First, I have a couple rules when it comes to food and eating. They’re not complicated, but they are my guiding principles. Figure I may as well explain those upfront:
1. Breakfast and lunch can’t be super complicated. I get my breakfast and lunch ready in the morning before I rush out the door for work. I have 2 kids, 2 annoying dogs and am a chicken with my head cut off trying to be sure I get everything done. Making my breakfast and packing my lunch should not be painful or a time suck complicating my life.
2. I never portion vegetables or fruit. Everything else, I do think about portions. But never those. My favorite line on this topic is, “I didn’t get to 204.4 pounds by eating too many grapes.” My husband would be glad to tell you about the significant volume of grapes I am capable of eating like popcorn while watching crappy reality television. I don’t care. That’s my rule. And it mostly applies when I want a snack after dinner. During the day, I try not to get crazy. But that rule is doubly true for veggies and it applies to veggies all day every day. If I’m still hungry at dinner, I will eat 3 cups of cauliflower and not feel even slightly bad about it. Because its veggies and they are good for me and they are not the culprit that got size 18 jeans in my closet.
3. I never make a separate meal for myself different than the meal for the rest of my family. One family. One meal. I do the best I can. If we’re having something less healthy, I have a smaller portion and a bazillion veggies. That’s life. I want to have a normal relationship with food. I want my kids to see a normal relationship with food. Me requiring a separate meal every night for dinner is not normal. Normal is eating together and doing the best I can. Some nights that’s 4 fishsticks, a handful of tater tots and half a plate of green beans. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first exception is when we are eating leftovers. If I’m pulling all the Tupperware out of the fridge and there’s a variety of stuff. I may route the fish stick leftovers to everyone else and I’ll take the grilled chicken leftovers. So we’re eating different stuff. But it’s leftover night and I’m eating leftovers so who cares. The second exception is pizza rolls. But that has nothing to do with calories and everything to do with the fact that I hate them and my kids think they are gifts falling from heaving. When I agree to make them, my kids have been known to cheer and jump up and down. That is not a joke. They’ve really done that. This either means I am an evil wench that doesn’t agree to make them very often or they need to get out of the house more so they can learn what’s really worth cheering for. So I just find something else to heat up for myself. I usually just find some leftovers.
4. My family and I eat out. Typically on Friday night because I’m lazy and want someone else to do the dishes after a long week. But we also like a Sunday morning breakfast out sometimes. And a random trip for FroYo ain’t so bad either. I eat out with my family and I’m not the annoying female that refuses to go places because there’s nothing low cal on the menu. We decide together where we eat. I pick something relatively healthy but that I know I’ll like and will fill me up. I usually go with grilled chicken, a big salad and avoid anything that sounds too creamy. I also try to remember to participate in the meal. So if we go for Mexican, I always have chips and salsa. I also enjoy a Grande Maragarita. My theory is that life is too short to be the annoying female when you go out to dinner. I know I don’t want to eat with her so I don’t want my family to either.
|Sometimes eating out with my family involves lots and lots of french fries. That's life. So is that T-shirt my husband is wearing.|
5. I shoot for somewhere around 1500 calories a day. That’s regardless of whether or not I worked out that day. I like having one consistent thing to aim for. I’m lazy. That’s how I roll. Having said that, I just shoot for it. If I’m a little over or a little under, I don’t care. I just look to be in the ball park. On bad days, I don’t even aim for the ballpark anymore. On bad days, my goal is to just eat healthy stuff instead of unhealthy stuff. So on a bad day, if it will help me not hit the Whataburger drive thru, I’ll suck down 3 heaping handfuls of almonds even though I know it’s probably a bazillion calories. Getting to the end of the day having eaten only healthy stuff is better than getting out of hand with crap so I count that as a success. Because, after all, there will be plenty of really bad days that end with crap. But I like to have a goal I aim for. And I have to be able to consciously adjust the goal when the day takes a turn. And on Friday nights when we eat out, I don't count calories. I make the best choices I can and roll with it.
So those are my guiding principles. Now here’s how they end up looking in action:
During marathon training, I also started trying to eat more protein. A chick at work had me paranoid I wasn’t getting enough. I started having egg whites sometime mid morning. Sometimes with my toast. Sometimes an hour later. I was doing 100 calories worth of egg whites with a slice of 2% American cheese melted on top. Yum. I seriously love cheese. And I especially love that egg whites are so low in calorie you can have a lot without blowing a bazillion calories. Lately I’ve started eating them again but am skipping the cheese. Some people aren’t into egg whites. I feel you. But I like them. I don’t miss the yolks. Yes, the yolk is tasty. But after awhile I don’t even miss them. To me it was like adjusting to skim milk. I like skim milk now and really don’t miss regular milk.
My mid morning snack is typically around 10:30 and it’s just about always a banana. I seriously want to flip the hell out when I discover we are out of bananas. That is not a joke. Do not take my last banana. In an effort to always have bananas, I buy them nearly every time I go to the grocery store and I always get them in varying shades of yellow and green so that I always have some that are the perfect color (I’m a yellow with a few small brown freckles kind of girl).
|I don't need a sign to remind me to eat. This female doesn't forget.|
Then it’s on to lunch. I like to eat somewhere between 12:30 to 1:00. If my mid morning snack isn’t holding up and I’m feeling hungry by 11:30, my stand by snack to see me through is raw carrots. I like to keep some in my lunch bag just in case. If nothing else I just keep eating them right up until 12:30 and then start eating my lunch. If I feel really hungry, I inhale enough that my jaw literally feels tired of chewing. And if I’m a busy little bee working, I may not eat any and look up and it’s lunchtime. Yeah!
I eat roughly the same thing for lunch every day and it’s a frozen burrito . It’s such a daily occurrence that the guys that sit on my floor at work like to announce “Burrito time!” when they see me headed to the microwave. I like to call it “Burrito-thirty” if I’m on the half hour. Back when I first started my health kick, I used to make my own burritos to have for lunch. I used black beans, refried beans, a bazillion tomatoes, cumin, chili powder and onion. I still love those but they require an investment of time to make them every week and a half.
My brother had an Amy’s burrito in front of me one time and it looked good. I tried it and the rest is history. I’ve been eating them every day at work for like a year. On the weekend, I wing it and eat with my family. But 5 days a week I’m captain of the frozen burrito gang. My current favorite is Amy’s Organic Southwestern Burrito with corn masa, refried beans and cheese.
My afternoon snacks vary. Some days I last all the way until my drive home after work when I eat an apple. If I’m hungry before that, I usually have more carrots and fruit, fruit and more fruit. Generally whatever fruit is in season. Sometimes its grapes. Today it was strawberries.
The ride home from work is always an apple. First, because eating an apple while driving is easy. It’s one handed. You don’t really need to look at it. You get to chew a lot while eating it which I always like. And it always does a good job curbing my hunger. The second reason I love an apple on the drive home is that it takes the edge off my hunger so that I’m not Starvin Marvin by the time I get my kids and walk in our kitchen. If I’m starving, I am 3 times more weak and susceptible to ordering a pizza for dinner or snacking like a crazy person while I make dinner. An apple in the car is a 50 calorie investment that saves me from 400 random extra impulse calories while I’m making dinner. I used to think I was spoiling my dinner. Now I think it’s just simple math.
Dinner is whatever my family is having. My husband does most of the cooking but I do cook, too. I’m also master of reheating leftovers. My husband is a carnivore to the depths of his soul so we have some sort of meat, chicken or fish almost every day. For sure we have a red meat once a week but typically twice. We also eat a lot of chicken. There’s a frozen pizza on difficult nights as we’re running late for piano. We also love a good crock pot throw down that you walk in the door and just spoon onto plates. I always eat whatever the meat is that night. And we always have a vegetable and I always try to eat a lot of the vegetable. That’s a conscious decision on my part because I’m not naturally big on veggies.
Hands down my favorite veggies are broccoli and cauliflower baked in the oven with olive oil, butter and garlic on them. I like them a nice dark brown and could eat an entire cookie sheet of them by myself. I also like asparagus and green beans. I’ve been actively been trying out new veggies. During my Whole30 experience we broadened our horizons to include brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. They are now officially in the rotation at our house. Which reminds me to buy more sweet potatoes because my husband makes a hella tasty sweet potato hash.
The two most popular sides in our house besides veggies are rice and any kind of beans. I love both of those and pack both of them away. About the only thing I flat out skip at dinner is macaroni and cheese and the cookies my husband hands out after dinner like tic tacs because to him the meal’s not over without a little something sweet to send you on your way. I usually just start the dishes while the cookies get distributed. It doesn’t hurt that 90% of the time he’s handing out Thin Mints which I hate.
From after dinner to before I go to bed is definitely my danger zone for wanting to shove food in my face. I have several strategies to avoid this. On the most basic level though, I mostly avoid buying stuff I know I’ll want to inhale. And if I do agree to buy it, I typically buy a small size of it. For example, this is the time of year the evil people at Cadbury distribute those addictive little mini eggs that like to scream my name when I am at the grocery store. They are my kryptonite and I can suck a million down. So I only buy the little bags and if the kryptonite is making my knees extra weak I buy two small bags. Saturday, the girl at the checkout told me it was buy 2 get 1 free and I got crazy with it and left with three small bags. I ate them all. I could pretend I shared some with my kids but I won’t bother. I ate all three. That same day. There I said it. Don’t judge me. They are an evil force that cannot be denied.
In the beginning I also avoided buying potato chips. My household did not appreciate the lack of potato chips entering our house and voiced this. So then I’d try to buy kinds I’m not big on. They were happy chips were entering the house so the flavor didn’t seem like a big issue. But recently, I’ve discovered they don’t call my name as much as they used to. So when they went on sale recently I loaded up and have 20 bags in various flavors in my laundry room. Doesn’t bother me. But tomorrow it might. I seem to go through phases. As an example, I gave up Dr. Pepper for like a year and it became such a habit it didn’t feel hard. Lately it’s been hard passing it up. So I’m in a crave Dr. Pepper don't care about chips phase.
My other strategy is to keep snacks I’m willing to let myself eat on hand and plentiful. This means I eat a hell of a lot of fruit. In the summer, we inhale a lot of watermelon. I like it cold and I like it cut into long sort of French fries that are easy to eat. Summer is also peach time and I buy giant bags full of them twice a week to keep us stocked. I discovered that my kids aren’t big on peaches when they have to eat it like an apple but if you cut it up they will be a black hole sucking down peaches. Red grapes are a classic and when I’m in the “eating them like popcorn” mode I buy 3 bags at a time. I wash a whole bag and put them in a big popcorn bowl. That’s partially because my kids are pigs that automatically are hungry for whatever anyone else is eating. But it’s also because I give myself permission to eat as many as I want. See rule #2 above.
But when the fruit isn’t cutting it, I also keep Special K chips and Quaker Cheddar mini rice cakes on hand. My favorite thing about both of them is that even if I get carried away and eat the whole bag/box it’s not the end of the world. Worst case, the whole thing is around 500 calories. So then I don’t have to feel guilty. My other favorite treat before bed is for when I want something that feels more like dessert. I love the sugar free pudding cups by Jello. In particular, I’m partial to the ones with a layer of vanilla in the middle of two chocolate layers. One always leaves me wanting more so I go for two. I don’t even pretend I might only want one. I take two out of the fridge, grab a spoon and plop down to watch some crappy reality television. My husband calls that “Pudding-thirty.” And for the record, I’ve tried eating 3 in a row and it was too much. It started to taste very sugar free and the magic was over three bites into the third cup. Knowing that’s how I feel about 3 makes 2 taste and feel even better. Eating two is still only 140 calories. In my book, that’s not the end of the world for something that feels like a treat and leaves me satisfied. Winning.
And that’s it. I’ve gone through other phases along the way. I was big into green smoothies for like 6 months. I went through a red pepper hummus phase. But for the most part, that’s what I eat. Could I eat better? Hell, yeah. Do I do my best? Some days. And I could definitely eat cleaner. My current projects are to find a new lunch that isn’t a frozen burrito, keep trying new vegetables and resist the siren’s call of the evil Dr. Pepper mistress. I’m a work in progress as always.