Diet bet! Jumpstarting 2016.

Over on Instagram (follow me! @healthyfoodwhore) I saw Big Girl Fit Girl is hosting a Diet Bet. After a few months of false starts, where I work out and eat right consistently for a few days to a week and then completely slack off my workouts (I eat pretty healthily most of the time) I really need something to kick start my workouts. Or really, to kick start me staying consistent with my workouts. January is a tough month for me to get healthy, because it is my birthday month, so I am bombarded with “free dessert” emails from restaurants, not to mention everyone taking me out to restaurants to celebrate! I’m also going on a four day road trip to celebrate my birthday and see my favorite band, Tool. The temptation to eat poorly is doubly worse when traveling, because healthy options can be difficult to find. However, since I am a pescatarian, I am already used to having limited places to eat on the road. I also found a wonderful app that I have yet to use, called “Food Tripping.” I believe I saw this in Health magazine. According to their website, Food Tripping “locates the closest eateries, juice joints, farmers’ markets, microbreweries, and more.” I’m excited to see how this will work, not to mention that in rural Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas there just aren’t a lot of healthy places to eat. Sometimes the only vegetable options that are available anywhere are fried. 😦

Even before I made the diet bet, I had decided to give up sugar for the month of January, except for one dessert whenever I celebrate my birthday. Even though the doctors at work are healthy guys, they brought us chocolate covered pretzels (a 2 pound box!) and a caramel corn assortment, some of which were chocolate covered. A coworker brought in leftover pumpkin cheesecake from Christmas because if she kept it in the house she would eat it all herself. My secret santa bought me a bag of peppermint white chocolate pretzels and a bag of mini reeces cups (In my defense, I only eat a few reeces cups per day…) and to top it all off I made 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies on Christmas Eve! I know the holidays tend to be a time where we eat poorly, but I feel like I lost what little self-control I had in some of those cases. Even though the cookies were for everyone in the family, I’m kind of ashamed at how many I personally consumed. Beating one’s self up does no good however, all we can do is get up, brush ourselves off, and shake off that food coma with a workout. I’m really excited to have made this diet bet, I don’t want to pay $35 to sit on my ass and slack off.

weight

My DietBet profile! If you’re on DietBet, even if you’re not doing Big Girl Fit Girl’s challenge, friend me. It never hurts to have extra accountability. I’m excited that so far one of my local friends has signed up for the diet bet, so we will both have some support that’s not just internet based.

How do you plan to get healthier in 2016? Comment and let me know!

Peanut butter “fluff”

This stuff is so good, it should be called “crack fluff!” My boyfriend was complaining that he can’t take apples as a snack to work because he can’t find this whipped peanut butter he likes to dip it in anymore. Of course it is some sort of processed thing and I’m sure loaded with sugar. I decided to search pinterest and I found this awesome recipe!

It’s so good! I, of course, changed it up. I used:
1/2 cup Fage 0% greek yogurt
3 Tbsp Earthbalance natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp local honey

I’ve never used agave nectar and I actually just read an article about how it’s no better than any other type of sugar. I also like using local honey because supposedly it helps with allergies. I have no idea if that’s true or not but the local stuff is also a really good price at the local co-op. I think I will add a bit more peanut butter next time, the tangyness of the greek yogurt still really comes through. I used a little less than 2 T of honey, probably more like 1-1/2 to 1-3/4. The original recipe at Cookin’ & Kickin’ notes that it keeps in the fridge for 4 days. If it lasts 4 days, I would be very surprised! My boyfriend actively resists healthy things, he doesn’t like greek yogurt, so I suggested he modify the recipe to 1/2 cup sweetened vanilla yogurt and 3 T peanut butter. If he makes it, I will report back about that. Make sure you’re not using a peanut butter that has sugar or sweetener in it, if you do omit the honey!

Getting back on track

In the last ten months, a lot has happened! Some really good – I met and got into a relationship with a wonderful man whom I love very deeply; I graduated from grad school with a Master’s in Social Work; and some not so good – unfortunately I gained 16 pounds. 😦

I didn’t intend, as I’m sure no one does, to gain “new relationship weight.” I definitely didn’t plan on slacking off on my workouts and eating ridiculous amounts of processed food and wheat again, but that’s what ended up happening. I started out that my boyfriend didn’t really cook much, so when he made me super highly processed packaged ramen, something I would normally never put in my body, it was so sweet that I ate it. When he made grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, I ate it.

Of course, I did stick to some of my more rigid dietary choices; I definitely didn’t start eating meat again even though he was a pretty big meat eater when we started dating. Part of my not eating meat is a moral thing though, so that made it easier. Little by little, he started trying vegetables and learning to cook things like quinoa and grilled salmon. As it turns out, he’s a pretty amazing cook, he rarely uses a recipe unless I send him one on pinterest. He hadn’t been an adventurous eater at ALL and like a lot of men had simply refused to try vegetables but I got tired of him saying “I don’t know…” ever time I asked if he liked something, so I started giving him bites of stuff that I was eating. He was quite surprised to learn he actually kind of likes zucchini and that artichoke did not kill him. Unfortunately, his apartment is right down the street from Baskin-Robbins and I also started indulging my love of their reece’s peanut butter cup ice cream a bit too much. Overall, 16 pounds in 10 months is not the worst thing that could happen, but I’d rather have not gained it at all. So now I’m pushing 200 pounds again and my fitness level is something that makes me really start to mentally beat myself up. But I’m not going to do that!

Grilled Salmon Salad that my boyfriend made me!

The one good thing is that I know what I need to do, I just haven’t been doing it. Grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream and gobs & gobs of pasta all taste amazing but there’s no way to eat that way all the time and stay healthy. Unfortunately for me that means weight gain, in addition to really not being healthy. So back to clean eating and working out regularly. It can be really demoralizing to lose weight that one has already lost and re-gained. I’ve lost and gained and lost this 16 pounds before. (check out my “how I lost 30 pounds” post.) Every time I lose it I say that I’m not going to gain it back. I guess what I’ve really failed to do is making my clean eating and working out a lifestyle. Truthfully, I don’t love exercise. I do love a salad with grilled wild salmon on it though, and as the memes say: Abs are made in the kitchen not the gym. How we eat is very, very important both for weight loss and for overall health. I do want to make this something that sticks this time. I’m not sure how to keep from being derailed except to be more mindful about it. It’s all a journey, so I figure it’s time to learn whatever lesson I’m not getting. Maybe to quit turning to sugar when I’m sad and when I’m happy!

Here’s the plan:

    • Log everything I eat in the SparkPeople app
    • At least ten minutes of some kind of exercise every day. I will add more to that later, but right now all I’m “requiring” of myself is to do something for ten minutes. It’s easier to convince yourself to move if you say “I only have to do ten minutes.” and it’s pretty easy to make yourself keep going after ten minutes.
    • Clean eating – back to what I know. The less processed the better. No more ramen; only sprouted grain wheat products and limiting those quite a bit; balanced protein and veggie-heavy meals. Healthy snacks.
    • Sweets only on the weekend, and only ONE THING. I’ve gotten bad about having a frapuccino and other stuff too, knowing full well a frapuccino is basically a milkshake.
    • Balance meals that aren’t as healthy with ones that are. No “cheat meal” if I want pasta I plan for it and adjust throughout the day.

Citrus mineral water, interesting swap for plain water

That’s basically it because that’s basically what is needed. Paying attention and saying “no” to bad stuff is what I had stopped doing and I have to start doing it again. One thing I’ve already done is giving up diet soda. In grad school, I started drinking it again but two weeks ago I started brewing green tea for the week and drinking that unsweetened instead of diet soda. I’ve also realized I love cucumbers, so I have been eating half a cucumber with some salad dressing for a mid-morning snack every day. I also organized my pinterest boards. I realized that having 300 recipes on a “healthy food” board was too overwhelming and difficult to find things, so I broke them down to categories like healthy shrimp, healthy sweets, quinoa and tofu, etc. This makes it a lot easier to find a great, clean eating recipe based on what sounds good at that moment. My boyfriend made this Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa Bake and it turned out so good he made a stovetop version of it for his kids. They were very suspicious of it but both (10 and 15 years old) said that it was really good and they were impressed. They ate it scooped up with tortilla chips. Not the healthiest thing ever but certainly better than Taco Bell!

I’m not thrilled with myself, but I know that the best way to sabotage myself is to beat myself up and be negative. So I’m back on the healthy eating track, and I will be posting my progress! Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Healthy-ish banana chocolate muffins

I have been so busy with grad school I haven’t posted any recipes lately! I have made some, I need to stop slacking.

I’ve been reorganizing some of my pins over on Pinterest, and started a board for just breads & muffins. I decided that this would be a great time to make Feel Great in 8‘s “Healthy Chocolate Swirl Banana Muffins”. Muffins and baked oatmeal are great ways to grab a healthy breakfast on early days. Mondays and Tuesdays are my busiest days at school, so these were perfect! I’m also trying to tempt my boyfriend into eating breakfast, he has a bad habit of not eating all day until 2pm or 4pm so I was hoping these might to the trick with that too. Who can resist chocolate?!

Chocolate muffins

For these, I didn’t really decide what to mess with until I started to make them. They’re pretty healthy to begin with, if you don’t mind 2-1/2 cups of wheat flour in 18-20 muffins. Personally, I wanted to cut down on the wheat. I subbed in some quinoa flour that I’ve had but haven’t had a chance to use yet. Unfortunately I did not realize that quinoa flour is a little bit bitter, similar to when you bake with stevia, so once I tasted the mixture I had to add more honey in order to make it palatable. I used eggs instead of flax eggs, and I added some cinnamon. I also threw some unsweetened organic coconut on the top of some of them, just to add a little texture.

Once I started, I realized no way was I swirling chocolate into muffins (they’re just too small and there’s too many of them!) so I decided to make them chocolate muffins instead of chocolate swirl. Make sure to visit Feel Great in 8 for the original recipe!

Healthy-ish Chocolate Muffins

1 cup quinoa flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup honey
2 whole eggs
1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil (measured after heating)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 unsweetened organic coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 muffin tins or add muffin cups.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon & baking soda.
In a separate bowl, mix together mashed bananas (I cut the bananas into 2″ pieces and then used a hand mixer to
“mash”), yogurt, honey, eggs, oil, and vanilla.
Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until blended.
Spoon batter into each muffin cups, about 2/3 of the way full. Top with coconut if desired.
Bake until slightly brown on top and a toothpick, poked into the center, comes out clean (18-22 minutes).
Enjoy! Keep leftovers refrigerated, or freeze and microwave on busy mornings.

You can try freezing these, but they won’t last that long! I split these between me and my boyfriend yesterday, (9 for him, 11 for me) and mine are nearly gone already. They aren’t too sweet, and they’re really moist! One thing I noticed is that in the oven they rise like a cake but then they all fell a couple minutes after I took them out of the oven and they started cooling. That wasn’t really a problem.

My boyfriend does not eat clean or healthy at all and he’s also not much of an adventurous eater (although I’m pushing him on that a bit!) so I gave him one of these before I told him anything about them. I just said “eat this and tell me what you think.” He ate it and said it was good; asked if it was gingerbread (?); and remarked how moist it was and that there was a taste he couldn’t quite identify (banana). Once he knew they were healthy, he still wanted to take them home, so I count this recipe as a win!

Chocolate muffins

Total Cheat – Chocolate Bread Pudding

My instagram followers might remember the Coconut Tres Leches cake that I made for Mother’s Day.

Coconut Tres Leches cake

I found three different recipes that I liked the sound of, and combined them. I think if I had left it at that, it would’ve been ok – but I decided at the last minute to make it gluten free and use coconut flour. It made sense, it’s a coconut cake, why not use coconut flour? Different websites cautioned that using coconut flour is tricky and it’s best to stick with proven recipes, but the main problem is that the items turn out dry and I figured I was soaking the cake in three milks so that wouldn’t be an issue.

WRONG!

I made the only dry Tres Leches cake in the history of the world. My mom loved it, but it was very disappointing to me. Another mistake I made was making it a two layer cake. I found one of those lifestyle blogs that makes even the most chic, together women feel like they’re shabby underachievers (you know the ones I mean, Goop anyone?) She made a lovely two layer Tres Leches cake, I’m not sure how. I made a cake where the top layer slid around when you tried to slice it, partially because the cake ended up dry to the coconut flour but partially because whipped cream icing doesn’t work as well on a two layer cake. I should’ve known, the restaurants make their Tres Leches cake in a rectangle pan, I needed to do it that way too.

When Father’s Day rolled around, I had learned my lesson. Sometimes, we want to indulge. A cheat can be all cheat, especially for holidays and special occasions. So I decided to make chocolate bread pudding, in all it’s gluteny, unhealthy glory. My father is huge fan of the Double-chocolate bread pudding from Red Fish Grill in New Orleans, the whole family is! I found a recipe that seemed simple enough and decided to see what happened.

Bread

Chocolate Bread pudding

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
¾ c. packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk (normally I’d sub almond milk, but I didn’t want this dessert to disappoint!)
4 cups cubed stale bread

Melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, I did this in the microwave. Add, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, eggs and milk. Add bread and let stand 30 minutes, occasionally stirring. Ladle half of the bread mixture into a loaf pan. Spread remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips on top. Ladle the rest of the bread mixture. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on the top.

Bake about 55 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 10.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, it was actually on BeliefNet. I don’t like mixing religion and anything else so I’m not linking to the original recipe but you can find it by googling “Chocolate bread pudding beliefnet.” This recipe turned out AWESOME. It was a big hit! I ate mine with some vanilla ice cream, my dad opted for ice cream and whipped cream both. It’s definitely not low-cal, or gluten free, or sugar free, or dairy free (although I think it would be fine with almond milk!) but it was very yummy for a special occasion, every-once-in-a-while cheat.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

The case against wheat

Last year, I gave up gluten for three weeks. I have several friends who are gluten free for health reasons, so I wanted to do what I considered to be impossible – completely give up gluten and then reintroduce it to see if I had an intolerance. I was convinced I did. It turns out, luckily for me, that I don’t but the experiment taught me something important: a lot of the foods I thought were necessary really weren’t. I thought it would just be too weird to eat eggs without toast or a tortilla, but it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t really keep bread in the house before, but I ate a lot of tortillas and whole wheat waffles. Now I avoid wheat most of the time, because I’ve read a lot of stuff about how wheat isn’t that great for humans. A lot of the things we consume really aren’t – it’s funny how what we eat is dictated more by society and what the manufacturers make than what we actually need to survive. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat pizza now and then, or a sandwich, but on a daily basis I don’t eat much wheat. (Although my favorite morningstar farm veggie sausage contains gluten and is probably more processed than I should be eating – boo!)

Movie theatre pretzel

It turns out, wheat probably isn’t that great for us. For one thing, the grains of today are not the same as they were 100 years ago. This makes sense, if you think about it. If you try to avoid GMOs (aka A genetically modified organism, an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.) wheat is a definite offender. A study conducted in Britain found definitive evidence that consuming wheat products caused bloating and abdominal pain in patients with irritable bowel disease. You can read about the study here, and it includes a link to the abstract. Normally I only link to what I consider to be “credible sources,” a newspaper, a scholarly journal, something that it would be ok to cite in a paper for grad school, but because this site summarizes a scientific study and I can’t access the study, I decided I would in this case. I was hoping I could actually get a PDF of the study to provide here but unfortunately it’s not available online or in my college’s library.

There’s also a great article by Mark Hyman, MD on the Huffington Post about why wheat is so bad for us. I really recommend reading it!

Brownie dessert

It’s true you can also find as many articles about why wheat is fine and the gluten free craze is just a fad. I agree on one count, just buying cookies and crackers and processed crap that’s gluten free is not better than eating gluten. You’ll notice that my first post, the gluten free waffles, were still a cheat meal. Even though they don’t contain wheat, the various gluten/wheat-free flours still pack a lot of calories. Gluten free doesn’t always mean healthy.

I will never give it up 100%, I do like to indulge occasionally, but wheat will never be a part of my daily diet again. One thing I found when I gave it up was that my food cravings went away. Not cravings for rolls and pasta, but all cravings. I didn’t get hit by the urge that I just had to have french fries that wouldn’t go away. It seemed odd to me, but that’s what happened. It’s easier to make better choices if you don’t have a hankering for something specific and unhealthy. I think everyone should give up gluten for a while and see how they feel. If nothing else, it allowed me to realize that I don’t need a roll with dinner or a tortilla with my fajitas and that saves me calories!

The “dirty dozen”

It’s true, organic “clean” food is more expensive. That’s why I remember the “dirty dozen” – foods you should always buy organic. Apparently this changes a bit from year to year, which I did not realize until I was looking at images for this post! Important information.

The dirty dozen

Remembering the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” are great, easy ways to eat more cleanly without having to spend a fortune. I found this great wallet-sized list of both. I do forget some of these so I’m going to make sure to have it with me next time I head to the grocery store.

The dirty dozen