Tag Archives: Food

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit

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Honestly, maintaining weight loss is a not very exciting, lifelong struggle. I have now been maintaining for several years, although just in the last few months, I put about 20 pounds back on. I am still exercising regularly, but I’ve been straying a bit with my snacking.I’m sure a trip to Italy didn’t help either. But man, the food was good! I also suspect now that it might be partly because of starting to use Flonase, which is a steroid. I started having irregular heart beats again (the reason I started taking better care of myself in the first place) which stopped as soon as I stopped using Flonase. As soon as I stopped using it, it seemed easier to start eating healthy again so I suspect the steroid was increasing my appetite and/or decreasing my ability to resist sugary foods.

In any case, I’m back to tracking what I eat and the weight is coming back off pretty quickly. I’m guessing this is the story of my life going forward, although I usually don’t let so much weight come back before doing a reset, and going back to tracking my food intake for a time.

I think I’ve talked about this before, but one of the things that really helps with my weight loss and maintenance is having a pretty standard breakfast and lunch. My breakfast is just about always oatmeal in some form, and my lunch is almost always a salad in some form.

This baked oatmeal is my favorite way to have oatmeal. You make it once and for 6 (or 3 if you are sharing) days you have a quick and easy breakfast. I adapted it from this Baked Oatmeal Recipe by Heidi Swanson, to remove the added sugar and make it easier to mix together.

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit (serves 6, 319 calories when made with apples & blueberries)

  • about 2 cups of fruit, chopped apples, blueberries, peaches, mixed berries, or any combination
  • 2 bananas (riper bananas will be easier to mash, and make for sweeter oatmeal)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups milk (can use your choice of milk substitutes)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill Thick Rolled Oats, but regular would work)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (I really love cinnamon, use less if not as much a fan)
  • scant 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (FYI, I make this in my toaster oven and it works great). Spray the bottom of an 8″ square glass baking dish with cooking spray (or use butter to grease dish).
  2. Place a layer of fruit at the bottom of the baking dish, saving about 1/2 cup for decorating the top. You can use more or less than 2 cups, it is pretty flexible.
  3. Thoroughly mash bananas at the bottom of a large mixing bowl.
  4. Whisk in egg, milk, and vanilla extract until well blended.
  5. Pour oats directly on top of wet mixture, without mixing in. Add almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, then stir together thoroughly with a rubber spatula.
  6. Pour mixture in an even layer on top of fruit in baking dish. Tap the dish against the counter lightly a few times to get mixture to settle down into fruit. Use rubber spatula to smooth the top.
  7. Use leftover fruit to decorate the top of the oatmeal mixture. Press down slightly so it is slightly sunk into the mixture with the top still showing.
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning once about halfway through cooking.
  9. Remove from oven, and let cool. Can be eaten immediately, but I let it cool completely, the slice into 6 even pieces and put it in the fridge.

I reheat by removing a slice of oatmeal, placing in a bowl and chopping up just a bit and then pouring milk over the top. I then heat in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes. My husband pours milk over and then stirs it all together before heating. You could probably also leave it whole but the inside might take awhile to heat up enough. I’m guessing you could also eat it cold.

I’ve made this recipe with the following variations of fruit:

  • 2 apples and about a cup of blueberries (both fresh and frozen work)
  • mixed berries
  • 2 peaches and a cup of blueberries

I am currently working on a pumpkin/apple variation. I’ll post it when it is perfected.

Enjoy!

How the Habit of Eating More Vegetables Has Helped Me Get Healthy

As I said when I introduced this habit, this is probably my #1 recommendation to people, and that is because of how much this habit has helped me. Because here’s the thing…I LOVE to eat. And I love to eat a lot of food. I’m not so great at doing that whole “only eat when you are hungry” and “stop eating when you are satisfied, not stuffed” thing–though I continue to try to work on that. Oh, and the “eat slowly” thing is a work in progress too.

So, I practice portion control (next week’s habit!) with everything else, and I let myself go crazy with the veggies. I make A TON of veggies with every dinner, so that if I want to keep eating, I can let myself do that…just with only the veggies. If there are leftovers, that’s terrific, I’ll have them with lunch the next day. If I want to snack between meals, even if I’m not hungry, that’s fine…but only with veggies–and sometimes fruit, though I do watch the quantity of fruit I eat in a day. If I am actually hungry, I will often have some protein with my veggies or fruit.

And here’s the thing…veggies are absolutely delicious. I love veggies. Sure, I love to experiment with them, and try cooking them in different ways. But most of the time I just love to quickly pan steam them with a little garlic and salt, as I described in this recipe, or I grill them like in this one. I also love a great crunchy salad, and sometimes experiment with different salads and dressings. If you don’t like vegetables a lot, or don’t know how to prepare them, this article from the Kitchn has some great tips. I think it would be impossible to really get healthy without being in a habit of cooking regularly, and I will definitely talk about that in a future post as well.

So, if you like to eat like I do, try making about twice as much vegetables as you think is reasonable, and go at it! You will be getting lots of healthy vitamins and nutrients, you won’t be hungry since veggies have lots of good filling fiber, and as a result you may find yourself eating less of the stuff that isn’t as healthy. It certainly worked–and continues to work–for me.

Weekly Healthy Habit #2: Eat Lots of Vegetables and Fruit

This week, I’m going to talk about my favorite subject, fruits and veggies! Seriously, if anyone ever asks me my secret to losing weight and getting healthy, I always tell them learn to love vegetables and eat a ton of them.

Vegetables have a very high nutrient density. That means that they have a lot of nutrients compared to the amount of calories. They also usually have quite a lot of fiber. So they fill you up, give you lots of great stuff your body needs, and don’t add on a lot of calories to your day. Oh yeah, and they taste fantastic too! My goal for most dinners, and often lunch as well, is to pack in as many different vegetables as I can. I eat an unlimited amount of vegetables–seriously, a lot–and about 3-4 servings of fruit each day. Fruit has a bit more calories than vegetables, so I try to exercise some portion control. I often have fruit in my breakfast, and when I have a craving for something sweet during the day. I also have an apple almost every night for dessert while they are in season.

There are a few habits you should try to form when it comes to fruits and (especially) vegetables. When grocery shopping, load up your cart from the produce section. If available, try to visit a farmer’s market weekly, or join a local CSA–visit LocalHarvest.org to find one near you. Then, plan to have fruits or vegetables with every single meal and snack. In fact, vegetables should make up the majority of the volume of food on your plate for most meals.

Today is Meatless Monday, so it is a great day to start this topic! Try having a vegetarian dinner once a week, where the vegetables get to be the star. Tonight we are eating vegetarian tacos, which is one of my kids (and my) favorites. I posted about taco night a year ago, but for that post I used ground turkey. More often, I now make my taco filling with tempeh and a lot of veggies. Tonight I will probably put in mushrooms and zucchini along with the tempeh and tomatoes. I will post an updated recipe soon. I hardly ever have a tortilla with my taco filling any more, I’ve recently discovered how delicious it is on a roasted sweet potato. Then I layer it with shredded romaine, tomato, and salsa verde. Mmmm, I’m getting hungry for dinner!

I will post more ideas about meals featuring a lot of vegetables and fruit, and links to websites to help get ideas about how to add more vegetables to your diet. In the meantime, go grab a carrot stick and get munching!

Maintaining…and Maybe Losing a Little

I haven’t blogged in awhile, because my kids started school and all those fun after school activities started as well. I also teach music as a volunteer at my kids’ school, so I started back up with that too. I think I’ve gotten into the groove of things now.

It is almost 3 months after I hit the 100 lb. loss milestone, and I’m mostly maintaining, although still losing a little bit very slowly. I still weigh myself every day, and my weight goes up and down a bit throughout each week, but there is a very slight downward trend over time. This is why I like having a digital scale; I use the Withings scale, which has an iPhone app with a graph that shows the moving average–or general trend–of my weight. Today I hit a new low weight, putting me only 1 pound from my original goal of 135 lbs. I don’t know whether I will actually stay that low though…sometimes these outlier lows and highs happen, not sure why. Still not really trying to get to the 135 lb. goal before my skin reduction surgery, though it would be fine if I end up there.

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My moving average from the last 6 months

At the weight I am today though, I am just inside the “healthy” range on the BMI scale. That happened for the first time 10 days ago (Sept. 6), but then my weight went back up by a pound or so and I was back at the very bottom of the “overweight” range. Just goes to show that the BMI thing should be taken as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. I am really healthy right now, a size 8 (and sometimes a 6 depending on the store), I look and feel strong, I am full of energy, and that is all before any of my skin reduction surgery.

As I had hoped towards the end of my weight loss, maintenance has merely been a matter of continuing on as I was doing throughout this whole journey. The only thing that has changed is I feel a bit more free to go out to dinner occasionally, and perhaps have a treat now and then. I still eat lots and lots of veggies and quite a lot of fruit, and watch my portions on everything else. I don’t feel at all deprived, I am eating delicious food. I honestly can’t imagine going back to eating all the junk I was putting into my body before. I still go to the gym almost every day for an hour, and I alternate between cardio (usually Zumba or Cardio Kickboxing) and strength training (usually BodyPump). On days I don’t have the time to get to the gym, I often do the 7-Minute Workout so I still benefit from the energy boost of a workout.

When I first started losing weight, I remember reading this study about maintaining weight loss that made me very depressed. Basically, it said that when an obese person loses weight, their metabolism slows down because the body wants to return to the weight it had grown accustomed to. The study also said that the hormones that regulate appetite change so that a person who has lost a lot of weight is hungrier. So maintaining a weight loss was very difficult, if not impossible for the people in this study.

However, if you read the study further, the people in this study were put on a highly restricted diet, and lost the weight very quickly. As far as I can tell, they never learned to eat healthier, or to live in a healthier, maintainable manner. This is why I continue to tell my friends (and anyone else who actually reads my blog), PLEASE DON”T GO ON A DIET! I feel like you are just setting yourself up for failure if you do. Just try to gradually make healthy changes in your lifestyle until you are living in a way you can maintain, that will also help you achieve your goals.

Spicy Coconut Peanut Sauce

The kids were invited to go out with their friends’ family to dinner and children’s theater tonight, so I wanted to use the opportunity to cook something spicy. My husband loves peanut sauces, so I decided to give one a try. I found a recipe that used light coconut milk, peanut butter, and sriracha (which my husband also loves), and it seemed like a good one to try adapting. We ate the peanut sauce over a shrimp and veggie stir fry and brown rice. The sauce was very good, I thought the spiciness of the sauce was perfect, but my husband thought it could be spicier. I would make it less spicy for the kids.

The original recipe said to cook the sauce for 20 minutes, but it thickened up quite a bit after only about 5 minutes of cooking. I actually ended up adding a bit of water to thin it out so I could pour it over the stir-fry and rice. You could leave it thick if you wanted to use it as a dipping sauce. The original recipe called for green onion, but I had leeks in the house so I used that instead.

I like making a simple stir-fry or grilled dish, and then having a sauce to put on top. That way each person can choose how much sauce to use. My husband, who is currently trying to gain a bit of weight (seriously!) slathered the sauce on, whereas I was a bit less generous on my dinner.

Spicy Coconut Peanut Sauce (adapted from A Nutritionist Eats blog)

8 servings, 144 calories/serving according to MyFitnessPal recipe nutrition calculator

  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 small leek (or a bunch of green onions), chopped fine
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated (or minced) ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, through a garlic press or minced
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha
  1. Heat peanut oil in a saucepan over medium heat
  2. Add leeks, cook about 5 minutes, until soft
  3. Add ginger and garlic, cook about 1 minute
  4. Add coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce and sriracha and whisk until smooth
  5. Bring to a simmer, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until flavors are blended and the sauce is desired thickness. If sauce is too thick, whisk in water a little bit at a time to thin it out.

The sauce was done before my stir-fry, so before thinning it out I let it sit to the side while I finished cooking the rest of dinner. I then put it back on the heat, whisked in the water to thin it out, and brought it to a simmer before serving.

I couldn’t get a very good picture of the sauce. It tasted much better than it looks in this picture!

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Tilapia Grilled in Foil Packets, with Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onion

I went to a wonderful Cardio Kickboxing class this morning. The funny thing (to me at least) is that what made it wonderful was that it was challenging, worked my muscles until they were shaking, and by the end I was dripping in sweat. There is no way I every would have thought of that as a positive experience before starting this journey. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were times during the workout where I was bitching to one of the other class attendees about how completely crazy the instructor is–but it was a great workout!

I wanted fish for dinner tonight, but only had time to go to Trader Joe’s–which is right near my gym. The fish selection at Trader Joe’s is not the best, but the tilapia is always fine so I went ahead and bought some. I decided to try grilling it in foil packets, and did a bit of research into the technique and came up with my own recipe with stuff I had at home. It turned out great! Seems to me you could probably put any combination of veggies and herbs in the foil packet with the fish and follow the same technique.

I had some leftover pesto in the freezer from when I made the Eating Well Basic Basil Pesto recipe for veggie pizza, but store bought pesto would also work though you may want to add less olive oil since they are usually very oily. I defrosted a couple of cubes of the pesto in the microwave for less than a minute.

Tilapia Grilled in Foil Packets, with Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onion, serves 4

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 lb. tilapia fillets
  • Approx. 2 Tbsp (2 cubes of an ice cube tray) pesto
  • Approx. 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes (mine were Sun Gold)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a grill to medium heat
  2. Lay out 2 large pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil
  3. Drizzle a little olive oil in the middle of both
  4. Put a layer of half the onion slices in the middle of each piece of foil
  5. Rub the pesto all over both sides of the tilapia, and put half the tilapia in each piece of foil. For me, this worked out to 1 1/2 fillets in each.
  6. Scatter cherry tomatoes over tilapia. Drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper.20130806-200045.jpg
  7. Seal the packets well, folding over the edges to keep the steam inside.
  8. Grill the packets over medium heat for about 7 minutes. Check tilapia is cooked through, being careful of the steam when opening the packets.20130806-200054.jpg
  9. Enjoy!

Book Review: Foodist by Darya Rose

I just finished the book Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting by Darya Pino Rose, Ph.D., creator of the blog Summer Tomato. Her blog is great, I wish I had found it sooner in my journey! In the book, she talks about many of the same things I have been blogging about, only she likely does it much better. So, now you don’t have to just take it from me anymore–she’s an author! And has a Ph.D.! In neuroscience! I recommend the book to anyone who would like to start (or continue) a journey into a healthier lifestyle (or as she calls it, a healthstyle).

Her number one rule in the book is that Life Should Be Awesome, and I totally agree. From that perspective, she talks about how to stop going on diets, since those are pretty much the oposite of awesome, and instead start appreciating how great real food cooked well can taste and make you feel. As I have talked about before, she discusses that you can still eat out at restaurants (and has tips for doing that as healthily as possible), and have those treats you just can’t live without, just in the right amounts, at the right times. She goes into how to break bad habits and form good ones, with some really great and insightful advice (hey, she’s a neuroscientist after all!) I have found her tips on how to eat more slowly and mindfully (the part I still need to work on) very helpful already. She has a lot of tips on buying and preparing good food, with a few good sounding recipes.

I can’t say I agreed with everything she said 100%. She seems to have ambivalent feelings about yogurt, and says to get full fat yogurt if you do have it. I happen to think nonfat Greek yogurt is one of the best things ever. Not that fat is necessarily bad, but there are mixed reviews on whether milk fat is healthy so I err on the side of no fat, and less calories. Plus, nonfat yogurt has more protein. She seems against all flour, even whole wheat, and encourages legumes and whole intact grains and seeds instead. While I agree those are ideal choices, we use quite a bit of white whole wheat flour in banana bread and granola bars, pancakes, waffles, flat breads, and couscous. Most nutritionists seem to agree that recipes made with whole wheat flour are a healthy choice, so I’m going with that.

She recommends that if you have a lot of weight to lose, you do a 2 week reset where you eliminate a lot of foods, including dairy and all added sugar, from your diet in order to reset your insulin sensitivity. If I had tried to do this at the beginning, it might have made me give up before even starting. So while I like a lot of her advice, I still say just make small healthy changes day by day. However, maybe cold turkey would be the way to go for some. Each person has to decide what is their right path on the journey.

She also recommends food journaling instead of counting calories, and I can’t say I completely disagree with her on this one. In a recent blog post, she listed 7 reasons journaling is better than counting calories, and they were all problems I saw with how most people used My Fitness Pal. I found the calorie counts pretty useful at the beginning to help me understand which foods were more calorie dense than others. However, pretty early on in my journey I found it much more useful just as a way to make myself more accountable for my food choices. She recommends only journaling for 2 weeks, however I don’t think that would have been long enough for me not to slip back into my old habits. Each person has to decide for themselves when (or if) they can stop tracking their food, in whatever format works for them.

Reading her book has made me realize that I enjoy food so much more now than I ever did before I started on this journey. That may seem strange to some, that I could have lost all this weight and be enjoying food more than before, but it really is true. My whole family is eating better quality food, and I spend more time thinking of how to prepare it both for taste and better health. We don’t eat out as often, so usually when we do go we are very picky about restaurants. Instead of going often to mediocre places, we go occasionally to really good places. When I do have treats, I pick really good ones, and appreciate them so much more than when they were an everyday occurence. Without eating the overly salty and sugary processed foods, my taste buds seem to have come alive to new and subtler flavors. And of course I feel so much healthier it would take a whole new post just to list all the ways my life has changed for the better. Life really is much more awesome. I am proud to declare myself a foodist!