I Quit Weight Watchers

I haven’t really talked much about my specific diet strategies on here much.  Normally, I try to eat appropriate amounts of healthy foods.  That has resulted in some nice body recomposition, and consistent progress.  But, when I got hurt last summer, I needed something more structured to help me maintain my weight (or even lose some) while I was unable to exercise.  I wasn’t (and, frankly, still am not) able to just intuitively eat to maintain my weight.  I wasn’t really sure how to figure out my expenditure and make a good plan, so I decided to join Weight Watchers.  I had heard good things, and I really wanted someone to tell me just how to do things.

It worked too, while I wasn’t exercising.  Once I started exercising, though, it was very difficult to follow their points system and see results.  I think it overestimated my activity when I tracked it (sometimes a run might count for 30 points – which is more than some people eat in a whole day) and then I tended to be more lax with my diet – since I had the points.  Or, if I ignored the activity points that I earned, I found that I felt completely depleted and underfed.  My recovery started to suffer.  It just wasn’t working.

My other issue was that it focused so much more on QUANTITY rather than QUALITY.  I think they try to get people to focus on healthy choices, but I don’t know that having that much freedom of choice is good for me in a deficit.  I tended to gravitate toward a cookie rather than a granola bar or greek yogurt if they were the same amount of points.  I have a way to go in resolving all my food issues, and I think I make better choices overall if I am focusing more on eating good, healthy foods to fuel my body, rather than just focusing on staying below a target.

So, I decided to quit.  A part of me felt like I was giving up, but I am getting back to basics with my diet.  I’m re-embracing all the strategies that I used before (with success).  I shouldn’t have let so many of them go – I don’t feel as healthy as I used to, even though I am at a smaller weight.  I went to the grocery store today, and re-stocked on all my old staples, and am ready to hit it hard tomorrow.

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So, apparently Panera has a HIDDEN menu…

I just heard – Panera has healthier, low-calorie menu options!  From what I can tell, there are options that are gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.   Oh, but they are on a secret menu…

For the new year, Panera started serving a “hidden menu” that has lower calorie paleo-ish items.  This is great… in theory.  Panera’s made-to-order business model certainly allows for enough customization of the menu for just about anyone to stick to their chosen diet.  However, so many of their soups and sandwiches are sneakily caloric.  Even the salads have piles of nuts and cheese, which certainly pack on the calories (they are calorie-dense, even if they ARE delicious and have some nutritional value).  I was pretty excited to learn that they are now offering these newer items – things like a Mediterranean Chicken (or turkey) Salad, Chicken Hummus Bowl, or Steak Lettuce Wraps.  Nice.

Here’s my problem with this – WHY is it a hidden menu?  At this time of year, when everyone is thinking about healthier lifestyles (whether a New Year’s Resolution or just getting back on track after the holidays), they could probably draw in a lot of business with these options.  Plus, without advertising the menu, people might not hear about it, and it won’t be profitable.  If it isn’t profitable, it won’t last.  This is sad – there aren’t many quick, healthy options out there, and I think people would embrace these items if they were on the regular menu.

So, if you want to try it (and you are in the U.S.), you have to tell the cashier that you are ordering from the hidden menu… and try not to feel silly doing so!  Next time I go to Panera, I plan to give it a whirl.  If anything, I will be voting with my wallet.

Isn’t the whole thing kind of strange, though?  Why develop a new menu concept, but then not do everything possible to make it succeed?

Red Lentil Soup

lentil soup

I love soups this time of year.  Not only are they a great way to get some veggies, but they are so warm and filling.  This recipe, which I first made after a long run, is everything that is good about soup!  It is hearty and creamy – and the red lentils give it some heft without the addition of actual cream (or other dairy).  Like most soup, it doesn’t photograph well (seriously, doesn’t it look gloppy??), but it tastes amazing.  The addition of cumin and chili flakes lend just a bit of heat, and the sweet potatoes give it just a bit of chew.

This makes a large batch, and was just what I needed after a long run on a chilly day.  It only takes about 20-30 minutes of actual prep time, so can even be a weeknight meal (if you have time for it to simmer).

Red Lentil Soup
adapted from The Chew

Ingredients:

Olive Oil (for bottom of pan)
1 large onion
7 large carrots (or a couple handfuls of baby carrots), sliced
2 celery ribs (chopped)
4-6 garlic gloves, minced (we love garlic, and actually used 8 cloves)
2 cups of red lentils (rinsed)
2 teaspoons of ground Cumin
1 teaspoon of ground Coriander
1 teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon of Turmeric
6-8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (depending on how wet you like it – you could also use vegetable broth)
1 sweet potato, diced
1 bunch of kale, chopped with thin stems removed

How to make it:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven, and add onion.  Cook until onion is soft.
  2. Add carrots and celery, and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic, and cook for one minute.
  3. Stir in the rinsed red lentils.  Cook for a couple minutes, until the lentils are well-coated with oil and slightly toasted.
  4. Add cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, and turmeric, and continue to toast until spices are fragrant.
  5. Add the stock, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the sweet potato and kale, and cook for about 10-15 minutes (or until sweet potato is cooked through).
  7. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve.

 

Healthy Creamed Spinach (with Kale)

I mentioned this in another post already, but I wanted to make sure to highlight this recipe – it is delicious.  I found it last year, and it has been an off-and-on staple every since (I tend to cycle through recipes).  Plus, unlike other healthy re-makes, this recipe has ingredients that are easy to find, inexpensive, and really tasty – while cutting out the junk!

I usually double this recipe for the two of us, and include some kale if I have it on hand.  If you’re not big on kale, this is a good way to eat it – you barely notice the bitterness, but benefit from all the nutrients!  You can use less garlic if you want, but we kind of love it so we use a little extra!

Creamed Spinach with Kale
adapted from Ask Georgie

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon butter (or oil of your choice – I’ve also used coconut oil)
2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tablespoons of milk (I use 1%)
1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese, Original Swiss
2 big handfuls of Spinach, chopped with large stems removed
1 big handful of Kale, chopped with large stems removed

How to Make it:

  1. Melt the butter (or oil) in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant and just slightly browned.
  3. Add milk and cheese wedge, and stir until cheese is melted.
  4. Add the kale and spinach, and allow to cook in the sauce until wilted (stirring occasionally).
  5. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for a few more minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken.
  6. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to thicken just a bit more before serving.

Give this a try.  Jeb isn’t crazy about the taste of vegetables, but whenever I make this, he devours it!

Oh, and there’s no picture – we always eat it all before I remember to take one!

“Resolved: Eat the Damn Cookie”

Resolved: Eat the Damn Cookie | Runner’s World & Running Times.

I don’t really go for New Year’s Resolutions.  I generally try to pull my eating back on track after an indulgent holiday season, but resolutions, in and of themselves, just don’t work for me.  I like Mark Remy’s take here.  It is an exercise in moderation – and not sweating the small stuff.

That being said, I do want to drop some pounds.  I have my goal race in April, and my sister is getting married in May.  I have a hell of a semester coming up, so I want to maximize this slightly quieter time in my life.

So, my plan is:

  • Track my food
  • Follow the Level 1 nutritional challenge from Girls Gone Strong (more on this later)
  • Keep on track with my running/training for my goal race
  • Remain injury free (maintain mobility, especially)
  • Do some yoga (good for mobility AND stress relief)
  • Manage my stress
  • Get plenty of sleep

If I can follow all of these principles 90% of the time, I should be in good shape by spring (pun intended).