Sunday, July 12, 2015

Foods to Try

I have found several “fantastic foods” that have been added to my nutrition.
The key to long term success is adding variety, being willing to try new things and to keep adding to your grocery list.  Here are a few things I have learned to appreciate…for their taste and / or their nutritional benefits.  (And a couple tips I have learned to either follow or avoid.)

1.  Coconut Oil
I thought Coconut Oil was something you purchased in the health & beauty section of the store and put in on your skin or in your hair.  I never in a million years thought it was something you purchased in the grocery aisle and actually cooked with it. 

At my bridal shower (25 years ago), the guests were asked to bring a favorite recipe.  I got an amazing recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I have made again and again through the years.  I had a cookie party in December and posted on Facebook to thank Peggy for giving me the recipe.  She suggested using coconut oil instead of Crisco.  I thought to myself, “That sounds so disgusting.” 

In a conversation with my trainer, Dmitriy, this spring he told me he uses coconut oil and I was like, “That so gross.”  “No, really, try it.”  I bought some and made brownies with it (instead of butter) and was surprised at its consistency. 

Later I was talking to him about how much coffee I consume and he suggested I try coconut oil.  Well, at first it was just nasty.  Black oily coffee.  No thanks.  So I did some research on coconut oil and found out exactly HOW to make coffee with coconut oil – you have to put it in your blender or whip it to combine the coffee with the oil.  The coffee is no longer black AND it tastes pretty good (although I still prefer half-and-half).   You can read about Dmitriy here: "Dmitriy Made It Happen."

Before blending, it is black and oily.  After blending, there is a foam at the top which goes away shortly.  It's surprisingly good.

I made salmon the other day and drizzled some over the top with seasonings on top and it was the best salmon I ever made.  Ever.

(For the record - coconut oil does not taste like coconut.)

There are 101 benefits to coconut oil.  Do some research on it and you will be surprised.

2. Coffee

I LOVE coffee.  In fact, the only things I drink now are water, coffee, tea and an occasional glass of wine.  (I mostly drink tea in the winter to warm me up.)  The caffeine in coffee has some health benefits that I did not realize.  I thought I was just addicted to the caffeine, but black coffee is pretty good for you (in moderation).  I don’t use sugar and am trying to substitute the coconut oil (see above) for the creamer.  It’s a work in progress.  Do some research on the health benefits of coffee and the benefits of drinking coffee before a workout.  Interesting.

3.  Whey Protein
I’m not big into dietary supplements.  I’m lucky if I remember to take a daily vitamin.   But whey protein has become my friend.  It’s so important to have enough protein each day, but it’s hard to eat that much chicken or lean meat.  I used to gag on the protein powder, but now I find if I am low on protein or need something before a workout, I can just mix a scoop of powder with some water and drink it down.  It’s not the tastiest way to consume it, but I’ve gotten used to it and I see the results. 

Here is my recipe for a protein shake:
1 cup fresh / frozen fruit
1/3 – 1/2 cup baby kale or spinach (I just grab a bunch, I don’t measure it)
1 scoop whey protein powder
1 tbsp peanut butter (this is the key!!!!)
a splash of almond milk or water (if I use frozen fruit, I need more than a splash)
Put it in the blender and drink.  It’s sooooo good!

Some people spend a lot of money on juicers.  I have a $20 individual blender that is amazing.  I don’t have the spare cash to spend $200 on a fancy juicer, while I appreciate the health benefits of juicing, for me it’s easier to just throw the fruit and kale into the cup and blend.

It comes with a lid, so sometimes I make one for lunch and bring it with me to work.

4.  Vegetables
This is probably a no-brainer.  Vegetables, really?  To be honest, I used to make dinner and skip vegetables all together.  My family is super picky and I was sick of carrots, corn and peas, so I wouldn’t serve anything.  Maybe a salad, but more than half the time I didn’t even eat it if I made it. 

I now eat vegetables for dinner (and usually lunch) every day, with a healthy portion of lean protein.  In the winter when fresh vegetables are harder to come by, I buy steam-fresh veggies, store them in the freezer, microwave them for 5 minutes and eat the whole bag.  With the nice weather, I eat summer squash like it’s going out of style, steamed broccoli, spinach, plenty of salad, red peppers, and lots of tomatoes. 

To cook my veggies, I either grill them in a foil pouch (maybe with some seasonings) or I steam them on the stove.  I eat the red peppers raw with salad.

5.  Oatmeal
Carbohydrates are – for whatever reason – on the “bad list” for most people’s diet.  I went for about one week on a low carb diet and that did not go well for me.  I felt like my brain was foggy, I could not concentrate, I was super cranky.  Your body needs carbohydrates to function.

That said, the kind of carbohydrates you consume can often make the difference between whether you are hungry in an hour or if you are seeing the results you want.  Look for complex carbohydrates that are full of fiber.  Oatmeal fits the criteria!

I love oatmeal because it satisfies my hunger.  Sometimes when I am low on calories, I will make myself a bowl of oatmeal at night.  It is amazingly good for you!  (Google “nutritional benefits of oatmeal” and you will find over 407,000 results.)

6.  Diet foods:  Fat-free and Sugar-free

I avoid artificial sweeteners all things labeled “fat-free.”  I do not want the poisons in my body.  If your body is working to process the chemicals in these things, it can’t function like it should.  Eating healthy means avoiding diet foods!!! 

7.  What about when you are super busy and pressed for time?

Stop buying light or low calorie frozen meals.  They are full of sodium and have very low nutritional value (low protein, low or no fiber).  In an absolute pinch, I will grab a Wendy’s Asian Chicken Salad any day over a frozen meal!  While a Weight Watchers' Smart Ones Rigatoni with Broccoli & Chicken has only 260 calories, it has 710 mg of sodium, which is almost half the FDA recommended sodium intake for an entire day.

If you work long hours and don’t have time to cook meals, start to think “meal prep” on your days off.  Grocery-shop with that in mind.

Try to use a crock-pot.  The crock-pot cooks while you are working.  Come home and a hot, healthy meal is ready for you!  You can get individual sized ones or larger family ones.  The night before, gather all your ingredients and put them into the crock-pot and refrigerate.  In the morning, put the crockpot on the counter and turn it on.  You do have to be wary of over-cooking things.  I leave a note for my son to turn the crock-pot down when he gets home from school, but some have an automatic timer. Crock-pots are amazing!!! 

I also have a Cuisinart Griddler that is my BEST friend in the kitchen!!!!  It takes 7 minutes (or so) to grill up a chicken breast.  Throw some steam-fresh veggies in the microwave and you have dinner in less than 10 minutes.  If that’s too much, buy your chicken on the weekend, throw it in a Zip-Loc bag with some Italian dressing for an hour or so (I don’t like to marinade it too long or the flavor overpowers the chicken).  Grill it all up and let it cool off.  Put each piece of chicken in a Zip-Loc bag, and freeze.  On your way to work, pull the bag out of the freezer and into the fridge.  When you get home, all you have to do is warm the chicken up.  It’s easy.  You can do this with other things too, but it’s easiest with chicken.

Here’s another recipe for you:
Grilled Chicken Burger 
(recipe thanks to my friend Erica)
One 1-lb. package of ground chicken
Feta cheese (or blue cheese)
2 cups Spinach, steamed, chopped (it will cook down to much less than 2 cups)

Divide the ground chicken (you can try ground turkey, but I prefer the ground chicken) into four equal amounts (about 4 oz. each).
Steam your spinach – I put it in a bowl in the microwave until it’s wilted, drain the water and chop it up
Mix-in ½ ounce of Feta cheese and spinach into each portion of chicken.
Shape into four burgers.

You can either grill this up, and serve, OR you can wrap and freeze to be eaten later.  These can be grilled right from the freezer, although they take much longer to cook.  There should be no pink in a chicken burger.
(When freezing, it helps to place on parchment paper to keep from sticking to your plastic wrap.)
I always eat it with sweet potato fries, lettuce and tomato (no bun). 

8.  Try new things!
Learning to eat right and not feel like you are depriving yourself is about experimenting to find what works, what works better and what does not work.  I have had to push myself to be bold.  There are certain things I just don’t like and some, that at first I did not like, but learned to like.  

This is a journey and I always want to learn and improve.  I don’t want to become bored and slip back to my old habits!

9.  In it for life.

Every day people say to me, “Tracey, what did you do?”  “How are you going to sustain this?”  “What do you do when you want the foods you used to eat?”   This blog is my story.  I tell what I’ve done, and what I’ve learned along the way. 

I will sustain this by being honest with myself, and staying true to what I have learned. If I am craving a hot fudge sundae, I’ll either eat a banana with some chocolate syrup or I’ll eat a small hot fudge sundae.  I can eat one on a special occasion, as long as the whole picture is not hot fudge sundaes, cake, cookies, chips, and French fries. At my nephew’s birthday party, I ate a small piece of cake – I have to learn to live and to not over-do it.  When I was trying to lose weight, I would have declined the cake, but today I allow myself a small portion.  I don’t keep that kind of food in my house, so it’s not a constant temptation to me.  This is not a diet, it’s not a short-term fix.  I am committed to this way of living. 

It’s a cognitive shift in how I live and how I think.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what l ies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14