Life’s Spice

If you read this blog regularly, then it should not surprise you that I sometimes get into ingredient ruts. Oh, she’s on a honey kick. Oh, now it’s Greek yogurt. Just be happy I wasn’t blogging during the great sauce-less stir-fry season of 2008. That was a hyphenated snooze fest. So lately, I’ve been trying to think of new things to make. If I’m hungry for something, instead of just wishing I could go out and then drinking my dissatisfaction down with a smoothie, I’m trying to branch out and expand my culinary wheelhouse. Thus far, there have been successes and …lesser successes. Example: I am determined that I will perfect a black bean burger if I have to make them once a week for a year. (Ok, a year from now I might be over it.)

I’ve found I really like cooking. Just like I love writing, photography and Project Runway, I enjoy cooking because it involves creating something, and in order to have a successful result, you need to be patient and consider different angles. Creating things is the best way I know to combine puzzles and art, two of my favorite things. I have gone through minor cooking phases before, like the previously mentioned stir-fry craze, but the past few months have really been next level. Having this blog doesn’t hurt. Neither does the invention of Pinterest. But the more I learn about nutrition, the more I care about finding the best ways to marry good health and good flavor. Finding, tweaking and creating recipes is an exciting way to be actively involved in my personal health goals. Sure, going to the gym is also a hands-on approach, but that can feel more like a chore sometimes than cooking usually does.

So, last night, I was in the mood for something different. I was also in the mood for a challenge. I don’t mind cooking when it is just fixing some food, but I actually get invested in it as a pastime when I am developing the recipe and building it into something. This time, I thought I would try curry. I have used a packaged curry sauce before and added in ingredients, but this time I wanted to make the sauce as well. Especially because I think it is likely that my ingredients are at least marginally healthier than the ones I would find in the take-home foods section of the grocery store, and definitely healthier than in a restaurant. My favorite curry is Thai red curry, and I especially like it with fruit. So tonight, I went for a red mango curry that I am happy to say was a success! I was very proud of myself. I cooked for my parents this evening and my dad said this was his favorite of the things I’ve made for him so far.

Red Mango Curry

Full disclosure: this recipe is not as diet-friendly as most of the things on this blog. It contains a little bit of sugar (like, actual brown sugar) and quite a bit of fat. Additionally, my giant neighborhood supermarket does not carry unsweetened coconut flakes, unless you want to pick up a whole coconut, get out a hammer and shave the flakes out of the shell yourself. So, I used a sweetened Baker’s coconut. However, everything else I used was a fresh ingredient, and it was certainly healthier than it could have been! I used one can of coconut milk and one can of lite coconut milk because I wanted the curry to be a little thicker. However, I think it would work fine with two cans of lite, which I will try in the future. Still, a fourth of the full recipe is only 375 calories, and it’s very filling. Plus it has quite a few fruits and vegetables.

Curry vegetables, ready and waiting!

Red Mango Curry

Serves 4

Prep time: 5-10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes (approximately)

  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil (or any good oil, really)
  • 1 Mango (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Cup Shallots or Sweet Onion (or both…I ran out of shallots halfway through. oops!)
  • 1/2 Cup Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1/2 Cup Matchstick Carrots
  • 3 Tablespoons Red Curry Paste
  • 1 Can Coconut Milk
  • 1 Can Lite Coconut Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce**
  • 2 Teaspoons Worcester Sauce (I used an organic one to avoid the high fructose corn syrup)
  • 2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced (or Finely Diced) Ginger
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Curry Powder
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 2 Tablespoons Shaved Coconut
  • 5-6 Basil Leaves, Shredded

**Normal Thai curry calls for fish sauce, but since I don’t plan on making this all the time, I didn’t really want to spend the money on it. Luckily the good ole Internet told me that mixing Soy Sauce and Worcester Sauce would have basically the same effect. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, honestly, but they were good additions to this recipe anyway. Still, if you want to get authentic, you can use two tablespoons of fish sauce.

  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Add the Curry Paste. Let it cook, stirring a little bit, until it mixes with the oil enough to become less pasty and more saucy, and becomes fragrant. (Just make sure it doesn’t burn.) This should take around 3 minutes.
  3. When the paste is melted down, add the Coconut Milk. Stirring frequently, let the milk and curry simmer together (still on medium-high) for 5 minutes. Throughout the entire process, use a rubber scraper to keep the coconut milk from sticking to the side of the pan.
  4. Add the soy sauce, Worcester, sugar, cumin, curry powder, garlic and ginger. Mix well, so that everything in the pan is one color. Let simmer, stirring pretty much continuously, another 5 minutes.
  5. Squeeze in most, but not all, of the juice of the lime half. (Set the rest aside.)
  6. Add onions, let cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add mango and vegetables, let cook 4 minutes (or until they reach the softness you prefer), stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the basil, shredded coconut and the rest of the lime juice. Mix well so that coconut is dispersed throughout the curry. Let simmer 3 minutes.

I developed this recipe by looking at a variety of red curry, coconut curry and mango curry recipes of both Thai and Indian origins, and took what I liked from them until I had the recipe that I wanted for myself. One of the recipes I found included avocado in the curry. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, so I served avocado slices on the side. They were a phenomenal compliment!

I served the red mango curry over brown basmati rice and baked salmon. (Bake the salmon at 425˚F with a light coat of olive oil, salt and pepper, if interested.) It would be just as good with chicken, tofu, tempeh or on its own, too. I was just in a salmon kind of mood, and I’ve had it with red curry before and always loved it.

All in all, this recipe is definitely a win. I usually like to have a little more balance, in terms of carbs-fats-proteins, so I am feeling a little guilty about all the coconut, but with fish, brown rice, and veggies, it evens out well enough. Plus, it was delicious, and not terribly difficult. It does require a lot of stirring in the first half, but that’s not so bad. So, now I have a go-to recipe whenever I’m craving Thai food in the future. And I can feel good about myself for finding another fun recipe to make!

-lj

Regroup

It’s probably not super surprising to learn that I have not been feeling very motivated the past few weeks. Summertime is so fun and feels  carefree, and I’m very easily distracted. For a while I was on vacation and then I got back to the inevitable post-vacation blues (and the intense allergy attack that always greets my return to the Midwest). So I was lax in my dietary restrictions. I kept telling myself I wanted to get back to eating clean and avoiding foods that aren’t cleansing, and then I’d say, no, it’s okay, I’ll start tomorrow for sure. I don’t know if I was really bad compared to other people, but last week was certainly my least healthy week in months. This past weekend I was finally feeling like I was tired of not trying so hard, and I’m sure my less than great eating wasn’t helping my sinus situation. However, I had a lot of social obligations this weekend, which made it a really great weekend until Sunday morning came around and all the carbs, saturated fats and alcohol sugars really made themselves known. Honestly, I was worried my motivation was gone forever.

Today I woke up feeling the most congested I thus far. My voice was hoarse and my head was heavy. But, today instead of letting myself drown in comfort food and self-pity over not feeling good, I took some meds and decided to get it together.

First, I cleaned our whole house. I worked on areas that are nearly perpetually cluttered or grimy that we usually overlook. It helped so much. It’s hard for me to feel like keeping my body clean when the place where it spends 80% of the time is dirty. But now, the floors are shiny and the table tops are cleared and I finally feel that energy I’ve been missing the last three weeks or so. I was still so energized after the cleaning was done that I went to the gym, even though I hadn’t planned on it for today.

This new inspiration for clean living also meant eating well at every meal. For breakfast, I didn’t have enough fruit to make juice or a smoothie, so I ate half an avocado that was about to go bad. Maybe not the most conventional breakfast choice but it’s better than pancakes. For lunch I went to the market to pick up some things, and while I was there I grabbed a Greek wrap, which is literally a Greek salad wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. I supplemented it with some hummus for protein. For dinner, I decided to make an effort for the first time in probably a week. Dinner was roasted broccolini with garlic, quinoa and cherries.

Roasted Broccolini with Garlic Quinoa (and some cherries)

The quinoa was a recipe I made up on the spot. I’ve talked about quinoa before, but I’m always trying to find new ways to make it interesting.

Garlic Quinoa

Servings: 3-4

  • 1/2 cup Dry Quinoa
  • 1/2 cup Low Sodium Vegetable Broth (I use Trader Joe’s Organic)
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 2 TBL Onion, diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Garlic quinoa, after the liquid evaporates

Add everything to a small saucepan. Set stove to high heat, bring liquid to a fast boil. Stir. Reduce heat to low-medium/simmer, cover the saucepan, let it simmer until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally (takes 15-20 minutes). I recommend watching it after 15 or 16 minutes because if it cooks too long some of the quinoa will stick to the bottom. I think stirring will also help with that.

The result is a sort of orange-ish color quinoa that is very fragrant (and delicious!). I’ll probably mess around with other spices in the future, maybe red pepper flakes or paprika.

Along with the quinoa, I roasted some broccolini and garlic in 1.5 tablespoons of oil. Set oven at 400, roast for 20 minutes, stirring once in the middle. I tried not to get it too well done because I wanted it to maintain all its nutrients.

I’ve only recently started considering broccolini. I grabbed it at the grocery last week because it looked good, so I decided to do some research. It turns out, there are a lot of rumors about our new friend, broccolini. It is for sure a hybrid. The child of broccoli. But I guess it is the soap opera star of the vegetable world because nobody seems to know for sure who his daddy is. One site I read said he was a mix of broccoli and kale, which excited me because I am always looking to increase my leafy green intake. Another site said it’s broccoli and asparagus. A third site then said it is a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli, which appears to be a different kale-like green leafy vegetable in the cabbage family. I’ve essentially decided it doesn’t really matter because either way, it is crazy healthy, and that’s the goal! My entire life is one big Cold War against iron deficiency, and broccolini is an awesome iron-rich weapon for my stockpile.  But this is off-topic!

So the entire day was a success, which I needed! Today was the kind of day I should be having every day, and as a result I feel the best I’ve felt in a week, if not longer. I realize eating so lightly every day might not be realistic, but hopefully my inspiration is back for good, and I can keep thinking of ways to make clean eating enjoyable, rather than seeming like a burden the way it has of late. So, hopefully this is a real turnaround moment, and this renewed positive attitude sticks around!

-lj

My New Favorite Secret Ingredient

Spoiler: It’s non-fat plain Greek Yogurt!

The main struggle in my reformed lifestyle is a craving for the old indulgences. For a while, the excitement of drastic, quick change overwhelmed the reality that my food just doesn’t taste as good as it used to, when sugar and saturated fat were only vague, back-of-the-mind concerns. Now that those things are at the forefront of my meal planning process, I’ve been trying to find good substitutes, which I’ve talked about before. Spaghetti squash was a success I wrote about a couple of entries ago.

Similar to that one, I’ve been spending a lot of my time trying to find healthy alternatives to former favorites. But, the challenge is that when I say healthy, I actually mean it. I’ve learned that just because something is marketed as healthy doesn’t magically make it so. Fat free or sugar free a lot of times just mean more of something else you’re also not supposed to have, so that they can say it is “free” without actually making it healthier (which also means more expensive, most of the time). I don’t mean to sound jaded, but the more I learn about the food industry the more I know eating clean is the best way to stay healthy. So now the real challenge is making food that tastes as rich as something you can get prepared from a restaurant or the grocery store without all of the bad stuff in it.

My most recent endeavor in this goal was fish tacos. I love fish tacos. Generally speaking they are not unhealthy. But a lot of the time they will be covered in beer batter or mayonnaise or cheese and it sort of wipes out the healthiness. That’s where my newfound love non-fat Greek yogurt plays a part.

A lot of the time, I am weary of non-fat foods because I assume the fat that is supposed to be there is replaced with sugar or artificial sweeteners and chemicals. As a result, I am not too scared of foods with fat in them especially low-fat, but non-fat Greek yogurt is a proud, glorious exception.

I buy Stonyfield Farms’ Oikos line 0% Greek Yogurt (meaning 0% fat). Instead of trying to guess what is so great about Greek yogurt, please enjoy this quote from the Stonyfield Farms’ website: “Real Greek yogurt, like Oikos, gets its incredible creaminess not from added gums, thickeners or milk fat, but from an old-world straining method that removes the whey (liquid) from the yogurt. This straining process also gives Greek yogurt about twice the protein of regular yogurt, and less lactose.” In other words, it is perfect.

Side note: I am a huge fan of Stonyfield Farms’ these days because they are truly revolutionary in the organic movement. Some of the other “big name” so-called organic brands don’t really follow clean living, natural processes. But SF really does get its ingredients from little farms. I mean, maybe the yogurt is still blended up in a factory but at least I know the milk they’re using is healthy. But I am really getting off track!

The point is, Greek yogurt is an amazing substitute for fattier dairy cooking ingredients. It is also very low in calories. A serving size–one cup–has 80 calories, but that is a huge amount of yogurt if you’re using it for cooking. The two things I’ve been using it for the most are smoothies (when a dairy-free concoction’s consistency is just too weird) and salad dressing.

A friend sent me a recipe for a taco salad dressing that called for sour cream and mayo, which I didn’t want to use for obvious health-related reasons. Instead I tried out the Greek yogurt and I really doubt anyone could tell the difference. This particular dressing (which is below) has so many spices any tartness from the yogurt is completely masked.

  • So earlier this week when I was really craving fish tacos, but also really wanted to stay diet-friendly, I immediately thought of ways I could create them myself. I don’t mean to sound too cocky, but they were freaking awesome.

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Slaw

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Pineapple Slaw–please excuse the poor photo quality!

Serves 8

  • 1 Pound Mahi Mahi
  • Marinade (below)
  • 8 Corn Tortillas
  • Pineapple Slaw (below)
  • 1/2 Avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese (Optional)

Mahi Mahi Marinade

  • 3 TBLs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Lime Juice
  • 1 TBL Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • 1 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4-1/2 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Cayenne Pepper to taste
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix EEOV, Vinegar and Lime Juice together in a baking dish (I used 9×13). Add the spices, mix again. Add fish and let marinate at least 45 minutes, covering dish and placing in fridge.

Pineapple Slaw

  • 1/4 Cup 0% Greek Yogurt (plain)
  • 1 TBL Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Cumin
  • 3/4 Tsp Chili Powder
Pineapple Slaw

1 Clove Garlic, Minced

  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
  • Cayenne to taste
  • 1 Cup shredded green cabbage*
  • 1 Cup finely diced pineapple (and the juice)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

* I cheated a little and bought Dole brand “Angel Hair Cole Slaw,” which is essentially a bag of shredded green cabbage.

Mix yogurt, vinegar, garlic and spices together in one bowl. Mix fruit and veggies together in another. Combine, stir until cabbage and everything else is thoroughly covered in dressing. You can add extra onion or pineapple on top, or add chopped cilantro.

After the fish is done marinating, you can prepare it however you prefer, I like grilling, so we put it on the charcoal grill. 12 minutes is plenty.  While the fish is cooking, prepare the slaw and slice the avocado. I also recommend warming the tortillas. Rub one drop (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) of EEOV on each one and bake them in the oven on 300 for 5 minutes. If you want to add cheese to the tacos, I recommend putting it on the tortilla before baking them, so it can melt a little.

When the fish is done, slice it into 2 ounce pieces, or even 16 1 ounce pieces.

Scoop 1 or 2 tablespoons of slaw onto the warm tortilla, top with 2 ounces of fish and 2 slices of avocado. Enjoy!

I was extremely pleased with how these turned out. They also kept very well so I had leftovers for lunch. Two tacos is plenty filling, even though the entire thing is very low cal and low fat (415 cals and 10g fat if you want specifics). Plus, all the ingredients were fresh and clean (well maybe the Dole bag of cabbage was only semi-clean but I am counting it!).

I am glad to find successes like this because as time passes I am finding it harder and harder to maintain that initial motivation. It’s been about three months now, which means I think soon I am going to rejuvenate my efforts with another cleanse. But for now I’ll take victories like falling in love with Greek yogurt and making a comparable, but healthy version of one of my favorite restaurant meals.

Compromising for the win.

Well, after nearly three full weeks of feeling unmotivated and lackadaisical about my healthy living goals, this week I finally have pulled it together.  I was planning to do another cleanse, as a sort of jumpstart to re-amp my routine. But life got in the way, and what I think I have instead is even better. I finally feel like I’ve found common ground. I’m not depriving myself absolutely, but at the same time I am being very cautious. I think this is the best technique because I don’t risk feeling like I can overindulge when a cleanse is over after a certain amount of time. This is a more lasting solution (hopefully!).

Since I laid out my formula several weeks ago, I haven’t changed what I am doing for my diet. I’m still avoiding sugar, gluten, dairy, meat, processed foods and alcohol as much as possible. That’s a long no-no list, and I realize it is crazy to think I can sustain like that for too long. But the difference between two months ago and now is that I am willing to compromise. Last night, a friend was in town unexpectedly and wanted to go to dinner. I was supposed to be cleansing this week, but rather than sit there and stare at the menu, feel sad, and end up cheating more than I intended, I got the healthiest salad on the menu that still sounded appetizing, and I put a piece of salmon on it, because I figured I might as well have the protein while it was around.

I’m compromising in other ways, too. A big cheat for me for the last two months has been through trail mix. Nuts, dried fruit, and something sugary. Not too bad. But the problem was portion control. I’d get a half a pound meaning for it to last half the week, but instead it would last a day and a half. Instead, I’ve been eating larabars. It’s so much easier to monitor portions because it’s a bar, a singular piece of snack. They are mostly made of dates, and then there are a variety of flavors. Currently, I am partial to chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate chip peanut butter. But the thing about them is they contain neither cookie dough nor peanut butter. Just dates, a few chocolate chips and either cashews or peanuts, respectively. I have come to accept that a small handful of chocolate chips will not cause my entire demise, and it’s a lot better than a Snickers. FYI they look like this-

I’ve also found compromises in the other direction. Last week I talked about my guilt over eating my friend’s delicious pasta dinner. It really was so good though, so I got the recipe from her. However, instead of using wheat-based pasta, I used spaghetti squash. Even though it still tastes a little like squash, it is a fantastic substitute for noodles, because after it is cooked it breaks apart into noodle-shaped strands. I wasn’t too confident in this recipe because I didn’t know how the ripe, springy tomato-basil taste would mix with the more autumnal flavors of the spaghetti squash, but I was not disappointed. It was perfect. The original recipe calls for parmesan cheese, but in the spirit of compromise I left it out. I missed it a little bit but not enough to change my opinion on this meal’s success. Plus, the whole thing is crazy easy to make, and will be a lovely dinner when it starts getting really hot out in the summer.

Spaghetti Squash Pomodoro

Spaghetti Squash Pomodoro

Serves 2.

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 2 Cups OR 3/4 Carton Cherry Tomatoes (I used a whole tub but that was too many.)
  • 1 Tbsp Diced Onion
  • 2-3 Garlic Cloves (chopped)
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Basil (you can use less, I just like basil)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven for 375˚F. Grease a baking pan. Poke a few wholes in the squash. Bake the squash in the pan for about an hour. Cut the squash in half “on the equator” and let it cool for a few minutes. Then, scoop out the pulp and seeds. Once they are removed, use a fork to scrape down the sides of the squash. The fork will help get the noodle effect you want from the squash. Place in bowl, mix with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and salt & pepper.

Chop all tomatoes in half. Mix with diced onions, garlic, and 1/3 of the basil. Top with salt (if desired). Then cover in 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and mix.

Finally, add the tomato mixture to the spaghetti. Drizzle with remainder of olive oil. Mix. Top with black pepper and the remainder of the basil. Enjoy!

I really like this recipe, and I like that it is different from what I normally eat. The flavors worked together surprisingly well. And even though the squash takes a while to bake, the prep time is not too extensive. Definitely recommend!

So, hopefully my new upswing will last a while. I expect ruts are a natural part of this process and I can deal with that. But I’m hopeful that if I keep finding nutritious ways to trick myself, like Larabars and spaghetti squash, the downswings will be fewer and farther between.

-lj

A Healthy Social Life

I don’t know what it is about our culture, or at least my own personal life, that so much of our social interaction is based around calorie consumption. But almost every interaction I have with people revolves around eating or drinking (or both). It makes sense. People are busy, they work all day, have other obligations, eating and socializing is a way to multi-task. Plus it gives everyone something to do.

I’m a very social person. As an extravert, I get a little stir-crazy if I spend too much time by myself. At first, I was passing on invitations, laying low and just using avoidance as the best option. But that doesn’t work for me AT ALL because being alone stresses me out and stress eating is one of the reasons I am here in the first place! Thus, I find myself in restaurants searching menus for diet-friendly things to eat quite frequently. I have found thus far it is often a difficult task, but not unmanageable.

There are generally two types of meal companions: those who help you cheat and those you help you stay on course. Generally, I think which kind of helper you are dining with depends on what that person’s goals are for him or herself, and what kind of relationship he or she has with you. For instance, I have friends who don’t pay any particular attention to what they eat, and/or have zero nutritional knowledge, and those people generally say things like, “it’s just cheese, you need to get your protein in from somewhere!” or “you really need to give yourself a break once in a while.” Neither of those statements are necessarily untrue, but cheese is not the healthiest (or most efficient) protein choice and I give myself plenty of breaks, I’m not looking for an extra!

The other friends are great. “The grilled salmon looks like it would be pretty good, and I bet it’s fairly low-calorie.” Those are the helpers I like to go out with. Unfortunately, even with those friends around, there is still that pesky laminated card stock of gluttony staring up at me at any restaurant, teasing me with all the foods I want to eat instead of the pickled beet salad. Usually, though, if I’m with the helper friend, the helper will help talk me down. Or (and admittedly this is not the healthiest tactic) I will feel bad about myself for cheating when the person I’m with is really pulling for me. I don’t want to be a disappointment! Nothing like a little neuroses to keep me in check. (Isn’t that the point of this blog, anyway??)

There is a third kind of friend, and that is one that I struggle with for different reasons. That friend is the one who is also dieting, but is on a much more conventional (less strict) diet plan. For instance, last week, a friend made me dinner. I’ll start by saying it was so delicious! And much more nutritious than if we had gone out for Mexican like we used to. But this friend is trying to lose five, maybe ten pounds, if she even has a goal weight at all. And, her weight loss is basically superfluous because I’m sure she already was in a target BMI category. Although, I will never look down on someone for trying to be healthier, so her brand new interest in physical health is great! But I got to her house, and she was so excited she was making a beautiful, very healthy meal for us. Except the very healthy meal was spaghetti. And certainly if this was me six months ago, it would have been the healthiest thing I ate that week. And, I really loved it! But pasta is supposed to be off limits. So is parmesean cheese. So it’s difficult because this is a diet-friendly meal by all accounts, and it is great to have someone who is also working on changing her lifestyle, but I have to make more extreme changes. And how do you say, “thank you so much for being healthy with me but it’s not healthy enough?”

So how do we deal? I’ve started gathering techniques.

  1. I try to look for the healthiest option on the meal that isn’t just going to make me sad. For instance, I’d rather eat a salad, even if it has say, cheese and boiled egg on it, over some depressed, soggy steamed frozen vegetables (that have been marked up 500% from the bulk grocer). But I still definitely stick to as little dressing as possible! And make sure it has more nutrients than an iceberg wedge, too.
  2. I guess this should have been number one, but try to go to places that actually encourage healthy living. I live in Indianapolis, which has not historically been known for its physical fitness, but there are tons of restaurants that specifically market eating fresh, local and healthy. So, if I can pick one of those places to go, we go there.
  3. The to-go box. The to-go box has a downside, which is that there is another unhealthy meal later. But, eating half the meal on Monday night and half of it a couple of days later at least gives your body a chance to balance that small portion of restaurant food with all the green, clean superfoods you are eating in between.
  4. Plan for the meal. If you know where you are going ahead of time, and you can anticipate how much cheating will be involved, it makes it a lot easier to make up the difference. If you know you are going some place where it’s nearly impossible to eat a meal up to super-diet standards, maybe you should plan on that being a cheat meal for the week. If you think you can find something relatively healthy, maybe just have a smoothie and some mixed greens earlier in the day.
  5. DO SOMETHING ELSE!! I have started suggesting to my friends that we catch up by going for walks. Why not burn calories instead of adding on extra? Or, I don’t know why it isn’t more acceptable to just sit and visit. Growing up, my mom and her old lady relatives used to do this all the time. There didn’t need to be a precursor or a crutch like sharing a meal, we could just share each other’s company instead.

But, since I know five is not particularly realistic, I try really hard to follow advice 1-4. Try. Sometimes I institute four retroactively, and decide while I’m eating that that better be a cheat meal. It’s hard, though. I never want to be that girl that says, “oh no, thanks, I’m on a diet.” That girl is boring and uptight.

Except of course usually that girl isn’t making up for 2 decades (on and off) of eating whatever the hell she wants, and thus that girl doesn’t actually NEED to “diet” for health reasons.

Sadly, this girl does. So I am constantly learning to manage my social life in terms of healthy living.

Oops, this was a long one. xo

-lj

Dieting is Hard

Well, last week was not as successful as the previous ones have been. It wasn’t necessarily unsuccessful, I don’t think I gained weight, specifically, but I certainly didn’t make any progress either. I don’t think I ate more calories than normal, I wasn’t going crazy on my portions or snacking all day, but I also wasn’t as conscious of grains, dairy and sugar as I am supposed to be.

It all started with my bad mood and subsequent pity pizza on Monday. Well, the bad mood really never ended, and neither did the pizza. I still had six pieces left after lunch on Monday, and I felt obligated to eat it. I paid for it, after all. Thus, pizza everyday during the week. The first night, I made a really nice green smoothie for dinner, because I was so unsatisfied with eating pizza during the day. The other days, there was a noticeable decline in my ratio of vegetables to non-veggies. For instance, Friday night I used a curry that came from a jar (granted a locally produced jar but, still it’s not homemade) and even though I paired it with a huge pile of fruit and vegetables, I also paired it with mahi that had been rolled in coconut that I bought from the Fresh Market counter (delicious, but not the point!). I’m not sure what they used to make the coconut stick but I’d wager it wasn’t spinach juice. Is spinach juice even sticky? The point is, my goal was to try hard to avoid processed or complex foods. I want things basic. Vegetables, fruits, the occasional beans and nuts, less occasional fish. Essentially I want to be able to survive in the Hunger Games if I ever end up a teenager in the post-apocalyptic future.

Maybe my goal is too lofty, but I don’t think it is. First of all, it’s been working. People are commenting on my visible weight loss. Second, the fact is, it’s a goal and I want to continue to try to reach it, even if it isn’t exactly possible. Right now I think I have gotten too complacent. The first few weeks were so exciting. I was making big changes and exploring this change in lifestyle was so fun and new. But now the thrill is largely gone, and the lifestyle is less new and more monotonous. Things like taking a half hour to chop fruit for a juice in the morning, where I used to grab a sugar-filled yogurt and granola bar, are less invigorating than they were in the beginning.

Part of the problem is that I was feeling really down in the dumps this week. Without getting into it too much, I’ve been job hunting , which is a terrible process always. But at the same time, maybe that’s not really it. I’m not sure. Am I feeling low because I’m not eating as well, or am I eating worse because I’m feeling low? I’m inclined to think they feed off of each other. (Pun absolutely intended.)

Thus, a solution. I need to find a reason to stop with complacency. I need to re-rev. Maybe just writing this blog entry will do the trick. Maybe trying on some jeans that still don’t fit but fit better than they did two months ago. I have been thinking about doing another 10 day cleanse. I was planning on waiting until I hit the 60 day mark, but maybe I should do it sooner.

Or maybe I can just change my attitude. Part of the reason I’m here in the first place is that I have always used eating as a way to make myself feel better. But, isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing by eating healthy? I’ve felt my most lively and clear-headed in years the last few weeks. Maybe I just need to hold onto that. Maybe the lifestyle change isn’t as complete as I thought it was, because stress-binging on junk food is still my default first response. But a good healthy concoction is always going to make me feel better because it is what my body needs, physically. But also, making it is an accomplishment. Pressing “order now” at nachosandpizza.com is not.

So that’s what I’ll try first. Will power and the possibility of self-satisfaction. Plus, honestly I really do still like juice.

-lj

PS: The smoothie I made Monday night was quite successful. I didn’t have a lot of groceries left, so I just threw whatever into it. Turns out my leftovers go well together!

Also, we still don’t have a blender, but we broke out the food processor. A blender would be better, because it would be smoother, but the FP worked in a pinch.

Green Tea Green Smoothie

Fair warning: This recipe makes a ton of smoothie so either be starving or share it. Or cut the recipe in half, but I hate using less than a whole avocado because they turn so quickly once opened.

Green Tea Green Smoothie

  • 1 Small Avocado
  • 1 handful Kale (maybe 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 handfuls Spinach (maybe 3/4-1 cup)
  • 1 Small Gala Apple
  • 1 Navel Orange
  • Juice from 1 Lemon
  • Juice from 1/2 Lime
  • 1 1/2 inches Ginger
  • 12 Ounces Kombucha Green Tea (with 1 Packet Stevia)

I recommend blending the kale, spinach, ginger and carrots a little on their own first, then adding the fruit and tea after. Make sure the Green Tea has cooled to room temperature. Give it a little longer to blend than you normally would. Of course, if you are using a real blender instead of my basic food processor it might not be as much of an issue. The whole thing tastes pretty good. The tea goes well with the greens and ginger, and the stevia and apple really are great for sweetening it up. The avocado is a perfect substitute for yogurt to make it creamy. I will definitely make this again.