Two a Healthy Life

One couple on a mission to become healthy


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Day 209: Maintaining

He said:

So both Alex and I have been bad about updating the blog recently, please don’t be mad.  In part this has to do with a slump that I have been in the last week or so.

Part of this has to do with the whole idea of maintaining versus losing weight.  When Alex and I were both losing weight together it was easy to stay on track and see the result throughout the week and be happy with the loss at the end of the week.  Now that I am in the maintaining phase, it is harder some weeks to belly up to the line and continue eating healthy.

Last week I didn’t fall off the bandwagon but I did not eat the way I have been teaching myself too and I could see the results.  I didn’t feel as good as I do when I eat well, and I got a couple of headaches throughout the week.  That is all it took to show me how the way I used to eat was making me sick and was one of the reasons I wasn’t as happy as I am now.

This week has started off well and I am back down to the weight zone I was in before I slipped.  The whole process has reinforced one important point, that the way I used to eat is what was making me fat.   This may seem like an obvious fact, but when you see it on the scale it is hard to deny.

Feeling good and moving forward!

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Day 156: Cravings

He said:

Doughnuts on the kitchen table, a coworker’s candy bowl, cookies at a local meeting, we have all been in situations where food is present and for no apparent reason we become transfixed on that food until we have some.  I won’t even necessarily be hungry, but if someone brings in doughnuts for the office, my mouth will begin to salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs in anticipation of the sweet, doughy goodness.  This is only part of the toxic and ever present food environment that we live in now.

Three instances from the past week will help to illustrate this phenomenon in a more concrete way.

  1. A coworker brought in doughnuts (seeing the theme here) for the department and decided to leave the box on my desk for people to snack on.  I had already had my morning meal and was about to have my mid-morning snack (almonds), so I wasn’t really hungry, but as soon as the doughnuts showed up I was thinking about having one.  I was able to put them out of my mind, have my snack, and focused on my work, but every now and then I would think about the doughnuts.  After I got my morning coffee an hour later I moved them into the break room and ten minutes later they were gone.
  2. Went into the break room to have my afternoon snack (low-fat cottage cheese) and someone had left a package of cookies on one of the tables for people to eat.  I looked at the package, thought about what I had eaten that day and started to justify how I could have one and it be all right, I opened the packed ready to grab one, and then knew if I had one then, I would eat it, my cottage cheese, and then have another one after.  In that instant I knew it was easier for me to just not have a cookie then try to only have one, I was able to close the package and have my cottage cheese and then flee the break room.
  3. On Monday we had a department lunch (I feel like I work with the foodiest people ever) of pizza.  We do this every couple of months and I have told everyone I am on a diet so I don’t partake of the pizza, plus what I have found out about myself is that I do not like pizza that much and in true fashion I was able to sit in the luncheon and not partake and not think about the pizza at all.  I had no craving for it and didn’t even think twice about not having any.

In my cravings, what I have learned about myself is that I have a sweet tooth and if I am going to indulge or think about food it almost always is going to be sweet things. For Alex, she loves savory food, and doesn’t really give in to sweets too often (though she does have chocolate every day, in moderation).   What has become easier as this whole lifestyle has progressed is controlling cravings and understanding that I don’t need to indulge all the time, plus having a free day where I can eat the way I want helps tremendously.  On the day with the cookies, I told myself that if I really wanted a cookie I would wait till Saturday and then go to this really good cookie store in SF.  That was the other thing about those cookies, they were safeway store bought cookies, and even though I really wanted to eat it in that instance, in the back of my head I knew it was not going to be as good as I had built it up in my head.

The point on that one being that if you are going to splurge make sure you get the good stuff, because there is no sense in wasting the calories on something that isn’t exactly what you want.  Most of these ideas are being formed from a book I am currently reading called The End of Overeating.  I am only about halfway through, but it has already been enlightening, and I think I will do another blog post just on that book and its main message.  But it has opened my eyes to how I crave things and some ways of getting around those involuntary hunger pangs.  At the end of the day we should all try to become more aware of what are bodies (and brains) are telling us and just remember, half the time your brain is telling you you’re hungry, but your body isn’t.

She Said:

It is really interesting to see how you prioritize food when you are on such a strict diet. As Nathaniel said – I eat chocolate nearly every day.

I buy dark chocolate chips like you would use to bake cookies with and keep them in the fridge. I never eat more than 100 calories worth in a day and the bag lasts weeks.

While I do love chocolate the main reason I have chosen chocolate chips is because they are really easy to portion out. If I am getting close to my calorie limit for the day and choose to put cheese on my omelet then I can count out half as many chips and still have a treat.

Nathaniel however is really the one with the sweet tooth. I am more into savory foods – I’d much rather have wonton soup or bacon than a doughnut. Pizza would distract me in a meeting to no end and I’d probably spend an hour arguing with myself about eating or not eating a slice. (I’ve done this.)

Another reason Nathaniel doesn’t “daily cheat” the way I do is because once he gets started he knows it’s going to be hard to stop at just one cookie or one doughnut.

The other day I ate the crème filling out of a cookie and tossed the cookie part. I don’t want the cookie part and eating it just doesn’t make sense if I don’t like it. Nathaniel thought I was insane…

My most common cravings are wonton soup and meat… and I’ll explain.

Wonton soup is much healthier for you than Ramen and I can actually eat it during the week without breaking my calorie allotment if I’ve run more than 3 miles.

I actually crave wonton soup more than any other singular food item because I know I can eat it and feel full after the indulgence.

Meat is another story – Nathaniel and I are mostly vegetarians during the week but I grew up in a more meat heavy household than he did (his mother is a vegetarian).

Sometimes I think back to those delicious grilled steaks in huge portions my Dad gave me growing up and I really miss being able to eat a half-pound of really nicely grilled beef without guilt. Fried chicken is eaten for dinner about once a week in my parents’ house. Dad cooks bacon everyday and meatloaf, carnitas, chorizo, bbq, roast beef, prime rib, salmon, shrimp and roast chicken were all on heavy rotation during my childhood.

My parents cook delicious meat and that’s probably one of the reasons this is the thing I miss most. Meat, unless we are talking about the leanest of seafood is just not calorically efficient for it’s volume which is the main reason I’ve kept pretty vegetarian M-F.

Today I put a half cup of shrimp in my egg white omelet for dinner and even with cheese my dinner was only 330 calories.

Nathaniel’s Mom baked a lot and loves sweets so that’s probably one of the reasons he does too.

Nathaniel likes to spread jam on low calorie toast for a snack… I like to spread soft light swiss cheese (laughing cow).

When you are fighting your cravings it’s really interesting to think back to how you developed those food weaknesses.

If you could pick one food that would count at zero calories when you ate it in any amount what would you choose?

Me? Bacon.


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Veggie Tacos

This is not so much of a recipe as it is a meal alteration suggestion because you can interpret it in a million ways.

Last night I really wanted tacos but I can’t eat meat during the week and tortillas are calorie bombs. The average flour tortilla used to make burritos at taquerias has 300 calories. Corn tortillas while a much healthier option just aren’t worth it at nearly 100 calories each.

Meal suggestion – even if you want to make all the same taco fillings you normally would try using butter lettuce leaves instead of tortillas. Each leaf has 1 calorie (awesome) and I think I prefer them to corn tortillas (which I’ve never been a fan of anyway).

Tonight for dinner we had black bean tacos.

Ingredients:

3 cups drained black beans

1 cup drained whole kernel corn

Pico De Gallo

2 butter lettuces

Cheese

Sriracha / tapatio

Directions:

1. Mix beans and corn together and heat on medium

2. While beans and corn are heating wash and tear leaves off of lettuce (discard outer wilted pieces)

3. Stack leaves on plates and spoon bean mixture into bowls

(serves 2)

Serve leaves and beans with your choice of toppings – which in our case was pico de gallo, sriracha, tapatio and cheese.

***Pico de Gallo ( 2oz. / 15 calories) is available fresh at most grocery stores and is simply a blend of chopped onions, tomato, jalapeño peppers and cilantro. You can make it yourself or just buy it.


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Day 30: Free Day & -13 Pounds

He said:

So I think I am getting the running thing down.  Did 3.1 miles last week on Thursday and was able to follow that up with another 3.1 on Sunday.  The progress is starting to show and I do feel more motivated because of that.

On another note, Alex and I were getting sick of losing weight all week and then gaining most of it back on our free day (and the free day wasn’t even that crazy…ok it was kind of crazy).  So we decided that for the next two weeks, starting on the 12th that we were not going to do a free day till the 31st (excluding a dinner with Alex’s parents on the 17th).

With all of that, last Saturday we had Alex’s parents over for dinner (corn beef and cabbage, shout out to my Irish cousins), but didn’t have a free day only that one meal.  The next day was back to normal and starting out this week I weighed a little less then I did at the end of last week, a great place to start.

I am supportive of the free day concept because it gives you something to look forward to during the week and when you do get a craving it is easier to tell yourself that all you have to do is wait for the weekend then to tell yourself your never going to be able to eat that again.  One of the bet free days that Alex and I had was when we hiked through SF.  Because even though we had half a doughnut and cookie, some breakfast sandwiches and a heavy Italian dinner, almost all of that was counter acted by the hike.

I guess you just have to customize when you are going to splurge and how much your going to allow yourself.  As I said before, I think it is crucial to have these free meals, one because you can do it guilt free as it is built into your diet and two it will help you stick to your diet.  But instead of having a doughnut breakfast of two or three doughnuts on your free day, have a bowl of adult cereal and one doughnut to cut the calories down.

Getting close to some goals and starting to set my eyes on new ones, it’s an exciting time.

Food Log:

Breakfast: Skyr (100 cal.)

Mid-morning snack: Banana (120 cal.)

Lunch: Lentil Soup (250 Cal. 2.5g fat)

Afternoon snack: Fat-Free Cottage cheese (90 cal.)

Dinner: Lettuce Bean Tacos (425 cal, 1g fat)

Total calories: 985.

She Said: 

As of today I have lost 13 lbs. since we started our blog one month ago!

Today I screwed up at the gym and didn’t change the incline on the treadmill after my warm-up walk. So after my first 3 minute jog I was dying. I thought to myself “holy cr*p how am I this tired?” and then I realized… “You idiot – you were running uphill for three minutes.”

As a result I didn’t run as much as I should of to fully complete my workout so after lifting weights and doing abs I went back to the treadmill and put in another 3 minutes of running to get as much cardio in as I was supposed to.

Now that I’ve lost 13 lbs. livestrong.com has cut the number of calories I can eat on non workout days to maintain my weekly weight loss goals. I have more motivation to work out now because that means I can eat REAL food!

My goal is to lose a definitive 2 more pounds before the end of the month and hopefully fit into my “skinny” jeans.

I ate a lot of little things today that I don’t want to bore you with… but with my workout I still have 275 more calories I am allowed to consume today.

Also – for the past few days my nightly motivational treat of choice has been semi-sweet dark chocolate chips – 32 to be exact (and yes I really do count them).


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Curry Tofu Spinach Soup

I wanted to make a quick soup with tofu because we need to start getting more protein in our diet. Per serving this soup has over 28g of protein and about 220 calories.

I used spinach instead of baby bok choy because I realize it may not be easy to get in the mid-west or Europe. However – feel free to use bok choy if you can find it.

Ingredients:

3 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken stock

1 cup thinly sliced white onion (about ¼ of a medium onion)

2.5 cups baby spinach

1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms.

3oz. Organic firm tofu (1/4 inch cubes)

¼ tsp. Sriracha (or more depending on your taste)

2 tsp. red curry

Directions:

1. Add chicken stock and onion to a medium saucepan and bring to boil over high heat

2. Once broth is boiling turn heat to low and add sriracha / red curry – stir till combined.

3. Add sliced mushrooms and cubed tofu.

4. Once mushrooms are done (about 2 minutes) add spinach and stir till spinach is wilted and tender.

5. Serve.

(Makes one large serving)


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Healthy Mexican Inspired Veggie Soup

 

 

Nathaniel and I used to eat fideo a lot. For those of you who don’t know, fideo is a Mexican soup that has pasta in it. Since step one of making fideo is stir-frying the noodles we haven’t had it since I moved back to California.

I wanted to make a healthier soup that had all the flavors of fideo in it: onions, cilantro, garlic, tomato etc. and this is what I came up with.

Also- I made the decision to use canned beans and corn for convenience to our readers. I understand sorting and cooking beans for hours is something I am used to doing but that many of you are not.

Makes 4-6 servings.

At 4 servings (using chicken broth) it is 217 calories per serving with only 2.25g fat

Next time I am going to make it with vegetable broth.

If you aren’t counting calories as much as we are corn tortilla quesadillas and avocado would make a nice side.

Ingredients:

½ Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 small onion diced

4 small zucchini cut into bite sized pieces

Handful of cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 tbsp. of loosely packed and torn cilantro

15 oz. can Black Beans (drained)

15 oz. can corn (drained)

8 oz. tomato sauce

32 oz. chicken or vegetable broth

½ tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder (or something else you prefer like cayenne)

2.5 tsp. garlic salt

**Suggested but not necessary: Limes can be served on the side

  1. Heat ½ tsp Olive Oil on medium heat in a large pot. Once hot add onions and stir frequently.
  2. Once onions are soft add all other ingredients to the pot – turn up heat and bring to a boil
  3. Remove from heat once zucchini is tender (less than 10 min.).
  4. Blend half of soup and then pour back into a pot – let cool slightly and serve.


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The Great Yogurt Debate

I love yogurt.  Some of you may have noticed this in peaking at my food log, I have a cup of yogurt everyday for breakfast, for more then just one reason:

  1. No preparation
  2. Easy serving size
  3. Tons of protein

In trying to eat healthier it is sometimes hard to balance wanting nutritious food and having time to make meals.  Most fruits are great because they are already packaged into single servings by nature.  This brings me back to yogurt as a great breakfast food because it is usually packaged in a single serving.  And yet, these packages can vary greatly in what you are actually getting.

Most Americans (myself included) are used to the runny yogurt that you had as a kid that came in flavors like banana and strawberry.  With the trend in healthier eating, many varieties of yogurt have hit the shelves of grocery stores, offering everything from low fat and diet to Greek and whipped, the choices are astounding. But most of these styles of yogurt do not really compare when we check under the hood and judge them against each other.

I went to a local supermarket (not a chain, but an actual local supermarket) and this is just a sample of the yogurts I found there.  The table above is sorted by protein content in ascending order and what this table can breakdown is the amount of sugar that most brands try to pack into yogurt; with a regular Yoplait topping the list at 27g (that is just 11g less then a can of regular coca-cola).

Side note on sugar content: parents may want to reconsider the yogurt that is marketed to children.  Yoplait has two brands that target children, one being Trix and the other Yoplait for kids.  The Trix is sold in 113g servings and the Yoplait for kids is sold in 85g servings. While it is great that they are selling sizes that are portioned for kids, when you scale both of these servings up to the normal adult serving (here assumed to be 170g) the Yoplait for kids has 18g of sugar, and the Trix tops out at 21.1g, which puts both of these yogurts in the upper echelon of sugar content.  (A side note, the Yoplait for kids is marketed as having 25% less sugar then the leading kid’s yogurt, which is Trix yogurt, sold by Yoplait).

What the chart indicates is that in most common American yogurts the amount of protein is 5-6g, while the carbohydrates average in at 22.5g with the average sugar content as a proportion of carbohydrates being 82%.  What does this really mean from the point of view of a consumer?

To answer this we must first have an understanding of the difference between carbohydrates and protein from the perspective of diet and how your body processes these key nutrients.  I am not a nutritionist or biologist, so take my comments with a grain of salt, but from how I understand it carbohydrates are for instant energy your body needs to function.  This is why runners in long distance races will eat bread or drink juice to get a quick shot of energy to fuel their running.  Protein, on the other hand, is not for a quick pick me up, but more sustained energy and will only be used by the body for energy when there are a lack of carbohydrates to burn (for a more comprehensive view of carbohydrates vs. protein). What this really means for you as the eater is that protein will make you feel more full then a carbohydrate will simple by how your body uses these nutrients.  The following chart will help breakdown the differences between carbohydrates, protein, and sugar in each brand in a more visual way.

Click to enlarge

With this in mind, we look back to the yogurt conundrum.  Any of the yogurts that are shaded in blue have little protein content and contain significantly more carbohydrates.  While this means it can give you a boost in the morning with some quick energy, you are going to be left feeling hungry soon after consumption.  I would highly suggest against these types of yogurt as the only benefit is some quick energy and an almost empty belly.

The yogurts shaded in orange are our good yogurts (notice they are all Greek style), but do have varying levels of carbohydrates and calories.  Personally speaking, I would go with the Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt (calories vary per flavor) as it packs in 12g of protein for only 14g of carbs and only 120 calories.  And while it is listed in the good yogurts, I would steer clear of the Yoplait Greek as even in their healthier yogurts they still need 25g of carbs and 150 calories to make their yogurt.  I am also not happy that both of Stonyfeild’s offerings have to use all of their carbohydrates for sugar and would choose a different yogurt if given the option.

The yogurts in green are what we will term the elite yogurts.  These yogurts pack an outstanding 14g of protein into each serving while keeping the carbohydrates at a reasonable to very low amount.  In looking at my food log you could easily notice that I will promote Siggi’s as the elite of the elites (no, I am not a paid endorser of this product).  Siggi’s is the best for multiple reasons, not only does it contain the most protein (their plain version packs in 15g of protein), but they do it with only 11g of carbohydrates and 100 calories.  Sweetened with agave syrup this yogurt will fill you up and you may even find it lasts you the whole morning before your hunger pangs return.  Still, the other two yogurts in this category will offer enough protein to get a full belly and does it while keeping carbohydrate and calorie levels low.

The question still exists: does it really matter that there are a couple more grams of sugar and little more calories in my yogurt?  To some it may not matter, if you are controlling portion size and living an active lifestyle then you can enjoy yogurt of any variety as long as it tastes good to you, though switching to a higher protein one may help to give you a fuller feeling in the morning.  For the rest of us, specifically those trying to loose weight, it could make a big difference.  Breaking it down:

The above chart is based on eating a serving of yogurt 5 days a week for a whole year

I had never fully considered the difference that a high protein yogurt could make for a breakfast food.  But having been eating it now for five months, the difference is clear.  I am more full throughout the morning and less tempted to snack when I do eat it and it is the easiest breakfast because all I have to do is remove the lid and enjoy a nice cup of yogurt.As you can see, just the choice of Siggi’s over regular Yoplait will cut 18,200 calories out of your diet per year, plus 10.32 POUNDS of sugar, which to give you a visual is two and a half sacks that you buy for baking.  What this math may also help with is measuring some of the other choices that you make in any given day and how those add up in an entire year of eating.

Note: I only used flavored yogurts in my analysis because I cannot stomach plain yogurt.  My hat is off to people who enjoy the taste of plain yogurt, but for me I need something to help mask that taste.  So if you can, try eating plain yogurt and it will help eliminate tons of wasted carbohydrates.  But if you like me and find the plain stuff a little unpalatable, then reach for a little sweetened cup of high protein yogurt.

Article: Nathaniel Chaney

Photos: Alex Washburn