Tag Archives: monday meals

Food Drudgery Blues

My diet has been so crappy these last two months! But it’s under construction and should be back on track. Sigh.

I was great about my paleo-ish, lower-carb, veggie-heavy diet for 5 months. Then, my health went belly-up for four weeks, and then, I underwent a family crisis, and everything went to hell. But soft, I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It is a light powered by…carrots. Carrots, forever. Oh…great.

I’m getting tired of my usual lunch rotation. I put together four days’ worth of lunches on Sunday night, grumbling to myself the whole way about the soft cheese wedges I’d been avoiding eating for so long. But I know I’ve got to knuckle down and eat these foods again, or reasonable analogs, if I want to get back on track with my weight loss and not go back up the yo-yo string to where I was before.

My brain says no more snap peas or strawberries. Well, who cares what my brain wants! It got me into this situation in the first place; it clearly doesn’t know what it’s doing! Except the part that is telling me to eat snap peas and strawberries. Unfair, you say? We practice discrimination ’round these parts against unfettered food cravings. We are all about the informed decision-making. Even if sometimes we let the cravings in through the side door and try not to tell the sheriff what’s going on.

Avoiding food boredom, or what’s new on my plate over the last few weeks:

  • Full-fat cottage cheese, 1/2 to 1 cup, with 1 teaspoon Smuckers All Fruit with Fiber raspberry jam.
  • Apples. APPLES APPLES APPLES. APPLES. It is time.
  • Hummus.
  • A wine called gewürztraminer. I can’t pronounce it, I can only drink it. I’m not a big fan of alcohol in general, but this hits the spot.
  • Canned artichokes hearts, mushrooms, and green beans, straight from the can.

The other day, I realized that I was craving salty foods. I eat a lot of minimally processed foods and low sodium foods when I have a choice, so I wondered if I was skewing my salt intake way too low. After doing some reading, I learned that I need to increase my water intake, as that’s a sign of dehydration and not necessarily a sign of some kind of mineral deficiency, like my brain automatically assumed. Why look in the most obvious place first! Let’s look for some deeper, awful cause instead of “DRINK WATER.” So, drink your damn water.

I’ve started also adding fiber gummy supplements back to my diet. Yep. I am officially old, even though the gumminess makes me feel like I’m taking something marketed to kids.

I dread the thought of firing up my apps for either Livestrong or Slimkicker and counting calories again, though I will probably start using the SK app more often to keep track of fitness, now that that’s once more on my mind. Counting calories gets very old very quickly. But if that’s what I need to do, then I’ll get it done. And hey, according to one of those apps, gewürztraminer only has about 120 calories for a 5-ounce serving and low carbs! I can get behind that!

I don’t always have to enjoy my food or my meals. It would be nice. I’m just not in the mindset for it now. But something will change, or I’ll adopt a new favorite food, or I’ll just get over it, and I’ll be happy again.

Did I mention…apples??????? BECAUSE…

Apples

APPLES.

Links: Why So Cereal

Sorry I’ve been AFK. I’ve dealt with health issues and a family crisis for the past few weeks, and I’m just now feeling like a productive member of society once more. Have some links and a look at the foods I’ve been eating lately.

  • I stole this link from a friend, and I want to post it everywhere, ever: The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater. It is so easy to make yourself crazy with the self-imposed eating habits, keeping up with spurious blog claims, reading forums written by the self-righteous and condescending. Everybody, you have my permission to chill the eff out about your food and laugh at yourself.
  • Funny recipe/life blog PaleOMG is always worth reading. Sometimes I just look at the pictures, sigh about how boring my life is in comparison, and then go on to the recipes.
A 4-photo spread of food.

What I’ve been eating. Top left: grilled chicken, grilled bison burger with bleu cheese, sauteed asparagus, and pasta salad. Top right: My grocery haul, including all manner of seasonal fruit, squash, fresh veggies, and wine. Bottom left: dinner from last night was carrots, raw sliced mushrooms, and a cranberry trail mix. Bottom right: lunch from last week of raw carrots, baked chicken in rosemary and butter, and a diced Bartlett pear.

  • Speaking of recipes, Rantings of an Amateur Chef regularly makes stuff that I would love to have on my plate. Step-by-step recipe photos, a wide ranges of food topics, daily posts, and plenty of variety make this a must-read for those whose palates would benefit from experiencing something new.
  • And then, tooting my own horn as one of the team of moderators on Reddit’s 90 Days Goal community, here’s my Saturday post about seasonal food. I’ll be posting the daily posts on Saturdays. I think food is such a widely varied subject that it deserves all the talking about it can get, and I’ll be contributing to that conversation between mods and community members.

Choose Your Battles, Your Comforts

I’ve had a terrible month. We all have months that gob-smack us in the ear and laugh at us as we clutch our heads, wondering why no one stopped it and why no one is doing anything to make you feel better. We are all toddlers wanting comfort, every one of us. It’s ok.

People take comfort in many ways and work through their physical or emotional issues differently. Some take comfort in food. Depending on the kind of food, the health of the individual, that person’s habits, and how they work through whatever they’re going through, using food as a cushion can be a bad idea.

I’ve tried to insulate myself from this by making better choices at the grocery and restaurants, and by reminding myself of how hard I worked to achieve my progress. I also tell family and good friends around me about my eating lifestyle so that they can act as dietary support system, even if I’m just using guilt from their entirely imagined disapproval to make myself accountable.

Sometimes, that’s worked out great: picking up bags of produce instead of chips, ordering grilled fish and side dishes of veggies, not touching the rice that came with my order. Maybe I’ll just scavenge the contents of the pantry for dinner, but if it’s a healthful fruit/seed trail mix and low sodium green beans cold from the can, or a half pound of cherries and a cup of coffee, that’s ok; they’re within my dietary guidelines, and I’m getting calories. Weird calories, but whatever.

Sometimes, I made poor choices: taking home a pint of low sugar ice cream and having it for a meal, opting for a cheeseburger on the bun and fries instead of the grilled chicken salad, eating bread and dessert and all of the cookies on a hard day. Especially when a kind person brings warm chocolate oatmeal cookies to comfort others.

And other times, my choices have backfired, or timing is bad: finding that the produce is spoiling (there’s a drought affecting the food supply chain in the U.S. this summer) only after I get it home; I find that the airport food place closest to my gate 15 minutes before boarding is only serving carb-y breakfast.

Guilt is a powerful motivator, but it can’t rule my life, and I have to learn to eat with moderation whether I’m happy, sad, stressed, or angry for weeks or months on end. As of this morning, I am still sitting at the target weight that my primary doctor set for me. I’m still mending from last month’s health problem, which my doctors are fairly certain now was torn abdominal scar tissue from my gallbladder surgery with a side effect of IBS, but I’m almost back to normal. And I’m still not as compelled to eat as I once was.

My take on my shopping and eating habits lately is that if I’m going to eat ridiculous meals, I’m going to make the best choices that I can – but I can’t beat myself up too badly if I have some short-term bad habits, as long as I go back to my new good habits that have served me so well. I can and must find other ways of dealing with life’s drama besides food. But I’m not going to hate myself if I’m not perfect. That’s no way to live, and in the end, that will not make me any happier or improve any of the other areas of my life that are imperfect.

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Fresh Fruit to the Rescue

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Problem: do not want to eat anything.

Solution: buy discounted cherries, plums, snack all day on produce.

Not pictured: the pound of cherries I have already eaten from this bag.

No Appetite: Food Is Fuel

I’ve been sick for a week. I got checked out by medical professionals this weekend, who told me they could find nothing wrong and sent me home with some GI tract prescriptions. I’m mending… slowly, but surely.

What helps you mend? Rest, fluids, proper nutrition. So I’ve been drinking lots of water and being very slothful at home. Eating, however, has sounded like a bad idea for a few days because of slight but persistent nauseousness. So many of my meals this last week have left me nauseated and miserable. Because of that, I’ve been eating as little as possible. Then I wonder why I barely have the energy to make it to the elevator from my car, much less why I had to stop at 10 push-ups during my morning at-home physical therapy.

This morning, determined to put nutrients back into my body, I spent a lot of time in the grocery looking at my options for ready-to-eat foods that would be fairly gentle on my stomach. I figured I’d get hungry if I looked around at enough things, but that didn’t really work; I came up empty, save some grilled chicken from the deli. I read the ingredients for a wide cross-section of chilled smoothies in a bottle, but kept coming across ingredients that don’t always agree with me or aren’t on my diet: bananas, soy, wheat.

At lunchtime, I had to force myself to get all the way through a grilled chicken fillet. Normally, grilled chicken sounds so fabulous, smells so good, and tastes so wonderful that the fillet would be gone moments after it hit my plate. But not even the smell of foods I know I enjoy prods the hunger centers of my brain right now. My empty stomach growled at me a few times over the weekend, so I’ve begrudgingly given it some macadamia nuts, fruit, and a few veggies, and some eggs the other evening.

There’s hunger, and then, there’s want; I’m used to merely wanting food based on aesthetics and the lovely idea of eating, and only rarely being truly hungry, motivated by the growling to give my stomach something to digest.

You have to eat, lest you regret it. When you’re low on energy while fighting off some kind of ailment, you wind up feeling like a wet sock run over by a series of semi-trucks. I’ve got some meds that help me keep my food down, and I’ve been drinking ginger ale and ginger tea as needed to lessen the nauseousness. Armed with these supplies, I’m bravely facing the task of performing a function necessary to my continued existence.

A woman holds a small cup of diet ginger ale

Sickly, yet classy: store-brand diet ginger ale, lukewarm, no ice.

While it’s nice to not be tempted by any of the not-so-healthy food I see – I wandered through the baked goods of the grocery en route to the deli without so much as a yearning look at cookies and cakes – it sucks to not be tempted by anything nutritious. We’ve all heard the mantra that food is fuel, mostly aimed at people who are, like me, overweight and have had unhealthy relationships with food in the past. But it applies to anyone who isn’t getting proper nutrition for whatever reason. You need enough calories to function and enough nutrients to give your cells what they need for performance, and especially if you’re sick, it’s important to keep your energy up and give your immune system as much of a fuel advantage as you can.

I forced myself to eat breakfast this morning. I made it through my chicken at lunch. I had a snack a half hour ago. Lunch is already giving me back some of my sparkle. Tonight, I’ll have some eggs for dinner, throw in a couple of veggies on the side, and maybe even eat some fruit. I expect that I’ll feel so much better tomorrow morning once I have my energy back. I have faith in medicine to put me to rights, but I have to take care of the basics to ensure that that happens.

Options Everywhere

On my way to work last week, I stopped at the grocery to pick up last-minute essentials, like diet soda (cringe, I know) and a snacky food. Instead of pastries to share, I brought a bag of apples, which I knew I’d fruitlessly offer to others.  For some reason, people are reluctant to take apples from a woman named Eve.

I also picked up a bag of macadamia nuts, which I measure out before I eat. They are delicious, but they’re also a bit fatty and calorie-dense. You have to be careful with your fat when you don’t have a gallbladder to help you digest it. So I weigh out an ounce with the little scale I picked up at Target.

A food scale measuring one ounce of macadamia nuts

One ounce of macadamia nuts, about 200 calories. And never feed these to your dogs. Ever.

Even though I have a good lunch, sometimes my breakfast is a little less reliable. I may opt to buy eggs or a protein bar at the grocery or a gas station on the way to work. Sometimes, I have tuna. Sometimes, I am slightly grossed out when eating tuna straight from the can over the trash can in the work kitchen, and I discover a few errant fish scales in the can. Or in my mouth. And so, having a variety of options as safeguards in place to give myself healthy alternatives is a method I’ve adopted to help keep myself on the straight and narrow.

A bag of red apples, a baggie of macadamia nuts, and a cup of water

The stewards of my workday snackiness – hearty snacks, something a little sweet, and something to ensure I’m not just thirsty.

I haven’t counted calories much for the past several months, but overeating isn’t a problem as long as I have measured portions of more calorie-dense foods. And it’s hard to overeat on raw fruit. The water helps me test whether I’m actually hungry. It also cuts down on the amount of diet soda I drink. I’ll be in trouble when they start caffeinating the water cooler water.

In my adventures through the grocery store, I was also thinking about trying new coffee creamers – something without corn syrup solids, something low in sugar. I looked up suggestions for paleo coffee creamer on my phone while I was still in the parking lot, and I kept seeing the suggestion for coconut milk as a substitute for cream. I was skeptical and didn’t even know where I’d be able to find it in the store. I went to comparison shop for coffee creamers, when suddenly…

Several containers of coconut milk in a grocery cooler

Refrigerated coconut milk. I didn’t think I could drink a whole carton by myself before it went bad. Plus, there’s added sugar, which ain’t in my diet.

Oh, hi, coconut milk in the dairy section. Checking out the nutritional information, I wasn’t thrilled with the sugar content (I remember drinking chocolate soy milk like cold water in hot summer, probably also due to the sugar content), but it was nice to know there were options. “Well, I wonder where the canned coconut milk is. Probably too much of a pain to try to track down.” I turned around to check out the clearance shelves right behind me, saw these, and knew I should probably take the hint.

Several discounted cans of coconut milk on a grocery shelf

This coconut milk in a can has fewer additives, no added sugar, and is on sale. I transferred it to a mason jar when I got home.

Ok, FINE, universe, I’ll take home your stupid coconut milk. I tried it out in a cup of coffee with a little half and half, a little Splenda. I was not really impressed. But I’ve been used to drinking super artificially sweet coffee for so long, it will take me a while to get acclimated. I had black coffee with a little Splenda in it the other evening. Amazing how little coffee you can manage to drink when it doesn’t taste like a kind of liquid candy. It’s an ongoing experimentation, trying to find a combo that works for me. But I’m glad I went for it and explored my options there.

Finally, I didn’t bring my lunch last Friday and ventured all the way across the street from my office to get fast food for myself and a friend. I knew the restaurant had salads, but I’d always bought the greasy pizzas or greasy sandwiches. This time, I got a salad, and man, it was fantastic. I never knew.

A hearty salad from a fast food restaurant

A fantastic salad that’s mostly on my diet. Lettuce, spinach, avocado, tomato, feta cheese, ham, turkey, bacon, and black beans.

My meal was, altogether, about $8 with a drink. Amazing how a restaurant you’ve visited for years and dismissed for many years longer can still surprise you with gems like these.

It can be tricky to eat in a way that best suits your healthier diet, but if you look hard enough, take time to consider your needs, do some research, and trust to blind luck from time to time, you can be versatile, make most any situation work for you, and enjoy your lifestyle rather than endure your diet.

We Are Not So Different: Paleo-Ish and Vegetarian

So, stop me if you’ve heard this one: Paleo Eve and Vegetarian Eve go to a bar, and the bartender says, “What kind of drinks for you, ladies?” Paleo Eve says, “How about a vodka tonic?” And then, Paleo Eve’s friends gather around it and argue that no, potatoes are too starchy, and anyone trying to lose weight should stay away from vodka. Omg! Vegetarian Eve orders an O’Douls, and Paleo Eve says, “Ugh, that’s disgusting, how many carbs are in that thing?” Vegetarian Eve screeches, “Technically, there’s no meat in this! Get off my case! Gawd!!!”

I was a vegetarian for 8 years of adulthood and have been eating lower carb, paleolithic-ish for only the past 4 months. In all the reading done about the paleolithic diet and lower carb eating, I’ve come to realize that if you’re doing the vegetarian diet correctly, it resembles paleo a great deal, with the main difference of avoiding meat and substituting other protein-heavy foods like soy, peanuts, and a variety of beans, nuts, and legumes.

Technically, I knew that vegetarians could eat raw vegetables and seeds, too, but I was much less willing to eat fresh produce than I am now, and more willing to consume processed foods that often packed less nutritional punch and were ultimately worse for me. Oh, how I regret the Bartlett pears that have gone bad in my crisper drawer.

Poor Choices
I touched upon observing the letter but not the spirit of the vegetarian lifestyle in a recent post about my poorly executed erstwhile vegetarianism. I relied on a lot of soy burgers and fake meat products, anything processed that I could make into a sandwich or throw into stir-fry. Spaghetti practically ran through my veins. (Ok, that was a weird mental image.)

I still ate dairy and eggs, and many processed vegetarian foods are made with dairy and egg ingredients, so it was easier for me to get protein and fat than it would have been if I’d gone fully vegan and eaten more like the way I do now.

In the past, I saw meat, and meat substitutes, as the main part of the meal, and therefore the most essential part of the meal. A dinner built around something other than that kind of main dish was only a snack, or a sign of poverty of imagination (or literal poverty – I mean, who eats just rice and veggies for dinner?). This led me to choose the veggie burger and fries instead of a variety of mixed steamed veggies with a baked potato and salad if I was having dinner at the pub.

While I ate my share of unconventionally structured meals, sometimes that was just due to my misadventures in cooking rather than creativity or fluency in my chosen nutritional path. This thought pattern for every meal of “meat/facsimile and two veg” wasn’t intentional, but it’s something ingrained in a lot of people in the U.S., and it led me to make a lot of poor food choices.

Judgement of That Which Is Deemed Different
I wonder now how much of substituting fake meats but keeping the meal structure otherwise the same was also to downplay the “weirdness” of being vegetarian in a social setting. I had only a handful of friends who were vegetarian or ate with special dietary restrictions, with most of the people in my life enthusiastic omnivores, and little support structure. Most of the people I interacted with were all right with my food choices, because I didn’t throw them in their faces, but occasionally, I’d get hassled by an acquaintance or family member whose bemusement shone through as negative attention that I just wanted to avoid.

If I’d had a spine, I would have been much prouder of my choices. I was almost apologetic and ashamed sometimes about an aspect of my life that only I and the people who truly care about me had any right to meaningfully care about, my food intake.

I am still careful to explain my current diet couched in as many terms as my mind sees as necessary, but I find that people don’t find the details as compelling as they do the broader strokes, so explanation in depth is usually not necessary anymore. As soon as I say, “My doctor put me on this diet,” understanding clicks in, and it’s on to the next topic of conversation. I understand not everyone else who eats like I do has this luxury, and some people are going to be belligerent jerks about the dietary choices of other people no matter what. The old me would have rolled over and taken that kind of prodding (be it good-natured, thoughtless, or trolling), but the new me isn’t about that. All I have to do these days is pull up pictures of me from four months ago and tell them about shopping for new clothes, breathing more easily, and maybe being able to run again someday, and the only thing I’ve changed about my lifestyle is my diet.

Be proud of your lifestyle choices, especially educated and careful choices you make about food and fitness. Don’t let others with no real interest in your health talk you out of doing what is best for you and your body. And those of us who eat differently, remember to be kind and give the benefit of the doubt before you actively judge others. Better yet, don’t judge others at all, since you don’t know their struggles. Sometime when others are negative, they are defensive, feeling like your actions are a judgment of their own. Others may be embittered about their own lack of success and taking it out on you without realizing it (some realize it, and those people are poisonous and should be minimized in your life). Other times, they may have run into someone who made choices like you make and treated them poorly, and they have negative associations they haven’t been able to divorce from the food lifestyle you lead. Their poor reactions from other people toward your diet may be because they feel provoked by the things you say or the attitude you project. Do you brag about your diet everywhere you go? Are you vocally putting down people who eat differently than you do? Be awesome, lead by example, only tell when asked, and follow Wheaton’s Law.

Branching Out
While I still do go for a main dish surrounded by vegetables for many of my main meals, I am also content to eat weirder meals: almond butter with a sprinkling of seeds and nuts, or a bowl of snap peas with cheese (I still love my dairy, so I try to eat quality cheese in measured, reasonable portions). My lunch is usually a portion of deli meat in a sea of raw vegetables, the veggies taking up at least two-thirds of the mass inside my lunch container. During these months when I’m eating with the idea of weight loss, white potatoes are off the menu, but sweet potatoes can be eaten in moderation.

Any of these meals minus the lunch meat would have been perfectly acceptable vegetarian meals, if only I’d thought to branch out from my usual pasta, rice, or quinoa pilaf topped with sad boiled vegetables and a sugary sauce, breaded faux chicken on toast, pasta-riffic frozen lunches, etc. and try some real, unprocessed foods for a change. If I ever go back to vegetarianism, I believe my lower carb, paleo-ish diet has been a valuable education in the importance of the kind and quality of foods you eat.

A cartoon depicting a cavewoman and a hippie in a bar.

If they can get along over a bowl of carrots, then there may be hope for healthy future dietary endeavors.