Sunday, June 7, 2009

Set Yourself Up For Success

Spanish Rice and Beans with Turkey Dogs

If any of you are like me, when you get really hungry, you lose a little perspective. This is typically when I find myself at a vending machine reaching for the strawberry pop tarts (a personal weakness from my pre-gluten-free days) or at the grocery store walking from aisle to aisle unable to make a decision. I know I should get a healthy salad but a whole bag of cookies is really the only thing that will satisfy me right now! Or like yesterday, at a health food store contemplating the 900 calorie containers of gluten-free chocolate cookies. Of course I wouldn't have to eat all 900 calories, but who am I kidding? I was starving and there was no way I was stopping until the container was gone! You'll be happy to know I left the cookies there and picked up two Larabars and a low-fat yogurt instead. Still a lot of calories but it was the lesser of two evils. I set myself up for that though, by heading to work that morning without a complete lunch or any snacks. I knew I was going to be away from home all day, and I would have to wing it. I also know that I'm not very good at winging it. Most of my clients aren't either. One of my most memorable client quotes is, "I needed something for lunch and I couldn't figure out which salad or soup was the healthiest option, so I got pizza. What else was I to do?" What else indeed.

The answer is to set yourself up for success. We often set ourselves up for failure, knowing that when we're hungry and don't have something healthy in front of us, more often than not we're going to end up making bad choices. Planning ahead is the key, whether it's by making our own meals or deciding where to go out to eat and what to get. I'm a natural planner, so this comes easily to me, but even I have my days where I can't get it together. This Friday night I got home at 10:30pm and since I work at 8am on Saturdays, I headed to bed without prepping food for the next day. Bright and early Saturday (a little too early for me), I grabbed what I could find in my fridge (a baked sweet potato and a hard-boiled egg) and headed off to work. By the time I left at 3:30 and started my 2 1/2 hour walk to the opposite corner of the city to meet a friend (what was I thinking!?), I was exhausted, starving, and trying not to get cranky. Hence the Larabar/chocolate cookie conundrum. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble (and money) if I had simply planned my meal on Thursday or had a frozen meal I could have grabbed from the freezer. So today I'm taking advantage of my day off to plan ahead. Here are some tips to help you set yourself up for healthy food success.
  • When you buy fruits and vegetables, chop them up when you get home and put them in containers in the fridge. That way they're ready for you to grab on the go. It also cuts down on your cooking time throughout the week since they're already prepped for you.
  • When you're making your dinner, deliberately make extra so you have lunch for the next day. Put some in the fridge for lunch and a couple of servings in individual containers in the freezer. That way when you run out of fresh produce, you can reach into the freezer for a meal.
  • There's nothing wrong with buying frozen meals for those weeks when you don't have time to cook. I love Amy's organic and Trader Joe's frozen entrees. I just find it a lot more affordable to make my own meals. When I'm buying frozen meals, I always look at the ingredients list. A good rule of thumb is that the smaller the list of ingredients, the healthier the food probably is. If it reads like a chemistry book rather than a list of foods you could buy at the grocery store, you might want to stay away. And for me personally, if I see high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, or monosodium glutamate on the list, I generally don't buy it.
  • Take ten minutes at night to go over what the next day will look like, and get your food ready so you can grab it in the morning. On Mondays I work until 9:30pm, so I generally take my lunch, dinner, and two snacks to work with me.
  • If you know you have a day coming up when you aren't going to have time to get food ready the night before (like my Saturdays), make sure you have a meal in the freezer you can grab. If you don't mind spending the money, you can always grab a salad that day. But if you're like me and hate spending $10 on a salad (which is what you'll pay if you live in NYC), you're probably going to be a lot happier buying a frozen organic meal for $5.
I'm planning today for tomorrow. My breakfast will be a Green Power Smoothie with a Trader Joe's gluten-free waffle. And then off I go to work with my lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Lunch will be simple. Half of a baked sweet potato, green beans sauteed with wheat-free tamari and red pepper flakes, and 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese (I really should stay away from the cottage cheese...I know I'm lactose intolerant, but sometimes I just have to have it). Baked sweet potatoes are one of my favorite things to make because I can pop them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees, leave them in for about an hour while I do other things (wait until they start to caramelize and ooze...they're so good!), and then grab one from the fridge whenever I need it.

For dinner, I remembered an old dish I used to make when I was in high school. Spanish rice and beans with turkey dogs. Of course you could make this with any kind of hot dog or sausage, but I grew up on turkey dogs and I love them. The recipe makes 4 servings, so I have plenty left over for meals on other days.

And for my snacks, a hard-boiled egg and a grapefruit. If I'm hungry when I get home, I'll have some fat-free yogurt since I won't have had any dairy servings for the day.

Spanish Rice and Beans with Turkey Dogs
Print-Friendly Option

5 cups cooked brown rice
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 14.5 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 15 oz. can pinto beans
1 15 oz. can black beans
4 turkey dogs, cut into bite sized pieces (I use Applegate Farms)
about 16 green olives with pimientos (these are the key ingredient in my opinion)
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cilantro
red pepper flakes to taste

  1. Saute the green peppers and mushrooms until they start to get tender, about 3-5 minutes (you can use about 1 tsp. of olive oil or a low-calorie spray for the pan). Add the juice from the can of tomatoes. Chop up the tomatoes and add them. Add the black beans and pinto beans (drain the liquid out first - it will be too soupy if you use the liquid). Add the oregano, cilantro, and as many red pepper flakes as you prefer. Allow everything to simmer on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the rice, green olives, and turkey dogs, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom. If the rice starts to stick, add just enough water to moisten the pan, preferably no more than half a cup.
Serves 4

Dietary Exchange
3 starches, 2 1/2 proteins, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat


Kati said...

That beans and rice recipe looks fantastic! I'll have to make that soon :-)

ashley (sweetandnatural) said...

Hi Iris! Thanks for your comment on my brownies. I've never used garbanzo beans in a cake, but I probably will at some point! I've heard they work in cookies too.


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