Monday, October 9, 2017

A Belated Unveiling

First of all, hello and welcome back and apologies for the hiatus but, alas, schoolwork comes first (hi mom). I of course have missed you, dear readers, as I hope you have me. Today's blog post comes to you from my pantry, which comes to me from the TWB pantry. But first, an introductory anecdote:

One of the most important life skills I've learned since coming to college is that not every meal I make needs to contain cheese or some kind of creamy sauce -- which is a good lesson to learn now because typically cheese and heavy cream-based sauces lower the nutritional content of a meal significantly. What I've been doing a lot lately is using a broth or chicken stock or lots of vegetables and spices to give flavor to whatever it is I'm making for dinner. Or sometimes I throw it back to the Lunchable days of elementary school with crackers, tomatoes, avocados, and mozzarella -- 

I'm kidding about the Lunchable days -- just trying to be relatable. Dr. G/mom was not a huge fan of the "combination of fatty meat, cheese and refined white flour, plus synthetic drinks and snacks" that they promoted. But, clearly, the hand-snack thing can be done healthily with fresh ingredients, moderation, and a nice side of out-of-focus squash. 

Warning and advice being given, it's time to dig in to TWB's newest addition to meal replacement options. I would never advocate for a total avoidance of cheese or creamy foods (because they are, irrevocably, my first culinary love), but finally, HMR doesn't either. HMR enthusiasts and healthy eaters alike, I present to you my pantry:

And, atop a stack of what used to be my favorite HMR entree (still all about the OG CPP, of course), is ........ 

an entree with "a creamy alfredo sauce"! Listen, I'm no culinary scientist, I don't know how they did it, but it's finally here: the 220 calorie chicken alfredo. As you can see in the first picture, I only have one left compared to the 5 chicken pasta parm and solitary savory chicken, and that's not because I only got one to try. It's because I've eaten them all. Granted, I haven't grocery shopped in a bit and a one minute prep time is enticing, but I actually just really like them also.

I realize I sound like I'm trying to sell this (and, if I'm a TWB employee I suppose I technically am), but I wouldn't be writing about it if I didn't like it. In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure and total transparency, here's the result of that last savory chicken I had:

If you can't tell from the photo, my savory chicken was a little lacking in the savory chicken department. This is not a formal complaint and luckily I had some of my own chicken to add; this is just to say: the chicken alfredo is good, no hidden agenda (besides wanting all my readers to be happy and healthy!!!!).

It's also a much healthier option to other alfredo-sauced noodles because of however they lowered the calorie count and because of the necessary portion control it involves. I noticed the other day that one of my dining areas at school also recently added something:

And as wildly enticing as this "pasta" looks (it doesn't), I decided to go home and empty my pantry of my last HMR version. And this is where I reveal the true ulterior motive of the post: @mom, I need more Rotini Chicken Alfredo.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What to Eat When You Can't Eat

First piece of advice: don't count on tooth extraction as an effective weight management system. Mainly because you won't be eating the healthiest of foods and will be missing out on the important nutrients that constitute a well-balanced diet. But also because it sucks. It is not fun once the initial heavy sedatives wear off and I can promise that conscientious eating and exercising is a much better, much easier, alternative. Also because I prefer not to look like a sad rodent gearing up for a hard winter. Here's a photo taken of me three days post-surgery:

At least my mom still thought I was cute.

So, a few alternatives to chewing that I relied on while on bedrest. First up, our very own HMR shakes! The excitement! The reasonable pricing! The availability! Dr. G brought home a box for me (along with flowers, she's so sweet) the day of my surgery.

I've written about some variations on the regular shakes in previous blog posts, but a great way to mix it up if you get tired of just chocolate or vanilla is to add sugar free jello pudding powders. I always like adding lime to the vanilla and making a key lime tasting one (sometimes I even throw in an HMR lemon bar for added taste and texture but I had four enormous holes in the back of my mouth).

Another thing you can do with the shake mixes: puddings, pictured here atop the sweatpants I wore for longer than I care to reveal post-surgery.

Not pictured is the unkempt hair and general look of misery on my face -- you're welcome.

And when the sweeter options became too sweet or similar, I switched to smoothies, the best of which are green and contain some veggies to make up for the lack of fresh food that are typically lacking in a liquid diet.

Here's a green smoothie I used to take one of the several horse pills I was prescribed.

So, while it wasn't a great time, I managed to eat relatively healthy, all things considered. And when people ask me how many tubs of ice cream I went through, I can tell them exactly zero. And roughly a box of HMR shake mix but that's a TWB lifestyle for you. 

The first night I decided I could eat regular foods I made my favorite salad for the doc and I the other night, complete with pita chips to retrain my teeth.

I was so excited by the prospect of chewing that I made like 300 servings so we also had it for dinner the next two nights. I'm happy to say that I'm back to school and to using my jaw, so stick around. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More Grocery Tips (Still With Wisdom Teeth)

I come to you this week with another post-grocery pic, some more ingredient tips, and some very exciting Harris Teeter news.

First off, my final grocery cart for the summer:

It's my final one because soon I will be returning home and able to reap the benefits of living full-time  with a bariatrician. And this time, I made sure none of my roommates were home before laying out all the food. I figure I'm already on thin ice after turning our living room into a fort when I was left home alone the other day.

I think I made up for it (maybe) by sharing the Very Exciting Harris Teeter News with them, which I am also going to let you in on, dear readers.

That's right: buy one get one free Stacy's pita chips, shredded mozzarella, and Chicago rolls. And super cheap avocados. As you can see, I also got some physical activity in during my 2 hours in the supermarket as I steered myself up and down the aisles on the back of my shopping cart.

One of the best tips I came up with during my long grocery store trip was to buy unpackaged vegetables. It was like $4 cheaper for me to pick my own kale and bag it than to buy the prepackaged, pre-cut kind and I was able to buy just the amount I needed rather than the absurd and pre-destined to expire enormous size I usually get. I cut all the stalks off when I got home and had a more manageable amount for a third of the price of what I was buying before.

My next tip is something my mom's been telling me forever, to make colorful meals. And not Cheetos orange, more like sweet potatoes and red peppers. Bonus points if you can make it look like your red peppers are throwing up.

Here's what I made on night one of my grocery shopping:

Kale, brown rice, chicken, sweet potatoes, black beans, pita chips, and red onions. In place of dressing I used lime juice and tabasco sauce, which had plenty of flavor and nearly negligible calories.

I only have a few days left of solid meals so I'm trying to make them delicious and healthy. Next week I'm having my wisdom teeth out, so stay tuned for what to eat when you can't chew. Until then, I'll be snacking on my Stacy's and biting into kale stalks.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bloggable Pizza and Fries

As promised, this week's post contains some of the meals I made with the $4/day healthy grocery shopping I did last week. Here's a refresher pic for those of you who can't be bothered to scroll down (I value your time, dear readers, and am already grateful that you choose to spend some of it here):


The veggie noodles tend to have relatively short refrigerator shelf lives so I typically use those soon after buying them. The first meal I made used squash noodles, chicken strips, tomatoes, spinach, and mozzarella. 

There are 15 calories per serving in the squash noodles and 0 carbs. I'm not going to blow smoke and say they're identical in texture and taste to regular noodles, but if you sauté them in some olive oil for like 5 minutes on medium heat, they're at least comparable. And they're a great base for a meal because they go well with a lot and are filling enough to keep you from adding unnecessary carbs and calories in the form of a side baguette or something. 

My top recommendation with the above meal is to use way more spinach than you think you need and way less olive oil. The spinach shrivels up and the olive oil seemingly begets itself and will be gross if, like me, you finish your meal to find the last few pieces of tomato swimming in it. 

Next up is a side I made to eat with a lot of dinners throughout the week. In general, it's definitely harder to cook for one, but I've been combatting that by making large amounts and living on leftovers. I've really gotten into squash and zucchini this summer, to the point where I'm not just eating them because they're healthy but because I actually like them (a sentence that makes me glad my brother doesn't read this blog, as he'd probably cut all ties between us). 

It's super easy to cut up the squash and zuch and toss them in a pan with some salt, pepper, and any other spices you like. My roommates didn't communicate on who would be bringing spices, so we have about 40 different containers in our cabinet. But, you know what they say, variety of spice is the spice of life (I will not apologize).

Next up is a braggy picture of an incredibly healthy meal I ate at a friend's.

These aren't even my ingredients and I didn't do the cooking, but it was just so impressive I felt like I had to include it. This is kale, lettuce, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, black beans, red peppers, and quinoa. Tip from this meal: find some healthy eating friends and get them to make you dinner. 

And finally, the promise of the title and my dinner last night: pizza and fries. 

Well. Zucchini pizza and sweet potato home fries, but still. 

It was really good and I didn't feel all gross after eating it, so what you might give up in pizza crust and salty crunch you more than make up for with good health and a clear conscience. 

Let us know if you try any of these, especially if you improve upon them or have variations to offer.
Until next time. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Eating Healthy on a Budget

It can be done, folks, and I've been working hard this summer to prove it to you. But before I get started, let me say that I know it's superficially less expensive to eat unhealthily. My brother summed that up the other day when he was complaining about the way my mom grocery shops: "I don't get it. Mom goes to the grocery store and spends like 200 bucks and we have nothing here to eat. She just buys, like, ingredients. I need hot pockets." 

Several things to discuss there -- firstly, no, he doesn't need hot pockets. Secondly, we're going to have to work on his concept of grocery shopping before he goes to college in the fall. But third is something that I think resonates with grocery shoppers everywhere, which is this idea that ingredients   aren't prepared meals and so aren't as useful as, say, boxed macaroni and cheese. 

What I've discovered living on my own this summer is that this is a misconception. I've started buying almost exclusively ingredients and combining them randomly and coming up with some really good meals. I'm not a chef and I don't devote hours to creating delicacies, but I've been doing pretty well. The first step is making a list and sticking to it in the grocery store. Here's mine.

And I don't throw this list out after I finish my grocery shopping. These are staples that I try to keep in my kitchen so I take this with me every time. My biggest tip to grocery shopping -- especially if you're shopping for one -- is to find out your favorite fruits and vegetables and keep them around. Add them to as many meals as you can. And, in defense of the "frozen dinners" note -- I get EVOL meals which are delicious and healthy and max out around 400 calories. 

And this is what that grocery list looks like laid out on my living room floor:

(Pro tip: if you're going to arrange your newly purchased food for an aesthetically pleasing picture, make sure you're home alone. My roommate walked in as I was adjusting one of the evol boxes and just slowly backed out of the room). 

And the best part of those groceries: altogether they cost less than $50 and they'll last me around two weeks. That's less than $4 a day. So to the skeptics: it can be done. And while it can be done in an unhealthy way too, this is far less expensive to your body, which raises the value immeasurably. 

I wish I could end with a picture of the look of betrayal on my brother's face when I showed him my grocery photo. He said, "God, you're just like her." And I said, "I sure hope so."

Stay tuned for some ~recipes~ using the above ingredients. (By recipes, I mean photos of me throwing all that stuff in a pot. It's pretty good). Till next time, dear readers.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Beginning Again

I have a theory: it's harder to start something back up than it is to start something for the first time. There are several reasons for this, I think, the primary and most compelling being the fact that we in some way failed the first time. Whatever our goal is, whether it's eating healthy or exercising regularly or writing a blog post about the two, we feel that we've tried it before and it didn't work out and so convince ourselves that it wouldn't be worth trying -- and potentially failing -- again. 

And then, even if you can get past the mental roadblock that is past failure, there's the issue of when to begin. It's really easy to put off something you haven't been doing for a while. You can tell yourself you're going to pick it back up again tonight, tomorrow, next week, the first of the month, but in the end you're not going to pick it back up until you roll out of bed and put your sneakers on.

Metaphorically speaking, of course, but in my case also literal as that's what I had to do this morning.

And, listen, sometimes the internal motivation isn't enough to quell your doubts and procrastination and fears of failure. And that's okay. It's okay to ask for help, to seek encouragement from those around you. Tell them your goals, ask them to support you. Log into the Nike run app and soak up the ever-inspirational -- if a bit aggressive -- slogan.

I'm not here to tell you it's going to be easy. If it was, this blog post would have been published a few months ago. It's incredibly hard, in fact -- especially when the alternative is to just not do whatever it is you need to do. But it's okay to rate your first step as challenging, to say you're breathing hard, to admit to struggling.

And make it easier on yourself in accordingly healthy ways. Go to the gym when it opens, be the first one there and get access to all the equipment and be surrounded by those who are equally motivated (the equally motivated and the morning people. but don't trust the morning people. they're hiding something).

And don't panic if you make a mistake. Don't throw out any progress or sink back into a rut. Maybe rather than creating a strict regimen that you must follow, get into the habit of beginning again every day.

Your mind and body will thank you.
Nice to be back, dear readers. Thanks for sticking around.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Something Berry Important

First things first, my apologies for the pun and for the month without blog posts, but in my defense, I have a lame sense of humor and three weeks of midterms.

Today I'm going to address a topic that no one wants to read about because no one wants to do it: the importance of washing fruits and vegetables. Trust me, it wasn't my idea. You can blame Doctor G for this one, who suggested the topic over a text message and was answered by this adorable beagle puppy I met at the mall.

When I called her later she asked if I saw the blog topic and I asked if she saw the beagle and she said write the blog and I said buy the puppy and you can probably guess who won that one.

I told her it would be hypocritical of me to write about the importance of washing fruit when I am always so reluctant to do it but she said maybe I'd learn something and besides I just bought a bunch of blackberries at Harris Teeter because they were only 99 cents so here we go.

 I'm actually eating the blackberries right now unwashed to see if after my research I feel like washing the other ones. I'm thinking I probably will.

The two biggest reasons to wash your fruit are, it turns out, to prevent ingestion of residual pesticides and to prevent the spread of food-borne illness, specifically Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.

 A LiveStrong article warns that fruits and vegetables "can become contaminated in their various production phases before arriving at your local grocery store. From preparation to storage time, there are opportunities for contaminants, especially bacteria, to live on them." 

The FDA recommends that you "wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating, including produce grown at home or bought from a grocery store or farmers’ market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended." 

That's right -- not only do you have to wash produce you get from grocery stores or farmer's markets, you need to wash your own produce. I, too, am surprised and appalled, but Modern Farmer says that "unless you’re confident in your soil quality and you’re using drinking water to irrigate your garden, it’s still a good idea to wash before you eat." Ugh.

But, considering the risks, the 6 seconds it takes to thoroughly rinse fruits and veggies seem like they might be a worthy use of my time. 

And so, my hypothesis was correct. I will be washing the next container of blackberries.

(A peek inside my fridge at school. Enjoy).