Planning Ahead


Whether its cold weather, an illness, or you are just having a down sort of day, comfort food has a way of making things better. Since I’ve been recovering from the appendix surgery and its been cold, not to mention I lay around all day, I crave comfort food all day. However, as I mentioned, most of my day is spent laying,  so if I gave in to all my cravings, I would probably have to go back to work wearing my pajama’s since that would be the only outfit that fit.

I’ve been trying to find ways to satisfy my comfort food cravings without having the real thing. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Ice Cream - non-fat greek yogurt with agave syrup drizzled on top. Must serve in a fancy glass and eat slowly as if it is luxurious, fatty ice cream.

Pizza - its really the warm cheesy bite mixed with carbs that I’m craving, so I’ve been making lots of little whole wheat pita pizzas

Chocolate Chip Cookies – I’m not sure why this works so well, but whole-wheat waffles spread with Nutella make me feel like I’ve gotten to eat quite a few cookies. Waffles is one of the things that I’ve never really eaten before this surgery, and now I crave them for breakfast and dinner.

Here’s a few other replacement ideas that I mean to act on in the next few days:

Potato Chips – Popcorn sprinkled with Sea Salt

French Fries – Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Creamy Soup – Opt for creamy tomato instead of something like a New England Clam Chowder

Mashed Potatoes – I say go for it, but use low fat milk and something like Brummel’s Yogurt Butter and enjoy a reasonable portion guilt free. Personally, I prefer a sweet potato mashed and naked.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich – whole wheat toast with a low fat Laughing Cow Cheese spread between, and pressed in a George Forman or panini press

And last, but not least, I have found that one of my true comfort foods is Animal Crackers. When I don’t want to eat anything, but know I really need to, my animal crackers have really come through.

Does anyone have any other comfort food replacement ideas?

Yesterday I posted a bit about what I do to eat healthy at the office and I think the desk drawer full of food may have suggested that I eat. ALL. DAY. LONG. I don’t! Although, I typically stick to posting about health topics, recipes, restaurants, etc. I thought I’d do a food diary entry for a day.

Here it goes! Complete with pictures and all.

I start my day with a yogurt parfait. When I start my day with oats, bread, or anything that’s primarily carbs, my blood sugar just goes crazy and I am STARVING about 1.5 hours later no matter how filling the breakfast felt. Yogurt works better for my body.

Feeding #1

  • 1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp agave – sweetener, like honey but lower on the glycemic index
  • 1 tsp cinnamon – also has regulatory effect on blood sugar along with many other benefits
  • 1 tsp cocoa – mostly for the chocolate flavor, but tons of nutritional benefits too
  • 1 tbsp slivered almonds – a little fat keeps you full longer
  • 1 handful of cereal or crushed cracker (mostly for texture, and a small amount of carbs)

yogurt

Not the most beautiful image, but if I don’t get to start my morning with yogurt, I GET CRANKY.

Next up is lunch. If its a late lunch there’s an apple consumed around noon. If lunch is before 1pm then I eat the apple post-lunch.

Feeding #2

  • 3 tbsp hummus
  • 3 tbsp salsa
  • 1/2 cup of small canned tuna
  • 3 crackers
  • 1 1/2 cups veggies (peppers, cucumbers, carrots)

veggies

And the fruit – whatever is seasonal and organic (if I can afford it). During summer its berries, now its apples…

apple

Feeding #3

This is where the desk drawer/fridge comes into play. Yesterday, I had:

  • handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1 wasa cracker with almond butter
  • 1 wasa cracker with laughing cow light slice
  • 4 espresso chocolate beans

Feeding #4

To-go salad from Saladworks – I was circling around lost in a random NJ suburb trying to find a Kinkos and this was the best option by far. Other choices were White Castle, Wendy’s, McDonald’s…

At Saladworks you make your own salad with 5 ingredients. I guess its more of a lunch place because everything looked really sad, in a wilted sort of way. I am a veggie lover and nothing looked appetizing (so much that I got buffalo chicken for flavor, and I’m not a chicken person). I ended up with:

  • Spinach Leaves
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Corn and Black beans
  • Buffalo Chicken
  • No Dressing
  • Whole Wheat Roll (not pictured)

salad

So that’s a typical day! I may do one of these posts every once in a while to show what powers me through my days :)

 

People find it hard to eat healthy at the office. Here’s are some recent survey results released by Women’s Health Magazine:

  • 63% think eating healthily at work is a challenge
  • 35% say their company provides access to candy
  • 28% are satisfied with the healthy snack options at work

I don’t know the specifics of the survey, i.e. sample size, geography, age, etc. Even without seeing the details though, I do know that staying healthy at the office is a challenge because I see it everyday. There’s always baked goods and chocolate, its always someone’s birthday, meetings are catered with unhealthy options, and the cafeteria makes it unclear how much oil or heavy cream are at play. And, of course there is the 3pm slump that makes you head in the direction of the soda and vending machines that are readily available.

So, I am not here to preach, but rather to make recommendations of what I have found to be helpful for staying healthy at the office and avoiding all the tempting unhealthy stuff.

Desk Drawer

What you see here is my desk drawer! Needless to say I have no idea where the vending machine at my work is located. Why would I need it, when I have everything I could possibly want?

Healthy Office Snacks in my Desk Drawer

  • Agave Syrup (sweeter than honey and lower glycemic index)– add to my oatmeal or yogurt
  • Truvia – add to my coffee, I don’t know if this is the best alternative, but Splenda scares me
  • Wasa Rye Crackers (2 crackers 60 calories) – missed lunch? No problem: spread tuna and have hummus in fridge
  • Cocoa Powder – love to mix this in my oatmeal or granola for a dessert feel
  • Chopped Dates – running to meeting, grab a quick handful, 1/3 cup 120 calories, 0g fat
  • Canned Tuna – missed lunch? No problem: spread tuna and have hummus in fridge
  • Veggie Booty – afternoon salty craving, portioned perfectly to 130 calories
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans – sometimes you need chocolate and energy in one
  • Apple – perfect snack, I buy 4 on Monday and eat one a day
  • Pumpkin Butter – spread on Wasa
  • Low Fat Rocky Road Cookies – special treat with a cup of tea on a non-hectic afternoon
  • Mixed Nuts – handful if I’m working out right after work OR sprinkle in yogurt

It must look like a lot of food. I also keep a few things in the fridge – yogurt, hummus, salsa, cut up veggies. But, honest, I don’t sit around and eat all day. I have yogurt in the morning and I add whatever I have on hand. There’s always an apple, and usually one other snack. The key to eating healthy at the office though is being prepared. Sunday I cut up the veggies and on the way to work Monday I get apples, yogurt, and whatever gaps need to be filled.

What are your tips for staying healthy at the office?

Homemade granola is my constant…I add it into my yogurt, grab handfuls, bring it on hikes, and share it with friends. So, whats in my granola? Once I started to go through the ingredients, I began to doubt that what I make is really called granola, yet its not trail mix, maybe its a glorified cereal? However, the definition of granola is: A mixture of grains, dried fruits, nuts, and/or seeds, toasted and eaten as cereal or snack. Its granola after all!

lovely granola redo

The short of it: buy what you like from bulk bins at a natural food store and mix it all up.

granola label

Makes about ten 1 cup servings, ~200 calories per serving.

The long of it: Most grains, seeds, nuts, and dried fruit are packed with nutrients so as long as you get  a variety there’s no wrong way to mix it. Here’s a look at the nutrients I get every single day:

Organic Kamut Puffs (kah-moot)- The puffs are light (duh) and slightly sweet, almost caramel-ly but with no added sugar or salt. kamutThe kamut kernel is several times larger than the more commonly used wheat kernel and is nutritionally superior with 20–40% more protein, higher in lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

Organic Multigrain Cereal – made with a blend of wheat, barley, quinoa, spelt and just lightly sweetened with honey. Contains 5 grams of fiber per serving and most importantly adds a crunch to the mix.natures path cereal

Almonds - high in monounsaturated fats which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. Good dose of magnesium (improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body) and potassium (mineral that is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function)

Cashews – lower in fat that other nuts, promotes good cardiovascular health (see almonds)

Walnuts – Excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (a fat that the body cannot make), which promotes cardiovascular healthy, better cognitive function, and anti-inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and eczema. Wow. mixed nuts

Rolled Oats – remove cholesterol from the digestive system that would otherwise end up in the bloodstream

Dried Cherries – high level of antioxidants, which may prevent cancer, aging, and heart disease

Apricot -Contains antioxidants, particularly good source of Vitamin A and beta-carotene to promote good vision

Dates – Its nature’s candy…need I say more? I will because dates contain oil, calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium. They are a powerhouse all on their own. A date a day for all…

apricotsGinger – Effective digestive aid

Sunflower Seeds – Contains antioxidants, particularly good source of Vitamin E which neutralizes free radicals

Pumpkin Seeds – good source of the minerals including magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus 

So get to your natural food store and make the bins your adult version of a candy store. Its cheaper, healthier, and made for you, by you.

The weekend is here and I am touching base for a few days before traveling, so to Fairway I go. If you live in the NYC area, then you probably know the anomaly of Fairway: quality food for cheap prices. The entire upstairs is ORGANIC!

If you want the details of what I do in order to make a shopping list, check out Meal Planning 101. Here’s the gist:

Step 1: First, I use my handy little chart to figure out what meals I will eat at home over the next few days:

plan2

On Friday I am cooking dinner for a friend, recipe makes 4 portions, one portion for a friend, and 3 for me (Fri-Sun). The shrimp and veggie coconut curry is a winner in my book: the cost per portion is under $5, it takes about 30 minutes to prep and cook, its filling, nutritious, and low in calories.

For breakfast, I need yogurt with berries and homemade granola.

And, for lunch/snack, I’ll pick up items for my favorite hummus and veggie platter and fruit.

Step 2: Shopping list

For the dinner

  • 1 lb uncooked shrimp (not farmed if possible!)
  • 1 medium sized eggplant
  • 1 lb sugar snap peas- 1 large red pepper
  • 1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
  • lime
  • green onion

For the breakfast

  • Organic non-fat greek yogurt  (my fave is Stonyfield Farm Oikos, the 16oz. container gives me 3 portions)
  • Container of berries – whatever is cheapest
  • Dry bin goodies to make homemade granola (seeds, dried fruit, whole grains, nuts…my granola is a nutritious goldmine. I spend ~$10 buying ingredients and this lasts me about a month)

granola and berries revisedFor the lunch/snacks

***this category is combined for me because I eat breakfast and dinner but my other meals are more like snacks every 3 hours

  • hummus (I HEART Sabra Original hummus)
  • organic salsa
  • cucumbers and peppers to dip into hummus and salsa
  • some sort of whole grain organic cracker w/ no preservatives also to dip into hummus and salsa
  • apples
  • apricot, peach, nectarine (whatever is local and cheap)

hummus

***The one thing I always have on hand is organic peanut butter or almond butter.

apples

I spent $50 at Fairway; this is a bit more than usual b/c of the once a month granola ingredient purchase. Plus, the salsa, hummus, veggies, and crackers will feed me at work all week.

How many times have you heard someone say “I travel too much to eat healthy”, “I’m always on the go”, “I don’t get to choose what I eat”?

Try this for on-the-go: I stay in a hotel an average of 120 nights a year. That’s a lot of time spent on the road and navigating through all of the unhealthy choices. If I can do it, so can you. Here are my top do’s and don’ts when away from home.

1. Do Plan ahead. Know where you are going and what is there. This is dependent on how long you will be there and what your work hours are like, I understand that. Personally, I am not a super pleasant person if I can’t get a workout in. I always look-up the hotel gym, if it looks like it was last remodeled in 1989, then I check out the running trails around the hotel or gmap pedometer. This means getting up an hour before everyone else, but I know that I will be more alert and less cranky if I break a sweat. On the upside, its such a great way to see a new area.

2. Do bring snacks. You know what though, this doesn’t have to be a granola or power bar. You could just as easily bring small zip-lock bags with an ounce of nuts, some seeds, and dried fruit. If you don’t even feel like doing that though – many companies now make a ~200 calorie back of high energy nuts/seeds/fruits. I love the one pictured from Trader Joe’s.

trader joies handful

Or if you like the idea of customization for a packet but are short on time check out  You Bar. Its AMAZING, as you pick the ingredients the nutrition label per packet gets filled out. Here’s mine:

nutrition label for you bars

You’ll pay about$2 per pack. I don’t have anything against granola bars or power bars, but I prefer homemade packets. I also carry fruit in computer bag – very easy to take from a hotel in the morning.

The key point – if you don’t bring snacks, when you go out for the inevitable team dinner, you will eat a lot. You will attack the bread, along with an appetizer, a huge portion of a main course, and maybe dessert. Keep your blood sugar in check with your snacks, and then dinner will not be a disaster.

4. Don’t be a follower.  Don’t eat or drink something just because everyone else does. Wine is a passion for me, but in moderation. I reserve my wine drinking for nights with good friends. On a night out with clients, I sip on sparkling water. Similarly, if I treated every time I went to a restaurant as a trip to a restaurant, I would be fat. Instead I tend to look at company dinners as a place to find a meal. I don’t need to eat something unique and amazing. I mean seriously- its some random Tuesday night in a random city…before I read the menu I know I am looking for a lean protein with vegetables. PERIOD. I don’t get distracted by all the additional information. As soon as I hit a word like cream, potato, breaded, I stop reading and move on.

4. Do Be Picky. Again, counter-intuitive from what you always hear. But, shhh, here’s a secret, sometimes when I am traveling, I tell my clients I am a vegetarian.  I’m much closer to a flexitarian, but it helps to get the message across that fried chicken is not what I will be eating for lunch. Seriously, people expect you to conform when you are traveling and most meals are ordered for the group. By explaining specific dietary “constraints” no one gets offended when I am searching for a salad. I mean what would someone say to me, “you have to eat this fried animal?” I’ve used other crazy excuses like “lactose-intolerant, might be allergic to gluten, sorry that’s not kosher!”

I travel more than the average person and I know the airport is a likely place for a me to eat more than I need. I know it can’t be just me or there wouldn’t be a million temptations around – salty, sweet, cold, hot, its all there.

But, I’d rather save my splurges on a good bottle of wine and dinner with friends than on some mindless munching in the terminal. Here are some tips to avoid disaster:

  1. Come hungry BUT prepared– I know that seems counter-intuitive from what you always read. Most people say to eat a healthy meal at home in order to avoid airport food. My advice is to bring a healthy meal to the airport. Or find a place that you know has healthy stuff. Business requires me to fly out of Newark (EWR) frequently and I have a “safe” place at each terminal! Truth is, waiting for a flight leaves me idle, and idle is not something I’m good at, so I tend to grab stuff to mindlessly eat while flipping through a junky magazine. Since I know that’s going to happen, I come hungry BUT prepared that way I’m just eating a normal meal at an abnormal location. Ok, that cuts out 30 minutes of the idle time.
  2. Keep your mouth busy – If you still feel the need to mindlessly snack get some gum or suckers.
  3. An Apple a Day – It’s hard to get healthy food at the airport, but you have to admit that even an airport in the deep south will have apples. When you learn that your flight is delayed an additional hour instead of comforting yourself with ice cream you can munch on that granny smith!
  4. Avoid bags of “healthy food”- Trail Mix is nutritious right? Or that box of Wheat Thins that says “Reduced Fat”? Take a closer look at the portions size and do some math. One of those Trail Mix bags has 3.5 servings of 180 calories, that’s ~630 calories!

Hope that helps! What works for you?

Cooking for one combined with an “on-the-go” lifestyle makes eating healthfully and economically challenging. Here’s the simple approach I take:

Step 1: Take a few days at a time, look at your calendar, and determine what meals you will eat at home

meal count chart

In the chart above, I see that I need:

  • breakfast food
  • 3 portions of a healthful meal (2 dinner and 1 lunch)
  • Something that is easy to assemble to make another lunch and snacks

For the healthful meal, I try to keep it easy…time and ingredient wise. I have tons of recipes bookmarked in my favorites, so I tend to scan through and see what appeals to me. I just took a look and fajitas sound great! For breakfast, I alternate between whole grain bread with almond butter and a yogurt parfait. My favorite snack is hummus, salsa, and veggies, and to make it a lunch I add whole grain flatbread. EASY!

Step 2: Make a shopping list of what to buy (some items you will already have at home)

  • Chicken Breast (or portabella mushrooms to keep it vegetarian)
  • Peppers (red, green, yellow)
  • Vidalia Onion
  • Mexican Spice Pack
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce (use leaves as the shell instead of tortilla wrap)
  • Hummus (I heart SABRA Original Hummus)
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Almond butter
  • Apple
  • Nectarines
  • Whole wheat bread

TOTAL COST: #35.00

Hummus with Veggies (~190), Chicken and Veggie Fajitas with Lettuce Shell (~360)

Hummus with Veggies (~190 cal), Chicken and Veggie Fajitas with Lettuce Shell (~360 cal)

Nutrition Labels are super easy to create on Calorie Count.

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