Tuesday, January 27, 2015

All About the Veggies - A Whole30 Update

Tonight's Salsa Chicken
You may have seen in my winter goals post that I'm currently doing Whole30. Today marks Day Sixteen. Past the halfway mark and I'm feeling great!

If you haven't heard of Whole30, it's basically a 30-day nutritional reset. You take out all processed foods, as well as sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains, with the plan to get rid of your cravings and get your digestive and immune systems back to a better place. It's also used by folks to figure out if they might have food allergies or sensitivities that are contributing to them feeling icky. It's not a diet, exactly. You don't count calories. Yes, most folks lose weight. But that isn't the purpose, and you aren't supposed to weigh yourself while participating. Some folks just do it for thirty days. Others adopt the principles as a lifestyle change.

Basically, for thirty days I am focused on eating fruits, veggies, eggs, meat, and some nuts and seeds.

For me, signing up for this was about a few things:
  • Noticing and hopefully changing some of my bad habits. I eat a ton of snacks, none of them good for me. And I'm not good about eating them in moderation. If there is a box of Cheeze-Its in our house, they never last very long. Lots of salty processed snacks and a whole lot of sugar - that needs to go.
  • Introducing more fruits and veggies into my diet. I buy them. But they typically go to the crisper drawer to die. I am much more likely to be eating convenience food, and making meal time decisions at meal time, rather than planning ahead and ensuring a healthy balance of nutrients. On Whole30, I am eating a huge portion of veggies at every meal, even breakfast. It's an adjustment, but a positive one. 
  • Eating real food. I tend to take advantage of a lot of convenience food. Mainly due to lack of planning and/or laziness. There isn't room for that here!
  • I'm also hoping for the benefits of: better sleep, clearer skin, and more energy. Especially during winter, I'm super lethargic. And while the weather and hours of darkness are a key part of that, I'd imagine some of what I'm eating is a contributing factor.
So how is it going so far? Well, Day One and Two were pretty hard. I think that was mainly because I wasn't super excited about what I was eating those days. I actually woke up with a migraine on Day One, and so my day was pretty thrown off eating wise. I still followed the plan, but I didn't eat anything until almost 2:30 in the afternoon because I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep it down (gross, I know). When I'm sick all I want is ginger ale and crackers, but I made it work and didn't cheat. But an unexpected Day One also meant that I didn't get to the grocery store, and so I was pretty limited for options for Day Two. I never had any headaches from taking out the soda and grains, like some folks have, but I was certainly a little crabby/hungry most of the day. I also spent a lot of time thinking about what I couldn't have on those days. I was craving anything and everything, even stuff I wouldn't usually want, like pudding. All I was thinking about was food.

But Days Three-Fifteen have been great! I've been excited about my meals and have found that I look forward to different things than I would have in the past. And little things like including fresh herbs on a salad or grabbing a handful of olives for a little something extra with my meal make a huge difference. I am also usually feeling full and satisfied. I've had several meals where I couldn't finish the whole lunch I packed. No hunger.    

Some of the things I've noticed:

I'm spending a lot more time cooking and doing dishes. That shouldn't have been a huge surprise, as I've cut out a lot of the convenience food. But I have to think beyond just my next meal to three meals a day throughout the week. This means that sometimes I'm not just cooking our dinner, but also chopping veggies for my lunch the next day, while simultaneously hard-boiling eggs so that I'll have them for breakfast for the rest of the week. Lots of dirty dishes at our house.

Our grocery bill is a little bit higher. I'm doing my best to find good meat and produce deals and to not overbuy, but with the much high quantities of meat and veggies being consumed, it's definitely a change. But...

We are eating out a lot less. This includes our "we're too lazy to cook tonight" trips for fast food and those mid-day trips down to get a snack or a coffee. So I would imagine our grocery bill will even out with the other food we usually buy.

Planning is huge. To make sure that we aren't wasting leftovers or throwing away rotten produce, I have to make a plan for the week, shop accordingly, defrost things on time, and stay on track. No last minute "what do I want to have decisions.

Finding meals that work for both of us is important. Chris isn't doing Whole30 with me, but it is important to me that we are eating mostly the same thing. Sometimes it means that eat spaghetti squash and sauce while Chris has spaghetti. Or my taco meat is on a salad, while his is in a shell. There are a lot of more adventurous recipes online look delicious, but may not work for the two of us. But you can totally do this with the basics, like grilled meat and veggies, without it getting too boring.

While there are foods that I miss, I don't crave them in the same way. Sure, I have a pang of jealousy when someone walks past with french fries, and going to the movies and not getting popcorn is hard, but I don't feel the urge to instantly go get every food that I think of. When I already have a plan for what I am eating, I am so much less likely to deviate with a piece of pizza or a burger. My hope is that those would become an every once in awhile treat, rather than a regular part of my week. And I do have some foods that feel like a treat....almond butter!

We have also found some great new recipes. Some of the things I've eaten this month:
  • Taco salad bowls
  • Crockpot beef stew
  • Turkey burger sliders with sweet potato buns
  • Eggs, eggs, and more eggs! Not sick of em yet. 
  • Mini-meatloafs
  • Baked citrus chicken
  • Pork chops with apples and onions
  • Thai red curry with chicken and veggies, plus cauliflower rice
  • Healing chicken soup
  • Crockpot salsa chicken
Here's to a bunch of other great meals during the second half!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dinner for Two

It started with a couch.

When we got back from our honeymoon, we bought a couch that we'd been eyeing for some time. This beauty. A couch that led to an adventure to/from the Chicago suburbs twice in one day, and couch assembly beginning around 11:30 pm. Long story.

Our old couch told the story of cat snuggles and more than one food spill that didn't quite come out. We were determined to keep from staining this one, at least anytime soon.

But the thing is, we eat most of our meals at our couch. Or at least we did. It's a habit that we both got into while living alone that sort of carried over when we began living together. Not out of any bad intention, just something that happened. My guess is that eating in front of the tv surrounded by devices is pretty normal for most single folks - there's some comfort in the noise. We have a kitchen table that was used more for drying clean dishes (no dishwasher), storing our yet-to-be-used wedding presents, and as a work station for my dissertation research.

So we set out to make our kitchen a bit more organized, and to eat our dinners at the table. Together. At  dinner time. It might seem like a silly goal, but as there are many nights and weekends that one of us is working or volunteering, it was a habit that we would have to build.

We've been eating dinner in our little kitchen nook regularly for a month now. It's nice. It is a built-in time to catch up with each other without being distracted or semi-present because of a show on tv or something on our phones. And we eat more real food. Side salads almost every night - what?! Feels so grown up. It has also kept me focused on having a plan for meals and not just throwing in a Jack's pizza at the last minute because nothing is defrosted or we don't have the right ingredients. I get excited about picking out what we are going to have and cooking and dishes don't quite seem so tedious.

I think it also is keeping me focused on prioritizing family. I want to be home for dinner every night that I can. Because it's special. And it's our time together.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Goals

My first Winter project!
The holiday season is over, and it's safe to say that it's officially winter. With the dumping of snow we got over the weekend, followed by some chilly temps, we just can't deny it any more.

I decided to set some Winter Goals to create some motivation to push me through the lack of sunshine.

Eat: Good, healthy, non-processed foods. Because for the next month, I'm doing Whole30 with a friend. It's time for a bit of a reset after the holidays. It's not so much about weight loss, but rather getting rid of some of my bad habits. We start next week!

Drink: Tea. Delicious tea. Warms me right up on a cold evening, and goes great with the latest book or knitting project.

Read: 52 books this year! I've already finished the first two. To keep it interesting, I'm working on the Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge. So far I have crossed out: A book with a number in the title, and a book originally written in a different language. I'm working on a book that was made into a movie.

Watch: We started binge-watching Friends over the break and are now on season three. One of my goals is to supplement that with some of the different documentaries on there. Mix in some learning with the fun. I am also hoping to get to the movies a few more times - The Imitation Game, American Sniper, Wild, and Into the Woods are all on my list.

Listen: To the Overdue podcast. It's two guys talking about books. I love books! I just found this recently, and have been listening to the episodes of the books that I've read while I'm cooking or doing the dishes. Then I'm planning to go back and listen to the episodes of the books I haven't read, to get some inspiration for new stuff to add to my reading list.

Wear: After wearing my jammies pretty much all break, it's back to dressing for work again. And this winter, I'm mixing in all of the awesome scarves I have!

Make: A vision board for 2015.

Start: Decluttering. I have a few different organization tasks that I hope to tackle during these weeks when the students are still away. Time to pitch, donate, and refocus on experiences instead of things. Step one is to take down our Christmas decorations.

Finish: My dissertation proposal edits. Still chugging right along, but hoping to focus a bit more.

Stop: Playing games on my phone. It's such a time suck, and keeps me from spending quality time with my husband. I'm working on other ways to decompress at the end of the day, like reading, listening to podcasts, and knitting again.

Go: On walks. Yes, this might sound crazy with how cold it is and the fact that I'm clumsy to begin with let alone when there is ice on the ground. However, I think that getting out into the fresh air for 20 minutes or so every day, will help me to keep from hibernating on my couch all winter long and becoming a grouchy pants.

Find: Time for cooking and meal planning. After the holidays, I'm ready to get back into a regular schedule and eat more meals together at our kitchen table. With Whole30, I have to do a lot of planning to make sure that I'm prepared and don't end up cheating and/or starving. But, I also have a lot more fun with cooking and try new recipes when I put time into our monthly meal plans. It's where I've found some of our favorite things to eat.   

Focus: On being productive. During the Winterim on campus, it can seem like we have all of the time in the world for planning. It really goes by fast though, and I want to make sure I make good progress on my projects.

What are your winter goals?
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