrol to the tank,” says senior author Carlos Ribeiro, who studies the eating behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, a type of fruit fly, at Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-tell-their-hosts-what-to-eat/

Why am I sharing this? As I moved into maintenance mode I started to reintroduce foods I ate before – burgers, pasta, stuffing. I still kept to moderation and within my daily goals (mostly) and then something funny happened. I started having stomach issues.  I felt yucky after meals. I was more constipated. I was hungrier even though I was eating more. I was in a bad mood. I felt similarly to the first couple weeks when I stepped into my diet.  What was going on?

This weekend, I went back to a more plant based diet. I essentially listened to my gut flora telling me it was starving. A funny thing happened. My meals tasted so much better. I realized that my hunger was cravings for beets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. All those things that I poured into my body for the past 10 months. I ate more lean protein in smaller portions rather than bigger portions of fattier meat. Chicken, shrimp and eggs were tastier and didn’t feel like a rock in my stomach. And I’m eating nuts – yummy!

My body was overall happier. I’m less tired. I’m more regular. And, while I was still staying in the 110 range, I’d creeped up to 110.9 until I reverted to my healthy eating. I dropped back down to 110.1. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as I watched the scale move from 109.4 to 110.9 I knew I had a problem. So, even at the same caloric intake and activity level, my plant heavy diet keeps me trimmer.

I’m still a little hungry. Not after I eat, but within a couple hours. So, I think I have another week of getting my gut flora back to normal before I even out on this. It’s getting better each day and sometimes I find it isn’t hunger as much as thirst. More water fixes that.

There you have it, my personal science experiment and qualitative experience with gut flora. Maybe what I shared will help you either get through your initial weight loss period, keep you on track, or just stay in maintenance mode.

 

 

Vegan Can Be Yummy

Give me a Five Guys Burger and you can’t go wrong. But, getting healthy has definitely changed my taste buds and tolerance for protein heavy and fat heavy meals. My body craves vegetables. Tom tells me my gut flora has changed and it is telling me what it wants to eat. Whatever…

The thing is, I really like my veggies. Even those veggies that I tolerated (eggplant, yellow squash, mushrooms) and those I hated (kales, swiss chard) are regular visitors to my meals. I can even eat tofu, although I have to say it is not my favorite and is only in the tolerated column. In fact, if you look at my meals, and even some of my days, I’m definitely on the verge of a vegetarian diet and not always so far off from a vegan diet.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud those that morally live by veganism. I just don’t have that moral fortitude and am happy to keep my omnivorous ancestry alive in my diet. I love eggs, cheese and fish. What I will own up to is that if you take away the moral argument and only apply the healthy argument, then verging on vegan is possible and not at all a restriction.

Case in point. Heading to San Francisco, the restaurants know their customers and recognize that vegans are a dominate group – for moral and health reasons. It isn’t uncommon to see menu items with vegan symbols to make it easy to find dishes to eat when dining out with your non-vegan friends. In fact, restaurants are going out of their way to create amazing vegan food that rivals non-vegan menu items. It is almost hard for the non-vegan to ignore these delicacies. I can’t!

Always searching for healthy menu items to avoid travel spread, and formerly trying to still lose weight while on the road, restaurants that had vegetarian and vegan items were a god send. Being in California is always the easiest, and this visit was no disappointment.

Anku, an Asian restaurant inside the Hotel Nikko, not only has an entirely healthy menu, but also has vegetarian options that can easily be converted to vegan dishes. Purple Cauliflower Soup and a Portobello Mushroom and Couscous Purse surrounded by baby carrots, asparagus and yellow squash sitting in a vegetable puree  (the purse is swiss chard) was my dinner.  The lack of meat wasn’t noticeable. The flavors and textures were surprising and wonderful. Along with a glass of French rose wine and my meal was every bit as good as a steak dinner. The fact that my meal was preceded by complementary nuts, olives and pickled purple cauliflower made it that much better. Really!

I’m not saying you need to give up your meat. I am only saying that there is enough evidence that too much meat has health risks and cutting your 10 oz steak down to 3-4 oz and loading your plate with vegetables or creative vegan delicacies isn’t the hardship your mind keeps telling you. Don’t deny yourself, just nurture your body a bit more.

Be a vegan for a day. It can be yummy.

 

 

Fast Food Letdown

I have only had two hamburgers the entire time I’ve been on my chubby girl journey. Each time I was in a desperate situation of traveling from point a to point b and had little time to be a ‘Sally’ with my special food needs and requests. Those experiences were not at my ultimate burger joint – Five Guys – and didn’t warrant a nod to decadence.

I always said that when I reached my goal I would head to Five Guys for a Little Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup. Sans fries, but not sans peanuts! Today was the day. I hit two goals, weight (110 lbs) and mileage (ran over 5 miles yesterday with many hills). Tom was all to happy to help me celebrate as his probably goes to Five Guys more for the fries than the burger.

Anyway, I stepped up with my silly grin and went for it.  I then headed to the peanuts and grabbed a scoop along with an extra boat for shells. And, even though the air conditioning had my shivering, I was all warm and giddy as I waited and smelled that greasy grill.

Then the burger came. I delicately unwrapped the foil allowing myself a slow tantalizing reveal. My burger peaked out and I swear it was smiling at me. I took a bite, savoring that first explosion of salty burger, sweet bun and savory onion.

And then, that’s when it all crumbled. After more than nine months thinking about my Five Guys burger celebration, the burger was just okay. In fact, it was a little too greasy. Don’t get me wrong, it was good enough to eat the whole thing, but it certainly wasn’t all I had immortalized it as. To be honest, the peanuts were better.

Here’s the thing. All the angst over the foods we are giving up to be healthy is just misrepresented hype. For each time I’ve deviated from healthy food to guilty pleasures I’ve come away disappointed. The open faced grilled chicken with ham and Swiss, not as good as it sounded. The Weiner schnitzel at the German restaurant, just okay. The mac and cheese with grilled chicken, more greasy and overly creamy than tangy cheesy.

On the other hand, I have had a couple guilty pleasures over the past 9 months that were amazing – Gustavo’s for authentic Cuban and PhoSure for yummy Vietnamese soups and pho. So, in a way, I’m finding what is worth the splurge and what is just an empty splurge.

When its all said and done, here is my words of wisdom. All that bar food, fast food, packaged food and desserts, it really isn’t as good as you think it is. Whole foods really grow on you. For real!

Did I Say I Hate Kale?

Never say never. Never say hate. It’s what I learned growing up and as an adult I became arrogant enough to think I could be so definitive in my position. Such is the moment that I ate crow – I mean kale.

Heading out tonight to do some last minute shopping for our RV vacation and the hangries came on. Lo and behold, Wegman’s was right across the shopping plaza with their seemingly endless buffet of goodies. I could be really bad and throw healthy living to the wind by loading up on the mac and cheese or Asian bar. Instead I sought out the vegetarian options.

kale-and-quinoa-patties-everydaydishes_com-HSitting in front of me were these cute little cakes. The sign above said Quinoa and Kale Cakes, 150 calories. At first I moved past them to inspect my other options as the word kale just brought me to bitter, muddy, indigestible memories of my attempts to eat kale. I mean, putting it in a green apple smoothie didn’t even help. But, options at the food heaven were crowding out my choices and I turned back to those cakes and bravely placed one in my clam container. The reasoning, great protein source and packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

Here’s the thing, it was delicious. Flavorful, creamy, great texture from the quinoa and perfect with some Asian vegetables and gyoza. The perfect substitute for rice or noodles, and yet it didn’t feel like a substitute.

I didn’t taste the kale. Or, maybe I did. But, the fact is, I ate the kale and I liked it.

So, I found the recipe for Wegman’s Quinoa and Kale Cakes. I also found another from Everyday Dishes. Check them out. So yummy.

Chubby Girl Tackles Dieting in an RV

Dieting is such a dirty word to me right now, but it seems like the only way to describe the day in and day out effort of losing weight and getting healthy even when traveling. Vacation season is upon us and our summer is a combination of mini RV weekend getaways and a big 2-week road-trip starting on Saturday. So, while I talk a lot about getting and staying healthy while on the road for work, I haven’t quite gotten around to the other part of living on the road.

First, living on the road. We have our RV, Bertha. She is named as such due to her big rear. Just about every weekend we pack her up and head to the beach or mountains. bertha.jpgIt’s our summer cottage on wheels. We can stay at a state campground right on a state beach (Salisbury or Scusset in MA), or head up north to the White Mountains and stay at Echo Lake in Franconia NH. On Saturday we will be trekking down to Ashville, NC and stopping along the way at state and national parks in PA, OH and KY for hiking, kayaking, and seeing the caves. A little bypass from nature to the city (Columbus) should bring biking and a beer crawl. Have you seen how many breweries are in Columbus? Then we’ll head back up and stay at a resort in VA before making it home.

Anyway, for the most part, having a built in kitchen is perfect for me. I control my meals. However, there are times when I want a vacation too and being the full-time chef is not on my list of an awesome vacation. This weekend was the great saboteur. A rainy cold day on Saturday down on the cape meant we needed to get out of the spacious, but still tight RV quarters. We headed to Fisherman’s View in Sandwich. My downfall? The manager let us order off menu to let us have a Fisherman’s Platter. It was filled with fried fish, shrimp, scallops, clams and oysters. Not to mention the fries. Even splitting this massive plate, I couldn’t even begin to figure out how many calories I ate. Add to this the Fisherman’s View Summer Ale and life couldn’t have been better.  The guilt afterward was crushing.

How did I handle this lapse of judgement and debauchery? I made sure I ran every morning and toned it down the day before and day after with clean eating. Results? I was down a 1 1/2 this week. I’m officially in the teens now!

But, I feel lucky. That was a single day. It was also right after a horrible 3 week plateau where I seriously considered calling it a draw with my body and going into maintenance mode. I’m still cringing at how I wolfed down that amazing seafood. But, let’s be clear, I regret the act. I absolutely enjoyed every bite! Too much!

It’s the road trip where things are going to get interesting. Yes, I can cook. But, there are a number days where we have 6-7 hours of driving. That is a lot of sitting. I also haven’t a clue how I will get my runs in. I’m leaning on, and looking forward to, getting out on the local trails, but I’m also nervous that I don’t know the area and a little girl out in the woods by herself could run into a big bad wolf. I’m not a big pond and lake swimmer. I like clear water and clean beach. Some places we stay have pools, but I’ve typically found RV campgrounds (even the cushiest) have highly chlorinated pools that kill my eyes (too much peeing going on in those pools).

So, this week I’m building my plan to offset the days when we do go out and have some local grub and watch our butts spread across the RV seat. Not sure how this will work, but I’ll report during and after the trip. I’m hoping I can pull off at least a pound if not two over the next two weeks. We’ll see. Wish me luck.

Need My Veggie Hash

I’m not sure why we don’t see more hash recipes out there. I don’t mean the corn beef and potato hash from your childhood breakfast. Or, even that hash always has to have potato in it. I’m talking about the throw the kitchen sink of vegetables into a hash and chow down.

My biggest problem with vegetables growing up was that they were always overcooked to the point of mush and bitterness. The ultimate was when Mom would put a can of asparagus in a dinner serving dish and call that vegetables. In all honesty, the only time I bought canned asparagus was to make kitten food which seems like the only thing canned asparagus is good for. You can’t get any grosser than that.

How I learned to love vegetables (not kale, don’t love, never will), is to cook them only as long as you have to. Keep them a bit crunchy. They keep their color, flavor, and fill you up better. So, my new food obsession is the veggie hash.

Veggie hash is basically any mix of chopped and/or riced vegetables with a chopped up veggie burger or other protein thrown in. Think:

  • Riced cauliflower, riced sweet potato, riced broccoli, corn, chopped tomato and chopped mushrooms  with chopped veggie burger mixed in.
  • Chopped beets, corn, black beans, celery, tomato, avocado and chopped egg (or fried egg on top).
  • Chopped grilled eggplant, chopped olives, chopped zucchini, chopped red onion, chopped tomato, toasted pine nuts and lean ground turkey. Sprinkle with parmesan if you like.

It’s kind of a warm twist on the boring salad. It can be completely vegan, vegetarian or the lighter side of carnivore. The best part is that this kitchen sink approach let’s you use up those leftovers. Got left over grilled veggies? Chop up and throw in. Got left over corn on the cob? Scrape down and throw in. That left over burger? Its hash tonight. And yes, those left over potatoes can be added in to.

Seasonings I tend to do simple salt/pepper/garlic (SPG), soy sauce, pesto, or some random sauce in the fridge. I can even throw in some fresh herbs like cilantro and mint for a little kick.

Anyway, for meals under 300 calories that fill you up, are healthy and tasty, can’t beat a veggie hash.