Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Banana Ice Cream With Blueberry Sauce

I'm off to San Diego! My sister's getting married in eleven days, and I get two glorious weeks of vacation! Needless to say, I'm in a good mood (I'm also experiencing some of that pre-travel stress about getting to the airport on time, but I'm trying to ignore it).

Since I don't know how often I'll be able to post while I'm gone, I want to leave you all with a little summer dessert. A healthy one, of course. Gena, over at Choosing Raw, posted this amazing recipe for banana ice cream. Of course I had to try it out, and since bananas are the only ingredient, it's a wonderfully delicious alternative to regular ice cream.

For my ice cream, I froze two bananas overnight. This morning I pureed them in the food processor for about three minutes, until they were super creamy. To make the blueberry sauce, I heated up 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries, 1/8 cup orange juice, and 1 Tbsp. of water in a saucepan. I brought it to a boil. In a small bowl, I mixed 1/2 tsp. cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. cold water. Then I added it to the blueberry mix and let it all simmer until thickened, stirring constantly. Finally, I added a dash of cinnamon. I let it cool for about a minute and then drizzled it over the banana ice cream.

It tastes absolutely decadent, yet doesn't make you feel guilty at all. And you can have it for dessert or for breakfast like I did this morning. Are you imagining all of the tasty toppings you could add? I know I am! Peanut butter, chopped walnuts, raspberry sauce, dried cranberries...the list is endless! How about on top of a gluten-free waffle? Oh yeah...

I'm off to California!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Birthday Hiking!

The rain finally stopped! I've been looking forward to going hiking at Breakneck Ridge for weeks, so I was excited this morning to wake up and see the sun shining. All this rain has been getting me down. And since today's my 27th birthday, I've decided there's no more room in my life for being unhappy. 27 and 28 are two of my favorite numbers, so I figure the next two years are going to be pretty awesome. The last couple of years were...eh...not the best. Lots of depression, lots of confusion, lots of feeling that I'd lost my way. Well, I think I've finally found it again. So I decided to start my 27th year off by getting out of the city and back to nature. You can't breathe deeply in the city...well you can, but you feel like you're breathing smog.

The boyfriend and I got up bright and early and took a subway to a train to a stop in the middle of nowhere. Luckily there were some other people there too, so we followed them until we found the hiking trail. Along the way I found some black raspberries and happily ate away. I was so excited to be out hiking that I did a little dance, which made my boyfriend laugh and say I reminded him of my mom.

There were some beautiful blueberries too, but since I wasn't sure about them, I didn't eat any.

The hike took us four hours, and I loved feeling my muscles working in different ways than I'm used to. I like going to the gym, but there's nothing like hiking up a mountain to make your legs work. As I'm sitting here now, I can feel the soreness coming on, but it's a good feeling. I love feeling sore after a great workout!

Somewhere during our hike, we lost the path that was supposed to bring us back to town and ended up walking aimlessly for hours following little trail markers that never got us anywhere. Eventually, we left the markers and followed another path, hoping it would get us off the mountain. It did, but not before passing by an old car that looked severely beaten and had bullet holes in it. If I hadn't been feeling a little bit like an unsuspecting victim of a horror movie before then, I definitely did when I saw that car.

I stopped long enough to take a quick picture and then scurried along. Not too far past the car, we finally came into a clearing, with a big boarded up house and a No Trespassing sign. Again, can you say scary movie? A little bit freaky... Once past the house though, we turned onto a main road and asked someone for directions to the train station. He told us we were right in between two towns and could go in either direction. So we headed to the little town of Beacon (which has never ending signs for the downtown main street which try as we might, we couldn't find), our legs rubbery and feet aching. An hour later, we finally found the train station and a nice restaurant where we could stop and eat. We had to wait an hour to catch the train, so we sprawled out on the grass, exhausted.

It's been a great birthday. I got exactly what I wanted. A day of hiking with my boyfriend, sunshine, and a great workout. 27's looking good so far.

What's next? I'm off to San Diego in two days for my older sister's wedding! I have two whole weeks of vacation, and I get to spend it with my family and boyfriend in sunny California...what could be better?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Before and After

My weight loss clients come to me for advice on how to lose weight. But more than looking for nutritional tips, they're looking for support. They've been up and down the weight loss roller coaster, and they want someone who will be there with them the whole way...ideally just going down this time. But before I can help them, they have to trust me. And a lot of the time, they look at me, and I can see the skepticism running through their minds. Some of them think I'm too young. Some of them figure I won't understand their backgrounds. And a lot of them ask me pointblank, "What do you know about this? You're tiny! You can eat whatever you want!"

When I hear this, a little bell goes off in my head. That tells me more than anything else how hard it will be for that client to lose weight and keep it off. Because she isn't thinking of the changes she's making as permanent. She has it in her head that when she gets to her goal weight, she can go back to her old eating habits and the weight will magically stay off. If only it were that easy, right?

Well, I know a lot about the struggle to eat right, lose weight, and maintain my weight loss. I can't eat whatever I want (at least not all the time), and at five feet tall, I have to work extra hard because every pound shows up tenfold on my short frame. For some of my clients, losing twenty pounds barely makes a difference because they have a larger frame. For me, twenty pounds means a world of difference.

In college around 145 lbs.

In college, I worked at a pizza place and ate most of my meals there. Pizza, onion rings, chicken wings, sugar cookies...these were a staple of my diet for four years. Like a lot of my clients, I wanted to lose weight but I wasn't willing to make permanent changes. Or to be more correct, I didn't really know how to make those changes.

When I started losing weight, it was almost unintentional. I moved to NYC, started walking everywhere, and started enjoying life more than eating it. But I had no idea how to keep the weight off and I was terrified it would come back. I see that fear in my clients often. It's that very fear that often makes them want to give up. Today I could tell that one of my clients was having a difficult time. She gained weight for the third week in a row, and I asked her what she thought would happen when she got to her goal weight. "I think I'll always have to struggle and won't ever be able to eat what I want," she admitted. That fear of a constant struggle with herself weighed against the knowledge that she felt better than ever after losing fifty pounds, and wanted to lose the final fifteen. More than that, she wanted to keep the weight off.

The weight started to come
off after I moved to NYC

I try to always be honest with my clients, and so I told her that there are days when I feel like it's a struggle. There are days when I want to sit at home and eat ice cream and cookies all day and not worry about my weight. Mostly those days coincide with my PMS (again, I try to be honest). But those days are also few and far between because when I give in to them, my momentary pleasure is followed by feeling uncomfortable, heavy, and annoyed with myself. Not really worth the cookies that are usually not as good as I anticipated them to be anyway.

I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve after helping clients lose weight for two years. But my two most important tips have nothing to do with strategies for eating out or exercising. They have to do with my mindset:

  • One, I cut myself some slack. There is nothing worse than believing you have to be perfect, because the second you eat an extra cookie, you figure you'll never make it and you'll give up. Being healthy isn't about eating perfectly all the time. My friend took me out for a birthday dinner tonight, and I ate extra bread (gluten-free of course) and shared a dessert with her. I could have kicked myself for it, but what would be the point? I had a healthy breakfast and lunch, and I'll start my day off right with a green smoothie tomorrow. As one of my clients told me, it's not what you do every once in a while that matters, it's what you do on a regular basis that counts.
  • And two, I focus on what I can eat rather than what I can't. If I spent all day conjuring up images of cookies and cakes and pizza, and then told myself I couldn't eat that, you would probably find me stuffing my face at Dominoes. Instead I like to imagine all the fun new healthy recipes I can come up with. What can I do with the ripe avocados I bought yesterday? Can I find a new way to eat chickpeas? What's the best way to roast vegetables? There's a lot more to healthy eating than steamed vegetables and fish, and with the right mindset, it can be fun rather than a chore.

Today, at 125 lbs.

Tonight, I ate dinner at Sambuca. They have a great gluten-free menu, and a new pastry chef who brought us some delicious samples of gluten-free bread to try. I brought some leftover shrimp pasta home, added some cherry tomatoes and avocado, and turned it into a perfect lunch for tomorrow. It wasn't a chore to make and it certainly won't be a chore to eat.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Gluten-free Wedding?

Social situations are probably one of the biggest reasons my clients have trouble losing weight (second only to mid-afternoon and nighttime snacking, I would guess). And it's not just because they want to eat what they see others eating. Sometimes they truly want to stick to their healthy eating plan, but they don't want to offend anyone or bring attention to themselves. It can be an uncomfortable situation to be ordering a salad at a restaurant when everyone else is getting burgers and fries. And for women, it can be especially tough because, let's face it, we pay attention to what other women are eating. If your girlfriend orders a decadent chocolate dessert, you feel as if it gives you permission to do so as well. On the other hand, if she orders a fruit cup, you either have to do the same or feel guilty the whole time you're eating your chocolate dessert. It's a silly competitive thing we do with each other, but I've learned from one client after another that their friends will try really hard to get them to eat (and drink) things that they don't really want to.

And in terms of not wanting to offend anyone, I imagine we've all been in a situation where we're served something we don't normally eat. Any vegetarian out there has probably been in that situation many times.

Trying to eat gluten-free takes it to a completely different level. There's the obvious gluten filled food that's easy to avoid. I stayed away from the bread at the wedding this weekend.

And the cake was beautiful but easy to avoid.

But what about the less obvious culprits? At the rehearsal dinner, I was a bit uncomfortable bringing attention to myself, but I asked the waitress to find out what was gluten-free on the menu. When she said that all of the salads were fine, I was relieved and ordered a delicious tuna steak salad. To my surprise, it came with croutons. Gluten-free huh? I picked out the croutons and ate the salad anyway, but I knew that that wasn't quite the best thing to do.

At the wedding, I figured I'd already unintentionally eaten some gluten; I might as well not worry too much at that point. So I added some delicious almonds to my appetizer plate, regardless of what might have been on them.

And I thoroughly enjoyed the steak, not knowing what it was marinated in.

But I had to ask myself when I woke up the next day achy and with a headache, was it the gluten? Or the wine? Or was I just dehydrated from not drinking enough water while traveling? I've questioned all along how strict I want to be in eating gluten-free. My IBS symptoms haven't cleared up, but I feel a lot happier. Whether coincidence or gluten-related, I have to admit I have no interest in going back to my gluten-filled diet. Since depression is a symptom of Celiac disease, Shauna, urged me to get tested to find out for sure. She reminded me that left unchecked, Celiac Disease could lead to bigger health problems.

So I guess my question isn't how strict do I want to be; it's how strict do I need to be. Best case scenario: I don't have a gluten intolerance and I can continue to eat gluten-free as I have been, but not stress about social situations. Worst case scenario: I am gluten-intolerant, and I need to learn to be more cautious in social situations. Either way, I would have an answer to my question. And I figure that peace of mind is worth a visit to the doctor.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Traveling Outside Your Comfort Zone

I sent a client off today with well wishes and an admonition to stay away from the midnight buffet. She's headed to Bermuda for a cruise with her family: fun for her, scary for her diet. "Don't worry about it," I told her. "Just watch your portions, let everyone taste your food at meals so there will be less for you, and enjoy. And get some workouts in!" I decided not to tell her that the one time I went on a cruise, I gained 7 pounds. Probably not good for her morale...

A lot of my clients will gain a pound or two on vacation. Not a big deal and it will come off easily once they're back in their normal routine. A few will gain more. Everyone will feel discomfort at being outside of their comfort zone and unable to be in complete control of their eating. Some people handle this better than others.

I am not one of those people.

Having struggled with bingeing for years, I know that having a set routine and being able to plan my meals and snacks are important for me. I've learned that if I go more than 4 hours without a snack or meal, I'm more likely to overeat. I know that when I'm feeling out of control, I tend to focus on food. And I know that my options when I travel are more limited since deciding to follow a gluten-free plan.

My first gluten-free traveling experience was much harder than I expected it to be. Knowing that, I decided that I was going to plan a little bit more for my trip this weekend. I'm headed to my boyfriend's little brother's wedding in Ohio. I love weddings and I can't wait to get on the plane tomorrow (okay, maybe I can...planes make my stomach queasy), but this time I decided I wasn't going to wing it and assume I could find gluten-free snacks on the go. That didn't exactly pan out last time, and I want to be prepared this weekend. I don't want any food stress to get in the way of having a great time and sharing in this special day with the bride and groom. So I headed to my favorite gluten-free paradise...what else but Trader Joe's. They make it easy by clearly marking what's gluten free. And they're cheap. You can't say that about most gluten-free food.

I came home with more gluten-free bars than I can eat in a weekend (okay if I'm being honest, I could probably eat them all in a day, but I wouldn't do that). I would much rather be overprepared and relaxed than underprepared and anxious. Now I know that no matter what the situation (and what the food options are), I'll have a gluten-free snack in my purse ready to grab if need be.

Plus some random but tasty snacks.

And breakfast for the hotel since I doubt they'll have gluten-free cereal on hand.

Sometimes I think I'm too regimented. But then I remember what happens when I try to wing it. I get out of control, and revert to old unhealthy ways. And frankly, I'm tired of the old ways. Seven pounds in one week!? Not anymore! It's time to try something new.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Calorie Counting and Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cake

I don't normally count calories. I count food groups, which for me is a lot easier. But since I use a 1200 calorie plan as my guideline, I thought it might be interesting to see how many calories I actually consume on any given day. I know I don't eat 1200 calories, because if I did, I would have already lost those annoying little five vanity pounds I'm trying to get off. I would guess I eat somewhere around 2000 calories a day, but I really have no idea.

So let's find out...

Breakfast was a delicious green smoothie with a Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Waffle. The smoothie had 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, about a cup of spinach, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (all-natural, no sugar or anything else added), and half of a banana.

Calorie count: 315. Not a bad start at all.

After breakfast, My boyfriend and I went to the gym. I had a good cardio workout. About 15 minutes on the elliptical and 15 on the stairmaster. I was a little lazy with the weights and sit-ups today though. What can I say? I was hungry...

For lunch I made a simple bean salad with 1 cup of chickpeas, 1 cup of grape tomatoes, 1 grated carrot, half of an avocado, and some red pepper flakes and dried basil.

Calories: 443

And, a small bowl of TJ's Low-sodium Organic Creamy Tomato Soup.

Calories: 67

Around 4pm, I started working on a chocolate cake I've been craving lately. This is actually the cake that started me on my gluten-free journey when I made it for a friend and realized how good it was. I found the original recipe on AllRecipes.com and just made a few changes this time around. I tried really hard not to eat any batter, but I got a few licks in. How could I resist?

Calories: ??? I have no idea how to count that.

Plus 10 peanuts.

Calories: 60

When my cake was done, I'll admit I had a piece before dinner, plus a small handful of raspberries. It was delicious, almost more of a fudgy brownie than a cake.

Calories: 242 for the cake, 30 for the raspberries

By the time dinner came around, I was too tired to put much effort into it. So I chopped up a green bell pepper and some mushrooms, sauteed them, and scrambled in two eggs. Lots of ketchup and a serving of TJ's corn chips on the side completed the meal.

Calories: 378

My boyfriend and I have opposite schedules, so we rarely eat dinner together, but when we do, we often make our own meals because our food preferences are so different. He had chicken fajitas, which I admit looked a lot better than my dinner...but his came out of a box in the freezer so I figure that doesn't really count.

After dinner, we went on a nice walk. I was still full when I got back, but I couldn't resist having another half of a slice of cake. This time I added some apricot preserves on top, which I think made it even better. Next time I might try to make an apricot glaze.

Calories: 151

So, how many calories did I end up with? 1686, plus a lick of batter. Huh...actually a lot lower than I thought. So if I just cut out the cake, I'd be on target to lose weight. But I'll be honest. It was a really yummy cake and I think it was worth the calories.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie CakePrint-Friendly Option

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. all-natural peanut butter
unsweetened cocoa for dusting
confectioner's sugar for dusting

* If you're making this gluten-free, make sure your chocolate chips and baking powder don't have gluten in them.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-in. spring pan and dust with cocoa powder.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. Start with 1 minute on high power. Stir and continue to microwave in 20 second increments, stirring in between, until the chips are fully melted and creamy.
  3. In a food processor, blend the chickpeas and eggs until smooth. Add the sugar and baking powder and pulse. Pour in the chocolate and blend until completely mixed.
  4. Pour the batter into the spring pan. Stir in the peanut butter. (I tried to drip a thin layer of peanut butter on top, but it was too gloppy, so I ended up just stirring the peanut butter evenly into the cake at this point.)
  5. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.
Serves 8

* The peanut butter flavor was very mild. Next time I might try adding more or heating the peanut butter up first so it would drip more evenly onto the batter. Also, I think this would be great with an apricot glaze, so I'll probably try that also.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Walk The Binge Away

I've discovered a new nighttime ritual. Often touted as a great way to avoid overeating or bingeing, but rarely used (at least according to my clients), a brisk night walk is my favorite thing to do these days. I've been getting home from work, making dinner (which consisted of heating up leftover BBQ Tofu Enchilada all week), having dessert (soy chocolate pudding blended with spinach and banana...I know I know...weird...but if spinach works in a smoothie, why not pudding?), and then sitting and contemplating eating more even though I'm already full. I'm not feeling the need for an all-out binge, but just wanting to eat more when I'm already full. So on Wednesday I put my shoes on and forced myself out the door for a walk. I ended up walking for an hour, with little sprinting bursts here and there (I think the spinach pudding gave me energy), and when I got home, I had no interest in unnecessary eating. I brushed my teeth and went to bed to read my book (and by book, I really mean food blogs). Thursday I had the same need to keep eating after dessert, so once again I got myself out the door. I came back refreshed and feeling good.

Today I was so exhausted after work that I took a two hour nap. I'd felt that binge monster coming on when I got home from work, so after my nap I dragged my boyfriend outside with me and we explored the neighborhood together. I think he was a little embarassed to be speed walking with me...he said it was "lady's walking." Silly boy.

We saw some beautiful sights on our walk. I love New York because no matter how long you live here, you can always discover a new neighborhood. And there's such a fascinating mix of the man-made and natural.

Plants and trash.

Hope in a place where you have to have bars on your windows.

Art on abandoned buildings.

And this little guy sitting all alone in the middle of the sidewalk. He seemed happy enough.

When I got home, once again I felt relaxed and without the urge to binge. It had been at least five hours since my dinner, so I made myself a light snack to keep from getting too hungry late at night. It looks strange, but was really very tasty. I put a handful of fresh strawberries, spinach (once again with the spinach...you can't overdose on spinach, can you?), and a couple spoonfuls of Stoneyfield Farms fat free plain yogurt in the food processor and blended it all up. Then I added a drizzle of honey. Delicious, healthy, light. I'm content.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Joining The Blog World and BBQ Tofu Enchilada Bake

BBQ Tofu Enchilada Bake
There's a whole other world out there that I never knew about. The blog world. I started this on a whim, and have been voraciously reading other blogs ever since. I have to force myself to put my computer away at night so I'll go to sleep. Who knew there were so many people out there who love to write about healthy food as much as I do? Every day I find a fascinating new blog with recipes, tips, and ideas on everything from healthy eating to dealing with eating disorders to eating gluten-free. I find myself inspired to try new ideas, and am hoping that I can similarly inspire others as well. Today, my inspiration came from Carol at Simply Gluten-free. She's hosting this month's Go ahead honey, it's gluten-free event. Didn't know there was such a thing? Neither did I before I discovered the blog world.
This month the gluten-free event's theme is "manly food." Sort of a funny concept isn't it? It makes me think of meat, lots and lots of meat. Too bad for me I don't really love meat and I haven't been in the mood to cook with it lately. Ironically, I usually only use it when I'm making something for my boyfriend. I'm really a vegetarian at heart, even though I eat all types of meat on occasion. But I figure if vegetarian and manly don't go together, then I must have a narrow concept of what manly means. There's no reason that tofu can't be manly, right? So I give you my BBQ Tofu Enchilada Bake. It's vegetarian, gluten-free of course, healthy, and very manly. Whatever that means.

BBQ Tofu Enchilada Bake
Print-Friendly Option
1 cup sliced onions
1 green bell pepper, cut in thin slices
1 red bell pepper, cut in thin slices
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 15-oz. package extra firm tofu
4 gluten-free tortillas
BBQ Sauce (recipe below)

Start by sauteing the onions and peppers in a large pan. Cook about 2-3 minutes, until the onions have started to become translucent. Drain the water from the tofu and lightly squeeze the tofu over the sink to get excess water out. Cut the tofu into thin slices (like the shape of french fries) and add to the vegetables. Add enough BBQ sauce to coat everything and allow to saute for another 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through and the sauce just begins to stick to the pan.

Thickly coat a large baking dish (about 9 x 12) with BBQ sauce. You want the bottom completely layered so that the tortillas will soften in the sauce while it cooks. Otherwise they break apart easily, as I learned when I tried to roll these up into individual enchiladas. I'm not sure if that happens with all gluten-free tortillas or just these. I used Food For Life's brown rice tortillas, which I actually really like as long as they're softened up with some sort of sauce and heated up. If anyone has any tips on gluten-free tortillas, I'd love to hear them!

But I digress...

Layer two tortillas side by side in the bottom of the pan. Cover them with the tofu and vegetables.

Layer two more tortillas flat on top of them. Completely cover them in BBQ sauce (you might end up with a little left over, depending on how much you want to put in your dish). Spread the sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with corn.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Dietary Exchange for 8 servings - It's a starch heavy dish, so you might want to go light on the starch the rest of the day.
4 starches, 1 protein, 1 vegetable

BBQ Sauce
I found this recipe from the Marlboro Cook Like A Man Cookbook. I kid you not! Did you even know that Marlboro makes a cookbook??? I found it in our cupboard when we moved into our apartment. I almost threw it away since I'm not a big fan of the cigarette companies, but I decided I didn't want to waste a free cookbook. The BBQ sauce? Surprisingly good. And the title of the cookbook is rather fitting since the theme is manly food.

1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup ketchup
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. wheat free tamari
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer 20 minutes (put a top on or the sauce will splatter all over everything), stirring occasionally. Depending on how much sauce you want to use, you might have a little left over which you can store in the fridge for up to a month.

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


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