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.

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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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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.

 

 

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.

Top Ten Food Leaps of Faith

As a kid I was read Green Eggs and Ham a lot, being a very picky eater. It didn’t help me then. Not to be discouraged, I read the book to my ultra picky eater son. It didn’t help me then either. Even the Life cereal commercial where Mikey likes it, was more funny than educational on trying new foods.

As an adult and putting on a healthy lifestyle, picky eating is definitely not an option. I take a leap of faith almost every day if I want to both get the nutrition I need and not cause me to do into food boredom. For all of my love of and addiction to food, there is still a lot of stuff out there that I crinkle my nose at. Vegetables are high on that list.

So, here is my top 10 leaps of faith that turned into the love of a new food (from easier to hardest):

  1. Zucchini: It isn’t that I didn’t already eat zucchini, but it was always the slimy food. no matter how I cooked it (usually stir-fry or pan-fry) it mushed.  The spiralize craze is what helped me turn yuck attitude into a love attitude.  Zoodles only need a light pan fry so the zucchini keeps its crunch with zero slime. I also found a great recipe for veggie pancakes where zucchini is grated with onions and potatoes for a twist on latkes (Jewish pancakes). I’m now going through 3 big zucchinis a week.
  2. Eggplant: Here is another yuck vegetable that unless my mother-in-law had made it, I was not a fan. I had tried to do a vegetable lasagna in the past and slide the eggplant thin to use as the noodles, but I still wound up with too thick slices that were chewy and strangely textured. The trick was to get a mandolin. I purchased an $8 hand held that let’s me slice the eggplant really thin like real noodles and it gave me an amazing lasagna. The mandolin also helped with zucchini, and I shave off “noodles” to create eggplant and zucchini layers.
  3. Jicama chips: Over the years I tried veggie chips. In truth, unless the veggies are incorporated into a corn chip, I couldn’t handle it. But, I saw these 100 calorie bags of jicama chips and one was cinnamon sugar. So, I brought a bag home to try. I actually liked it. They look like potato chips but are a big chewier. But, once you get over the hurdle that these aren’t going to be crunchy in the same way as a potato chip you start to enjoy them.  I went back and got other flavors like chili lime. Turns out, hubby and daughter like them so I need to get more bags so I can still have a snack too.
  4. Spaghetti Squash: Long ago I had seen recipes where spaghetti squash was a substitute for noodles.  That seemed to be a fad, but recently I am bumping into spaghetti squash again.  I never really liked the taste of squash, but these new recipes looked really good – burrito filled squash, squash carborna, pizza squash, etc. Well, tried it again and now I have a spaghetti squash around all the time.  I keep my recipes low in fat and calories, but still use the calorie intense recipes for ideas.
  5. Portobello mushroom caps: These meaty things always brought me back to both the time I hated mushrooms to the awful vegetarian meals of the 70s restaurants of my youth. At a recent client advisory, there were caprese Portobello mushroom caps drizzled with balsamic glaze. It was eat this, or have the killer meal of meat, potatoes and pasta. I went with a salad and mushroom. Best thing I ever did. Loved it so much I made it for myself when I got home that weekend. SOOOO EASY!
  6. Ancient grains: How pretentious can you get, right? I am still convinced the name is more marketing gimmick than nutritional reality. But, when at Whole Foods, how can you not grab the craziest fad power food ever and proudly show yourself buying it at the checkout? So vanity wins out and it turns out that throwing these grains in soup with tons of veggies is delicious. And, if the hype is to be true, I get more fiber and nutrients.
  7. The fried egg: I never had a problem eating eggs per se, but the runny yoke thing always icked me out. Then one day at a restaurant I got a pulled pork sandwich with a fried egg on top.  I was converted. At issue is that the sandwich was during my truly chubby state and not something I can really eat now. However, this experience has carried over to healthy living and I’ll throw a fried egg on almost anything. It’s starting to be a running joke with my hubby.
  8. Kale sprouts: I’m always throwing on spinach to a sandwich rather than lettuce to add to the nutritional value. It might be small, but it makes me feel better. I recently stumbled upon kale sprouts at the market. I’m not a big kale fan but these sprouts seemed a better option to the big thick woody leaves. Now I take the kale sprout and sprinkle them on sandwiches, add to salad, and even atop seafood and soups for that extra nutritional kick.
  9. Paneer: I can’t stand tofu, so when I go for Indian buffet and see the paneer floating in sauce I have to walk on by. Last week I instead decided to try paneer out after looking it up online.  It’s cheese! Well, it was wonderful and I might even try to make it at home.
  10. Shirataki noodles: Remember when I said I can’t stand tofu? Well, it turns out that in noodle form I found a great pasta substitute.  Shirataki noodles are somewhat like rice noodles but a bit chewier. I don’t miss my pasta when I have these 10-15 calorie noodles. They are wanting on nutritional value, but when I load a ton of veggies and lean protein on top or throw into a soup, its perfect.