Thursday, January 20, 2011

Zen eating

Late last year I decided to try to drop 10 pounds and hopefully ward off the impending need to buy a slightly bigger wardrobe. My plan: to eat healthier and exercise more. A novel concept, I know. I've been planning this endeavor for exactly 4 years and 3 months -- ever since Caroline was born and my body decided to take a different road from my mind.

So January 2 was the day. I was coming off of a nasty stomach virus that gave me about a 3-pound jump on my goal. Plus, it zapped my appetite for a while longer, enabling me to ease into a key component of my fit-into-my-jeans-by-spring strategy: the eatin' healthy part.

In a nutshell, I'm eating less carbs and sugar, more fresh foods. In case you're wondering what that means exactly, I'm eating no pasta or baked carbs like bagels, crackers or chips, less bread although I'll still eat a sandwich occasionally on whole wheat bread. No sugary desserts except small amounts of dark chocolate. No fruit teas or colas. No mindless snacking or grazing. All meals and snacks are deliberate and written down. Including the Krispy Kreme donut I accidently inhaled yesterday. I just threw that in there in case you were getting too impressed.

A couple of days ago, my blog buddy (and real-life friend, I'm now happy to say) posted this about the 30 Healthiest Foods in Real Simple magazine. I flipped out because I love nearly all of these foods and cook with them regularly. Okay, in case you're too ADHD to click the links, here are the foods in the list, although I encourage you to click the link because RS includes a simple recipe and a more involved one for each food. Plus, they tell you the nutritional benefit of each. Here goes: mushrooms, barley, walnuts, whole grain pasta, peanut and almond butters, old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, skim milk, almonds, lentils, blueberries, bulgur, eggs, sardines (this one I can do without!), spinach, kiwi, wild salmon, extra virgin olive oil, chicken breast, kale, avocado, kidney beans, sweet potatoes, chard, edamame, pumpkins, oranges, nonfat greek yogurt, broccoli, black beans.

Aren't these great? I don't think RS's list is some great revelation. I've been reading nutritional literature for years and many of these foods consistently make the top-foods lists. So I suppose I've finally internalized the information and started making these foods part of my everyday routine.

I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite -- and for the most part, easy -- recipes using these foods. I do this in honor of dear Bridget who's exploring her kitchen while she waits on her referral of a little girl from Ethiopia. Get cookin' Bridge, 'cause soon you'll have your hands full with other exciting adventures.

Zen Bowl (easy)
This recipe is hijacked from a wonderful Nashville restaurant that closed a few years ago, and it's incredibly flexible so you can customize to your tastes. It serves 2 adults, 2 kids.

1 cup uncooked brown rice
Cook it using 2.5 cups water

Place in steamer basket in large saucepan with 1/2-inch water:
- Sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (I leave peel on)
- Carrots, but into 1-inch lengths
- Mushrooms, halved
- Broccoli florets
- Zucchini or squash in cubes
- Onions, thickly sliced
- Green and red peppers in 1-inch pieces
Cover and steam about 10 minutes, until veggies are cooked but not squishy.

Rinse a can of black beans and heat. In another saucepan, place equal parts butter/margarine and soy sauce/tamari; heat until melted. I use about 3 tablespoons of each.

Place dollop of rice on plate; top with veggies; sprinkle with black beans and drizzle with tamari butter. Sprinkle with a little shredded cheddar, and add hot sauce to taste.

Add a handful of fresh spinach to the top of your steam basket.
Add cubed tofu; I usually saute it in soy sauce first
Add or subtract any veggie

Bam! You've got 4-5 of the top foods in one recipe -- 6 if you try this: add some lentils and extra water to your rice. My kids love brown rice, but were wary of a lentil. So on impulse, I added a few to their rice one night and they didn't even notice.

Edited to add: Just read my Zen Eating title on another blog roll and realized it sounds much more deep and philosophical than this post really is. Sorry if you made it this far and feel misled. I have a minor in marketing, so I know how to suck you in with a good headline then really let you down. Like this: Title: How to Lose Weight in Two Easy Steps
Article: Step one: Eat less. Step two: exercise more.

Also, with a kid hanging on each arm every time I sit down, I no longer have time for deep and philosophical. However, I can direct you to several blogs that do that much better than I. If you're in the mood for light summer beach reading, you've come to the right place.


Bridget said...

Ohhhh!!!! I love you, Lori! And if I weren't teaching a class tonight, I'd be hanging in my kitchen RIGHT NOW. And tomorrow is date night! :) But I PROMISE to try your recipes. You are so sweet! Thank you!!

rebekah said...

I've lost like 5 or 8 pounds just by dropping sugar and dairy. I also dropped caffeine and alcohol, but I don't think I was getting many calories from those. I think not having caffeine or alcohol does help with overall mood and body regulation, so I just feel smoother and more in control, hence less sugar craving.

I do still eat the fun stuff for special stuff, like a certain someone's scones:) But I swear the longer I go without, the easier it is.

Norma said...

I've been meaning to ask about your Zen bowl recipe. Thanks! It sounds wonderful. I'm so excited that you're making it next Sunday.

Aunt Al said...

I'm obviously catching up here.

Here's a recipe I do a lot that you might like.

-Boil water
-Add buckwheat noodles, dried shitaake mushrooms, frozen edamame, frozen corn (all available for cheap at Kroger -- noodles and shrooms in the Asian section)
-Boil for four quick minutes
-Drain, return to pan
-Stir in soy sauce (I use Bragg's liquid aminos), Sri Racha, slivered almonds, fresh chopped ginger (when I have it)

It is the bomb, and the whole thing's done in less than 10 minutes. Buckwheat noodles are good for you. Buckwheat is actually a fruit or something. Seriously!