Friday, September 2, 2011

Wow, it's Friday already? (And what does that title have to do with healthy eating?)

Seriously, this week went by pretty fast.  At least to me it did anyway.  So, I was sitting here thinking of stuff to write about today and eating my breakfast and I was thinking about the post I made a while back where I celebrated my picks of some of the most amazing and incredibly bad for you fast food items that I've had the (guilty) pleasure of chowing down on and it occurred to me that I've been on this new diet and exercise regimen for almost a month now and while I hate sounding like an ex-smoker who just loves going around telling everyone how bad smoking is, I am pretty stoked about all the new, healthy alternatives to the high-calorie, high-fat and high-sugar stuff I was shoveling in my cake hole basically all my life.  Now, I'm not going to bash on all the junk food and the awesome fast food menu items that I will most likely never (well... almost never) eat again, I still gots love for the bacon cheeseburger, even if we can't really hang out right now, but I am instead going to give props to some discoveries I have made that have helped me eat better and feel better.

Greek Yogurt

This was recommended to me by my nutritionist because it's higher in protein than regular yogurt and there's no fat and it's fairly low in calories.  I had heard of Greek yogurt before and I do like yogurt, but it wasn't something I got carried away over.  That is, until I tried this stuff.  It's what I had for breakfast this morning, in fact, and let me tell you, it's good!  I enjoyed a cup of honey vanilla flavored yogurt, I believe the Yoplait brand, it's really tasty.  100 calories for an individual serving.  This plus an apple or an orange and I'm good until lunch.  Really, it's just weird getting used to even eating breakfast, it's something I rarely used to do, so I don't have issues with not feeling satisfied from a cup of Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit, because that's more than I'm used to having in me this early in the day anyway.  This has fast become one of my favorite non-sexual ways to start my mornings.

Coke Zero

This is what I'm usually washing down my breakfast with.  What can I say, I need the caffeine first thing in the morning.  I've always hated diet sodas and especially diet colas, so I was less than eager to try Coke Zero, but a friend of ours came over and left some just as I was starting my diet so I decided to give it a try and literally within a day I couldn't tell enough of a difference between this and regular Coke to ever miss drinking regular Coke again.  It's a little "diety" tasting at first, but it's so much less so than traditional diet Coke that it was really easy for me to get used to.  For me, sodas have always been a weakness.  I crave my caffeine and coffee doesn't necessarily go with every meal.  Discovering a 0 calorie soda that I can actually tolerate the taste of... hell, I even like the taste now... this has been huge for me being able to stick to my diet.

Fresh Fruit

To me, the best thing about my new diet - besides the fact that I'm losing weight and feeling awesome - is that I'm enjoying things that I've always loved but haven't really eaten in a long time because I had fallen into so many bad eating habits.  Fresh fruit is at the top of that list.  As a kid and growing up, I always loved a fresh apple or orange or just munching out on a bunch of grapes.  My mom always kept some fresh fruits around the house, so I always had access and enjoyed them very much.  When I moved out on my own and later when Shannon and I got our first place together, our budget was wayyy lean and we just didn't have the money to get a lot of fresh produce, especially if half of it spoiled before we could eat it.  So, we just got into the habit of passing by the fresh produce section in favor of things that could keep on the shelf or in the freezer longer.  Well, now I'm back on the fresh fruits and vegetables and I almost forgot how amazing a cold orange is right out of the fridge.  I was never a big "sweet snacks" kind of guy.  I liked the occasional cookie or candy, but a sweet tooth isn't really my dietary undoing, so for me it was very easy to completely drop sugary snacks from my diet and switch to fruits instead.  I'm still trying to get used to bananas though... never really liked bananas... that mushy texture just grosses me out.  Ugh.


This is literally the cornerstone of my plate now.  My nutritionist has me on the 50/25/25 plan.  For anyone who doesn't know what that is, basically it means 50% of your plate should always be raw or cooked vegetables, 25% should be your protein and 25% beans, pasta or other starchy side.  After a life of actively avoiding most vegetables, I have a long way to go before I can pile the steamed broccoli and cauliflower on the side of my plate, so for now salads are my rock.  The best part about them is that you can heap a huge pile of lettuce on your plate and as long as you don't top it with crap and dump a ton of dressing all over it, you're getting almost no calories and fat, just lots of vitamins and filling fiber so that you don't have to eat as much protein and especially carbs to feel full.  I had to say goodbye to croutons, bacon bits and tons of cheese, which bummed me out because I love all that stuff on my salad, and I had to switch to low-fat or fat-free dressings, but really the transition has been pretty easy.  In fact, I'm actually eating even bigger lunches and dinners now because of my big pile of salad and I feel fuller longer after I'm done, even though my total daily calorie intake is a fraction of what it used to be... literally.  I'm eating less than 2,000 calories a day now, every day.  I used to eat more than 2,000 a meal before, but yet I'm less hungry now because the quality of food that I'm eating is so much better.

Yogurt Salad Dressing

Since I started my diet, my main salad dressing has been Newman's Own light Italian.  It was recommended by my nutritionist and I love the flavor and a little goes a long way when it's tossed with a good spinach or mixed-leaf salad.  Recently, though, a friend of mine who's also being successfully following a diet and exercise regimen for about a year now recommended yogurt dressing.  It's right about the same calories and fat count as traditional low-fat salad dressing, but it tastes more like regular dressing.  With dressings like Italian, being low-fat or fat-free doesn't really bother me, the taste isn't all that different.  However, with creamy dressings like ranch or blue cheese, the difference between regular and low-fat is pretty noticeable.  That's why yogurt dressings are so great, they taste almost just like regular creamy dressings.

Wheat and Vegetable Pasta

I specifically chose to feature the Ronzoni Garden Delight for two reasons.  One, it's made with spinach, tomatoes and carrots and one 2oz serving contains the same nutrients as half a serving of vegetables, which is pretty cool.  Two, it's produced here in the valley, so buying it supports my local economy and I'm all about that.  I first made the switch to wheat pasta, which I absolutely love, even more than traditional pastas and now we're giving the vegetable pasta a day in court.  I was blown away by how much more flavorful wheat pasta was compared to regular pastas.  As a rule, I try not to eat too much pasta even with these healthier options - a 1/2 cup still has a fair amount of calories and I'm also trying to keep the carbs as low as possible - but when I whip up my famous (well, famous between my wife an I) chicken and pan-fried noodles, this stuff is incredible.


As soon as I learn how to cook this stuff, it's going to be on!


I usually eat it more cooked than this.
I've always liked chicken, so it wasn't as if I suddenly re-discovered it or anything.  However, since I've had to cut way back on stuff like burgers and tacos and other meals made with hamburger that contain a lot of carbs or fat and since my wife hasn't healed enough from her oral surgery yet to eat steak, I'm making chicken almost every night.  This means I've been coming up with all kinds of different ways to prepare it, which is kind of a fun challenge and it's also cool when I try something new and it actually works.  Right now, this is the main source of protein on my plate for just about every dinner.

Crystal Light

As good of an alternative to regular sodas as Coke Zero is, it's not a good alternative to just drinking plain old water.  I'm supposed to be drinking something like 8 glasses of water a day and that's a lot more water than you might think.  The first time I tried Crystal Light was back when I was living at home and my dad was struggling with his own weight issues.  Back then I think lemonade was the only flavor and it didn't taste very good.  Things have changed a lot since then, there are all kinds of different flavors now and they improved the quality of the taste quite a bit.  I really love this stuff now, it tastes good, it's got no calories or sugar and it makes drinking 8 glasses of water a day a lot less boring!

Incidentally, the new sugar-free water flavoring additive, Mio, is pretty good too, it's just kind of pricey for how much you actually get out of it.  Tastes really good though, I like it.


Good ol' Pam.  Growing up, I remember Pam as being that can that was in the back of the spice cupboard that never got used.  Mom still preferred to cook with butter, margarine or oil.  Not that I blame her, cooking with that stuff is pretty good.  However, just by switching to Pam, I can cut 100 or more calories off of anything I fry and significantly reduce the amount of added fats as well.  All those calories add up.  I think of it as, I could either fry my food in butter, oil or margarine or I could use Pam and have 1/4 cup of extra pasta or beans on the side for the same calories.

And that's really the core of how I have been able to stick with my diet.  I think about how many calories, how much fat and sugar, etc. is in, say a cheeseburger and a coke from a burger place and then I think how, for that same amount of calories, fat and sugar, I could have a big plate full of salad, a good-sized piece of grilled chicken and a side of pasta with a Coke Zero instead.  I think about how I could eat a small bowl of ice cream or a full meal.  I could drink an 8oz glass of orange juice or I could eat 5 whole oranges.  Once I started looking at it like that, the decision to keep eating healthy was a no-brainer.  Yes, it costs more to eat healthy than it does to eat like crap and that's something we should all be bothered by.  Don't even get me started on the BS politics behind corn subsidies and things that make it so that a gallon of sugar-added orange juice is cheaper than a bag of oranges or how a bag of corn chips is cheaper than a bag of corn or how it costs less to take the family to a fast food place and order off the dollar menu than it does to make them a nutritious meal at home.  It's no accident that obesity is such a problem in this country, including for me.  I've had 35 years of eating cheap and greasy and not giving a damn about calories or fat or sugar or sodium or anything.  My wake-up call was when I almost hit 400lbs.  I don't need to die of a heart attack before I realize it's time to make some changes, now.  I don't need to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before I start eating a healthy diet and getting some exercise.  Sure, it's not cheap and it's not easy to eat right and exercise and make choices that are healthy and good for me, but it's a lot easier than dying or losing my foot or some other tragic consequence of continuing down the road I was on.  I don't mean to get all preachy, like I said, I still got love for the bacon cheeseburger and the chili dogs and the double-double, animal style and once in a blue moon I might even have one just because I can, but I'm on a new path now and I like where it's taking me.  I've always said, if you don't respect yourself, how can you expect anyone else to respect you either?  Well, if you don't take care of yourself, who will? 

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