Category Archives: Food

March Week 2: No Sugar and thoughts on trigger foods

Week 2 and we are going to talk about trigger foods and eating food someone else has prepared. I mentioned last week that someone made a meal for me which included sugar (honey), when I had consciously decided to not eat sugar this month. I figure that this is a good situation to talk about.

A fair number of forums and message boards dedicated to healthy eating have threads discussing how to eat healthy (however that may be depending on the type of diet the person is on: low-calorie, low-carb, low-sodium, low-fat, high-protein, gluten-free, etc.) when you may have little or no control over what is being served. This may include eating at restaurants, where some options are available, or eating at someone’s home, where you may not be able to say something unless you have an allergy or extreme aversion to a particular food item.

As is the case, some people are able to put aside their personal dietary goals for a meal so as to not offend their host. Some people have certain triggers and cannot eat foods which may send them into a spiral of unhealthy habits again. I know that I have some foods that I have trouble stopping eating until they run out, chips and salsa and cheese and crackers we talked about in my last post. There are other foods which I have the same relationship with, and so avoid them if I can.

Many of the discussions in those threads mention having a smaller portion or “just a little bit” of what is served, after-all, the host put time and effort into preparing this meal. This isn’t an issue for the people who have the will power to eat a little bit of anything without “falling off the wagon.” However, if someone puts out cheese and crackers and wants me to have some, it takes conscious will not to mindlessly eat all of them. Because that is what I can do sometimes, mindlessly eat while talking to someone, while on the computer, or while watching television. Some people can have a bar of chocolate in their house and have a small piece every now. Others can’t have a bag of cookies otherwise they will eat them all in one sitting.

So, what is the “trigger foods” person to do when their host brings out a cake after dinner? No one wants to reject what is being offered, that is rude to some degree in most cultures. A non-main dish that you are not comfortable eating can be a bit easier. One option is to be honest; compliment their effort (“This looks lovely!”) then mention that while you would love to have some, you have to watch your calorie/sodium/fat/carb intake. You could even throw a family history in there if one exists, “I have to watch my carbs/sugar since diabetes runs in my family.” Being honest may open the discussion to critiques of eating habits, which is something some people are not comfortable with. Especially if the host is eating the macaroni and cheese with wild abandon and you are drinking water. Another option when pressured to eat something, which would might work best with a dessert, is to take some with you when you leave. You can then do with it what you please: give the brownie to your partner, give the slice of pie to a friend, or, if you can handle it and think they may ask later how you liked it, take the tiniest bite and immediately toss it in the trash. I generally dislike lying to people, which is why I say to take a bite.

A main dish can be much harder to get around. If pasta is your trigger and they come out of the kitchen with an eight layer lasagna, what can you do? No where does etiquette state that we can just ask the host to run back into the kitchen and make something else. To a degree, this depends on your relationship with your host and their personality. Are they sensitive (moms, grandmas, close friends) or is hosting a big deal to them (neighbors, coworkers, social friends)? Are they someone you don’t want to offend (bosses, social leaders, prominent community figures) or are they critical and you just don’t want to put up with their comments (frenemies, friends-of-friends, distant relatives)? If possible try to eat some part of what is offered: eat the lasagna filling but not the noodles. Also, fill your plate with a side and just a little of the “trigger food.” A good host should just ask if you were satiated, not interrogate why you didn’t eat something. If they ask, mention that the lasagna/hamburger/chili cheese dog was good just a bit heavy/you filled up on salad before.

If you are ok with lying, then the list of excuses to not eat food someone else prepared opens right up: food allergies/sensitivities, doctors’ orders, etc.  As I said, I don’t like out-right lies, and lying about food allergies/sensitivities can get you in trouble if you turn down red velvet cake with walnut cream cheese icing due to a “nut allergy” and then, a few weeks later, you eat a salad topped with pecans in front of them.

One other option, of which I am not a fan, is to avoid the situations where you might have only options where there is no food that you feel comfortable eating. I don’t like this option because you are cutting out social situations from your daily life, which is an important part of living! If there is a way to go to the event and not eat or be exposed to your specific trigger foods, then try to go. If your company is ordering pizza for a lunch meeting, you can bring leftovers to eat and claim that they will go bad unless you eat them. If you are like me and cook like you have to feed an army, it’s not even a lie! Some meals I can eat on twice a day for several days before all the food is gone. You can then park yourself as far away from the pizza as you can get and still be there and participate. Another option is to bring “the healthy item” to a potluck. In many social circles, there are usually only one or two healthy items at these events. Load up your plate with whatever you brought and some “non-trigger” dishes someone else brought and then get away from the table. Converse with people away from the tempting fried chicken, pasta salad, or whatever it is you want to stick your whole face in and inhale like a vacuum. Another option is to visit the feeding line last, if your trigger food is a popular item, it may be gone by the time you go to eat.

One thing to remember, it’s usually just one meal. If you indulge for one meal, or even if it turns into an all day binge, you can always pick yourself up and start again tomorrow. If someone is going to be making food for you on a regular basis, talk with them about foods you avoid. The best option is to make it more of a conversation, “these are the things I don’t eat, what are some of yours?” They may not understand why you want to avoid certain things, but hopefully they will respect your request.

Oh, so how did I do on week 2 of no sugar? Much better than last week, I got through the week without indulging in any sugar-added foods. I’ve also cut back a bit on the chips and salsa and cheese and crackers. Overall, doing pretty good!  Let’s celebrate with a picture of acrobats from a renaissance years ago!

Awesome face!

Awesome face!

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March Week 1: No Sugar

Ah, I was already in March a few days before I remembered to check to see what my challenge was for the month. As such, I had a couple lapses the first week. I did have a bit of sugar the night before and day of my half-marathon. Do you forgive me for having about 1/4 cup of chocolate pudding 12 hour before I ran 13.1 miles? How about the 8-ish ounces of orange juice the morning of? I also had a package of apple cinnamon oatmeal the day I remembered to check which challenge I was in for March. Then I had something lovingly prepared by someone else which had honey, which I couldn’t really turn down.

Other than those small mistakes, I have been very good. I haven’t really craved sugar since about November, so this month shouldn’t be too “challenging” to keep going. My new thing is to eat ALL THE CHIPS AND SALSA, and CHEESE AND CRACKERS. I’m going to try to cut those way back soon, as I can sit and polish off over half my days’ calories with those two snacks in under an hour. I’ve essentially replaced sweets with salty, which is not something I was intending. Maybe the second half of this month should be devoted to abstaining from those two snack combinations.

I like that idea! Look out March 15-31, we’re about to take up some better snack habits!

Yeah, I won't be having any of these...

Yeah, I won’t be having any of these…

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Fall garden and the impending spring garden insanity

As kind of a last-minute thing, I decided to put in a vegetable garden this past fall.  The garden was 12ftX12ft and had several different types of vegetables seeds that I bought from Lowes. Only a few things from the fall garden came up well.  It could be because I didn’t water, weed, or really take care of the plot very well in general.  The things that did well: radishes and swiss chard.  Things that came up and didn’t really grow to full potential: cabbage, green onions, and lettuce.  Things that didn’t really come up at all: broccoli, spinach, and carrots.  Unfortunately, we didn’t end up doing anything with the radishes.  If I plant them again next fall, I’ll have some recipes planned out.  The swiss chard I’ve used in a couple different recipes which turned my dinners reddish, still pretty good though.  The bit of cabbage that came up (and then stopped growing) was used in a casserole, which also turned reddish-purple.  The green onions and lettuce came up but never got more than about 6 inches tall.  The lettuce is gone and the green onions were pulled the other day to till up the garden area.  Oh, and the ONE broccoli plant that came up was delicious.

Carrots from the fall garden

Carrots from the fall garden

So, what does spring hold for the vegetable garden?  My friends may never see me again.  This garden is going to be 65ftX20ft and will have several different crops and a couple different planting dates for some of the crops.

My grand plans

My grand plans

I may have gotten a little carried away…

But this spring, we bought some automatic watering timers and I have started the cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers in a greenhouse.  I’ve also added what little compost was ready to the tilled area.

However, the weather is not quite cooperating, so it is lucky that I started the plants almost a week later than I had wanted.  Some big, burly friends of mine tilled the garden area and a little over a week later I spread the compost over the tilled soil.  Three days later, the skies opened and it rained about 7 inches in four days.  I am coaxing my little crops to grow big and strong in the greenhouse while I am waiting for the ground to dry out a little.  The lettuce and brassica crops are growing a little leggy, but I am hoping that they  will do ok once I plant the outside.  We are going through a bit of a cold snap, which should pass soon.  I should be able to place the plants outside to weather harden them in the next week or so.  Here’s hoping that at least some of it will produce.

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January Summary: Habitual Cleaning

January was supposed to get me into the habit of regular cleaning of the house.  There were no weekly goals for this one.  The chores I wanted to do every week were:

General pick up and putting stuff where it belongs
Sweeping/mopping the floors
Clean off counters and mirrors
Laundry (including changing bed sheets weekly)

So what was my “score” for the week?  I achieved about a 75% success rate. My main obstacle is that the house is rather large, so it is a time investment to sweep and mop all the floors (all are either tile or wood).  It takes about 2-3 hours to do just the floors (especially with moving furniture), then another hour or more to do the rest of the chores.  Easily my day was half over by the time I was done cleaning, so the last weekend just fell to the “I don’t wanna” excuse.  This also creates an issue when I am gone for the weekend, I don’t have time after work to run/lift, cook dinner, shower, and do the floors.

On the plus side, I got my vegetable started!  Look the tomatoes and bell peppers are coming up!

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

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A Review of 2012 Challenges

I set out with a specific list of goal for 2012.  Here’s a recap:

January: Cleaning and Organizing the House
February: Blog
March: Festivals
April: Exercise
May: No Sugar
June: Reading
July: No processed food (making something I would normally buy pre-made)
August: Snappy Dressed
September: Chainmail
October: Photography
November: Ethnic Dinners
December: Sewing

I also had an overall fitness goal for the year: participate in a running or cycling race every month.

My best months for sticking to my plan were: January (Cleaning), February (Blogging), May (No Sugar), June (Reading), August (Snappy Dressed), and November (Ethnic Dinners).  For the most part, I was able to complete each weekly and the overall month’s goal for those months.  My favorite months were March (Festivals), May (No Sugar), October (Photography), and November (Ethnic Dinners).

Yeah, I was surprised that I liked May’s goal.  I thought it would be hard, but once I decided to cut out sugar, it was almost easy to turn it down.  My cravings for sugar have been pretty low the last couple months and when I do crave something sweet, I can satisfy it with some fruit.

Months that I didn’t meet my goal: March (Festivals), July (No Processed Foods), and December (Sewing).  I missed a couple of festival weekends in March due to weather and a party.  I didn’t get a chance to make one of the things I wanted to try out for July and I didn’t sew ANYTHING in December due to all the holiday madness.

My overall fitness goal for the year turned out great!  I didn’t end up doing any cycling races, but I did run a race every month.  I ran five 5Ks, three Mud/Obstacle Course runs (generally 5Ks), one 8K, one 10.2K, one half-marathon (13.1 mi), and one marathon (26.2 mi)!  I’m pretty proud of myself and am looking forward to next year.

2013 goals will be a little different…

Broccoli from the garden

Broccoli from the garden

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December Challenge: Sewing Failure!

December was supposed to inspire me to get out my sewing machine and make a few things.  Well, this was a lofty goal when I was planning things out last year.  Not necessarily because I have serious sewing talent issues, but because I underestimated how busy I would be in December.

I want this goal to carry over to 2013 as I have a bit of a fabric and pattern collection and would like to finally do something with it.  I had planned to make something different each week: a shopping bag, a skirt, a dress, and a shirt.

So, what did I do this month?  I made a lot of food!  One of the best things I made this month was persimmon spice cake.

Persimmon spice cake

Persimmon spice cake

I’ve made this three times and have received several compliments on it.  I’ve made it a couple different ways, once with all-purpose flour and twice with white whole wheat flour.  The all-purpose flour produced a much fluffier, puffier cake, whereas the white whole wheat flour didn’t rise as much and was a bit denser and moister, like a banana bread.  I preferred the white whole wheat flour cake, mainly because it was moister.

In December, I also made: candied orange peels, chocolate covered pomegranate clusters, apple pie cookies, persimmon puff pastry tarts, butter, cucumber sandwiches, rosemary flatbread, feta salsa, and pears with goat cheese and prosciutto.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of any of these things!

I had a few other adventures, which I will cover in the next few posts!

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November Summary and Week 5: Middle Eastern Beef Shawarma

Beef shawarma is like a middle eastern version of a Greek gyro or a Turkish doner kebab.  Traditionally, meat is put on a vertical spit and turned while exposed to a flame.  Thin slices are then cut off the meat as it is cooked and stuff into a bread of some sort and topped with hummus or tahini and vegetables.  The recipe I found is from about.com middle eastern food and it was pretty good.  My only real complaint was that the tahini sauce turned into a paste, rather than staying thin.  Really, it was like refrigerated peanut butter.

As I was making this as part of a dinner with friends, I also made some Beef Samosas from allrecipes, which allowed me to pull out the rest of those chutneys from the other night!  I did substitute mashed cauliflower for mashed potato, which I prefer to use when I can, and baked them rather than deep-frying.  So, where are the pictures?  The problem was that I told all my guests to arrive hungry…

Beef Samosas

Beef Samosas

This was the meat for the Beef Shawarma
This was the meat for the Beef Shawarma
Tahini paste

Tahini paste, way too thick…

Yeah, I didn’t get a chance to take many pictures.  That’s a good sign, right?  I enjoyed it and there wasn’t anything left of the shawarma.  There were three samosas left and some of the filling.  Anyone hungry?

So, November turned out pretty good!  I would definitely make most of the food again and take into account the issues I had.  Crepes?  Oh, yeah!  I would use those in place of some of the more traditional bread products.  Bibimbap?  Work on my egg frying technique and try to find some authentic gochujang and I want this right now!  Beef samosas?  Spiced vegetable and beef deliciousness in baked packets are always welcome in my belly.  Tacos al pastor?  So easy and so good, I could make this any time.  Dahi batata puri?  Make the sauce/chutneys in advance and this is one of the quickest dinners.  I need to find some tamarind!

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