Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What does a 400 calorie supper look like?

So, can you really get full on just 400 calories for supper?

YES! The trick is to use lots of lean protein and fresh or frozen vegetables, lightly cooked. Don't skimp too much on fats, either, but tilt the balance toward healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado, and fish, as much as possible.
Chicken breast from a deli rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy from Boston Market,
ratatouille is my own recipe (which I will share with you one day soon!)

This is an example of a fairly typical evening meal for me, or a large lunch. I consider mashed potatoes a major simple-carb indulgence, but I manage to fit them in on occasion. I have to deal with the fact that carbs beget carb cravings, though... it's very hard to eat just one serving, and several minutes after I'm finished eating a simple carb like potatoes I'll have a massive craving for something sweet. I deal with that by knowing it's coming, and knowing that it will pass. I tell myself 'this is just a feeling, and it will pass in a few minutes' and then I find something else to consume my attention.

One chicken breast from a grocery store rotisserie chicken (skin not eaten), 1/3 cup mashed potatoes and 1/4 cup gravy (from Boston Market), 1 serving ratatouille (from my own recipe which I'll share soon).

Nutrient info for the meal overall:
Calories 343;  Fat 13g (6g of that is from the olive oil in the ratatouille);  Cholesterol 83mg;  Sodium 768mg;  Carbs 23g;  Fiber 3g;  Protein 30g
Calories come from: 36% protein, 35% fat, and 28% carbs.
Not bad for a meal that includes one of my favorite treats! I could eat this for lunch, since it's under 350 calories. If I had it for dinner, I'd probably add a cup of yogurt or some fruit for dessert.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Do you have a plan?

Pumpkin pie with whipped cream topping.That's right, ima have the whipped cream, too! Image via WikipediaDo you have a plan for your holiday indulgence this Thanksgiving?

Is it a no-holds-barred day off from healthy eating for you?

If I were further along in my weight loss journey, I might take that approach. But this year, my plan is 'measured indulgence.' I don't want to blow a whole week's worth of healthy eating in one day.

Here's my plan - I will probably sleep in and skip breakfast, and have a filling (under 200 calorie) bowl of my gumbo for lunch.

I've thought long and hard about which Thanksgiving treats I don't want to pass up and which ones just aren't worth being fat for. Here's my plan:

All I want!
  • Turkey white meat
  • Veggies (those not drenched in sauces)
  • Water
Small servings cuz YUMMM!
  • Mashed potatos and gravy
  • Dressing (just a dab, can't live without it)
  • Pumpkin pie with whipped cream (small piece, seconds only if it's to die for)
  • Glass of wine (ok maybe two)
Skipping altogether:
  •  Sweet potatoes (love 'em but for all that sugar & butter I'd rather have the pie!)
  • Bread/rolls/corn bread (passing in favor of that dab of dressing!)
  • Cranberry anything. Yuck.
  • Any unexpected morsels not covered above.
My plan to end the pumpkin pie feeding before I founder is to order a cup of coffee with the pie. When I'm done, I'll push the pie plate away, pull the coffee over, lean back & relax.

What's your plan?

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Food: The addiction

BRAINS!!!This is your brain on cheesecake. Image by shaylamyst via Flickr
I was a smoker for over 25 years. I know what it feels like to quit an addiction. And I can tell you that giving up  empty carbs, fats and sweets feels exactly like quitting an addiction.

When I was trying to give up smoking, the voice of addiction in my head never said Oh, just be a smoker forever and stop trying to quit. It was smarter than that. Instead, it offered justifications for each cigarette, one at a time, until I gave in and then was overwhelmed.
  • Well, today's a bad day to try to have restraint because __________ [insert perceived stressor]. I should give myself a break until tomorrow
  • Just one cheat. Then I'll feel better and I'll get back on the wagon.
  • I deserve one, I should really give myself a little treat because I __________________ [insert achievement)
  • A tiny bit won't really hurt that much.
  • Oh, heck, now I've already blown it for today! I'll start up again tomorrow/next week/after the holidays.
Sound familiar?

And, like a child's whining, the voice would just become stronger and more insistent each time I gave in. That's why willpower has to be exercised, like a muscle. Because every time willpower fails, it  gives more hope & strength to the Dark Side.

I don't know what the mechanism of addiction with fattening foods is...  perhaps we're addicted to the neurotransmitters we release when our brain's pleasure centers are stimulated? I just know my craving for a chip or a donut feels exactly the same way my cravings for cigarettes used to feel.

I remember the day I knew I had won the battle against smoking. I was under a lot of stress, in the middle of a day-long argument with my spouse, and the craving for a cigarette was very strong. I had been battling it hard for several hours. I couldn't think about anything else. Finally, I thought "this is ridiculous" and I got in my car to head to the store. But somehow, I was able to tell myself "The only way you're ever going to quit is to really REALLY want a cigarette and still not have one, no matter how bad it feels." Turning the car around to go home was also the turning point in my battle to quit smoking.

I have to treat fattening foods the same way. I'm always going to have to sit across from a friend with a plate full of french fries they don't seem to be eating.  Or have ice cream or breakfast cereal (my Kryptonite) in the house for my kids. And I'm never going to lose weight if I keep giving in.

The Hat in Rancho Cucamonga CaliforniaHow are you going to cope when your dinner companion orders this?
Image via Wikipedia
I think we have to think this way about each and every craving. We have to practice the same restraint we would expect from a recovering alcoholic faced with a drink, or a recovering drug addict offered a drug. We have to be able to want it really REALLY badly, and still ignore all those justifications in our minds and do the right thing. If we think it's ok to 'cheat' once in a while, we will be cheating ourselves all the time.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recipe: Magic Weightloss Gumbo

Colorful, satisfying & delicious.
My version is very mild, increase the jalapeno (or substitute serrano)
and the cayenne if you like it hotter!

This is the closest thing to a magic weight loss potion I have.  Under 200 calories, almost half of them from protein and only 25% from fat. Filling as all get-out. Satifsying blend of colors, textures and flavors.

The most important thing is that I LOVE it so much, I can eat a bowl with a handful of Oyster crackers for lunch and then have two bowls for dinner. Every day until it's gone.

Not all gumbo is weight-loss friendly, of course. Some recipes I've seen have over 500 calories per bowl! The secret here is lots of lean meat (turkey breast and shrimp) and vegetables (okra packs a LOT of fiber, be generous with it!) and less sausage and rice.  

Lauren's Magic Gumbo

  • 1 1/2 pounds Turkey Breast (I buy tenderloins), cubed
  • 4 links Andouille sausage (mine are 190 calories per link)
  • 6 stalks celery
  • 5 large carrots
  • one small onion
  • 1/4 jalapeno pepper (for a mild batch, or to taste)
  • 2/3 cup basmati rice
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups sliced fresh Okra
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled (cut in half if they're large)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
Cube the turkey, slice the sausage links, and saute together in a  nonstick dutch oven with a little cooking spray while you chop the vegetables.

Add onion, celery, carrot and jalapeno to the pot (optional: you could add colored bell peppers here, too). Cook over medium heat until turkey is no longer pink and vegetables are softened. Stir in the rice and saute just a few more minutes.

Add chicken broth, cayenne pepper, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Stir in tomatos, shrimp and okra. Cook just until shrimp are pink.

Per one-cup (two ladle) serving:
185 calories, 26% from fat, 22% carbs, 49% protein.
Total Fat 5.3g; Saturated Fat 1.34g; Cholesterol 65mg; Sodium 628mg; Total Carbohydrate 10.5g; Dietary Fiber 2.23g; Sugars 2.67g; Protein 22.92g

This makes a huge batch of about 13 cups of gumbo, which will feed me for four or five days straight! Of course you can halve the recipe, freeze half, or invite company over if you prefer.
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meal Plans - Supper

Here's an example of a 355 calorie supper, profiled on this site
Supper is my largest meal of the day. Ideally, there will no snacking afterward, so getting filled up is critical. This is also a chance to balance out any excess carbs I've eaten with some extra lean protein.

Whatever calories are left in the day are available for supper. Usually for me this means 400-500 calories. Here are some of my supper plans:

Grilled or roasted meat with lots of veggies and a small amount of potato or a small whole grain bread portion.  This is my go-to formula for most suppers at home. As a rule, the leaner the cut of meat the more I can have.
  • Chicken breast or pork chop grilled on the Foreman with peach salsa. 
  • Leg quarter or breast from a deli rotisserie chicken (no skin). 
  • Pork loin (4 oz serving).
  • Petite sirloin. 
  • Small fillet. 
  • Boiled shrimp.
  • Grilled salmon with mango chutney. 
  • Grilled tuna steak with a little teriyaki sauce. 
  • Strips of chicken breast baked with a light breadcrumb coating (like Shake N Bake)
  • Strips of seasoned chicken breast grilled on skewers (lime & cilantro or garlic & basil or spicy chili mixtures are all good!)
  • Turkey breast (Boston Market has a decent turkey dinner & one serving of mashed potatoes is OK, but NO creamed spinach, YIKES!)
 • Whole wheat spaghetti with meatballs. I limit the spaghetti and eat more meatballs - but make sure you know how many calories are in your meatballs! I buy them in big frozen bags, so it's easy to see portion sizes & calorie counts. Turkey meatballs are better, of course. Add a salad (Pasta takes the place of bread.)

Eating out I look for restaurants that give me a calorie count on their diet options. (Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, Subway, Panera Bread). Grilled meats & veggies are usually safe. Salads are only good if you make them yourself & know what you're doing, or if you're giving a calorie count! Always look at the menu online BEFORE you go out to eat (I rarely eat at chain restaurants that don't give calorie counts on their websites) and go in with a plan.

Sushi (following the rules I described under Lunch plans). I can enjoy a larger portion at supper than at lunch.

This is my delicious magic weight-loss potion, a high-protein gumbo with lots of veggies.
Soups & stews. Some soups & stews will fill me up. I love a hearty gumbo, but I make it heavy on the lean meats (chicken or turkey breast, shrimp) and veggies (carrots, celery, okra), light on the sausage and rice. This gumbo is my favorite meal and my magic weight-loss weapon (click here for my recipe). Using that technique, and sticking with leaner meats, you can make some very satisfying fish stews and even beef stews.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Recipe: Egg on ham with spinach & tarragon

 Imagine how lovely this would be if I'd had some canteloupe chunks,
strawberries and blueberries on hand to plate it up with!
This recipe is inspired by the flavors of Eggs Benedict, but is virtually carb-free. Five ingredients, one skillet, delicious!

  • Cooking spray
  • One egg plus one egg white
  • 6 slices deli-sliced 97% fat-free ham
  • Handful of spinach
  • Pinch tarragon
Heat a 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spritz lightly  with cooking spray.

Place a silicone egg ring in the skillet, taking up roughly 1/3 of the space. Use 1/3 of the skillet for the ham. Rinse the spinach leaves, shake lightly, and drop in the remaining 1/3 of the skillet.

Crack one egg into the egg ring and add the egg white right overtop.

Turn the ham & spinach when they seem ready, then layter them onto a plate, spreading the spinach over the ham. Remove the egg ring and turn the egg. Sprinkle it with pepper and tarragon. (you may not need salt, as the ham will be salty). When the white is thoroughly cooked and the yolk is to your liking, slide the egg onto the ham and spinach.

*of course you'll get more of an eggs Benedict effect if you poach the egg... but I was going for the one-skillet simplicity here!

136 calories. 55% is from protein, 39% from fat, and less than 6% carbs
(19.45 grams protein, 6.05 grams fat, 1.55 grams carbohydrate)
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meal Plans - Lunch

What to have for lunch? Aim for about 300 calories, depending on what the rest of the day looks like. Strive for 25-35% protein, no simple carbs, and healthy fats only.
Vegetable beef barley soupKeep a big pot of homemade soup in the fridge or some cans in the cupboard for easy lunches.  Image via Wikipedia
Here are some ideas:

  • Soups:  homemade is best of course, but canned soups are an easy option to have on hand. Soups are often your best bet if you are eating out. Cream soups or those heavy with potatoes or pasta are not as healthful as broth-based soups. My favorite is gumbo, made with lots of lean chicken breast and shrimp and less rice and sausage. Feast on a big bowl of soup, or have a small bowl (half a can, if you're using canned soup) and half a sandwich or a small salad.
  • Sandwiches: made with low-carb whole wheat bread (I use Healthy Life) and lean deli meats. The 97% fat-free varieties have only 30-50 calories for five slices. Learn to live without cheese and mayo. Learn to love mustard, along with lettuce, tomato, onions, banana peppers, red pepper slices, and all the other delicious vegetables you could add.
  • Meat plus veggie: a smaller version of dinner. My favorite quick & easy solution is 1/4 of a grocery store rotisserie chicken (leg quarter or breast, no skin) plus a side of ratatouille, slaw (homemade with light dressing) or salad (see below). Shrimp (boiled, not fried, with a small amount of cocktail sauce for dipping) is also a great protein choice for lunch
  • Sushi: Sushi rolls have a higher percentage of calories from carbs than we're shooting for, BUT BERLIN - NOVEMBER 23:  Sushi from yellowfin, o...Nigiri plus a simple tuna or salmon roll can be an ideal healthy lunch! Image by Getty Images via @daylifeit can be a low-cal indulgence on occasion.  (if you like nigiri — straight up simple raw pieces of fish  — you're in protein heaven!) Not all sushi rolls are created equal! Simple tuna or salmon rolls have only 120-180 calories in the entire 8 piece roll, and only 1-2 grams of (healthy) fat! But a Spicy Tuna Roll is made with spicy mayo and might contain 300-450 calories and an extra 10 grams of saturated fat. California rolls have cream cheese and are also about 300 calories. Stay away from any roll with the word 'crispy' (fried) or any of the fancy ones drizzled with heavy sauces and you can enjoy a healthy sushi lunch guilt-free!
  • Salad: but be extra careful. More caloric atrocities are committed in the name of sCrab Louie saladWhoever made this salad might as well just have a couple of Big Macs. Image via Wikipediaalad than any other dish, I think. If it's a side salad to be eaten with soup, sandwich or meat, stick with only raw veggie ingredients. If it's a main-dish salad to be eaten alone, add some grilled chicken breast, lean deli ham or turkey, or grilled salmon or tuna. Additions that will quickly make your salad more fattening than a big mac include: croutons, sesame seeds, bacon bits, boiled eggs, cheese, fried meats, tortilla strips, nuts. Instead, use lettuce, spinach, tomato, onion, bell peppers, peas, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, and other raw fruits and vegetables to keep your salads lively and interesting. I don't need to mention that we're only using light dressings here, do I?
  • Slaw: I love to make homemade slaws as an alternative to salads and a change of pace. I use preshredded cabbage mix and add some dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, etc) and some chopped nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds) and toss with just enough light poppyseed or sesame ginger dressing to moisten.  I add a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseed as well, to increase the protein & fiber content. My slaw comes out to 140 calories per generous serving.
Run your favorite lunch options or recipes  through your calorie counter (www.myplate.com and www.sparkpeople.com are free and popular!) and try to tweak them until they fit the model of being around 300 calories, with 25-35% of those from protein and about 25-35% from healthy fats. (the remainder will be from carbs, try to make them complex carbs if you can rather than refined white starchy or sugary carbs)

The 300 calorie target is an estimate. What really matters is your calorie counts over a day or a week or a month or a year. If you're planning a big dinner, you should eat a light lunch and vice versa.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Meal Plans - Breakfast

So, how do the Guidelines break down into actual meals? Let's start with breakfast!

Most breakfasts on this plan are based around an egg plus an egg white, because the egg white is a perfect package of lean, low-calorie protein. I mostly use a variety of recipes based on using one egg plus one egg white, including:
  • One-yolk omelette (often with spinach and/or lean deli ham)
  • No -yolk omelette (two egg whites beaten with 2T skim ricotta)
  • One-yolk fritatta (egg+white beaten with 2 T skim ricotta, poured over spinach or asparagus)
  • Sandwich (one egg + one egg white over easy, lean deli ham, on low-cal whole wheat muffin)
  • Poached egg + white over ham & asparagus (or spinach)
  • One-yolk french toast (Occasional treat, made with low-cal bread & a dab of light syrup)
  • One egg + white cooked as you like, with low-cal whole wheat muffin or toast
  • Egg in a basket (made with egg + yolk and low-cal wheat bread)
All the above choices (except the French Toast) run about 100-150 calories and contain 16-18 grams of protein, 3-8 grams of fat, and 2-6 grams of carbs!
    Non-egg options for when I'm pressed for time or just tired of eating eggs:
    • Protein-rich food bar or protein shake (emergencies only)
    • Yogurt with ground flaxseed
    • Something more from the 'lunch' category, like a ham sandwich
    I try to eat breakfast most days, but if I've slept in until 10:30 or so I'll often just wait an hour and go straight to lunch. As a bit of a night owl, this method works better for me than force-feeding myself a breakfast I don't want.

    I find it simplifies my life to keep just a few ingredients on hand that can be combined in many ways. In this case:
    • Eggs
    • Lean Deli Ham
    • Big bag of washed baby spinach
    • Low-cal whole wheat Eglish Muffins (I like Healthy Life brand)
    • Low-cal whole wheat bread (Healthy Life again)
    • Cooking spray
    • Optional: Light syrup, asparagus, yogurt, protein bars (I like Market Basket from Target), protein shake mix (Muscle Milk Light)
    Note what ISN'T on the list -- cheese or butter. I am crazy about cheese and butter, more than the next guy,  but I've learned that I can eat toast & english muffins without butter, and omelettes without cheese, and I don't really miss them. 

    Watch future posts for recipes!