Eye-opening thanks to technology

As part of my quest to be healthy again, I’ve decided to start using every single one of my resources. I joined a gym (tick!), looked up swing dancing classes (they’re on Wednesdays TICK!) and looked at the millions of apps my Boy has downloaded from the App Store (okay, not millions. Maybe 500? Yes, he’s an addict) to find something useful. And find something I did.

First there’s Runkeeper, which uses GPS to track how far I’m running walking. I’ve only got the free version but it’s good for me now. I do also have a Couch to 5K app which I did use for a bit in Melbourne and then got off track. Must use that again. It’s great. You can play your own music behind it and it gives you audio cues when to walk and when to run with a loud beep in between, so you definitely can’t miss it over your music. No more thinking about when to do what and for how long. You just go and listen to the lovely voice telling you exactly what to do. Brilliant!

On the food front, the Boy has a number of apps and the one I’ve chosen to use is Lose it! which functions as a food log and weight-loss goal tracker. It’s super easy to use, although I do think that it’s a little on the conservative side with my projected weightloss – I have 10 lbs to lose and it’s telling me that it’ll take me 6 months. I’m really hoping I can drop 10lbs before then. But on the other hand, I’d prefer something conservative than something promising me 10lbs lost in a week! I only started using it yesterday and there were a few foods not in their database that I had to add but that’s par for the course. One bit of feedback I may give them is to have the option to download international food databases, as I think the only one in their is American and there are tons of brands and foods available elsewhere. But that’s minor.

In one day of tracking, what I’ve found eye-opening is the level of my sodium consumption! I thought I had a fairly average or low consumption when it came to salt and sodium levels but apparently not! The daily recommended value for sodium intake is approximately 2300mg, which sounds really high but when you think about how much sodium can be in everyday food items, even those that aren’t particularly salty, it’s actually fairly low. My consumption yesterday? 3200mg. 900mg higher than the daily recommended value. That’s not something I like. Entering all the nutrients from food labels and adding all the items to my tracker was definitely an experience.

I also learnt that even though I think I don’t eat too many carbs, my carb intake was through the roof – 66% of my calories came from carbs yesterday. True, I had a piece of wholegrain toast as part of my breakfast but a lot of the other carbs were simple carbs sadly and that needs to change. While I’m technically staying within my calorie range, the makeup of those calories could definitely be better. More protein, fewer simple carbs (no, I’m not a low-carb fanatic) and definitely less sodium.

Today is a new day. How are you going?


Tuesday Tucker

A possibly new feature if I can be bothered!

As I mentioned in my last post, I christened a new slow cooker yesterday and I did it with a new recipe. Which I love and therefore feel the need to share.

Salsa Chicken

4 chicken breasts
2 jars of medium or hot salsa (I used medium but next time I might use 1 hot and 1 medium)
1 can of black beans
1 can of sweet corn

Pour the salsa, beans and corn into the slow cooker. Mix well.

Add the chicken breasts and make sure they’re completely covered with the liquid.

Set to cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

Voila – come home to a tasty, healthy dish that you can eat as is or serve over rice or with tortillas. So yummy and so easy. It’s a pretty clean-eating meal, depending on how you serve it.

I now have lunch today and 2 servings in the freezer. I’m also cooking a beef stew in the slow-cooker today which should give me plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.

Taking time and making time pt 1

Wow, what a cryptic title. What on EARTH could I be talking about? Have I found a way to MAKE time?

Well, no. But hear me out.

We live in a world where time is precious. We never have enough and we want everything to happen quicker and sooner and faster and NOW because we don’t have time to waste. Which means we put off things like going to the gym or cooking a big meal when it’s only for ourselves, or dressing well, or looking after ourselves because, well, there are more urgent things to do.

But this is wrong. This is bad.

Because if we don’t take the time for ourselves, if we don’t make the time for ourselves, then we’re really no good for anyone else.  Our work is not productive, our social lives suffer because we have no energy and no zest, and everything else that seems so important suffers. All because we think we have no time.

The thing is that we do have time for ourselves – we just need to find it, and take it. Yes, our days are busy with work, with family, with STUFF, but there are minutes and hours that are there for the taking.

Food is often one aspect that falls by the wayside when time is crunched. It seems easier to order in or buy convenience foods instead of eating well. But food is fuel and with crappy fuel, you have less energy and all that jazz. There are tons of ways of making time work for you when it comes to food:

  • Invest in a slow-cooker. I have a new one being christened today and I love it. I throw in the ingredients in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, program it to cook all day and dinner is ready when I get home. No effort required – no thought at the end of a long day. And the bonus is that I’ve got enough cooked for a few meals – bringing me to point #2
  • Cook in bulk and freeze ready-made meals. These are SO much better than the ones you buy at the grocery store and tons cheaper too. You control the ingredients and the sodium and the chemicals so they’re so healthy. Cook a big meal and then freeze separate portions so they’re easy to grab from the freezer when you have no food in the pantry or time to prepare a new meal.
  • Separate food into ziploc bags when you first put them away. Things like veggies you plan to use for salads or meals or snacks. It may take a little more time than simply stashing them away, but it makes it super easy to grab on the go – for lunches or snacks or whatnot. It takes away the thought and effort when you’re in a rush. It also means you’re less likely to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting and ignore your dinner – it takes more effort to keep getting up for another little ziploc bag of snacks!
  • Menu plan and shop mindfully. Again, putting in a little more effort at the beginning saves time down the track. If you sit down before you grocery shop and plan your meals for the week (it doesn’t need to be a hard-and-fast every item plan), it can save you time and money at the store and mean that you’re less likely to wander aimlessly and throw out food at the end of the week. I’ll admit that I don’t follow this all the time, but I notice when I don’t. For example, this week, I planned my slow-cooker meal tonight, which will last for lunch and possibly dinner tomorrow night. I’m out Wednesday and Thursday night so no meals then. I have some tuna for tuna salad for lunches and then I bought some stewing meat for another slow cooker meal for Friday night.  Not expensive and not time-consuming at all.
  • Buy frozen veggies and use them liberally. Frozen veggies are not the devil’s invention but rather, an amazing time saver! Frozen chopped onions, chopped spinach, mixed veggies – they all make life easier.  Again, this is simply about not trying to re-invent the wheel – if you have the time to buy fresh, great, but if not, it’s super easy to throw some veggies in with some chicken strips and sauce and voila, you have a stirfry.

Some simple hints and tips that can make life easier and show you that time is there for the taking when it comes to easy meals. I hear too many people say that they have Kraft Dinner in their pantry because it takes too long to make a good meal and it’s only for one person and it’s expensive. It’s really not any of those things!

Dairy challenge day 2

So day 1 wasn’t ENTIRELY dairy free – it was the July birthday celebration at work and they had chocolate cake. Chocolate + cake = BEST and ENTIRELY UNAVOIDABLE. So I had a small piece.

And thought about dairy all day.

Today has been a bit easier. I added a little honey to my oatmeal this morning and you know what? It’s bearable. I can do that. So oatmeal + chocolate protein powder + honey = yummy breakfast. That challenge it over. It fills me up and the chocolate protein powder is actually pretty good. Makes it like chocolate porridge.

Lunch was a tuna pasta salad (whole-wheat pasta, tuna, mixed beans, red pepper, cucumber and corn) and then a small green salad with extra chickpeas. No dairy in that either. This is doable.

But I never realised how much dairy I actually eat – it’s apparently my go-to food for snacking in so many instances. Yogurt, cottage cheese, Babybell light cheese, milk, chocolate milk, cereal (with milk). A lot of my recipes call for cheese or milk or something else dairy. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more now that I’m on this no-dairy thing?

To take my mind off it all yesterday, I drank 3 litres of water and had 4 cups of tea – 3 green and 1 peppermint. I may end up running to the bathroom so much on this challenge! LOL

Allergic? I don’t think so!

Quote from Anne Hathaway from the July 2008 Self magazine:

“I have a lot of food sensitivities. I know that sounds like code for “I’m anorexic,” but I’m lactose intolerant; I have a small, but not serious, sugar intolerance; I can’t have spicy foods; I can’t eat fried foods. Oh, and processed flour. It sounds like a death sentence, but you learn to love different foods.”

No Anne, it doesn’t sound like a death sentence. It sounds like a diet. You know, those things Hollywood stars go on and then pretend they can eat burgers and fries and stay miraculously skinny? Yeah, a diet. I have a small, but not serious sugar intolerance too. I love it but my body loves it more. My reaction? I gain weight. Wow, must be an intolerance.

I’m sorry for the snark. But this shits me. I know there are people out there with real intolerances and allergies – I know my mother is sensitive to fructose, wheat and lactose (so she reacts to fruit, breads/pasta and milk) but c’mon, fried food? Sugar? Processed flour? How strange that all these things are forbidden on a diet.

When did weight gain become a symptom of a food intolerance?

Am I being too judgemental here? Please chime in if you think so or if you know someone with these strange intolerances. And they’re real intolerances. And then perhaps I’ll apologise to Ms Hathaway.

Looking on the bright side of life

It’s absolutely POURING out there but you know? I’m so glad it it. It was horribly sticky today. I needed to go out for some air today and it was almost oppressive out there. Even though it’s a pretty major thunderstorm out there now, it’s a relief.

I had a meeting with Mr Nutritionist today and I realised just how many changes I’ve made over the past month, even though I had my parents here.

  • I cut out my morning muffins entirely. My breakfast is filling me up and I’m comfortable enough to walk to the cafeteria with my green tea as my colleagues buy their muffins. No temptation anymore
  • I’ve cut out my unhealthy afternoon snack of chips or chocolate  – still having a snack but it’s fruit or yoghurt (still not as much protein as Mr Nutritionist would like but it’s progress)
  • I’m cooking my own meals and not relying on Lean Cuisine and the cafeteria
  • Today, I said no to pizza TWICE – once because it was pizza day at the cafeteria (I brought my own lunch) and once when one of my colleagues came by with a Pizza Nova pizza left over from a lunch meeting. YAY me.
  • I’m listening to my body and not eating for the sake of it.

I’m really trying to step up my cardio this week as it’s really slipped past me and so far, so good. I’m feeling a little asthmatic today (and freaked myself out a little by not having my puffer with me today) but I still managed 35 minutes on the elliptical after my nutrition thing. I was really proud of myself again today (wow, this back patting thing is fun!) when I saw the bus 100 metres down the road and I ran for it. I ran the whole way, made it to the bus and was only *slightly* puffed. Six months ago I would have shrugged and caught the next bus. Yay me.

And I booked my hike for Sunday. It’s an all-day hike to Spencers Gorge & Webster Falls – we leave at 10am and get home at 5pm. I would have liked to have had a friend with me but since everyone else was either busy or not interested, I sucked it up and booked 1 spot for myself. I’m really quite excited for it. Hopefully the weather holds out!

A tale of two curries

One of the many little gifts my mother gave me on her trip to visit was a birthday present from my SIL – a 4 ingrediant cookbook. I didn’t bring any recipe books with me when I moved, simply because I didn’t know if I was going to stay or not and it seemed pointless to lug a whole lot of books with me just to lug them back 6 months later. Plus I wasn’t really into the whole cooking thing – basically, I would take the easiest option around and use that. Shake ‘n Bake chicken, frozen meals, pasta and store bought pasta sauce – that was my thing. I was a very nervous kitchen companion.

So this recipe book was perfect.

I tried a dish last week while my folks were here – a ridiculously easy Green Curry Chicken. I followed the directions to a tee and the dish was … bland. The times given in the recipe meant that the sauce boiled away too quickly and so I’d had to add water (and probably added too much) and while I ate it, I didn’t enjoy it. Plus in their enthusiasm to get it down to 4 ingredients, they left out crucial aspects, like spices.

I was determined not to let a recipe beat me. While a year ago I would have walked away, I was itching for a fight and a victory. I was Nadal against Federer – determined not to let the bastard win.

I made another Green Curry Chicken tonight. I liberally used garlic salt and pepper over the chicken, I added salt, pepper and chilli paste to the simmering curry and reduced the cooking time by about 10 minutes. Served it over some yummy brown rice (first time I’ve made it!) and this time? My mouth was burning ever so slightly – it was perfect! I have plenty of leftovers and this time I’m thrilled that I do.

If anyone wants the recipe, let me know and I’ll post it – with my modifications of course. I wouldn’t share a sub-par dish! It’s really healthy (as long as you use lite coconut milk instead of coconut cream!).

In other news, since my window is south-facing and blind-less again, I woke up at 8am this morning and instead of lazing around, annoyed, I went to the gym. I didn’t do a full workout since I have training tomorrow, but I managed 45 minutes on the elliptical – while a girl next to me was going full-bore on hers! I felt slightly slow, but my heartrate was up there and my legs were working away so I kept at it and walked home afterwards for a lovely shower. I felt so virtuous! I haven’t cleaned the apartment so the virtue-points drop there but there is still time.