Preparation is key to healthy eating

Eating healthy can be easy if you are prepared.   That means having healthy food on hand, and having it ready to eat.

Let’s face it, the reason we so often turn to prepared, packaged junk food is because it is convenient.  It is ready to eat right when we are hungry.  Tear open a package and eat.  Or grab it and go and eat it on the run.

Using even a small amount of preparation time can turn healthy food options into fast-food, convenient food, but best of all HEALTHY FOOD!

Here are my secrets to the very basics of eating healthy foods.

First of all you have to keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.  I used to struggle with this because it required a trip to the grocery store, and I would find myself out of fresh food, hungry and not having the time or motivation to go to the store and re-stock my fridge.  I’ve overcome that obstacle by using a produce home-delivery service.  My husband and I use Door to Door Organics and we absolutely love it!  Every week our box arrives with fresh, local, organic produce and it stays fresh all week long.

The second part is spending some time in preparation ONCE each week, so that this delicious, nutritious fresh produce is ready to eat right when you are ready to eat it!   I have a Sunday afternoon routine where I spend between one hour to maybe an hour and a half cleaning, chopping and packaging my veggies and fruits for the week.  I make up a box of mixed vegetables for both myself and my husband to take to work with us each day for the coming week.  Along with that I package measured servings of some sort of dip for the veggies (I prefer to use Hommus because it is nutritious and low-calorie).  Lastly, I will usually prepare my lunch options for the week as well, like hard-boiling eggs, making up sandwiches, cutting up and measuring out half cup servings of fruit and/or other snacks like crackers.  When I am done, my entire work week is on auto-pilot as far as food is concerned.  I just grab and go every morning on the way out the door.

Today I’m going to give you a visual peek into my kitchen as this process unfolds.  Remember, this does not take more than an hour and a half at the most and saves me from having to do ANYTHING all week long besides grab a container to go in my lunch bag.

The “Veggie Box” as I call it, is a great thing to take to work and snack on all morning.  It keeps me going between breakfast and lunch and fills me with lots of vitamins and minerals that my body needs to stay healthy and well nourished.  And it is very low-calorie!  I usually end up with about 2 cups of vegetables and 3 TBSP of Hommus.  It takes a long time to eat that many veggies so I get that feeling like I am snacking ALL morning!  (Which keeps me from reaching for other things that would not be so good for me!).

This is the nutrition stats for this weeks veggie box, as displayed after I logged the contents of it into caloriecount.about.com

This is the nutrition stats for this weeks veggie box, as displayed after I logged the contents of it into caloriecount.about.com

 

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The difference a day can make

How often do you step on the scale? Once a week? Monthly? Every day?

There seems to be endless arguments for and against every option. I have a standing appointment with my scale at 6:10 a.m. each morning to review the previous days events and their impact on my body weight. We do not always see eye to eye, but our daily meetings help me to start my day accurately knowing if what I am doing is working or not so I can adjust as needed in the coming day.

What, too soon?

I’ve heard a lot of arguments against weighing in daily; with the key take-away being that people feel their weight fluctuates too much from one day to the next, and they don’t want to get discouraged as they are trying to lose weight. I agree it’s possible for there to be significant fluctuations in weight on a daily basis, however, I believe this is due largely to poor diet and inconsistent weight loss habits. We should use that as motivation to clean up our diets and build more consistency in how we take care of ourselves.

I am a strong advocate for daily weighing so you have the time to react right away if the numbers start moving in the wrong direction. These numbers are also a good evaluation of the quality of your diet, and can even be an indication of hidden health issues. I think that if you’re eating the right things, in the right amounts, your weight should be fairly consistent.

(yes, yes, ladies, I know the “that time of the month” argument, but I think that week goes without saying – stay off the scales for 7 days, you don’t want to see whatever it has to say!)

Slow and steady wins the race

In the past, I used to see my numbers swing up and down quite a bit. But that was back when I was making poor food choices and didn’t have a very strong approach to losing weight. Of course, I didn’t realize all of that at the time. I used to eat a lot of “junk” and at times would just try to eat less of it to lose weight.

    Junk is still junk no matter how much of it you’re eating and it will have the same results in your body either way.

For example, eating a lot of processed and packaged foods – these things are loaded with sodium which will easily cause your body to retain fluid and inflate your weigh in’s. This can cause a big difference on the scale from one day over the next. I’ve found that eating a lot of sugary and/or processed white products can also cause a lot of unwanted action on the scale. Eating a lot of sugar, white bread, pasta or rice seems to clog up the digestive system and add temporary weight until they finally make their way…..um… you know, out.

Over the last year I have slowly but surely made significant changes in not just how much I eat, but more importantly WHAT I eat. (More about that in another post to come!) I have been amazed at the consistency of my weight! Even during the process of losing weight, I was very consistent. Here is an example of what my daily numbers would look like:

Mon. – 125.0
Tues. – 125.2
Wed. – 124.8
Thur. – 124.6
Fri. – 125.0
Sat. – 124.6
Sun. – 124.4
Mon. – 124.6
Tues. – 124.2
Wed. – 124.8
Thur. – 124.0
Fri. – 124.2
Sat. – 123.8
Sun. – 124.0

So what I see is a swing back and forth of just a few tenths of a pound. Whatever whole number I am seeing most frequently is the weight that I will “claim” as my current weight.

By weighing daily, I can monitor if I am on a downward trend or an upward trend. If most of my numbers are going down a little, it’s OK if they jump back up a few tenths of a pound, usually they’ll go right back down the next day or so. Typically I don’t see fluctuations of a whole pound at a time. If I start to notice a plateau where I am bouncing back and forth with the same half pound and never going below it, (or the numbers are going up and not back down) I know it is time to review my food logs and make note of my daily calorie deficits. I will probably find that I’ve been eating just 100 or 200 calories more a day than I really should and that is keeping me in a holding pattern. Usually just a tweak or two in my daily diet will quickly correct the situation.

So, what brought all this up?

What made me think to write a post about this topic, was the way I ate last weekend and how it affected the scale. Last Saturday I attended a Bridal Shower for my best friend, Terri. I anticipated going over my daily calorie budget and I tried to offset it by doing a good treadmill run that morning before I left. However, after 2 glasses of wine, 2 cupcakes, a plate full of pasta salad and chicken salad and lots of other munchies (including M&M’s and jelly beans)….when I tried to tally everything up it came to around 2800 calories for the day. (Keep in mind, my normal daily target is 1350.)

Terri's bridal shower June 2013 - Casey (left), Terri (center), me (right)

Terri’s bridal shower June 2013 – Casey (left), Terri (center), me (right)

The best part of the bridal shower was when I first got there and saw Terri. She hadn’t seen me since we tried on dresses in November.

The first words out of her mouth were “Wow, look at you! You don’t even look like you! I’ve never seen you this tiny!”

And she’s right! She’s been my best friend for about the last 15 years and she never has seen me this thin! That felt really, really good to hear her say. 🙂

One thing I have learned is that it takes a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound of weight. I simply cannot starve myself enough to lose a pound a week, my average is 1/2 lb per week by creating an average calorie deficit of -250 per day. Conversely, it seems that about 1250 extra calories in a day can add over 1 lb. of weight to my body. I’m not crazy about this mathematical double standard!

As if the eating frenzy on Saturday weren’t enough to set my scale on tilt…my husband’s 40th birthday was on Monday, so we had cake and ice cream on Sunday! He also had asked me if I would please, for his birthday, make “sour cream cookies” like his Grandma used to make. So I searched the internet, found what I thought to be the right recipe (I had never tasted or seen these cookies he was telling me about), and at 9:00 pm Saturday after being at that shower all day, I made him cookies. And they turned out so delicious that I snarfed down several of them! Unfortunately they were about 135 calories each!

But the cookies were worth it, they made my husband happy, and he said they were “just like Grandma’s”, which made me very happy!
If you’d like to try the recipe I used, you can find it here:
Sour Cream Cookies

I am no longer married to a man in his 30's.  No, I'm not leaving my husband!  He's turning 40!!  :)

I am no longer married to a man in his 30’s. No, I’m not leaving my husband! He’s turning 40!! 🙂

I weighed myself Saturday morning before all this eating of sugar, pasta and the likes, and came in at 123.4 lbs. Sunday morning it was 124.8. By Monday morning I was up to 125.4. I gained a pound per day last weekend! But at least I am aware of it, and now I can really buckle down this week to make sure I quickly counteract this.

And that, my friends, is the difference a day can make.

This observation has really helped me to reaffirm in my mind that even though I am in “maintenance mode” now, I cannot stop being relentless with counting the calories, working out to burn calories, and exercising discipline with my food choices every day. The math doesn’t lie, and neither does the bathroom scale.

    You have to keep it going, if you want to keep it gone!

Healthy Eating Habits

Just thinking about some of the habits I’ve developed over the last year or so that have really enabled me to be successful in eating healthier and reducing my calorie intake:

– Stock the freezer with steam-in-the-microwave vegetable side dishes for dinner.
These are ready in about 5 minutes, pack a ton of nutrition, are tasty and very low in calories.

– Stock the freezer with frozen fish.
Preferably the unbreaded or very lightly breaded kind. Keep a variety like salmon, tilapia, cod. Pop these in the oven for around 30 minutes after work, couple with a steamfresh veggie side and you’ve got a filling, nutritious, yummy dinner for 300 calories or less! Take it a step further, skip the tartar sauce and instead keep fresh lemons on hand and squeeze fresh lemon juice onto your fish.

– Stock the fridge with fresh veggies, buy organic & local – they will last longer.
We use a local organic produce delivery service. www.doortodoororganics.com For the same cost we would spend at the grocer each week, we get a box of fresh, local organic produce delivered to our doorstep. Our box arrives on Friday, I cut everything up on Sunday and by the end of the week the veggies are still fresh!

– Preparation is key!
I spend an hour on Sunday cutting up veggies and storing mixed varieties in tupperware-type bowls to take to work through the week. Pre-portion healthy dip into covered to-go containers as well, I recommend Hommus. Measure out snack crackers like Triscuits into baggies to go as well. Play with the serving size: if 6 crackers is 120 calories but you’d like your snack to be a little less, then only pack 4 or 5 crackers.

– Keep the pantry stocked with low-calorie, nutritious snacks.
Keep a basket full of quick, portable snacks like Kashi soft baked bars or chewy granola bars. Fill the pantry with options that are under 200 calories per snack. Bananas work great for this too. Before they get overly ripe, peel them, cut into pieces and pop them into the freezer in a bag to be used later in protein shakes.

– Keep a variety of low-calorie snacks to suit your tastes at different times.
We subscribe to Nature Box – they ship a box once a month filled with delicious snacks, different stuff each month – and it is all organic or non-gmo, all-natural and yummy!

– Switch to smaller dishes!
Stock your cupboards with 4 oz glasses to easily portion out juice, milk, etc into amounts of fewer calories than a standard 8 oz serving. Use dessert-sized plates for your main entrée. You can take smaller portions and still have the visual sensation of eating a full plate of food.

– Invest in good measuring tools for your kitchen.
You can never have enough measuring cups, stainless steel measuring spoons, and even serving spoons that are 1/2 cup size to help portion control from the pan to the plate.