As promised, I added this tips and recipes section to my blog. I added it mostly because my friend Molasses said I should. I have a couple of other friends who have asked me to do so as well. I think this first post will focus on things that I do to make food preparation easier and less time consuming. Which makes it easier to make wise food decisions. I will also give some basic cooking/meal prep advice because Miss Molasses Jacksin is an admitted hopeless wreck when it comes to cooking for herself. This one is for you, my super awesome friend.
This is my first post in the tips and recipes section so I want to preface this by saying that I am no expert and I know it. If you read this blog, you also know it. I am not a nutritionist; dietitian, personal trainer, a fucking doctor of any kind, a life coach, and I am certainly not perfect. What I am, is someone who is trying very hard to make positive changes in my life that will facilitate weight loss and improve my overall health. Sometimes I am great at following my own advice, sometimes I screw up and make shitty decisions. I would also describe myself as a reasonably intelligent person, who through life experience, following medical advice, and doing a lot of reading/research (and taking a couple of classes along the way), has a relatively solid understanding of how good nutrition and healthy weight loss works. This means a few things…
I really don’t want/need advice in the form of criticism. If you have a tip that you think might help me and my readers, great! Share away! If you are commenting to tell me I am doing something wrong, fuck off with that.
Because I am not a professional, I feel like I should say that y’all should be checking with your medical providers before you start a new exercise routine or make radical changes to your diets.
This is what works for me. It may not work for you. You should feel free to adapt my tips and ideas to work within your world.
What Works for Me
Food is a pain in the ass. We get hungry; we eat so that we aren’t hungry anymore. It should really be that simple. But it isn’t. Ultimately, food is nothing more than fuel. That part is simple. We need fuel to do all of the awesome things we do. But with so many delicious fuel choices… well, the temptations are overwhelming when one is trying to eat a healthier diet. Also, it does take some time to prepare this fuel. We are busy, us humans. We always have stuff to do, places to go, and all sorts of things to see. Sometimes the ease of quick foods outweighs the need for more healthful foods. Let’s face it, the more raw ingredients you start with, the better and more nutritious the food we are fueling our bodies with is. Here are a few things that I do to make healthy choices easier and save time on meal preparations.
- Keep your kitchen really clean: This one is a hard one for me because I am not the best house keeper in the world. I can think of a million things I would rather do than wash my dishes. In fact, the only thing I enjoy less is emptying/changing the cat’s littler box. But here is the thing… I eat better and make better choices when my kitchen is clean. Mostly because I hate cooking in a mess. Who wants to dirty dishes when you already have a sink full of dishes?
I have also noticed that I feel calmer in the kitchen when it is clean and tidy. I don’t rush to make food decisions because I am trying to avoid the messy kitchen. I know what I have and where it is; a clean refrigerator is key to this and I am including this in the clean kitchen equation. Having organized shelves where everything has a home and you can see where that home is also important. Bottom line, a clean kitchen is a happy kitchen and it will make you want to spend more time in there.
- Prepare as much ahead of time as is possible: Preparing food ahead when you have time to do it leisurely makes it far easier to eat healthily during more busy times. I usually prepare my foods ahead for the week on Sunday nights, but I also cook a little extra when I am making meals during the week. These are the things I try to always have on hand.
Steel cut oats. I love them. They are good for me. I eat them for breakfast at least four days a week. They take a while to cook though… I wouldn’t eat them four days a week if I had to cook them every morning that I ate them. I cook a batch ahead on Sunday nights and then heat them up each morning that I eat them. They are fine in the frig for five days or so.
Boiled eggs. I also love eggs. I enjoy them hard boiled in a salad or as a snack. I often need quick protein to stave off that hangry feeling I sometimes get when my blood sugar tanks. I always have to have protein with each meal. It is just the way I am made. I boil up some eggs on Sunday night while I am making my steel cut oats. I peel them and keep them in a Tupperware container in the frig. These only keep for about four days, so don’t make too many (I usually only do about 4 or 5).
Chicken breast filets. Chicken is my favorite meat. I eat a lot of it. Sometimes I bake two or three of them up while I am making my steel cut oats and eggs on Sunday nights. I also bake up a couple extra when I make them for dinner. I cut this up for salads or slice it for sandwiches or wraps for lunches. I will end this post with my recipe for/favorite way to prepare chicken breasts.
Vegetables. Any time I cut up vegetables for salads or a meal, I cut up extra and keep it in the frig for quick salads or meal prep. I mean, if you only use half a bell pepper in a recipe, just cut up the other half and put it in a container! You can have it in a salad the next day for lunch. I also cut up carrots and celery ahead for snacking on Sunday nights when I prep the rest of my foods for the week.
- Start with half: When it comes to things like salad dressings; oils, condiments, grains/breads, or any other really high calorie food I always try eating/using half of the serving amount first. I have found that tossing a salad with half the dressing (meaning half the official serving size) is more than satisfying. Only use one piece of bread by making your sandwich open faced, or just making a half. See if half the olive oil you are going to cook with is enough first… you can always add more if it isn’t.
- Drink water before every meal: I drink an 8 oz glass of water before every meal. Even snacks. This helps keep you hydrated, helps with digestion, and also makes you feel fuller before sitting down to eat your meal.
- Read all labels: I read labels very carefully to watch for hidden sodium and sugars. I have to watch my sodium intake because I have an issue with swelling. And I have to watch sugar intake because I am trying to reverse a type II diabetes diagnosis. But beyond that, I need to know what the serving size on any prepared product is. I want to know how nutritious it really is. I want to avoid things that I know to be bad for me. Really, the fewer ingredients, the better.
Things to watch for that will shock the shit out of you… the amount of sugar in yogurt. You think you are making a healthy choice, but some of that shit has more sugar than the snickers bar you were eyeballing at the checkout. Sodium! OMG! There can be a lot of it, even in things you wouldn’t think had it (watch this in dairy products for sure). Calories per serving and actual serving size. Sometimes what you think should be a serving, isn’t a serving. In fact, when I started measuring and tracking my food intake, I was shocked by how many servings of certain foods I was really eating!
- Measure everything: I have mentioned this a lot already but even if you aren’t tracking your food or calories, you need to measure your servings. A half a cup isn’t as much as you think it is, trust me.
- Plan ahead: Even if you don’t make a menu for your entire week (who has time for that), do your shopping with specific meals in mind. We eat a lot of chicken, so I make sure I have breasts and thighs in the freezer. I buy frozen, wild caught Alaskan salmon filets too. I make sure that I have ground chicken and turkey, a little lean ground beef… all of the proteins that we eat regularly I keep in stock (generally do this shopping trip once a month).
I keep a full fruit bowl on the counter. We always have apples, oranges, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and pears on hand (our go to fruits). I get berries and grapes or other fruits as they are available and look good. Keeping fruit on hand helps with my sweet tooth for sure!
Plan a vegetable per meal when you shop. I don’t always eat a vegetable per meal, but I make sure that I have enough on hand. We eat a lot of zucchini; broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, bell peppers of all colors, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, winter squash, and some potatoes. When I shop I buy what looks good in the produce department. Some weeks some vegetables look better than others depending on supply. I also keep a variety of onions and garlic on hand, and I always have a big container of organic mixed greens for salads.
If you plan ahead and have all of these healthy things handy (some in small amounts… you don’t want shit going bad in your frig!), then you are less likely to slap together something crappy or stop at the store and get something quick and shitty to fill you up rather than cooking something delicious and nutritious to fuel your body.
- Make cooking easy on yourself: I am not telling you to go out and buy a bunch of small appliances you don’t already have, but I will say that I have a few I would never part with. My vegetable steamer. It is almost 19 years old. My mom got it for me as a gift and I love the hell out of it. In fact, it just broke after a nearly two decade run and I cried! I am looking for a replacement but I saved the steamer basket and I am using it on a pot of boiling water until I get a new one (mine has an infusion screen for herbs to give your steamed veggies a little extra yum factor). This is easy as pie! You can also get a little stainless steel steamer basket to fit in a pot… steaming veggies is super quick and super easy.
My grandma gave me her old George Forman Grill and I laughed when she did. But I tried it because I was in a hurry one night and I thought “why not”. I am now in love with this thing! It is so easy! Just throw your protein in and the light shuts off when it is done cooking. This is especially easy on the nights that I am only cooking for my husband and I. And it is great when the weather is to warm to turn on the oven or stand over a hot stove!
- Make a salad out of it: I eat a lot of salads simply because they are easy and a great way to get more vegetables into my diet. Most days, rather than making a sandwich or something like that, I have a salad and just put my protein in that along with as many fruits and vegetables as I can fit in. It is a delicious and easy way to have a quick, healthy meal. Especially if you have prepared foods ahead.
OK, I am all jibber-jabbered out and I feel like I have kind of gone beyond little tips and into a fucking manifesto on my eating habits. So here is my favorite way to prepare chicken breasts! I usually cook five like this so I have some left over.
Preheat oven to 350
Pound out chicken breasts so they are of uniform thickness (I always put them between two pieces of cling wrap to save on the mess).
Poke a few holes in chicken breasts with a fork.
Put chicken in 8.5 X 11 baking dish with bottom facing up
Squeeze the juice of one half lemon on chicken breasts, very lightly salt, and then sprinkle liberally with Mrs. Dash lemon pepper
Turn breasts over and repeat last step
Bake in oven for 30 – 40 minutes depending on breast size (larger breasts will obviously take a bit longer to cook). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell a chicken breast is done when you cut into it and the juices run clear (there should never be any pink meat in a fully cooked chicken breast either).
For dinners I serve this with a nice salad filled with a variety of raw vegetables, and any sort of cooked vegetable… sometimes I roast carrots, sometimes I steam broccoli, sometimes I sauté asparagus… it goes well with anything.
This was supposed to be short and sweet and now I am just avoiding that sink full of dishes. How lame am I? Future posts in this category will be shorter and more focused on a single tip or recipe. Really, this one was in answer to questions Molasses has been asking me.
Until next week… go kick some asses!