Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Simple Gluten-Free Day

It's time for another gluten-free day. I love seeing what Kath eats every day. And who doesn't want to know what Jenna's eating? Of course I have to check in on Lynn and Christy to see what culinary delights they have to show us. And then I run over to Gena's to see what raw surprises she'll tempt us with. But what are the gluten-free gals (and guys) eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

I present to you my gluten-free day, starting with my favorite meal: breakfast. Why is it my favorite? Because it's so easy. I wake up knowing what I'm going to eat and that I'll feel satisfied with it. It's not like dinner, where you eat it...and then get the inevitable nighttime munchies. Nope, breakfast is simple.

I filled my blender with mixed greens for my smoothie.

Unsweetened almond milk, half a banana, blueberries, and cinnamon made for a tart morning treat. The best thing about green smoothies (I mean, aside from being a great way to get more greens in) is that they make you feel full but have less than 200 calories.

I waited a little while before having some fat-free plain yogurt with flax seeds, walnuts, and cinnamon.

Lunch was a mash up of leftovers. Mixed salad greens with shrimp and red kidney beans. I stirred in some cilantro pesto and guacamole for the dressing. It was okay, but I have to be honest with you: next time I need to use up a bunch of cilantro, I'll follow a recipe. My random mix of cilantro, olive oil, walnuts, and garlic didn't exactly make the cut. The guacamole was necessary to give it a little more oomph.

After an amazing session of yoga (I love the new yoga studio I found!), I was starving. I had some carrots and rice crackers with guacamole and hummus. But that wasn't enough.

I added a serving of corn chips.

And frankly that still wasn't enough. Did I mention I went to the gym too? A little overkill? Maybe...

I munched on some grapes while I waited for dinner to cook. It took a ridiculously long time, but I think it was worth it. Greek lemon chicken with roasted potatoes, onions, and red peppers. I got the recipe from The Diabetes Diet Cookbook. It's the first recipe I've tried, but I like the book because it includes the dietary exchanges for all of the recipes, as well as a comprehensive nutritional guide in the beginning.

A side of ginger carrot soup completed my meal.

And...that's it. Time for bed.

Or not.

My day should have ended there, but I couldn't stop myself from having a couple of spoonfuls of almond butter too. I'm telling's the nighttime munchies. I think tomorrow I'll pick out a couple of fancy fat-free yogurts to satisfy me at night... Those almond butter calories add up way too quickly!

And that's it...for real this time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lessons Learned

Trying to lose weight can sometimes feel like walking on a tightrope. You're anxious, you're afraid you're going to fall off, and for every step forward, it feels like you end up taking a step back to regain your balance. For instance, this week I ate really healthy and got back to my pre-vacation weight. Finally! Then yesterday I woke up craving sugar and salt, and by the end of the day I had no doubt I had gained back a couple of those pounds I had lost. A few years ago, I would have jumped right off that tightrope in defeat. But today, my tightrope's not so narrow. I can take a few steps back and look around before I move forward again. Today I know that a step back is really just an opportunity to learn something new before moving on.

A few years ago (actually I just realized it might have been four...where has the time gone!?), I decided to talk with a therapist - once again - about my bingeing. She asked me to do something that none of my past therapists had done, but now seems so simple and obvious to me. She asked me to write a "slip" journal. That meant that every time I slipped and binged, I had to write in a journal about what was going on. Where I was when I binged, what had happened earlier in the day, what was happening later, the thoughts and emotions I was feeling, etc. The purpose of this was to look for patterns and triggers, and also to come up with solutions so that the next time I was in the same situation, I could come up with a healthier option. After this, I stopped seeing bingeing as a failure, but rather began to look at it as an opportunity to learn something new to help myself. As long as I made the effort to examine my behavior and come up with some solutions for next time, there was no need to feel bad.

Now, I can look at a day like yesterday and ask myself what happened and how I can keep it from happening again. There were two simple triggers that I can avoid or change in the future:
  1. I've been eating too much sugar. I made my first ever gluten-free zucchini bread, which I was really proud of, but the recipe used a lot of sugar. I know myself well enough to know that when I eat sugar, it triggers a craving for more sugar. So I'll be searching for gluten-free baking recipes that don't have a lot of sugar, like from Amy's blog, Simply Sugar & Gluten Free.
  2. My boyfriend and I went hiking, and I didn't plan well. I brought a bunch of snacks, but they were mostly starches, dried fruit, and nuts. I should have taken the time to plan a lunch that would include some protein and vegetables. After a day of intense exercise and unbalanced eating, I was completely off-kilter when we got home. I made a salad, and then proceeded to eat corn chips and cheese. Needless to say, the salad ended up back in the fridge. So next time I go hiking, I'll be taking the time to plan a balanced meal and snacks to take with me.
Was yesterday perfect? No. Did I learn something from it? Yes. And that's all I can ask of myself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dessert For Breakfast? Say It Ain't So!

Coconut Banana Sundae

I already blogged about banana ice cream, but frankly it just keeps getting better. One more time, and then I swear, I'm done. Not done eating it. Just done blogging about it. So if you haven't yet jumped on the banana ice cream bandwagon, get ready because it's coming around again. It's the easiest "dessert" you'll ever make.

My most recent version is a decadent coconut banana sundae, complete with blueberries and walnuts. It's perfect for breakfast or dessert, and as my friend, Sarah, can attest to, this little bowl is surprisingly satisfying.

1 banana
1/2 cup blueberries
1/8 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp. shredded coconut

  1. Peel the banana and cut into pieces. Freeze for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
  2. Puree the banana in a food processor for about 3-5 minutes, until it looks like the consistency of ice cream. Add the coconut and process another 30 seconds.
  3. Scoop the banana into a bowl and top with blueberries and walnuts.
Serves 1
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See? So easy! And at approximately 275 calories, it's a sundae you don't have to feel guilty about.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eating Out Without Gaining Weight

Mediterranean Mac and Cheese from S'MAC

It turns out New Yorkers eat out a lot. And by a lot, I mean all the time. Many of my clients don't actually cook, and a good number of them live by dining out, ordering in, and popping frozen meals in the microwave. So how can one dine on the many delights of restaurant food without gaining weight? That's a tough question, and not something easily mastered. If it were, I would probably be a couple of pounds lighter, and so would my clients.

However, I have a few tricks up my sleeve, and have learned some from my clients as well. Tonight I dined at S'MAC, an AMAZING mac and cheese place in the East Village. I know I know, mac and cheese...not exactly healthy fare, right? But when I learned that they have gluten-free mac and cheese, I had to go, healthy or not. And boy was it worth it. My mac had goat cheese, sauteed spinach, kalamata olives, and roasted garlic. Is your mouth watering yet? I didn't feel at all like I was eating something "gluten-free." I was just eating something sinfully delicious.

But knowing I was splurging that night, I ate light the rest of the day, left some on my plate to take home for the next day (and by the way, the small "nosh" plate is plenty! I got the major munch and there was no way I could finish it!), and brushed my teeth the second I walked in the door. Which was a good thing because even now I'm craving seconds, but I hate brushing my teeth so there's no way I'm going to eat and then have to brush them again. You see? That's trick #8. It works for me every time.

So here are a couple of tricks to keep your pants fitting right, even when you're eating out every night.
  1. Don't starve yourself all day. If you know you're going out for dinner, you can eat lighter throughout the day, but eat steadily so you don't get too hungry. Saving all your calories for dinner doesn't work; it just slows down your metabolism.
  2. Have a snack of veggies or fruit before you go to the restaurant. If you're not as hungry, you'll be more likely to make smart choices and eat smaller portions.
  3. Start with a broth based soup or salad. According to Dr. Barbara Rolls, people who start their meals with one of these options end up eating fewer calories overall.
  4. Try to limit your carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes, peas, corn, rice, etc.) to about the size of a small fist. More than anything else, those carbs will go straight to your waist.
  5. If the restaurant has a menu online, decide what you're going to order before you get there. That way you don't even have to open the menu and be tempted by all the other options.
  6. Try asking for a bread plate with your meal. Fill that plate to eat off of and take the rest home.
  7. One restaurant meal can feed you for a couple of days. Whenever I get my favorite thai noodle dish, I try to fill up on the vegetables and just eat a few of the noodles. Then I take them home, saute up a bunch more vegetables and turn that into lunch for the next two days.
  8. Brush your teeth as soon as you get home. After a dinner out, you aren't going to need a nighttime snack, but that won't stop you from wanting one.
These are my tricks. Do you have any that work well for you?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When You're At A Loss, Go Back To Basics

Quinoa with Blueberries and Sunflower Seeds

When my clients aren't losing weight, I revisit the basics with them. I go back to the simple questions. Are you eating breakfast? What are you eating? What did you eat today? How often are you eating? Are you getting enough protein, vegetables, fruit, etc.? When it comes to weight, there's a lot of emotional baggage involved, but at the end of the day, it's a science, and going back to basics means getting back to a simple framework.

This was what I realized when I asked my coworker for a consultation today. Not shockingly, I gained a couple of pounds during my two week vacation in San Diego. However, it's been almost a month since I got back, and the weight hasn't come off. What to do? Talk to my go-to gal for weight-loss motivation (yep, we counselors sometimes need counseling too!). With all the emotional upheaval of eating gluten again and then going back off it, my regular eating habits fell by the wayside. Not that I stopped eating healthy, but there were some extra cookies (I rationalized it by telling myself I deserved them because I couldn't eat regular cookies anymore), and a bit too much peanut butter (I mean, it's gluten-free, right?) and a few too many gluten-free waffles. I realized if I didn't watch it, that number on that scale was going to start creeping in the wrong direction.

So it's back to basics for me. What does that mean? It means keeping track of food exchanges so that I don't eat randomly throughout the day and suddenly find myself starving before bedtime because I didn't eat enough vegetables or protein earlier. It means cutting out the store bought gluten-free bread and waffles I've been having for breakfast and going back to unprocessed foods. Quinoa with sunflower seeds and blueberries for breakfast. Brown rice with sauteed vegetables and tofu for lunch. Chicken with black beans and green peppers for dinner. The options are endless. Yet simple.

So I spent tonight getting my kitchen back in order and making my meals for the next couple of days. With everything prepared ahead of time, it's easy to grab what I need in the morning and go to work, knowing I won't be ravenous when I get home. Tomorrow I'll start the day off right with a pureed sweet potato with sunflower seeds and raisins. And hopefully that scale will start inching back in the right direction, one healthy meal at a time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Gluten-Free Day and Honey Glazed Salmon

Now that I've become gluten-free permanently, one of the questions I get asked a lot is, "Well, what do you eat?" The answer is, basically the same things I used to eat; I'm just more cautious now about reading labels. The biggest change has been switching my old bread (I love Vermont bread...if you can eat gluten, I highly recommend it!) to a gluten-free version. Well, that and learning how to eat out...but that's a complicated topic for another day. Aside from the bread though, I already occasionally ate gluten-free waffles, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and quinoa, so I've simply made those a staple of my diet instead of english muffins and pasta.

For those new to the gluten-free world though, it can be challenging to think of alternatives for their old standbys, so I've decided to include a new topic for this blog: a gluten-free day. Every couple of weeks, I'll post all my meals for the day to give you an idea of all the options out there. And there's a great recipe below for Honey Glazed Salmon and Curried Lentils!

So here's my gluten-free day...

Breakfast was simple. Two pieces of Food For Life brown rice bread with peanut butter on one piece and raw almond butter on the other. Like most gluten-free breads, this one is great as long as it's toasted. Untoasted, it's not worth eating. Sad, but true. My smoothie today had mixed salad greens, almond milk, half a banana, frozen mango, a tablespoon of shredded coconut, and cinnamon. I've been experimenting with a lot of combinations in my smoothies, and so far I've enjoyed them all.

For a snack, I had some fat-free plain yogurt. In keeping with my sugarless challenge, I added cinnamon and raspberries to flavor it. I can't deny it would have tasted even better with honey, but the raspberries were delicious and the cinnamon definitely enhanced the natural flavor.

Lunch had to be quick and easy because I knew dinner was going to take more time to make and I didn't want to be in the kitchen all day. Sauteed mushrooms and green peppers with a hot dog (Applegate Farms is gluten-free) and a scrambled egg.

And for dinner, an idea I've been wanting to try for a while. I adapted a lentil soup recipe to use as a base for salmon. My friend, Cecilia gave me the idea for the baked salmon, and thus tonight's dinner was created. Honey Glazed Salmon Over Curried Lentils. I completed it with a side of sauteed broccoli and mushrooms. Have you noticed yet how often I saute my vegetables?

Honey Glazed Salmon Over Curried Lentils
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Salmon:2 8-oz salmon fillets
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

1/4 bag of lentils
1/4 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
7 oz canned diced tomatoes (they usually come in 14-oz cans, so you can just use half of that)
1 large red potato, diced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 bay leaf
fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. plus a dash of cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste


  1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain the water and set the potatoes aside.
  2. Cook the lentils with the bay leaf according to the directions on the bag. Drain about half of the liquid and take out the bay leaf. Set aside the lentils in the remaining liquid.
  3. In a large pot, saute the onions and carrots until tender.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the potatoes and lentils (with the will cook down) and stir.
  7. Add the cinnamon and curry and continue to cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
  1. Drizzle the honey over the salmon and marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  2. When you're ready to get started, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. While the lentils are cooking, take out the salmon and arrange on a baking sheet (spray it with cooking spray first so it won't stick). Pour the liquid in the marinating dish over the fillets. Sprinkle the walnuts on top of the fillets. Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Cut each fillet in half to make four servings.
When the lentils and salmon are done, spoon the lentils onto a plate. Garnish with chopped cilantro (the more, the better in my opinion) and place the salmon on top.

Serves 4

Dietary Exchange Per Serving
5 proteins, 2.5 starches, 3/4 fat, 1/2 vegetable

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Sugarless Challenge

Now that I've thoroughly enjoyed my gluten-free cinnamon walnut coffee cake, it might be a good time to talk about sugar. As happy as I was eating my cake, it reminded me that the more I eat sugar, the more I crave it. So now that the cake's gone, a little sugar detox is in order.

We all know that Americans eat a lot of sugar. Sugar in your coffee, honey in your tea, jam on your toast, sweetened soy milk... Don't even get me started on soda! But if there's something I've learned since working as a weight loss counselor, it's that with sugar, a little goes a long way. I've had a lot of clients initially refuse to cut the sugar out of their coffee, only to find out they weren't able to lose weight until they did so. This past week, a client who has been stuck at the same weight for months admitted to me she puts four packets of sugar in her coffee every day! No wonder the scale wasn't budging! It can seem like such a small thing. It's just a teaspoon here and there. That can't really make a difference, can it?

Yes, it can. And it does. Simply cutting out those teaspoons of sugar can help you drop a couple of pounds (if that's your goal) without making any other changes. So I challenge you to a sugarless week. Think about what you're eating and drinking, and find something where you can cut out some sugar. Maybe it's cutting down from four sugars in your coffee to two, or even better, zero. Maybe it's having a slice of bread with just peanut butter and leaving the jelly off. Maybe it's buying all-natural peanut butter rather than the kind with sugar/honey/high fructose corn syrup in it. Perhaps you can drink your tea with a squeeze of fresh lemon and leave the honey out. Look at the ingredients on your food labels. There are a lot of names for sugar so you might have to be a detective and find where it's hiding.

And to add to the challenge, I dare you to simply cut the sugar out without adding something "sugar-free" in its place. No splenda, no equal, no stevia, not even agave nectar. Buy some fruit if you want a natural sweetener, or let your taste buds adapt to the natural sweetness in foods. The less added sugar you eat, the sweeter natural foods will start to taste to you.

Where am I taking the sugar out of my day? Flavored yogurts. On average, I would say I eat two 6-oz yogurts per day, and each one contains about 24 grams of sugar. Now apparently we're not supposed to consume more than 40 grams of sugar a day, so I'm going over just with my yogurt. Who knows how much I eat when I add in everything else throughout the day! So my personal challenge is to only eat plain yogurt this week, thereby saving about 12 grams of sugar per 6-oz container. And that adds up. Cutting out 24 grams of sugar each day is pretty good for such a simple change.

So are you up for the sugarless challenge? What ways can you cut out sugar on a daily basis?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gluten-Free Baking, Take One

Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake

I've always been a better cook than I am a baker. I'm not very good at measuring precisely, and recipes are more like general guidelines to me. Perhaps this is why I never excelled in chemistry. I much prefer cooking, where I can taste as I go and season as the mood strikes me. The only reason I bake, really, is because I love to eat what I make. Unfortunately, gluten-free baking is kind of like advanced chemistry. Every ingredient is essential for a different reason, and getting the amounts correct makes a huge difference. Now that I've rejoined the gluten-free world, and this time for good, I have to learn the science behind gluten-free goodies.

To start, I picked a couple of recipes I wanted to try and headed to the gluten free mall where I ordered a medley of flour alternatives (potato starch, sorghum flour, corn meal, and the essential xantham gum). My package arrived only two days later, and I happily planned my first gluten-free baking expedition.

I hurried home from work today, excited to make gluten-free cinnamon rolls. I found a scrumptious looking recipe at I Am Gluten Free, and armed with my potato starch and xantham gum, began measuring away. I followed the recipe almost exactly, making only two changes. I brushed the rolled dough with melted butter before adding the filling (because that's what my mom does). And for the filling, I used half white sugar, half brown sugar instead of all brown. But aside from that, I did everything as the recipe called for. At least I think. As I said, precise measurements are not exactly my forte.

My first clue that I had messed up somewhere came when I tried to cut the rolls and place them in the pie dish. They were too mushy and kept falling apart. It quickly became clear that it wasn't going to work. I considered just eating all the batter and pretending it had never happened. (Just kidding! Well, actually I did think about it, but the thought was fleeting). I ended up putting the whole batch of dough in the pan together and smoothing it over with a knife. Goodbye cinnamon rolls. Hello coffee cake!

It turned out the texture was more like that of coffee cake anyway, so it all worked out in the end. I didn't learn how to make cinnamon rolls, but now I know how to make a great cinnamon walnut coffee cake!

This gluten-free baking thing is going to take a lot of practice, but overall I'm pretty satisfied with my first try at it. I won't be attempting this recipe again any time soon because it's very calorie dense and should really only be made once a year (as my mom only makes her cinnamon rolls once a year, for Christmas). But I'll have to try it again before Christmas. I'm determined to have gluten-free cinnamon rolls to eat on Christmas morning!

And in the meantime, I'll be experimenting with gluten-free bread and learning to expand my gluten-free meal repertoire.


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