Okay. Like starting any other worthwhile venture — there have to be some changes up front.
- Thanks to my good friend, Rebecca, my kitchen is now cleaned and organized without any out-of-date stuff in the pantry, and with my pots and pans whittled down to just the most used and useful items. The heavy cast iron is mostly gone except for some really utilitarian Le Creuset — which my husband picks up and washes for me so I don’t endanger my thumbs/hands. I’ve also made a cabinet just for the bread machine and all the bits and ingredients that go into making interesting loaves of bread (and the many other things that can be cooked in a bread machine.)
- We’ve cleared the house of microwave popcorn. As much as Jim loves popcorn, the new reports on the hazardous chemicals contained in the paper-bags the popcorn is popped in have made us re-think this “convenience.” We spent the huge sum of $21 on Amazon to get an old-fashioned Whirley-Pop stove-top popper, a bottle of canola oil, and a box of Eden Organics popcorn — and the difference is amazing. A little pickling salt (that’s the really fine stuff they put on popcorn and french fries) and we’ve got one health hazard taken care of.
- We’ve also cleared the house of canned tomatoes. It seems that the cans tomatoes are packaged in are lined with a material that leeches out into the tomatoes (because of their high acid content.) Again, this is terrifically hazardous to tomato-eaters, and like the paper popcorn popping bags — the companies know the hazard exists, and the government watchdogs have given them nearly 4 years to phase over to a safer way of packaging their goods. So — in the meantime — we’re switching to tomato products that come in jars, like salsa and spaghetti sauce. It will mean that my soups and stews have a little oregano-garlic-basil-jalapeno tendency — but so far, that’s not such a bad change! Goodbye Hunts and Del Monte — Hello Classico, Dave’s, DelGrosso, Newman’s Own, Muir Woods, and Emeril!
One thing to point out if you are watching your calories — making this tomato can-to-jar shift means READING LABELS! Some spaghetti sauces have olive oil, cheese, and even meat added to them. Look for sauces that have a calorie content of 50-85 calories per 1/2 c of sauce, and avoid any sauce that has “cheese,” “vodka,” or “Alfredo” in its name. You can bet money that the companies that make those sauces don’t use the 2% cheese you want to be eating….
Also — one of the things I’ve discovered is that there really is a difference in taste between the economy brands and the top-shelf sauces. The cheaper varieties tend to be thinner and more watery, and to add excessive amounts of sugar and salt. If you’re using lesser tomatoes that don’t have as much natural sugar — I guess you have to add something to give them flavor. So again, read the labels and go for the sauces that DON’T list sugar as one of the top ingredients. And go ahead and try a couple of the top-shelfers. Some are just proud, but many really are of a different flavor. I tend to use less expensive sauce for soups/stews, and use the better sauces straight on pasta. My personal favorite for pasta (so far) is Newman’s Diavolo sauce. — But I still have nearly 30 other sauces to try. 😀
- I’ve got myself a good kitchen scale, and a little portable pocket-sized scale (made by American Weigh, called the “Blade Scale”) to carry in my bag. It needs to work on ounces or grams, and it needs to be accurate to the gram. This one has a little cover that doubles as a dish to weight things in. Go electronic if possible — the little mechanical ones tend to have parts that bend and break too easily. I’ve also found a measuring cup scale (it reads the weight in a window on the cup-handle) and a spoon scale that will either measure volume, or weight. These make me very happy.
- The biggest change I’ve made to my kitchen is to move my laptop to the kitchen counter. There are a lot of sites on the internet that want to charge you $$ to keep track of what you’re eating and tell you what you should be eating, what size fork you should use, and what time of day is good for a snack. However — there are other sites that don’t want your money and don’t insult your intelligence by making recommendations that you eat foods that aren’t available where you live, foods you don’t like, foods that don’t taste good, or foods that are out of your budget. The best I’ve found is caloriecount.about.com. It has a great database of foods already built and contributed to by users, plus you can add any food not already listed. You can create recipes that calculate calories-per-serving, store a quick list of foods you eat often, and keep track of your calories-in vs. calories-burned. They have nutritionists on staff to answer questions, groups, journals, blogs, and advice — if you go looking….
The important bit here is that even the smartest among us rarely remembers everything we eat every day. When we keep track — no matter how boring and tedious that may sound — we are more likely to stop eating when we hit our target number than when we just eat what we want and try to remember later — after the fact and when it’s too late. In addition — this will help keep focus where it belongs. I can still have an indulgent meal or snack when I want it — but this helps me make up for it in other places.It also helps that this site helps you set responsible goals. Their matrix of contributing fuel/metabolic/chemistry factors is complex enough to be used by those trying to lose weight, maintain weight, gain weight, control their diabetes, eat healthy as a vegan, gluten free, lactose free, or even for those wanting to build muscle for sports. It’s just a well thought-out bit of programming.
The truth is, I really am smarter than the average bear. I know a lot about nutrition. I know a lot about physiology. I’ve been or more diets than most people have been on merry-go-rounds or roller coasters. I know all the tricks, gimmicks, secrets, strategies, and snake-oil pitches by heart.
This is not a quest for a fast fix or a secret of some kind. Nutrition is not a secret. It’s just complicated. And if it were easy, 60% of us in this country wouldn’t be overweight.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I intend to post every tweak and tip I can — I’m looking for any advantage I can give myself, and every tool that will make this easier. Beating the devil is the name of the game — and regarless of what weight I end up at — it’s the health that matters. Though becoming a person a few sizes smaller would really be a nice side-effect.
And I’ll share — anything I find. Everything I know.