I’m two weeks into my three-month body fat loss contest at this point, and it’s gone pretty well so far in terms of diet and exercise. (I’ve only lost one pound, but I kind of expected that things would start slowly for me.)  The food modifications haven’t really been that big a deal, aside from having to quash the occasional flash of ‘Hey, I should stop for gelato!’ as I drive past the Glacier Ice Cream near my house. I think my week of eating real food was a good warm-up.  With a few exceptions I’ve had pretty much no refined sugars, no refined flour, and no nutritionally devoid foods. My worst offenses have been five Diet Cokes in the past two weeks, the awesome tasting protein bars I discovered, and half a slice of vegan carrot cake the night we went out to dinner at Leaf.

And yet I really don’t feel I’m missing much. I have rediscovered how pleasurable a whole food ites can be when it is fresh and there isn’t much else to detract from it. A cup of organic blueberries, a third of a cup of All Bran Buds and a cup of fat-free Greek yogurt makes a really tasty breakfast. I remember now why I love bulgur wheat so much – it’s got such a great nutty flavor and is actually pretty satisfying. Mixed with some shredded chicken breast, or an ounce and a half of avocado, it’s really quite awesome for lunch. My dinners really didn’t change much, as I’ve always tended to make dishes with a large amount of vegetables, and nothing refined or processed. But gone are the low-fat ice cream sandwiches, low-fat high fiber bagels made with a ton of additives, cinnamon toast cereal (even though its organic, I’m not sure it’s really a positive nutritional item), and even bits of chocolate bars (I still get some chocolate from my protein bars). And what I’ve found really interesting is, now that I’m not eating as much sweet stuff, that Yoskos honey and blueberry yogurt that I always thought was too sour tastes SWEET!

A couple of differences I have introduced to my diet is more fat (I was probably hovering between 10% and 15% of calories from fat – now I’m aiming for closer to 20%), as well as a lot more protein. I’m finding a lot of references to over 100 grams of protein per day for a woman my size trying to build muscle, but that tends to be about 40% of my calories (which seem to average between 1500 and 1700), which is just a bit higher than I’d like it to be. So I’m still working on balancing that. CORRECTION: I had somehow gotten it into my head that a gram of protein was 7 calories, when it is in fact 4 calories. So 100 grams of protein actually turns out to be about 23% of my calories. Which I am just fine with. My fruit and vegetable count is way up (about 8 servings a day, which is fine by me!), but my grains are down to around 4, which I’d really like to increase a bit by taking the protein down a tad. So I’m still trying to balance things nutritionally. I’ve included lists of the foods I’ve been eating for the past two weeks, organized by type, at the end of this post.

Workout-wise, I went back to the rec center and got a 40-punch pass so I could start lifting more serious weights. While I was there I sampled some of the new cardio machines, and remembered why I used to work out at the gym before I had a bad bout of tendonitis in my knee. I can burn a lot more calories in a much larger variety of ways at the gym than I can at home or just through walking. So I’ve been doing interval training (40-60 seconds all-out then 80-120 seconds at an easy pace, repeated 5-7 times), plus some extra more steadily-paced cardio. I had a bit of a setback on my upper body weight lifting when I neglected to notice that the assisted pull-up machine was set on zero pounds instead of 76 pounds, as it was the first time I used it. I ended up pretty much taking my full weight with some torque on my right shoulder in a failed attempt at a triceps dip. It hurt worse every day for four days, but I resolved the issue a bit by making an appointment with an orthopedist. (Not actually going to the appointment, just making it, and then riding the ‘things always get better as soon as you make an appointment to see a doctor after agonizing over whether to make one or not’ phenomenon.) So it’s still a tad bit wonky, but I took 10 days off, and it seems fairly usable again as long as I avoid some specific exercises. My goal with lifting is to do full-body workouts that will focus on the largest muscle groups, since that’s where a person can make the most gains. This weekend I finally felt brave enough to try weighted squats without the Smith Machine (using an 18 lb body bar), and discovered, much to my surprise, that I’m not as bad as I thought I would be. And I finally gave in and decided I would add lunges to my workouts. (I really hate lunges.)

Fruits & Vegetables
Acorn Squash
Bell Pepper
Bing Cherries
Green Beans
Tomato Sauce

Barramundi (fish)
Chicken Breast
Eggs (Duck, Chicken)
Fat Free Greek Yogurt
Low fat Cheddar Cheese
Neufchatel Cheese
Protein Bars (Pure Protein and Detour Lean Muscle)

All Bran Buds
Flax and Whole Wheat Pasta
Sprouted Grain Bread
Wheetabix (cereal)

Starchy Vegetables
Sweet Potato

Butter (just 1/2 Tbsp for cooking eggs)
Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar
Diet Coke (yeah, couldn’t help it)
Honey (for salad dressing)
Low Sodium Chicken Stock
Black, Urfa, Aleppo peppers

I finished up my week of eating only real food this past Sunday, and it went pretty well. It turns out it’s definitely possible to do, but takes a little extra preparation up front, and a lot more label reading and thought. I was secretly hoping that I would get a good start on dropping the 5 extra holiday pounds that seem to find me every year, but that actually didn’t budge – nor did I really feel any different by the end of the week. That led me to conclude that either 1) it takes more than a week of ‘clean eating’ to really see any effects and/or 2) I don’t really eat all that badly to begin with.

There are a couple of things that make me think the latter is true (and the first is probably true, too): First, my evening meals were really no different than the things I normally make – I usually cook dinner with whole ingredients. Second, during the work week I take food and eat during the day, and that food usually includes organic cereal made with whole wheat, dried fruit, nuts, and organic fat-free Greek yogurt — none of which are particularly horrible. The big changes I made to my day-to-day eating were 1) no low calorie/ low fat/ high fiber/ high protein/ ( highly processed and added to)  ‘Alternative Bagels‘, 2) no Luna fiber bars (or any other kind of bars), 3) no Guiltless Gourmet baked tortilla chips with Kraft Fat-Free Cheddar Cheese to make nachos, and 4) no over-snacking on dark chocolate or other sweet dessert items.

Despite the lack of any huge revelation at the end of the week, I am completely glad I did this, and I do plan to make some adjustments to my diet going forward:

  • Unless every ingredient is whole or organic, or all the spices are listed individually, I’m going to try to avoid foods that list more than 5-10 ingredients. There were several things that I normally buy that I think should have been perfectly allowable, but just had more healthy ingredients than 5. But some of the items I checked out at the store (lower-fat cream cheese, for instance) literally had around 20 ingredients, only 8 or so of which I could identify in any way. That’s just kind of gross when you think about it.
  • I’m going to investigate preservatives a bit more, and allow those that seem relatively safe, but try to avoid foods that seem needlessly preserved or use mysterious preservatives or those for which the verdict is still out. Given the fact that a full time job makes it difficult to cook everything from scratch, and some time-saving is necessary, I’m not going to bar a food item if it includes say, citric acid.
  • I’m going to think a bit more about whether the foods I’m eating are really nutritional, or if they’re just empty calories. I won’t cut myself off from nutritionally useless things like half of a dessert when eating out, or the above-mentioned baked tortilla chips completely, but I was eating them more than once a day, which I’d like to stop.
  • Now that I discovered it’s possible to make bread with literally ALL whole wheat flour that’s still light and tasty, just by adding a mashed potato, I’ll probably bake with more whole wheat.

And now, some pictures of my dinners last week:

Leek, Pepper, Rice and Heirloom Beans deglazed with Espresso Balsamic Vinegar

Leek, Pepper, Rice and Heirloom Beans deglazed with Espresso Balsamic Vinegar

I’ll post a recipe for the above dish later on.

Curried Chicken and Potatoes

Curried Shredded Chicken and Potatoes

The recipe for Curried Shredded Chicken and Potatoes is on my recipe page — BUT I used real coconut milk for it instead of the ‘lite’ chemical concoction I used for the original recipe.

Quinoa, Heirloom Bean and Kale Salad with Espresso Balsamic Vinaigrette

Quinoa, Heirloom Bean and Kale Salad with Espresso Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad was really simple. Make a bed of  kale, red cabbage and carrot, then add 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup cooked heirloom beans, and dress with Espresso Sesame Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette (I used honey instead of maple for this week).

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Tomato Sauce and Shaved Pecorino Romano (supplemented with a smaller version of the Quinoa and Bean Salad for protein)

When I don’t have summer-fresh tomatoes I just use a couple of cans of organic diced tomatoes for my home-made tomato sauce. Here’s the recipe for Spaghetti Squash with Heirloom Tomato Sauce.

Berbere Chicken with Oven-Baked Potatoes

Berbere Chicken with Oven-Baked Potatoes (the chicken looks charred, but it wasn’t – I think it was just that the dark spice rub got darker!)

This was boneless chicken thighs coated with berbere (a spice combination I make from Marcus Samuelsson’s recipe) and then grilled. The potatoes were just tossed in olive oil then salted and peppered and roasted in the oven. We also had an arugula salad on the side.

You call this a post?

August 17, 2011

I’ve had several rather low-key, unexciting food days lately. It’s been a long, tiring week at work (even though it’s only Wednesday evening!), and I’ve been having trouble finding inspiration for a new post.  In a way, it didn’t help that I already had leftovers for four meals this week, and we went out to eat on Monday. Great for not having to do too much food labor, but bad for coming up with anything interesting to write.  It’s way too early in my blog career for a clip show (or rather, clip post).  But I did make some interesting purchases today.  I decided to stop after work and take a closer look at the remodeled Whole Foods, and to splurge on a few things that I hadn’t seen before.

Purchases from Whole Foods

I walked through the produce department, browsing through all the great stuff.  I was tempted to buy mushrooms, but didn’t really have a use for them the rest of the week.  But oh, they had some great looking chanterelles, blue foot mushrooms, and of course morels!  The whole $49.99 a pound morel thing is astonishing to me.  When I was a kid, my family would drive down to the river near where we lived, and we would gather morels into paper grocery bags. So we probably came home with what would now be about $200 worth of morels.  Free.  Funny how food trends change. I did however, buy a pepino melon from Ecuador (I know, hardly local…).  According to what I’ve found online, it’s actually more closely related to the nightshade family than melons, and has a taste that is sort of a cross between a cucumber and a honeydew.  (I sometimes shop like I’m playing Let’s Make a Deal – hmmm…I’ll take the vegetable behind door number 3!)

I was out of sherry vinegar, non-bulkish olive oil, and agave, so I replenished both of those. I really don’t know too much about olive oil, so I never know how to pick between the different kinds of EVOO. So I just went with one that was on sale, and looked pretty decent.  The agave (masquerading as honey – it’s actually honey flavored agave) was at terrific sale price – nearly half off the others available.  I got some guacamole made in-store, which turned out to be fantastic, with a little heat.  During my tour of Whole Foods this past weekend, our guide mentioned a new line of products from Falafel King in Boulder (a huge favorite of mine), called Life is Sababa.  There are several types of hummus as well as tzatziki sauce, all made without oil, so they’re lower in calories and fat than the traditional types.  I got some hummus with roasted eggplant to try.

Dried cherries are always expensive, so so when I saw a bag that were significantly discounted, I grabbed them.  In the bulk department I found blue posole  (me and color, you know)!  At our farm dinner at Red Wagon Farms earlier this summer, a couple of people were telling us that they had been preparing wheat berries, and really liked them.  I’ve wanted to try it for a while, but never got around to getting any.  They have such a huge selection of bulk things now, I found some soft spring wheat (in contrast to hard winter wheat), and can’t wait to try it.  And then I got some Endangered Species brand chocolate in two varieties I’ve never seen before – dark chocolate with goji berry, pecans & maca and dark chocolate with cacao nibs, yacon & açaí.  I’m familiar with goji berries and açaí after the recent wave of super-fruit popularity in the US.  But maca and yacon I hadn’t even heard of.  So I went to Wikipedia to find out what I had purchased (door number 2!).  Maca is a Peruvian/Bolivian root with a sweet and slightly bitter taste, and yaca is a Peruvian tuber which is supposed to taste similar to jicama with some floral overtones. My husband and I tried a small bit of both, and the one with yaca is awesome!

Good thing I’m out of leftovers after this week, so I’ll have plenty of blank slate for cooking next week!

Sunday I went on a tour of the newly remodelled Whole Foods in Boulder. I wasn’t expecting to see too much more than what I’d seen as new areas were revealed during the remodelling over the past year. But I was actually blown away. In addition to the extensive amount of products added, I learned quite a few things about Whole Foods that really impressed me.  I have always loved the way the Whole Foods store looks and feels, and the quality of the merchandise, but to be honest, part of me has always felt a little guilty, since it’s a large, out-of-state corporation that came in and took over Boulder-owned Wild Oats and Alfalfa’s (which has, of course, gone back to being Alfalfa’s this past year).  I kind of felt like a bit of a traitor. But I really liked what I heard during the tour.  There is so much focus on local and organic produce, sustainable fishing, humanely raised meat, bulk foods, and healthy alternatives. In addition, there are programs that Whole Foods has or participates in, like the Eat a Rainbow program with the School Food Project, which has placed salad bars in all BVSD K-8 schools. There are micro-loans for female owned businesses, Whole Trade (similar to Fair Trade, but with less overhead taken from the farmers), and the new Cooking department at the Boulder Store which has a cooking coach and other resources to help home cooks learn new things and share knowledge and experiences.  It also sounds like the different regions are allowed to operate fairly autonomously, which allows the stores to interact with and support their local communities.  And the store is gorgeous! I’ll still get most of my produce at the Boulder Farmers’ Market during the summer and fall. But there are a lot of things you can’t get there, and there’s no Farmers’ Market for about half of the year.

Floral Department

Our tour started in the expanded floral department, which I included a picture of just because it looked so pretty.  Then on to the produce deparment.

I was delighted to see what seemed to be an even larger emphasis on local food in the produce department.  The items are from local suppliers when possible, and they even have a sign which shows the number of local products they have in the department that day.


It made me very happy to see that they now carry Hazel Dell mushrooms!  (The morels are from California, but everything else in this case is Hazel Dell).

Hazel Dell Mushrooms

On to seafood.  All the seafood they sell is labelled with a sustainability rating.  Whole Foods has made a pledge to phase out even selling non-sustainable seafood, despite the fact that there is quite a market for it. And that brings us to a point that our guide made that really resonated with me. Yes, Whole Foods is a big corporation, not owned in Colorado.  But their size also means that they have more power and ability to affect the industry. And if they are willing to use that clout to improve the situation with seafood, promote humane animal treatment, and support local farmers – that seems like a pretty good thing to me.

Humanely Raised Meats

I think the part of the tour that made the biggest impact on me was the meat department. I have only recently re-introduced red meat back into my diet (in extreme moderation), but through books, movies, farm tours, and discussion, I’ve done a lot of thinking about meat over the past few years (I’ll do a post on that eventually).   As a result, humanely raised livestock has become very important to me. So I was thrilled to hear about the rating system that Whole Foods is using to determine what meat they sell. The Global Animal Partnership (a non-profit organization) has different step ratings for how animals are kept, and Whole Foods does not have any meat in their meat case that doesn’t satisfy at least the first step. As an example, according to the brochure from the Global Animal Partnership, for chickens the first step includes, but isn’t limited to, no de-beaking or beak trimming, no antibiotics, space to flap their wings and preen without touching another bird, and a maximum transport time of 8 hours. For Step 5 and 5+ ratings, birds must be carried upright, one at a time. They must have shade outdoors, and enough vegetative foraging matter to encourage natural behavior. And all the meat in the cases is labelled with the animal welfare rating. I love this!

Very Bad Picture of Bulk Vinegars

And then on to the department that I was most excited to see, the Cooking Department. This is where all of the bulk items are (of which it seems there are more), as well as the cooking coach and other resources. The idea is to encourage people to get in the kitchen, and cook.  To make it fun and interesting, and to encourage a knowledge-sharing community.

One of the most cool looking things in this department is the bulk vinegars (see bad picture above). The cooking coach had us try the peach vinegar, and none of us could get over how great it was. I made a beeline back after the tour so I could buy my first bottle of it. I’m going to make a peach vinaigrette for my arugula this week!

25 Feet of Pastry!

All I probably need to say about the pastry department is that the pastry case is 25 feet long.

Another thing that I was very happy about is that they carry not only Pappardelle’s refrigerated pasta, but also their dry pasta! (If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve noticed that I have a bit of an obsession with Pappardelle’s).

Bakery Department

And as before, they have a lovely bakery, a wealth of prepared foods and cheese, salad bars, and several different counters where you can get eat-in items (kind of like a really awesome food court).

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