Saturday, March 31, 2012

Surviving a Buffet

As a calorie counter, I have developed a great fear of food-unknown. When it comes to the simplest thought of eating out (at places I know won't have calories listed), I basically lock myself inside and shut the blinds in fear. I have become a social-eating shut in.

But sometimes, it can't be avoided.

JD and I have a devotional group with some coworkers. We recently wrapped up the book that we were working through together, and as an end-note, decided we would gather for group communion followed by...a potluck.
That was my first response. Naturally.
To someone who calculates every single little thing that goes into my body, few things are scarier than a buffet-type situation. Especially when it is a buffet full of everyone's favorite comfort foods. However, with the following tips, you can make your seemingly terrifying meal, the lovely social gathering it was intended to be (and it was!)

My Survival Guide to Buffet Eating:
Step 1: Drink lots of water.
Make sure that you're well hydrated before you start filling up your plate. Often times our brains tell us we're hungry, when we're actually just thirsty. Having plenty of water in our system can save us from binging on foods we think we want, but know we shouldn't.

Keep it simple: Green lettuce (NOT iceberg), onion, and light ranch
Step 2: Start with a LARGE salad.
Heavy on the greens, light on the everything else. Because we knew there wasn't going to be salad there, JD and I enjoyed ours before we left home. If you know that salad will be found there, take precaution to leave off the cheese, croutons, and highly caloric dressing. (We mix up our own light ranch (it's WAY better if you mix it yourself), but if you aren't a fan of that, you might be pleasantly surprised by salsa. And it's so low!)

Step 3: Think French.
It is apparently commonplace in France to eat a little bit of many different things. Fill your plate with just a little bit of each thing you want to eat. Being conscious of your target portion sizes before you step up to the buffet line will help you reign it in before you start piling it on.

Step 4: If you don't LOVE it, don't eat it.
We all do this plenty...we grab something we think looks excellent, are quite disappointed with the flavor once we try it, but keep eating it because we don't hate it. However, I say-if you don't love it, it's just not worth it. I know this might sound wasteful, but if you're keeping your portions small, then you won't be wasting that much, and you can always offer it up to a partner or friend who might be enjoying it more than you, anyway!

Do you have any tips for what you do when you're at a potluck or buffet? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SWAP: Soda

I read a lot of health articles these days. I get about 20 emails a day; with that figure, probably 15 of them are subscriptions from websites that I follow (and the other 5 are from Facebook). Because I'm such an organizing freak when it comes to anything BUT my living space, I read these emails ASAP so that I can delete them ASAP. It's kind of nice, really, because if it weren't for that, I would spend 100% of my time on the internet playing Tetris Battle and Words With Friends. It's so true.
In these healthy lifestyle articles, I often read about why I shouldn't do a lot of the things that I still do (most namely: eating foods from cans or boxes), but few things really phase me enough to make me give into their persuasions. Fortunately for me, there is one thing that I just can't ignore: carcinogens. I feel a lot of guilt knowing that I am ingesting something that people believe to be cancer causing, but most of the time they're not so sure, and its the uncertainty that usually keeps me in the game. It isn't until things come with warning labels that I really start to pay attention. (Did you hear that, Surgeon General? Your efforts DO work! Just maybe not as widely as we would hope.)

That cup is empty...I was not ready for this blog;)
You see, I have a deep love for Coke Zero. And I've known for awhile that aspartame may or may not be cancer causing, so I justified myself with that as long as I only had one a day, I would be fine...because once a day isn't so excessive, right? (subjective) But then I read an article* the other day, and I started to pay attention. I immediately made the decision to switch my soda of choice to a clear colored diet. From this, it got me thinking even more...why am I wasting my time with artificial sweeteners, which might be cancer causing (and shouldn't that be enough, Jamie?), when there are natural options out there? So I dove in, purchased some Stevia (best decision ever. More on this later.) and some carbonated water, and set out on a creation of my own.

What I do:
1/2 dropper of Stevia (I use alcohol free, I think it takes a little more with this kind?)
1 tbsp lemon juice
16 oz. carbonated water

At first taste, this concoction seems quite off, but if you let it sit for about 10 minutes...I think you'd be surprised at how similar it is to the likes of Diet 7Up. I've been making these homemade sodas for about a week now, and I don't miss soda at all! But it really is very much about the carbonation for me.

Give it a try and tell me what you think! If you already do this, are there any different flavors you add to the mix? What are your thoughts about this topic, in general?

*This is not the same article I read, but what I skimmed seems close enough...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tip of the Week

I haven't done a tip of the week in awhile. Actually, until just a second ago I hadn't realized that it's been a week since I posted anything. I attribute it to the fact that I'm feeling a little stuck this week. I'm 10 pounds away from my goal, which they say is the hardest to lose, and I've been at this point for almost two weeks. I'm fearing a plateau, but I'm gonna give it a few more days before I hike up my cals to offset my body's rhythm. I'm not even sure I know how to eat above 1450 calories anymore. Having spent the entirety of the last 10 months calculating every single morsel I put into my mouth, dropping lower and lower throughout, the thought of going up is terrifying. But you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

I usually eat my egg whites fried...I'm no good at scrambling them
All that to say: One thing I CAN'T blame for my possible plateau is my love of breakfast. Experts say that by eating breakfast in the morning, you're basically kick-starting your metabolism. What that means is that your body starts to work to process the food you just ate, beginning the process of burning it's own calories. A lot of people do start to feel hungry for lunch earlier when they eat breakfast, but there's no harm in saving room for a small between-breakfast-and-lunch snack! Also, eating breakfast (and a snack, if needed) can help offset gorging yourself from hunger at lunch. AND, studies have shown that people who eat breakfast generally weigh less than those who don't! However, it should be noted that making choices like eating 2 donuts (instead of adding proteins and fibers) will definitely leave you wanting for more. If you must have a donut, make it a small one, and add some eggs and fruit to the side!

For my breakfasts, I try to make sure I eat a good portion of fiber (oatmeal/bran) and protein (egg whites), as well as shooting for a serving of fruit. However, like in the picture shown, sometimes I still allow myself to indulge in some sweet baked goodness;)

123g egg whites, scrambled- 64 kcal
1tbsp Pace Picante (mild)- 5 kcal
1 sm tub plain yogurt- 65 kcal
40g blueberries- 20 kcal
50g mangoes- 32 kcal
2 banana nut muffins- 87 kcal each*
Total bfast calories:  360 kcal!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Easy Lunch Recipes

I've decided to make this a regular blog topic, but am feeling nervous about that decision, as I'm already embarking on the end of my own recipes. Egad! (Translation: give me yours and I'll review them!)

This recipe is newer to me, but already a favorite. I've been really loving chick peas lately, and basically just googled "foods made with chick peas"...and I found this! I modified it by using less oil (the original recipe I found used 2tbsp...I thought that was a bit much), but here it is:

Chick pea salad

80g spinach (or more, if you'd like)- 18 kcal
1 can chick peas- 173
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil- 120 kcal
1.5tbsp lemon juice- 9 kcal
2tsp minced garlic- 10 kcal

total: 330 kcal
this makes a serving for myself and for Mr. Light, usually, which puts it at only 165 kcal! Today I topped it with 5g grated parmesan cheese (20kcal) and paired it with a cup of cheddar soup (at 98 kcal) and a fiber1 bar (140 kcal). Delish!

Please share your easy lunch recipes in the comments, and I'll give them a try!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cravings, Light

When you're living a lower calorie lifestyle, it's obviously hard to find room for some of the foods that you loved most when you were on a not-so-lower-calorie lifestyle. This meal is one of mine and Mr. Light's favorite swaps, and one that I can make room for without even having to make it on a maintenance day!

Sliders on lettuce "buns"...with spicy french fries, of course!
This meal wasn't very photogenic...the two mini patties in the back are already dressed
100g ground beef patty (quarter the patty after cooking)- 215kcal
100g spicy fries (baked)- 167kcal
64g lettuce- 10 kcal
8g ketchup- 9 kcal
8g mustard- 0 kcal
4 slices jalapenos- 0 kcal
10g diced onions- 4 kcal
total calories: 405
 (I used 1/2 tbsp light ranch dressing for fry-dipping adding an additional 16 kcal to mine)

Mr. Light and I buy ground beef from Costco (it is otherwise through-the-roof expensive here) and divvy them up into 100g patties and throw them in the freezer, since we don't eat red meat save for once or twice a week. Doing this makes this meal especially easy, as all you need to do is throw the patties in a pan or on a grill (I miss my George Foreman SO BAD), throw the fries in the oven, chop an onion, wash the lettuce, and're done.

The next time you're craving a burger and fry combo, try substituting this meal instead of heading out to the nearest McDonald's. Not only will you save yourself some money, but you'll be saving about 250 calories* to boot! (Side not: a regular hamburger from Applebee's is 790 calories alone...what?!)And the beauty of eating at home is, if you feel like you still want more food, you can add a side of veggies! One serving of green beans= 30 calories.

Do you have any great swaps for some of your favorite restaurant meals? Share them in the comments, and I'll give them a try!

*Figure based on a Quarter-pounder (sans cheese), and a small order of fries w/ 1 packet of ketchup

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Great Expectations, aka My Soapbox

Women hate their bodies...almost always. I have had countless friends who would incessantly complain about how "fat" they were, when realistically, they were quite thin.
As women, and maybe just people in general, we often times don't see what is really there, but instead what we are most afraid of...what we think we will be judged for...what we think might be photoshopped away if we were ever to appear on the cover of Vogue.
This self-consciousness comes at different levels for different people. Sometimes it's just what is seen in the mirror. Sometimes it's amplified in our minds when we look at a photograph of ourselves. For the bigger variety of us, it's every time we step outside and hear a group of people laughing.
The absolute ridicule that comes with the outrageous expectation of beauty in the media, which trickles quickly into the same-think of society, is exactly the reason even some of the most beautiful women cringe at the sight of their own picture. They know that they just aren't good enough. They just aren't skinny enough. Everyone will hate them because they weigh 5 pounds more than they did last year.

In a day and age where everything must be PC, the issue of weight and body image is so largely overlooked. Sure, it gets talked about, but little is ever done. Why are models and actresses who wear a size 8 "plus sized"? I am currently on the large end of a size 8, and I am only 5 pounds over a normal BMI range. Size 8 pants aren't even sold at specialty plus sized stores, so why would a "plus sized model" be wearing not plus sized pants? Why are we promoting and celebrating the frame of an average "normal sized" model, when it is significantly underweight?
Adversely, it's offensive when people of one culture dress to emulate the harshest stereotypes of other cultures, so why is dressing someone up in a fat suit comedy for the mere sake of comedy?
I was so excited when the show Mike & Molly first came out, because it finally allowed larger people to have starring roles in something; however, it wasn't long before I stopped watching, as I was simply saddened by the constant reference to their size. Why does that need to be such an integral part of the show's premise?
It doesn't.
I was watching another show the other night where one of the supporting characters, who was supposed to be struggling with her weight (but again, probably wore a size 8), was always shown stuffing her face with fried foods and desserts. What most people don't seem to realize is that, for most of us who have/had reached a point of obesity--it didn't happen like that. It was gradual and much more subtle. Even when I was at my largest, my biggest problem was the way I put foods together, not so much that I always felt the need to be eating something, and not so much that I only ate things that skyrocketed in calories. Sure, those types of foods are definitely a leading cause in weight gain, and sure, I obviously ate more than I needed to, but the way people are portrayed in the media with these foods is just plain offensive. It's certainly more complex than that.
People spend so much time complaining about the obesity problem that is facing America right now, but instead of reaching out to help people with obesity as a culture, we're kicking them when they're down. There is nothing funny about a person for simply having weight issues, and it's ridiculous to me that we allow that stereotype. We need to stop laughing at people for struggling, and offer them help instead (which is my official statement of support for Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program...we need to be teaching people how to eat and maintain a healthy body, not just expecting it from them).
Coming from a person who spent a great deal of their life self-soothing with food (and even then, I wasn't double-fisting Twinkies as I sat crying in front of the TV), the worse people feel about themselves, the less likely they are to get up and do something about it. The less someone feels accepted, the more they withdraw. Maybe if we started treating big people with some decency, we can make a much bigger impact when they try to lose weight.

And they usually do.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tip of the Week!

I am the type of person who eats with my eyes as much as, if not more than, I eat with my mouth (and process with my stomach). I'm actually quite convinced that my stomach is broken, as mine doesn't seem to "send signals" to my brain telling me when I'm full. If my pants aren't popping off, my stomach doesn't quite understand that I'm done, no matter what. That was obviously one huge contributing factor to having gotten as large as I had. It's a terrible way to eat!

But lucky for me, this tip is one that saves me everyday. You've heard it before, but I need you to understand how true this really is:

Use smaller dishes. Always.

See how huge that makes my 3 egg white omelet look?!
I have tried and tested this method, and I kid you not- when I serve up true serving-sized portions of food on smaller dishes, those portions fill the plate, and my eyes see that and say, "Hey! There's no room left on this plate! Let's eat like King's!" However, if I serve up the same sized portions on a "traditional" sized plate, my eyes see all the empty space and say, "Where did all the food go? This is supposed to fill me up?!"

So not only is this a good tip for portioning, but I also feel more satisfied after a meal having simply used the smaller plate. I go into the meal feeling like I'm going to be full by the end, and that really makes all the difference. This also helps my sweet-tooth tons. If I use a much smaller bowl, I feel like I got a maximum amount of ice cream, all the while having only eaten one serving-which can be hard to do with ice cream. It's great!

Try it for yourself and tell me your experience!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Easy Lunch Recipe

Those of us who bring our lunches to work often have the same lament: what other options do we have that are quick, easy, low cal, and still delicious? Today I have an answer for you.
This recipe is another brain child of my wonderful husband JD. He just threw it together one day, and boy has it stuck with us!
We call it stir fry, but you can call it something else, if you'd like (since there's no stirring or frying involved).

What we use:
1/2c rice- 121 kcal
60g frozen green beans- 22 kcal
160g frozen normandy veggie mix- 52 kcal
52g frozen shrimp- 43 kcal
1 1/2tbsp teriyaki- 30 kcal
(Total entree calories: 268!)

What you do:
dump everything in a plastic container. shake.

If you put it together at night, set it in the fridge to defrost. If you put it together in the morning, just let it set out. Before eating, warm it in the microwave for about 2 minutes, and it's ready!
Today I have paired mine with a small sweet potato and a fiber1 bar.
Total meal calories: 480 (and fiber to boot!)

Do you have a recipe that's quick, low cal, and delicious? Share it in the comments below and I'll give it a try! (Mind that my ingredient options are limited for the next few months).