I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Starbucks

Eating for One

IMGP0745

More Meatless (Part 2)

When my husband decided to take our son skiing for 3 days over Spring Break, my first thought was “I can eat whatever I want!”

I immediately decided to go vegetarian for the time and planned out my meals.  But why?  Because all the other health-oriented middle-aged women are going veg?  I didn’t want it to be just because it is trendy.  On reflection, here are the reasons why eating less meat is right for me:

  1. I feel better, physically, especially with no red meat.  When I eat steak (which I love), my stomach gurgles and I can’t sleep.  I feel lighter and more alert when I eat less meat.
  2. I feel better, mentally, as a global citizen.  A vegetarian diet uses fewer resources than a meat-eating diet.  It just seems the responsible way to eat.
  3. I feel better, emotionally, as a living being.  When I look in an animal’s eyes, I see another soul.  I don’t like to think I am killing other beings.
  4. I feel better, spiritually, as a yogini.  Ahimsa – do no harm – is the first moral restraint of yoga philosophy.

As an obedient rule-follower and laden with eating baggage, do I really need more food rules to live by?  Probably not.  Which is one of the reasons why I have not gone down the vegetarian path more vigorously.   Besides, it would mean rocking the boat on the family dinner front.  Rocking the boat is not something I do.  As I’ve quietly but forcefully acknowledged and embraced who I am, I’ve begun to assert who I am with more confidence.  Part of that assertion occurs around food and consciously choosing what I want to eat.  Not being embarrassed by the way I eat.  Perhaps I am not the one with the eating disorder after all?  Perhaps nothing is wrong with me and I have something to teach others?

My husband and I fell in love over food.  Cooking for each other, cooking with each other, sampling restaurants.  It was fun!  In those early months, merging as one – as couples do in the initial phase of a relationship, we ate the same foods.  As we built our marriage and our family life, a central component has been and continues to be cooking and eating together.  We plan meals, choose recipes, share the cooking and share the eating.  Family dinners are a significant and valued part of our family life together.  About 10 years ago (around 40), I gradually shifted to a more insistently healthy diet.  I had gained the “normal” weight that a 40+ woman puts on after marriage, two children, a sedentary full time job and a lot of pasta and red wine.  I changed my choices for breakfast and lunch but pretty much kept dinner with the family.  Then I eliminated dessert and cut back on wine and switched to whole wheat pasta, whole grain everything.  And lost more than the 15 pounds I had gained over the years.  And felt better.  And slept better.  What does it mean to eat differently than my husband?  He cooks for delicious nourishment.  I cook for healthy nourishment.  Can our diets co-exist?  I tend to compromise more than he does.  After all, doesn’t Ahimsa also apply to appreciating and enjoying his delicious food offerings without my food and eating hang-ups mucking it all up?  The question hovers.

Alone for three days, I sighed with relief and eager anticipation.  Here is what I enjoyed eating.

Day 1

Breakfast:  Shredded Wheat and Bran (64 mini-squares, yes – still counting!) topped with 1 Banana and Vanilla Soy Milk; Grapefruit Juice; Black coffee

Snack:  Siggi’s Yogurt (thick, tart, not sweet, high in protein) and lots of water throughout the day

Lunch:  Peanut Butter & Apricot Jelly on whole wheat bread; Mango;  Iced Venti Half Caf Non-Fat Latte from the ubiquitous Starbucks

Dinner:

I sautéed shitake mushrooms in olive oil and mixed them with farro (a barley-like grain, chewy and flavorful)

Salad of cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado with some olive oil and white wine vinegar

Chardonnay (only 3 ounces…more disrupts my sleep and gives me a headache)

Sweet Riot 85% dark chocolate, 6 squares

Day 2

Breakfast:  Vanilla yogurt (1 cup) with ½ cup Müesli (Familia, no-added-sugar) and blueberries; Grapefruit Juice;  Black Coffee

Lunch:  Hummus and Feta on whole wheat bread;  Sliced apple;  English Breakfast tea

Snack:  1 banana;  lots of Water

Dinner

My favorite Escarole and Beans

Chardonnay (3 ounces again)

Dark Chocolate (another 6 squares of Sweet Riot 85%)

Day 3

All Bran cereal (2/3 cup) mixed with Early Bird Granola (1/3 cup) topped with blueberries; Grapefruit Juice;  Black Coffee

Snack:  Emmi Swiss Yogurt (creamy and sweet, as delicious as a dessert); lots of water

Lunch:  Whole Wheat cinnamon raisin toast topped with almond butter;  Sliced Pineapple;  English Breakfast Tea

Dinner

Aha!  My first test.  I had a date with my sister-in-law.  She’s always trying to lose weight (even though she is not heavy) and we were happily fantasizing about grilled brussels sprouts.  I had told her I was eating vegetarian while her brother/my husband was away.  My husband texted me that he would be home in time for dinner.  We switched restaurants to one that was larger and could accommodate all four of us.  What to eat?  I opted for the fish special (roasted Sea Bass in a sherry wine sauce – which was too sweet) and I substituted broccoli rabe for the risotto side.  It was good, but not great.  The problem with restaurant meals is that they cook with too much fat and too much salt.  I missed my healthy dinners.  And was so thirsty from the salt!

Okay, it’s Day 4 and how to continue?  Breakfast and lunch are easy.  I will have a whole wheat bagel with goat cheese for breakfast and a salad of quinoa and black beans for lunch.  For dinner, my daughter returns from Spain today and we are going to make one of her favorite family dinners:  Grilled steak tacos.  These tacos are delicious!  We grill steak, sauté corn and red pepper and red onion, top with guacamole and salsa, and roll it all up in one’s tortilla of choice (corn, plain, whole wheat).  I have been gradually eating mine with less and less steak and will continue to do so tonight.  A little bit of steak, probably 1-2 ounces.  And tomorrow, I will cook for my daughter.  She has been interested in eating more like me, so I will make our favorite Sunday morning oatmeal and our favorite Sunday lunchtime lentil soup.  For dinner, I am fantasizing about my husband’s grilled salmon – the very first thing he cooked for me 20 years ago when I fell in love with him.  I think we will be able to work out our eating differences – with love, respect and some compromise.

IMG_1371

Lentil Soup

  • 4 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 cup of celery and carrots, chopped fine
  • 1 cup of Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup of lentils (French Green)
  • 2 Tablespoons barley
  • Thyme, salt and pepper
  • 4 cups of liquid (Water or Vegetable Broth or Chicken Broth)  (I prefer Chicken Broth.  I am not a good vegetarian.  Water is too bland.  Vegetable Broth tastes weird.  Too sweet.  Sigh.)

Saute garlic, celery and carrots, potatoes in olive oil – for 10 minutes until lightly browned.

Add liquid, lentils, barley, seasoning.  Simmer for about an hour.

Serves 4 – 6.

What Would Happen If I Didn’t Eat Breakfast?

The Most Important Meal

It is ingrained in me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I can recite the reasons touted in all the women’s magazines that I have read (voraciously) and worked for (diligently) all my life. 

  • Breakfast fuels your body, revving metabolism and allowing you to focus.
  • Willpower is high in the morning, allowing for healthy food choices and optimal nutrition at breakfast, while minimizing less healthy choices throughout the day.
  • Taking time for breakfast allows for a mindful approach to your day.

Besides, there are some days when the only reason I get out of bed is to have that cup of coffee and to eat.

It was my mother, not magazines, who instilled the breakfast habit in me.  Or rather, an extreme fear of not eating breakfast.  As a girl, I would get headaches.  Lie-in-the-dark, too-nauseous-to-eat migraines.  My mother would anxiously hover over me.  She would massage my temples, read to me, spend time with me.  In retrospect, these headaches had many components:  family dysfunction, school stress, perfectionism, anxiety, dehydration, less than optimal nutrition, less than optimal physical fitness, hormonal changes.  I certainly learned that a good way to let people know that the world was too much for me was to shut down with a headache.  My mother worriedly enabled this behavior.  “It’s too much.  Stay home.  Rest.”  She dragged me to many doctors – because doctors knew best.  I was medicated for migraines with Cafergot – you had to anticipate when a migraine was coming on so that you could nip it in the bud with the medication.  (Starbucks wasn’t on every street corner then.)  I was also diagnosed as having hypoglycemic tendencies.  (Don’t we all get irritable and shaky when we are hungry?)  Thus began my fear of not eating enough.  I had to have just the right quantity of food and combination of nutrients to feel good and prevent a headache.  Balance the fear of not eating enough with the fear of eating too much and imagine the anxiety that resulted!  Not to mention a complete disconnect between feeling hunger and satisfying that hunger appropriately.  And now, add in my daughter who cannot and will not eat breakfast … truly karmic.  May we all learn our own bodies and find our own way.  My way is not her way. 

After many (many) years of experimenting with breakfast – food choices, quantity and timing – my personal favorite breakfast that makes me feel good all the way until lunch is some kind of whole grain cereal or bread with protein, fruit, strong coffee, and – most importantly – some time to enjoy it (and digest it). 

Granola

I am ALWAYS disappointed with store-bought granola.  Bear Naked – blech!  The only store-bought that is worth its price and its calories is Early Bird Granola.  Even better, is making a batch of your own homemade granola.  It is not difficult and it is so delicious!  Here is my favorite recipe, adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark in the New York Times:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups raw pistachios, hulled
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
  • 1 cup coconut chips or coconut flakes
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until lightly golden and toasted.  Don’t overcook.   Granola keeps in an airtight container for 2 weeks. 

How I eat it:

  • 6 oz of yogurt (I mix 50-50: half Vanilla with half Greek Nonfat Plain)
  • ½ cup of Granola
  • Fresh berries

or

  • 2/3 cup of All Bran Cereal  (you get your fiber with this option!)
  • 1/3 cup of Granola
  • Vanilla Soy Milk (I prefer Silk, not the light version.  Vanilla soy milk has more flavor than cow’s milk when combined with cereal and prevents any digestive discomfort related to lactose first thing in the morning.)
  • Fresh berries

Oatmeal

My version is not very sweet, but extremely satisfying.  I make it while doing other things in the kitchen so it has time to simmer.  The only annoying thing about oatmeal is cleaning the gloppy pot afterwards. 

  • 1 ½ cups of Vanilla Soy Milk
  • 2/3 cup of Old Fashioned Oats (not quick, not instant, not steel-cut)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar (to your taste.  I find that as I eat less and less sugar that I don’t like things that are too sweet.  A virtuous circle.)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of dried fruit (I prefer golden raisins or dried apricots or dried tart cherries)
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon

Bring soy milk to a simmer.  Add oats, sugar, dried fruit, and cinnamon.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Watch that the milk doesn’t boil too hard and overflow the pot.  A mess.  Turn off heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes, absorbing the liquid.  Stir occasionally.  Play with timing to get the right consistency to your liking.  I like it thick and creamy, not too liquid-y.

Serves:

1 large serving or 2 normal servings

Raisin Toast

Cinnamon Raisin Bread is so decadent it should be considered dessert.  My favorite kind from the Vermont Bread Company is as healthy as it gets.  I toast it and spread it with almond butter and then sometimes top this concoction with a bit of pumpkin butter.  This makes for an unbelievable sandwich for lunch as well!

Whole Wheat Bagels or English Muffins

Thanks to my friend Judy, I now top my whole wheat bagel or my whole wheat English muffin with goat cheese and a bit of orange marmalade or tart cherry jam.  I eat this on the weekends when I give myself permission to splurge on a bagel.

Shredded Wheat

My easy go-to breakfast is Shredded Wheat ‘n Bran (65 mini squares;  Yes – I count them), Vanilla soy milk, and sliced bananas.  Healthy, quick, tasty.  

Coffee

Scoop coffee into French Press.  Bring water to boil.  Pour water over coffee.  Stir gently.  Steep 4-5 minutes.

Serves 2 large mugs

%d bloggers like this: