Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Things That See Me through

I don't tend to write about the details of what I do or eat much because I think what works for each person is highly personalized. That being said, I'm going to share some of the foods that help see me through this journey both because doing so may be helpful to my kind and supportive readers and just so that I remember should I ever stray and forget what helped me get through the first 6 months of controlled eating.

These aren't tricks, but things that really have helped me with healthy eating and things I actually enjoy.

1. My immersion blender (for vegetable soups).

Everyone talks about eating vegetables when you're trying to lose weight because they are low in calories and high in fiber, and the truth is that I like a lot of vegetables. I'm likely to be eating raw carrot or tomato most days and actually being happy with that. That being said, cooked or raw, they sometimes get boring. One thing that has helped me immensely is simple, homemade vegetable-based soups that I puree quickly with the immersion blender and can eat with small portions of main dishes. The soup is filling and makes you feel fine with about half as much of the main dish as you might normally eat.

They're thick and have a sense of richness (without added fat), savory, and a little salty. Tomato and carrot are particular favorites, but you can do any main vegetable element that you like. Preparing these soups usually takes about 15 minutes, then it's just allow it to simmer with the lid on until the hardest vegetables are tender and use the blender on it. Any herbs and spices you like can be added, and you can salt it to taste after a first round of pureeing. I don't recommend adding salt while cooking because the spices you add (or consomme cubes or bullion) may make it salty enough.

This winter, it's been so satisfying having these types of soups that there are few days that I don't eat them. The truth is that I am not a fan of regular soups with watery broth and bits of vegetables floating in them and I only like these types of smooth, thick soups. The tomato I make is sublime, and goes with many other dishes. It's also quite low calorie and cheap to make.

Making a large amount of these soups and having it on hand (either in the freezer or refrigerator) also helps when you're really hungry and can't spare too many calories. Drinking a cup of it tends to see you through.

2. eggs

I have found that eggs are a forgotten treasure for me in trying to eat well and cheaply. As a kid, I was never a great fan of them and even as an adult, I haven't been bonkers for them. That being said, when I'm eating reduced calories, they seem more gratifying than other foods and they can be quite good if prepared well and with variety. In particular, egg salad with a mixture of half full fat mayonnaise and half yogurt (or just low calorie mayonnaise) with finely chopped onions and whatever spices I'm in the mood for is super either on whole wheat toast or served on lettuce.

The average serving of egg salad for me only has about 150 calories and is full of protein and fat so I feel sated for longer. I also find that perfectly poached eggs with crispy whole wheat toast and tomatoes on the side make an excellent lunch. Your body can metabolize all of the protein in an egg, so you get more bang for the calories as compared to other forms of animal-based protein.

3. tuna (in water)

Like eggs, tuna seems to be particularly filling in smaller portions than some other proteins. I mix it with pasta, lemon juice or vinegar, and just a little mayonnaise to make a cold salad, make tuna fish patties, or tuna salad. Unlike chicken breast (which I also love), tuna is very flavorful on its own so you don't need to add a lot to it to get more enjoyment from it.

4. Diet Coke

Yes, I know most people who are trying to lose weight believe soft drinks are the spawn of the devil and that thin people who see fat people ordering a diet soda scoff with derision. That being said, I love Diet Coke and enjoy having it with food. I hate having water with food and depriving myself of an enjoyable, palate cleansing beverage with meals is only going to make me hate my food plan. I drink about 500 ml. a day, or about half of a tall bottle with lunch and half with dinner. In the summer, or on days when I'm really thirsty, I might drink as much as two bottles. I still drink plenty of water, so it's not swapping water for Diet Coke.

5. rice crackers

When I say "rice crackers", I actually mean sembei. This is something that I have to be very careful about portions with, but they are a bit better for you than potato chips, more flavorful, and lower in calories. When I want something salty and crispy, I can eat 2 or 3 somewhat large rice crackers with some highly flavorful seasoning for about 40-100 calories and be quite satisfied. Usually, they're wrapped in portion-controlled (1-2 crackers) packets so it's easy to stop after a set amount. Note that I'm not talking about diet foods like puffed up rice cakes, but real sembei from Asian countries. I think it also helps that, unlike chips, I didn't grow up eating bags full of sembei so I don't have a mental association with putting away a ton of them at once.

6. tea (with milk and sweetener)

Many people don't like tea because they feel they have to drink it straight if they're dieting, but a little low-fat milk and a packet or two of Splenda (depending on the tea type) takes away the bitterness and leaves you with something smooth and sweet. If you want a more decadent feel, heat the milk before you add it and it'll seem even richer. I drink both herbal and regular tea made with teabags. I don't drink things like Chamomile or flowery teas. I drink things like Celestial Seasonings Maple Vanilla (which is fabulous as a nighttime dessert tea if you brew it strong, add a splash of full fat milk, and Splenda), Chai, and seasonal specialty teas (like Gingerbread).

7. (double-strained) yogurt

Yeah, yeah. People are always pushing low-fat, plain yogurt on dieters, but I'm not talking about choking down watery yogurt mixed with fruit for breakfast then being hungry 90 minutes later. I'm talking about taking a coffee filter, suspending it above a container (with a tight lid) with a rubber band, filling it with plain yogurt, and letting it drain for a day then repeating the process after transferring the yogurt to a fresh filter and letting it drain for another day. If you strain enough whey out of it, even fat-free, plain yogurt is very thick and creamy and makes a fat girl's sub for sour cream when salted or seasoned. Salted up and having a few savory herbs added makes a great dip for Triscuits or vegetables.

Thick yogurt is also nicer than watery yogurt when mixed with things like frozen berries. It's more like eating a custard than yogurt, albeit a sour one.

Of course, regular yogurt also helps to stretch mayonnaise so that I can use less of it.

8. chocolate

I think that I'd probably have a lot more trouble controlling my eating if I didn't allow myself to have things I wanted. This isn't something that works for everyone, but I can usually add in small portions (about 100 calories or less) of chocolate most days. Knowing nothing is off limits helps me not want things badly and resent not being able to have them.

9. frozen bananas

Health food blogs have been talking about the joy of ice cream that is little more than frozen bananas for quite some time. I do a variation on that which offers more water and less density because, though bananas are healthy, they're still densely caloric. Also, I don't find intense sweet, mashed banana flavor to be exactly to my tastes. In the summer, when I craved ice cream or a cold treat, I would take about 2/3 cup of crushed ice, frozen slices of one medium or small ripe banana (I put the slices flat on plastic wrap so they are separated and easy to get off of the sheet of plastic), 2 packets of Splenda, a dash of vanilla, a bit of cinnamon, and a 1/2 cup of lowfat milk in a blender and blend it at the highest setting for about 90 seconds. It makes a nice "soft serve" which has about 130 calories and a lot of volume and liquid.

There are other things that help, but these are the things which I think aid the most in helping me eat less because they either satisfy my need for enjoyment or fill me up without adding in too many calories. The only thing which I regret is that the chocolate calories, few as they are, probably mean I consume less fruit than I might since they are about the amount of an average banana or apple.


dlamb said...

"Yeah, yeah. People are always pushing low-fat, plain yogurt on dieters, but I'm not talking about choking down watery yogurt mixed with fruit for breakfast then being hungry 90 minutes later."

THANK YOU!!! Just like our exchange on the topic of fruit and its ability to keep one full (though certainly not me), I've always thought exactly what you wrote about the whole yogurt thing, except that 90 minutes would have been a stretch for me and choking it down is the operative word. I tried!

I have known people who've had a yogurt for lunch (as their entire meal) and ate it for breakfast, with fruit or with cereal, instead of milk and I never got it. Even eating a full fat, fruit laden yogurt has never kept me satiated. The low or no fat variety makes me gag. I do not know why. It is so reassuring to see, once again, that somebody else has shared what seemed like a unique experience.

I will try, however, your suggestion of draining it. Normally I use low fat ricotta on my boiled (faux mash potatoes) cauliflower but maybe I could mix it up a bit and the cals will probably be lower.

screaming fatgirl said...

I wouldn't say it's the best thing ever, but it does make for a serviceable sub for cream cheese and sour cream applications, though it is still yogurt! ;-)

dlamb said...

Oh good lord, another one of your replies I missed until now. Did I SAY that I made it and it was quite palatable? I know I intended to. Of course, if I keep reading and find that I did, I WILL be mortified! Did I say I was almost 55? I know I did and it feels like 95 at times...