February 22, 2010

Chain Restaurants

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:11 am by savorencyclopedia

I do not eat out often.  Proximity to chain restaurants, along with the cost of eating out frequently are major factors in this decision.  In that regard, I am lucky.  When I lived near chain restaurants, there was always the temptation to grab a quick and easy meal simply by hopping in the car and driving to the nearest location.  That temptation is much easier to resist when I have to drive at least 15 miles to the nearest chain.  Suddenly the quick and easy part are not so valid.

For the rare occasion when I do eat out, I like to research the dishes and find the best options.  I like to have a few meals in mind (along with their nutritional values) before I step foot through their door.

Here are some of my picks for some basic chain restaurants.

Subway (Nutritional Info)

6” Turkey on wheat bread with provolone cheese and veggies

6” Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki on wheat with American cheese and veggies

6” Oven Roasted Turkey Breast on wheat with shredded Monterey jack cheese with veggies

Baked Chips, Apples or Yogurt

McDonalds (Nutritional Info)

Southwest Salad with grilled chicken

Culver’s (Nutritional Info)

Cheeseburger Kid’s Meal (smaller portions go a long way)

Wendy’s (Nutritional Info)

Side salad with any low-cal dressing

Chili

Baked Potato

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Olive Garden (Nutritional Info)

Salad (ask for low-fat dressing)

Capellini Pomodoro with grilled chicken

Venetian Apricot Chicken

Applebee’s (They do not offer their nutritional info online)

These items are on the 550 calories or less menu

Asian Crunch Salad

Spicy Shrimp Diavolo

Grilled Shrimp and Island Rice

Chili’s (Nutritional Info)

Caribbean Salad

Asian Salad

Salmon with Garlic & Herbs

TGIF (They do not offer their nutritional info online)

Dragonfire Chicken

Shrimp Keywest

This is clearly a very limited list.  I often just google the restaurant’s nutritional information.  If they do not offer the info online, there are a few websites that I have found to be helpful, Dietfacts and Calorie King.

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The Big Salad

Posted in Healthy Eating at 12:42 am by savorencyclopedia

Years ago I discovered a gem of a salad.  Chili’s made a version.  McDonald’s later made a version.  Applebee’s now has their own spin on it.  It was so long ago that it’s hard for me to remember where I first tasted this gorgeous salad.  But now I prefer my own homemade “big salad,” as Elaine on Seinfeld would say. The best part is that I control the ingredients so I know that it is full of fresh vegetables and grilled chicken.

Start with lots of greens.  Any kinds.  Romaine, green leaf, red leaf, bib, iceberg, Boston, cos; any lettuce will suffice.   Add any other vegetables you enjoy in a salad.  I love carrots, red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, or any combination thereof.  Mandarin oranges are a must.  If you want to throw in other fruits, go for it!  Strawberries or grapes are especially delicious in this salad.  Grilled chicken breast that has been chilled and cut into bite sized pieces should be tossed in for good measure.  A pinch of sliced almonds tops it off.  I like to use either Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing or Newman’s Own Lighten Up Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing.

However you eat your own version of the “big salad,” never take credit for the payment of said salad unless you want to find yourself in your own version of the sitcom about nothing.

February 21, 2010

Homemade Energy Bars

Posted in Healthy Eating at 9:11 pm by savorencyclopedia

My dependency on processed foods has just diminished slightly!  I recently made my first (but definitely not last!) batch of homemade energy bars.  I found this amazing recipe on The Cooking Hussy and loved every bite! They are very similar to Lara Bars.  The recipe I followed was for the Cherry Almond flavor, but there are many variations that can be found at Enlightened Cooking.  I am officially kicking Fiber Plus bars to the curb as my busy morning breakfast.  Hello Cherry Almond Energy Bars!

Who wants to pay a couple of bucks for an energy bar?  I have a few times in the past, just to check them out, but at that price there is no way they would ever become a staple in my diet.  This recipe, however, makes them as affordable as they are delicious.

As I was searching for the ingredients, the woman who worked at the grocery store was curious about what I was going to prepare.  She was super sweet and directed me to the various places in the store that they carried dried fruits and whole nuts.  If I had known the recipe by heart (and that they would turn out so well), I would have shared it with her on the spot.  Instead, I hope to bump into her again so I can share this simple, wonderful recipe.  Yes, they are so good that you will want to share the secret with everyone you come in contact with!

Mine did not look as lovely as the ones pictured with the recipe.  I think I processed the dried cherries and dates too long, as there were no chunks of fruit in mine.  It was just a dark brown paste.  Also, I used sliced almonds instead of whole almonds, which didn’t allow for the cute little square chunks seen on the picture at The Cooking Hussy.  At least, I am assuming these are the reasons mine did not look like the picture.  I shall find out for sure next time I make them.  Next flavor up:  Tropical.

Is it bad that although I’ve already had one today, I now want to eat another?  I won’t, but I want to!

New Cravings

Posted in Healthy Eating at 8:26 pm by savorencyclopedia

I have been craving vegetables lately.  Yes, you heard me correctly!  It is amazing how quickly eating healthy foods can change your tastebuds.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good bowl of ice cream or slice of pizza; that will probably never change.  But I am actually craving delicious, healthfully prepared meals.

This weekend I have made basically the same meal every day.  I picked up some wonderful zucchini the other night (both green and yellow) along with some asparagus.  I have been slicing them up and sautéing them in extra virgin olive oil with some garlic, basil, salt and pepper each day.  Friday night I added some penne pasta, but the rest of the weekend I just sautéed the veggies.

Mashed cauliflower proved to be the perfect companion to the sautéed veggies.  I sliced a small red potato into cubes and along with about one cup of fresh cauliflower.  I covered them with water and boiled for about 10-15 minutes until they were tender.  I always salt the water when boiling just about anything.  Then in a mini-blender, I combined one cube of light Laughing Cow swiss wedge, a dash of milk, garlic, salt, pepper and the cooked potato and cauliflower.  I like mine with chunks of potato, so I didn’t blend them too long.  It makes a large and satisfying serving of mashed cauliflower/potatoes.  Delicious!

Sunday Morning Workout

Posted in Running at 8:07 pm by savorencyclopedia

Today was my first morning workout since I started my routine at the beginning of January.  I am not a morning person.  I want to run tomorrow night after work, though, so I figured if I did a run this morning it would be almost like having a rest day in between.  Usually when I workout on the weekends, the gym is fairly empty.  I was looking forward to some solace while working out today.

Well, apparently, Sunday mornings are hopping!  Almost every treadmill was being used as well as the stair climbers and elliptical machines.  I must admit that I was impressed that there were so many people working out this early on a Sunday (10:00 is early for me on a Sunday!)  Honestly, I was also a bit disappointed to not have the cardio room to myself, as I had expected.

Many of the cardio machines overlook the basketball courts at the gym.  This morning I was treated to entertainment in the form of a league basketball game while working out.  Some students from my school were even playing. I wanted to go talk to some of the parents I saw, but unfortunately by the time I was finished I was disgustingly sweaty and my face was beet red.

Week 5 of the C25K has been challenging for me.  The training calls for:

5 minute warm-up

3 minutes running

1:30 walking

5 minutes running

2:30 walking

3 minutes running

1:30 walking

5 minutes running

5 minute cool down

Previously, I have had to break down the last 5 minute run into two 2:30 runs with a 2 minute walking recovery in between.  I could not pinpoint why this week’s runs were more difficult for me, but it was tough!  I came to the realization this morning that it was not the distance or amount of time that I have been running in Week 5 that was causing me difficulties.  It was the substantially smaller recovery/walk times in between.

Today I gave myself 2 minutes to recover after the 3 minute runs and 4 minutes to recover after the 5 minute runs.  I was able to run an extra set of 3 and 5 minute runs!!  What a great feeling!  I did my usually stair climbing set after running and by the time I left at 11:30, there were only two other people working out in the cardio room.  Note to self:  I can sleep in a bit if I want to workout on Sunday mornings.  It is much less crowded after 11:00.

New Orleans

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:08 am by savorencyclopedia

I will be traveling to New Orleans later this week!  Woohoo!  As much as I am looking forward to the vacation, I also fear that I will use this as an excuse to throw away all of my hard work.  If I have learned one thing from my past experiences struggling with healthy eating, it is that if I take a few days off it is difficult for me to get back on the wagon.

And I fully intend to take some time off while I am in New Orleans!  I have been dreaming of beingets, authentic French cuisine, and genuine Creole & Cajun cooking! I am not depriving myself of these flavors!  And who can forget about the luscious drinks that will be awaiting me.  I mean I will be able to finally fulfill one of my life long goals:  legally drinking in the streets! But I do know that the second I return home, I need to revert to focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and the like.

I intend to do a lot of walking in the French Quarter, but I am realistic. I know that I will not continue my training for a 5K while I am away.  I think I have come up with a plan that I think will work for me, though!  I am going to repeat Week 4 this week (although I will only get 2 of the 3 runs in before I leave.)  I have been struggling with the last five minute run this week anyway, so I think the extra days will be good for me.  Hopefully the rest days while I am in New Orleans will give me some fresh legs when I return, ready for Week 5!

I will not use this trip as an excuse to quit!  I will use it as motivation.  Maybe I will have to plan another trip as a reward if (I mean when) I reach my health goals!

My New Favorite Fruit

Posted in Healthy Eating at 1:41 am by savorencyclopedia

Apples!  It turns out that I harbored a lot of misconceptions in my youth.  I thought I hated running.  Wrong!  Turns out, I just never attempted to run in a manageable fashion.  I am absolutely enjoying my runs each week (especially the shrinking waistline!)  I thought I hated apples.  Wrong!  As an adult, I found a variety of apples that I salivate when thinking about, Honeycrisp.  Even after stumbling upon this delicious variation, I continued to believe I didn’t like apples (Honeycrisp was the exception to the rule, in my mind.)

Recently I discovered that I do, in fact, like apples.  In my attempt to eat more healthful, whole foods I have been purchasing more produce than ever before.  Bananas were always my go to fruit.  The problem for me with bananas is the fact that I am very picky.  I like them at a very specific stage, a lovely shade of yellow with a hint of green.  When the brown spots start appearing, they are useless to me.  I was only able to buy three bananas at a time, knowing full well that I would never get through more than that before they started getting too ripe for my tastes.  Sometimes I didn’t even make it through those three before they past their prime.

Another favorite fruit of mine is pineapple, but they are decidedly more expensive than most fruit I buy and unfortunately I am not good at choosing the ripest fruits.  More than once I have shelled out $5 for a whole pineapple only to discover it was quite tart when I began eating it.  There’s nothing more disappointing than expensive food that just doesn’t taste right.

So, in my quest to find the perfect fruit for my lunch each day, I began to buy whatever fresh fruit was on sale in the weekly flier.  This winter has brought me only subpar fruit week after week.  Stubbornly, I chose apples as a last resort one week.  I was convinced I would hate eating them, but the health benefits would outweigh my displeasure.  Maybe I would even come to the realization that if I wasn’t hungry enough for an apple as a snack, I wasn’t really hungry.  It would be a litmus test for me.

Except I enjoyed them.  And they were delightfully easy to choose.  And keep fresh.  And cheap. The last few weeks they have been a staple in my diet.  My new go to fruit.  Sure, bananas are still my first choice if the perfect ripeness awaits me on the counter in the morning, but apples are my fail safe.  Either I am becoming more mature and open-minded in my journey to becoming healthy or I was not quite as intelligent as I thought during my childhood.

February 20, 2010

Childhood Obesity

Posted in Goals, Healthy Eating, Running at 5:59 am by savorencyclopedia

I don’t understand all of the controversy surrounding the First Lady’s attempt at combating childhood obesity.  I certainly wish that I had been more educated at a young age about the dangers of living an unhealthy lifestyle.

I wish someone would have shown me how much fun high energy, cardio activity can be.  I was always mediocre at sports like softball, where your cardiovascular health is not a major factor in your ability to play well. Although only average in my abilities, I loved the sport and considered myself to be athletic because I played well enough not to embarrass myself.  I adamantly steered clear of physically intense sports, such as track.  Maybe I would have learned to enjoy running at a young age if someone would have presented it in a non-threatening manner.

I wish someone had taught me the basics about nutrition at a young age.  Sure, I learned about the major food groups, but never how to use that information in a real life setting. There was certainly no rigor and relevance to the lessons I learned about nutrition as an adolescent.  I would have thrived had someone showed me how to properly prepare healthy, flavorful dishes.  Instead, I learned to rely on (and come to love) sugary, starchy, fatty foods.  That is one mean habit to break, let me tell you!  I know that I will struggle with it my whole life.  As much as I enjoy healthy food when I eat it, I always long for rich, decadent tastes.  I don’t foresee that changing, no matter what changes I make in my lifestyle.

I whole-heartedly agree with anyone who suggests that parents hold the main responsibility for educating their children about their health.  The sad truth is that many parents don’t, for whatever reason.  Any efforts that are made to level the playing field for those kids who are not exposed to this education at a young age is commendable in my opinion.

Message Boards

Posted in Goals, Healthy Eating, Running at 5:36 am by savorencyclopedia

I have found a wealth of knowledge online through different message boards.

I regularly lurk and occasionally post on the 20 Year Olds and 50+ To Lose boards on Weight Watchers.  I have found more information and support on those boards than you can imagine.  Many of the people that post do not pull any punches, and that is what I love about the boards.  The information you receive may not necessarily be what you want to hear, but it will always be genuine and honest.  I am able to ask questions anonymously and without any reservations, knowing that I will receive an abundance of real life answers from people who have experienced similar situations.  I have not found any other message boards that are more relevant to my life.

Another message board that I just began to frequent is on Active.  There are many forums that discuss different aspects of the running process.  As a novice, I have many questions.  Thankfully, people ask and answer questions that I didn’t even know I had, such as the proper etiquette to use during a race.  Who knew you don’t typically wear the t-shirt of the event you are currently running?  I totally would have made that newbie mistake.  Common sense would tell most people that at the water stations on a race, you shouldn’t stop right where you receive the water to prevent large crowds.  Would I have actually thought of that?  I like to think so, but honestly I’m not sure.

I hope that I continue to find more message boards and forums that allow me to educate myself as much as possible on this process of becoming healthy.

Podcasts

Posted in Running at 5:18 am by savorencyclopedia

It is no exaggeration to say that the music can make or break you when running!  I was lucky enough to have someone on the Weight Watchers message boards recommend a website with downloadable Hip Hop Podcasts.  These podcasts have been invaluable to my running experience.   There were literally times during my first few weeks of running that I wanted to start dancing on my treadmill, throwing my hands in the air and singing along.

I can’t imagine making the experience any more enjoyable that that.  The problem was, I actually care what the people around me at the gym think, so my creative energy was stifled.  I continued to blandly run along on the treadmill.  But that high energy music gave me the stamina to run much longer than I ever expected. I still have not experienced “the zone” so many runners talk about, but I know that with this music, it is possible.

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