Friday, September 6, 2013

RECIPE: Tri-tip wrap

Today's recipe is more of a suggestion.  This was spawned by the tri-tip leftovers from Monday's Labor Day BBQ.  The tri-tip was actually a little more on the well done side so I was trying to figure out the best way to use the leftovers without additional cooking time.

Serves 1
Prep time 5 minutes

- One medium (8") tortilla
- 2oz of tri-tip (thinly sliced)
- Lettuce blend
- 1 tbsp shredded cheese
- 1 tbsp Salad dressing (we used a spicy southwestern dressing that came with the salad blend).

Layer the ingredients on the tortilla, roll up and enjoy! (Yes, it really is that simple).

This was both tasty and quite filling, despite a low caloric value (approx 270/wrap).  It allowed me to enjoy dessert somewhat guilt free.  The beauty of this meal is that it was quick to prepare and you could really make a ton of different variations on the theme.  Use spinach instead of lettuce, chicken instead of tri-tip, whatever dressing you'd like (as it's a small quantity).  It would also be easy to wrap up for a portable meal on the go. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Week 1 round-up

It has been a full week since I started this journey in earnest.  I have logged food, calculated points, been doing jumping jacks on the squeaky floorboards in our bedroom, and even got my husband on board with trying to eat better too.  Success is being down 3lbs.  Success is taking the time to pack myself healthy snacks (today it's cottage cheese with grape tomatoes, then hummus with snow peas).  Success is feeling more aware and knowing that I can do this, even taking a little holiday weekend food splurging into account.  Yes, I ate a little of everything I wanted, but the key word there is "little".  It's a great to keep that going!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sugar - why is it hiding in everything?

Since I started consistently logging my food diary at the start of the week, one thing that I have noticed is that there seems to be a lot more sugar than I expected in my diet.  As somebody who makes a lot of food from scratch and doesn't drink soda, it makes me wonder where on earth all the sugar has been hiding.   

Various articles I've found suggest that the average American eats about 22 tsp (88g) of added sugar daily, which is more than twice the recommended amount.  So, where is all the sugar coming from?  The concern isn't really naturally occurring sugar from fruits, vegetables or dairy (i.e. fructose or lactose).  The problem is all the added sugars that hide in prepared foods. 

A huge step in identifying hidden sugars is possibly the most obvious - read the label.  Let's take Heinz Tomato Ketchup as an example.  One tbsp serving has 4g of sugar, or 1 tsp.  If you have a burger and fries, how many servings are you likely to have used?  Not to mention that a fast food burger, in addition to the condiments, may have added sugar in the meat or bun (or both).  I know that people are always picking on McDonalds, but there's 6g of sugar in a regular hamburger, and as much as 12g of sugar in other burgers that they offer.  [For what it's worth, I also looked at the nutritional table for my beloved In-N-Out Burger, which has 10g of sugar in their burgers, most likely from the delicious "spread" they use.  Sigh.]  Even "healthy" foods, such as yogurt, have a ton of sugar.  Some are naturally occuring as lactose in milk, but you're better off adding your own fruits and flavoring rather than buying with fruit already mixed in.  Another problem that we face is that you need to look further than just the amount of sugar noted on the label, but look at the way sugar is noted on the ingredients list.  Added sugar sneaks in under a variety of different names - glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, to name a few. 

I think the biggest thing I've noticed that I'm doing wrong is keeping granola bars in my office for a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack.  I'll be making more of an effort to prepare breakfasts at home that I can bring in rather than relying on cereal bars, and putting together my own trail mixes etc. so I don't get inundated with sugars from the regular store-bought ones.  I rarely drink soda and we have hardly bought juice for months now, so I'm fortunate to have a head start there.  For desserts, we're trying to take better advantage of having so much fresh fruit in the house on account of the baby, which are natural sugars at least.  While I'm mid-way between the recommendation and the average, it was still a surprise to me and definitely something I can improve upon.  Take a look yourself, you may be surprised.

American Heart Association - Sugars 101
USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines (see page 27 for more information on sugar)
Harvard School Of Public Health - Added sugar on food labels
Heinz Products

McDonalds Nutrition Facts
In-N-Out Burger Nutrition

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

RECIPE: Chicken and butternut squash stew with quinoa

I never really cooked a lot of squash until the little one came along as it wasn't really a food that I ate growing up.  It's an easy and nutritious first food, so we've bought both spaghetti and butternut squash to make for him.  It's full of vitamins, calcium, and fiber, so a great food to have in rotation.  Having made a squash/potato/lentil stew over the weekend for the baby, I still had a ton of squash to use and went looking for a healthy recipe for us big kids.  Pinterest as usual came to the rescue and I quickly found this recipe for Chicken and squash stew with quinoa.  Quinoa is also something relatively new to our pantry, but a fantastic alternative to the regular items (i.e. pasta or rice) that we may use to fill out foods.

The only substitution we made on this one was to use chicken breast instead of chicken thigh.  We also added a little feta cheese on top (which was an indulgence seeing as I was under both my caloric and Points+ targets for the day).  Without the cheese, this recipe came in at 248 calories per serving, and 281 calories with the feta added.

Those numbers are interesting for somebody like me, who thinks that putting cheese on top makes everything better.  In fact, my husband is always telling me that we need more cheese, and I'm always telling him to go lighter on it.  Apparently, yelling "diet" at him while he's pouring it on is helpful....although my sample size is small!

Anyway, this was delicious and one pot made enough for 2 meals, so we'll be having the rest tonight.  I suspect this would also freeze well and even the kids would like it.  I would make it again for the baby using a low or no sodium broth. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

RECIPE: Stuffed Peppers

The other day, I got a great deal on some amazing looking orange peppers at (of all places) the dollar store.  In So Cal at least, the 99 cents only stores carry a decent selection of local produce.  These peppers, which are usually $0.70+ each at the regular grocery store were being sold in packs of 3 or 4 for a buck.  They looked perfect for stuffing.  Using this stuffed bell pepper recipe as inspiration, we set about making our own last night.

Our substitutions - green peppers were switched for orange, the turkey was switched for lean ground beef, we added corn and some shredded carrot.  We also threw in a jalapeno and some extra seasoning (cumin and chili powder).  We ended up with extra filling because the peppers weren't huge.  I "created" the recipe in My Fitness Pal to see how much difference it made.

Original CALORIES: 296.2  |  FAT: 8.6g  |  PROTEIN: 24.4g  |  CARBS: 30.9g  |  FIBER: 4.2g
Amended CALORIES: 432  |  FAT: 19.0g  |  PROTEIN: 37.0g  |  CARBS: 32.0g  |  FIBER: ?

Calculating the recipe using Weight Watchers Points+ system, the original recipe was 7pts, but ended up at 8pts with our amendments.  Still not bad, and it was definitely filling enough for both me and my husband, which meant neither of us got up for a second helping.  Those leftovers will be coming with me for lunch.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Having given birth, I don't expect that my body will ever be the same as it was before.  I think it's fair to say that I can actually make it better than it ever was. 

Where do I begin?

I've never been that skinny girl.  Over the years I've been strong, healthy, but never skinny.  Almost exactly 10 months ago, I had a baby boy.  He is the light of my life, but on account of gaining 40lbs during pregnancy, my weight hit levels that I probably never anticipated it would get to.  All through my pregnancy, I was at the gym several times a week, doing aqua aerobics and reformer pilates.  I think that staying so active helped me rebound quickly.  Within 6 weeks of delivering I'd lost 32 of the 40lbs, and within 3 months I was back at my pre-pregnancy weight.  That's not to say I wasn't still carrying an extra 40lbs over what I would consider my ideal - an ideal that I don't think I've weighed since high school and a part of me wonders if I'll ever see again.  I have breastfeeding to thank for a big chunk of my intial post-partum weight loss, burning approximately 500 calories a day. 

While I'm still breastfeeding, I'm not producing as much milk as I used to be, so I suspect the calories burned daily have started to dwindle, and the last few weeks, I've noticed weight starting to creep back on.  I can't blame it on baby weight.  That's just weight.  I've also realized that this is the longest amount of time that I've gone without regular exercise.  When I was on maternity leave, it was easy to take the little guy out for a walk and get some light exercise that way but, since going back to work, juggling the few free hours I have each day has put exercise on the back burner.  

As my little one is nearly a year old, it's time to do something about it.  Not just for me, but for him, for my husband, so that we can live a long, healthy life together.  I don't want to be a mom who can't keep up with her child.  He's already fast and active and he can't even walk yet! 

I need to be accountable to somebody, so I'm putting this out there on the internet.  Perhaps nobody will read it, perhaps some stranger half way across the globe will.  Perhaps I will provide inspiration, to myself if nothing else. 

I'm a foodie, so I want to find delicious recipes, while keeping it somewhat healthy.  I do like to exercise, but time is an issue.  I'd like to find exercises that can be done in just a few minutes a day.  There are tons of options out there for people like me.  So, if you're reading this and feel like you could use a little extra motivation yourself, as the title says - WHY NOT JOIN ME?