Because I watch a lot of educational television (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), I know there are other women in the world who don’t have to worry about weight gain because they have dainty appetites, gifted metabolisms, or enormous self-control (or a billionaire husband with an iron-clad pre-nup…) I am not one of those women.
For me to be able to lose 30 plus pounds without killing someone, or being killed by others, I needed, and still need, an inventory of guilt-free foods that I can reach for whenever I get hungry. And since no one (damn that missing billionaire!) gave me a live-in chef or an extra 10 hours a week to spend in the kitchen, I had to figure out a strategy that allowed me to cook as much skinny food as possible, in the least amount of time, with the least amount of clean up. (I really do hate the clean-up…)
It requires just a little more planning than you’ve probably done in the past but, once you get the hang of it, it’s not only tastier, it’s greener, cheaper and more efficient. You’ll have more food, better food, less waste and lose weight everyday.
After living this way for a few years, I can’t believe I didn’t figure this out before.
One of the most important Skinny Truths is that if you simply “Eat More Things That Grow and Fewer Things That Walk” you will lose a ton of weight –and keep it off for life— without being hungry or bored. That means you’ll be eating far more vegetables and fruits and–when it comes to fresh produce– you need to know that if you don’t use it, you lose it! So, in order to make those great fruits and veggies easier to use and eat so you don’t waste them, there is a strategy you need to employ.
Whether you shop at your local farmers market or at a grocery store, don’t buy all the fruits and veggies you see without knowing what you’re going to do with them. If you do, you’ll end up shoving it all into the produce drawers and never see it again until the next presidential election. Instead, have a plan for what you’re buying and how you want to prepare it.
If you shop at most chain supermarkets, check their websites for their weekly specials before you leave the house. In many cases, those specials reflect seasonal produce. You can also check the NRDC’s Sustainable Table page to find out what’s in season in your state from month to month. By having a general idea of what’s fresh and available, you can look up recipes and plan your week’s menus before you go shopping, so that nothing goes to waste.
If you buy greens–like lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, bok choy or herbs–after you wash them, use a salad spinner to get them really, really dry before putting them in plastic bags–with few dry paper towels tossed in to keep moisture at bay–so they’re ready when you want to eat them.
And if you bring home large fruits, like watermelon or cantaloupe, you’ll want to go ahead and slice them up and put them in Tupperware.
I know it sounds elementary, but if it’s not clean and prepped, you won’t use it. So do it!
ONE OVEN, ONE TIME
Whether you’re single or have a family of 12, when it comes to building an inventory of great foods quickly and easily, cooking 3 or 4 dishes at the same time, in the same oven, is a true food revelation.
Roasting vegetables brings out some of their best tasting qualities and adds textural appeal as well. And 425 is the magic number that works for roasting a wide variety of veggie dishes–as well as some meats, like chicken, duck and pork, even shrimp.
As soon as you get home from the market, turn on your oven and, as you’re washing up your produce, toss it right on to your baking sheets or into baking dishes and add your seasonings. If you want to make simple Curried Cauliflower, Herb Potatoes, Crunchy Kale, Oven Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan, or Sweet and Spicy Squash, a lined baking sheet will do.
If you’re making Roasted Caponata, Magic Mushrooms or Magic Green Elixir, Caramelized Onions, roasted chicken breasts or other dishes that give off more liquid, you’ll use Corningware or Pyrex baking dishes.
Either way, by shoving them all into the same hot oven at the same time, before you’ve even finished prepping all of your other raw produce, you’ll have a real inventory of cooked dishes that you can eat as they are or use to make other dishes later in the week. And, since there are no pots involved, just baking sheets and Pyrex or Corningware, the clean-up will be a snap.
I promise, when you open your fridge the next day, you’ll be thrilled to see all of the ready-to-go options in front of you. They are YOUR NEW FAST FOODS! You won’t have the joy of screeching your order into a scratchy squawk box, shoving cash into a glass window, or getting an arsenic laced Made in China toy but, even better, you’ll shrink as you eat them.
As delicious as a well made vegetable dish can be, man–and this omnivorous woman– cannot live by veggies alone.
I dream of curries and casseroles, paella and enchiladas, chili, stews, risotto and lasagna. But I also dream of wearing something other than drawstring sweatpants while I eat them.
By cooking as much of your own food as possible, and reducing the ratio of meat to veg in your favorite dishes, it’s easy to cut calories and fat you don’t want, without giving up the tastes or sensations you crave.
And since so many of those dishes are really built for freezing, you can save an incredible amount of time and stress if you just invest a little effort each month cooking up big batches of some of those dishes and freezing them.
If you spend just an hour or two–once a week or once a month–making up a vat of Turkey and Veggie Spaghetti Sauce, Taco Meat-ish, Chicken and Cauliflower Curry, Tortilla Soup or Two-Tone Minestrone and freeze portions of them in small containers, you can pull out just what you need whenever you need it.
By just spending a little time making up some Cauliflower Rice or Magic Rice and freezing some of it in quart sized freezer bags, you can quickly pull together Green Curry Fried Magic Rice, Artichoke and Sun Dried Tomato Almost-Orzo, or just use it under some of your frozen Chicken Cauliflower Curry or gumbo, and feed your whole family in a matter of minutes.
And, on your busiest nights, that frozen inventory will save your life– and your waist line!
But, even if you’re single or you don’t have time to venture into big vats..DON’T STRESS!!! There are other treasures you can keep in your freezer that you don’t have to make yourself!
By having some 100-120 calorie vegetarian burger patties (like Boca Burgers or Gardenburgers) and some 80 calorie Light Whole Wheat Burger Buns in the freezer, when you have a huge craving for a big burger piled with pickles, onions, lettuce and tomatoes you won’t feel tempted to eat a 670 calorie Whopper when you know you can make a 200 calorie version–that is just as big and just as filling–in minutes, at home!
By the way, speaking of buns (yours and the ones that come in bags), do yourself a favor and keep all of your bread products–buns, Bagel Thins, or slices of homemade bread from the farmers market–in the freezer. If they’re on the counter, you will finish them off in days. But if they’re in the freezer, you have to really think about it before you put them in your mouth…and will only eat them when you really need them.
When we’re in Maine in the summer, I always buy a loaf of homemade raisin bread when we arrive in June. I slice it, very thinly, and stash in baggies in the freezer and it lasts until Labor Day. I use it for Skinny French Toast when the kids have sleepovers or we have company in town but, by keeping it in the freezer, I won’t end up eating the whole thing–all by myself–in the course of one day! (Sadly, I do speak from experience here…)
And your freezer is your friend when it comes to desserts, too. By keeping frozen blueberries in the freezer, you can make a 120 calorie almond milk blueberry shake when you crave a a 440 calorie blueberry smoothie from Jamba Juice. By making sure you always have a box of Popsicle brand Healthy Bunch Fudgsicles, Popsicles and Creamsicles, you can conquer your need for ice cream or other sweets after a spicy meal. In The Skinny Shopper, you’ll find all the details of the products I use that help me, and will help you, get the taste sensations you need while losing weight. But the bottom line is, you need to keep the ones you like most in your inventory at all times, which means your freezer is your friend!
RE-USE, RE-PURPOSE, RE-CYCLE
Whether your inventory is frozen or in the fridge, there are dozens of ways to re-use, re-purpose, recycle those dishes to make brand new meals that will save you time and keep your skinny meals varied and interesting.
Every time you cook a dish, think ahead about how you might use it to make something new later in the week.
If you’ve had a BBQ on Saturday, make extra grilled vegetables so that you can make a gorgeous omelet Sunday morning…
Or make a hearty but super skinny Egg and Veg Breakfast Bagel to take with you to work on Monday…
If you have a batch of Magic Mushrooms, some Caramelized Onions, spinach and some 20 calorie a cup soy noodles in the fridge, you just have to add a few seasonings and microwave some broth and you have an instant Asian noodle bowl!
Roasted Curried Cauliflower, a bit of chicken and a little squash can be turned into Chicken Cauliflower Curry. Or the chicken and cauliflower can become Curried Chicken and Cauliflower Salad to serve for lunch or to take to work.
And a little cooked salmon and mango salsa leftover from the Salmon Burritos you served on Sunday night can be piled on top of fresh spinach for a great lunch salad on Monday.
In the winter, if you’ve made some Sweet and Spicy Squash, have some leftover salmon and a few grape tomatoes on hand, you can nuke those and top fresh spinach for a delicious and warm salad.
And any of those roasted veggies can quickly and easily be turned into a creamy or chunky soup.
I think I’ve made my point here, right????
By making sure you build an inventory–prepping fresh produce, cooking as efficiently as possible, and keeping that fridge and freezer stocked at all times–you will always have delicious-and guilt free– choices and never be at a loss for what to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner again!
It’s not just freezer and fridge inventory you need, you also want to have things in your pantry..or just on your counter..that you can grab whenever you need to quash a craving…
I keep a big glass jar of Skinny Trail Mix right on my counter at all times. (I also have a huge tub of it in the pantry in a Tupperware!)
I use it when packing lunches for my own kids, or handing out snacks during play-dates. My grown up friends and relatives who stop by always grab a handful. And I regularly carry a baggie of it in my car when driving carpool or going to Little League or soccer games. It’s easy, it’s skinny and it’s THERE! Which means, you’ll eat it instead of something worse!
Wasa Bread is another pantry staple you’ll want to keep close. I don’t think I could have lost 2 pounds a week–without every feeling hungry or deprived– if I didn’t have my daily Skinny Crostinis. As long as you always top them with a hefty amount of veg, they’ll help you hit your daily 8 servings of things that grow…and keep you full and satisfied.
For the full list of products I keep on hand, print out The Skinny Shopper and start building that inventory!
STRATEGIES FOR EATING AWAY FROM HOME
Even if you’re going out to dinner, to a party, taking a flight across country–or any other reason you’ll be eating out–you can still be in control of what goes in your mouth.
By just remembering a few of the basics of The Skinny Truths–eating 8 servings of plant foods a day, easing up on the animal, steering clear of the white-dough-boy (unless he’s really worth it!), eating like you shop and never letting yourself get so hungry that you lose your mind when you sit for a meal–you’ll immediately make better choices.
But there are a few other things you can do as well…
If you know you’ll be eating at a chain restaurant, look up their menu and nutritional data before you go so that you’ll make a decent choice. Often, there are 450 calorie entrees available that won’t leave you any less satisfied than the 11o0 calorie meals. But you won’t know which choice is best unless you make it a point to know.
And, if you’re at a local bistro that doesn’t offer that information, just make a little effort when it’s time to order. Most places are happy to let you substitute green salad or vegetables for the side of pasta or pomme fritte, or serve you fish or chicken that is grilled rather than fried. By simply asking for no oil or butter, or dressing and cheese on the side, you’ll cut hundreds of calories without sacrificing the eating-out experience. And, to keep your fingers out of those deadly bread baskets that always land on your table, have a little snack before you go out…even a small apple will mean you won’t be starving when you sit down which means that bread–at 150 calories a slice–will not be a temptation.
When going out to a party, you must remember to snack first. Especially if you live in a town like L.A.– where parties are called for 7 but the dinner isn’t served until 10–you need to eat something before you go or you’ll end up shoving Brie and baguettes in your mouth all night. I often have a Skinny Crostini (or two or three), or a bowl full of Skinny Trail Mix, a cup of a cooked bean dish, or even a cup of fat-free cottage cheese with a little salsa and a few chips before I leave the house. Whether dinner is served at a normal hour or is running fashionably late, I can just enjoy the company rather than feeling guilty and bloated from the appetizers. And, when dinner is served, I’m always happy that I can spend more time chatting and less time chewing!
With a little forethought and effort, you can also stay in control of your hunger and your weight while traveling.
Even before airlines did away with meals, I always took food for my kids– who could always be counted on to NOT be hungry when food was being served and ALWAYS be hungry when there was no food available. Now, I take healthy food along for all of us so that no one goes hungry or is forced to eat bad airplane food. Skinny Trail Mix, Wasa Bread and Veggie Slices Cheese, fruit and raw veggies are very easy to travel with. I’ve also taken all sorts of cooked vegetable dishes in little disposable containers. (Don’t laugh, but I’ve even taken a microwaved yam with me and was damn glad I had it we sat on the runway for 2 hours!) And the last time I took the red eye from L.A. to Boston, I took along a few 200 calorie Skinny Egg and Veg Bagel sandwiches so that I didn’t have to give the kids a 540 calorie Dunkin Donuts version when we landed.
And, once you get to your destination, stop at a grocery store before checking into the hotel. You can pick up a few pieces of fruit (not too much or you’ll jack up your blood sugar!), some snack-able grape tomatoes and some Quakes or Wasa Bread to keep in the room. You can also pick up some brown rice sushi at most large markets as well as some Veggie Slices or fat-free cottage cheese, baby carrots or edamame to keep in the mini-bar fridge. Having those little helpers at your fingertips will allow you to stay in control of your hunger at all times and not be dependent on restaurants or room service, which–calorie wise–never do you any favors!
I really hate fast food places, for many, many reasons. But I also realize that, sometimes, there is no other option. So here’s what I know.
Subway is the absolute best choice if eating fast food…but not just any old item on the menu. Those foot long sandwiches made with meat and cheese have as many calories and as much fat as a greasy burger, fries and a shake! And even the 6 inch low-fat subs are made with bread which, because of its highly processed nature, will make you hungry again fairly soon. BUT, you can now turn any Subway sandwich into a salad and my absolute favorite is the Oven Roasted Chicken Salad. If you ask for all of the veggies you’ll get lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, pickles, olives and (sometimes) avocado. If you say hold the cheese and ask for plain vinegar and no oil, that giant fiber and vitamin filled salad has only 130 calories and 2 and a half grams of fat! (If you must have a dressing, ask for the 35 calorie Fat Free Italian.) Either way, at well under 200 calories and loaded with nutrition, there have been many times when I’m traveling that I’ve had 2 in one day with absolutely no guilt!
I’m not going to go into too much detail about other fast food places except to say that even if you think that you’re being healthy by ordering a salad, you may be eating the same number of calories as found in a burger. For example, The Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad has 770 calories, the new line of salads at Wendy’s are full fat gut busters with 600-800 calories each. After that, a McDonald’s Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad sounds like a calorie bargain because it has only 220 calories…but that is without the dressing! The Caesar dressing has another 150 calories and the little bag of croutons has 50. If you really want to play it safe, stay away from the other fast food joints all together and head to Subway instead. Or, as I mentioned above, stop at a grocery store and pick up some to-go brown rice sushi. If I can find that in Waldoboro, Maine, you should be able to find it almost anywhere!
NEXT: THE SKINNY SHOPPER
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