This is always my biggest fear when I try and jump start the whole "get healthy again" plan. I go from eating whatever I like (in whatever amounts I like!) to suddenly freezing in fear of putting something bad into my mouth. So where is the middle-of-the-road safety zone without going too crazy dieting, or too crazy indulging?
I'm proud to say I've gained some weight-loss momentum now that I am a few weeks into this, and am so grateful for the support from friends, who, consequently, have asked this question I have so many times asked others who've successfully lost…what are you eating??
I like to think I am being much smarter this time around when it comes to food. I have taken a new interest in where our food actually comes from (thanks to a career in the ag world!) and I really took the time to research and plan before I even started cutting back on the calories. I wanted to do the eating thing right this time, and make it a way of life, not a diet. My goal was to make sure I had done enough groundwork that once I was ready to start, there were no surprises, and I had a game plan to get me through any bumps in the road.
I know that many people rely on Lean Cuisines, special shakes, Nutri-System, etc to get their diet going. For me, I knew I couldn't rely on pre-packaged "diet" meals going into this, because at SOME point, you have to re-join the world and eat real food, go to restaurants, etc. If you have no concept of what's going into those pre-made meals, how will you ever know how to compose a meal or choose something from a menu, all while staying on track? No, this type of plan was not for me. I knew it was going to require a little more time in the kitchen, and a good deal more planning prior to grocery store trips. I am happy to say though, more than a month later, I am very happy with the progress and feel good knowing that I am in control and not relying on someone else to figure out what I should be eating. I feel so much HEALTHIER and while I can't say I don't miss indulging in some favorites, I also can't say I feel deprived. The biggest success of this plan so far? I'm never hungry.
Before I took a single step or cut a single calorie, I spent the better part of December researching gyms, reading up on nutrition, and devising a plan that would work for me. Not even really a hard and fast plan, but a list of several pointers, possible workouts, meals, etc that I could go to when I needed to stay on track or shake things up to stay motivated. One piece of my preparation was to read The Biggest Loser cookbooks
cover to cover. I cannot recommend these enough – they are full of helpful nutrition advice as well as motivational success stories and
amazing recipes that are inspired by "normal" things you would be
eating, but seriously lightened up. Earlier, I posted about my "loser sundae" inspired by a recipe from these books. I am also a fan of the oh-so-simple, portable and low calorie snack/small lunch of a baked sweet potato (get a good sized one if this is to count as a meal) and mash up a wedge of light laughing cow cheese into the middle. So simple, but so yum. I had no idea I loved sweet potatoes so much. They fill you up and are high on nutrients, low in cals.
Another favorite I have been eating at breakfast: two frozen flaxseed waffles with a little spray butter, a dollop of whipped cream (sugar-free reddi whip, we don't use cool whip anymore) and a sprinkle of chocolate chips. This satisfies my sweet tooth with the tiny bit of chocolate, and the flaxseed waffles are so much more filling and substantial than the traditional Eggos we used to buy. So much healthier, full of fiber, and tasty – not at all the "cardboard" I was expecting.
A favorite dinner – even for my "selective eater" of a husband – is the parmesan pork chop. This recipe was voted as a favorite healthy meal on Good Morning America a few years ago, and it remains a fave of ours, with shockingly few calories. Combine a couple slices of whole grain bread with a 1/4 cup parmesan, and a teaspoon each of oregano, basil, thyme, garlic powder, parsley, and a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a food processor. Dip your pork chops in flour, (shake excess), then egg beaters, then the bread crumb mix and bake in a greased pyrex dish for 45 mins at 375. Serve with some veggies/potatoes (we love fresh green beans) and you have a delicious and filling dinner for under 400 calories.
This last meal brings me to a big change we are making in our household. After incorporating organic dairy this last year, we have recently made the transition to all-natural meat. This means grass-fed beef (no feedlot meat), free-range chicken, and no hormones, anitibiotics, etc added to anything. Yes, this means spending a bit more in the checkout lane, but after a combination of watching Food, Inc., attending a work conference last fall where I was introduced to Michael Pollon's books (check him out!), and of course listening to Dr. Oz :), our mindset is that we can more than afford to invest a bit more of our budget into food – the most basic of necessities – in the interest of improving our health, now, and down the road. This has been a very interesting change, and it's been actually fun to learn more about the issues, and shopping together actually generates discussion. It's oddly reassuring to see that we're actively assessing what goes into the cart, rather than going down the aisles on auto-pilot, not giving anything a second thought. We have so much more control over our health than we exercise.
I would love to find a local Iowa producer from whom we can purchase our grass-fed beef directly. This is on my list of to-dos for the spring. I never would have expected either of us to take such a sudden and strong interest in all of this – the whole "go natural, organic rules" mantra seems a little hippy-ish for our style haha, but the difference in taste is amazing, the health benefits are proven, and we are always about supporting the local "little guy". Okay, soapbox over for now. 🙂 If you have any healthy recipes to share, please do so! I am always looking for new "okay to eat!" meals to add to my rotation.