Tag Archives: healthy eating

Favorite Healthy Recipes

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been on a Weight Watchers kick recently, in an effort to lose the 5 pounds I’ve gained since marrying the love of my life (who also happens to have the metabolism of a body builder and can eat whatever he wants without gaining an ounce) along with an additional 5 just because. I had a rocky July, with 2 weddings, a vacation, a few beer festivals, sporting events, and moving into our new house, but somehow (seriously, how?) I still lost weight and am now only 1.5 pounds away from my goal.

I’ve always loved to cook, but have never been a big recipe follower. My style of cooking is much more haphazard than that, and I prefer to simply throw stuff in a pan and see what happens. With Weight Watchers, though, I’ve been forced to measure and weigh everything in order to track what I’m actually consuming. These recipes are not only healthy, they’re easy to follow and made out of (mostly) pantry staples and items I usually have around, which makes meal prep so much easier.

Happy eating!

Coconut Lime Cauliflower Rice (with Sweet Chili Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken) from Iowa Girl Eats.

Coconut Lime Cauliflower Rice from Iowa Girl Eats (she serves it with Sweet Chili Coconut Lime Grilled Chicken, which I have made for hubby and is also delicious). I omit the coconut oil and mist the pan with olive oil instead (I have this mister and love it) in order to cut down on the calories/points. No, it’s not actually rice, and if you don’t like cauliflower, this probably isn’t the recipe for you. I love cauliflower, though, and cauli-rice is a diet-saver, giving me a “base” for sauce and toppings without using tons of points. With 3 Tbsp of light coconut milk, 1 serving is worth 1 point (the recipe makes 4 servings total).

Egg Drop Soup from Paleo Takeout by Russ Crandall (recipe via Veggie Staples). Adam and I don’t follow the Paleo diet, but I’ve been reading Russ’s blog for a while now, and I was lucky enough to be selected to taste-test and provide feedback on a few recipes earlier this year when he was developing the cookbook. Every recipe of his that I’ve tried has been delicious, and his egg-drop soup was no exception. One serving of egg drop soup is 2 points; I bulk it up with 3 oz of tofu (2 points) to make a full meal.

Mango with Turmeric Smoothie from the Food Network.

Mango with Turmeric Smoothie from the Food Network. I have a small container of turmeric in my spice pantry from an Indian recipe I cooked last month, and I’ve been trying to figure out additional ways to use it up, since I hate having spices waste away, unused and unloved. I’m not sure I quite buy into all the hype over turmeric’s miraculous healing powers, but adding a pinch to my morning smoothie gives it a delightfully sunny color and doesn’t impart any sort of savory taste. I tweak the FN recipe based on what I have on hand at the time – usually omitting the OJ and using almond milk rather than coconut water.

Vegan Pesto (also known as food crack) from Minimalist Baker.

Vegan Pesto (as part of the recipe for Vegan Pesto Parmesan Breadsticks) from Minimalist Baker. Holy bejezus this stuff is good. Good, as in – I hesitate to include it on this healthy recipes roundup because I tend to eat it by the spoonful and before you know it, I’ve consumed an entire meal’s worth of points in pesto. I’m going to admit, I love regular pesto so much that I didn’t have high hopes for the vegan variety, but now that I’ve made this recipe, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Vegan pesto is cheaper, better for you, and every bit as good (if not better) than the original. To reduce the calorie/point count, I halve the olive oil and walnuts (because I’m too cheap for pine nuts). With those adjustments, 1 Tbsp comes out to about 1 point and goes a long way.

Black Bean Patties from Annie’s Eats. Whenever I turn to Annie’s blog for inspiration, I am never disappointed. I only made 1/2 the recipe, because I only had 1 red pepper and 1.5 cups of beans, and they were delicious! 1/2 the recipe made 8 patties and 1 patty equals 1 point. 2 patties was the perfect serving size for a healthy, but filling lunch. I found they cooked better from frozen, which is perfect because I can never have too many quick and easy things to pull out of the freezer when I don’t feel like cooking.

Photograph by Love and Lemons.

Healthy Loaded Sweet Potatoes from Love and Lemons. Traditional baked potatoes are one of my comfort foods and were on my short list of go-to cheap, filling meals in college. These days, I swap out the white potato for a sweet potato, and omit the butter, cheese, and sour cream in favor of filling proteins and deliciously spiced veggies. I love baked potatoes because they are a “clean out the fridge” meal that can be stuffed with almost anything, and this combination of black beans, spices, and lime juice is hard to beat.

So, I joined Weight Watchers….

My husband has a legendary sweet tooth. Though I don’t keep desserts in the house, he gets his daily fix at work. Donuts, cupcakes, or candy bars from the vending machine if he’s really desperate. He and a few of his male coworkers regularly take afternoon field trips to the local bakery and stock up on all kinds of confections, none of which are the low fat, good for you variety. At home, his favorite snack is half a jar of Nutella on a slice of white bread. Or a tortilla slathered with honey and dusted with cinnamon. A gigantic spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar if he’s in a rush.

Now let me describe his basic physique. 5’11, 190 pounds – all muscle, with the exception of a little pooch around his midsection because I’m married to an actual human being, not a Michelangelo statue.

I say all this to ask – can you really blame me for having gained 7 pounds since we’ve been married?

Maybe you can understand my struggle, but my skinny jeans sure don’t. They, along with a significant portion of my clothes, were being quite unforgiving.

Enter – the battle to lose weight.

I have a few girlfriends who have had success with the latest Beachbody (same people behind P90x, Insanity, etc.) craze, the 21 Day Fix. I was lucky enough to borrow her one of my friend’s set of containers for a week, and I’m glad I tried before I spent the money. The idea is that you don’t have to measure anything – except, you do, because that’s essentially what the very expensive colored containers are – and that you get to eat some of everything in moderation. You eat 1 orange, 2 blue, and 3 purple (I’m totally making these up because I can’t remember what the colors mean) containers every day, with each different color representing fruits, vegetables, protein, carbs, and fats. Sounds easy enough, but I found it exceptionally difficult to know whether I was eating too much or not enough of certain food groups, especially when cooking for myself and my husband. Plus, as a (mostly) vegetarian, a significant source of my protein (beans and lentils) was classified as a carb, which left me with only eggs, tofu, ricotta, or Greek yogurt as options. Additionally, the resources are incredibly limited. You’re given a short list of which foods count for which color, a few recipes, and that’s it – no advice on how to handle eating out or traveling. My girlfriend lost 20 pounds in 2 “cycles” of the program and loved it, but it was not the weight-loss option for me.

Then I decided to try Weight Watchers. My husband was a little dismayed that I, a fairly knowledgeable and health-aware foodie, would need to pay money in order to drop weight. But in my mind, although there are free programs that imitate Weight Watchers services, paying for it makes me commit. If I’m shelling out $20 a month to track my food, then dammit – I’m going to track my food!

Keeping some sort of food diary tops the list of pretty much every “how to lose weight” article I’ve ever read, and for good reason. Once you start realizing you’re using a tablespoon of olive oil every time you cook, or that those four “tiny” slices of cheese you snack on add up to a full ounce, or that you’re eating pasta for 2 meals a day, suddenly you see how the calories add up. The first step towards change is awareness, as the quote goes.

With Weight Watchers, food is assigned a certain number of “points”. For example, a 3 oz portion of salmon is 3 points, 2 oz of dry pasta is 5 points, a serving of egg drop soup is 2 points, etc. Fruits and vegetables (with the exception of potatoes and corn) are “freebies” and have a points value of 0 (this is my favorite part about WW). Then you’re given a certain number of points to consume daily, plus a weekly “reserve” amount, based on your height, body weight, daily activity level, and how much weight you want to lose. You can earn extra points through exercise and redeem them for more food or alcohol. As a 5’4 woman weighing 145 pounds who wanted to lose 10, I’m given 26 points a day, plus 49 extra discretionary points a week. In general, it’s plenty as long as I stay away from gorging on cheese, alcohol, and everything delicious pasta.

It’s been 5 weeks and I’m thrilled to report that I’m down 5.2 pounds! The best part, is that although I’m eating healthier overall, I don’t feel deprived (until I start looking at mac and cheese recipes) and I’m allowed to prioritize my calories however I want. So on nights when I’m feeling exceptionally lazy and want to have popcorn for dinner, I do. When I’m really craving a bowl of pasta, I fix it. I’ve gone every week without using up all of my reserve points (although I came close a few weeks ago when we went to a local beer festival), and sometimes (but not often) I even have leftover points at the end of the day.

The biggest dietary changes I’ve made have been replacing pasta and other starchy bases with vegetables, cutting way back on cheese, and breaking myself of the glass of wine (or two or three orrrrrr….) a night habit. Cauliflower “rice” is my new jam and I live for spiralized zoodles. Rather than throwing cheese on everything, I have it only when it will make a big impact. And wine. Oh, how I love wine, but sadly, it goes straight to my thighs. So now I use it as motivation to exercise. If I earn the extra points exercising, I pour myself 5 ounces (measured on my food scale). It makes killing myself at Crossfit slightly more bearable!

I’m half-way to my goal weight of 135 pounds, although I may decide to keep going until I hit 130, which would be just 5 pounds off my high school weight. We’ll see how much longer I can put up with rationed wine consumption!