How to Handle the Leftovers

Let’s be honest, our big holiday dinners aren’t a one-time event – we end up with refrigerators full of leftovers for days. Either way, despite your best efforts, during the holiday season you may very often find your home full of temptations and those can be the undoing of many health goals. For most of us, if it’s there, then we are going to eat it. So how should you handle having those leftovers, whether they’re appetizers, from the meal, or candy?

Food waste has long been an issue that bothers me to the core so, for a long time, I was the type of person who would keep it in the house and eat it, even if it wasn’t good for me. Then, at the beginning of my weight management journey, at a meeting of a weight loss program that I will not mention here, I was given one gift. In that meeting the group leader was talking about throwing away junk food and many of us were visibly not cool with that idea. Then she said something to the effect of the following: food contains nutrients that nourish, heal, and support your body and your health. Junk food does not contain anything that does any good for your body. Therefore, we need to stop thinking of junk food as food and get comfortable with putting it in the garbage.

Am I saying to throw all of your leftovers out? No. What it really comes down to is balance.

We, as human beings, eat for two reasons: 1. to survive, and 2. for enjoyment. If you’re not eating any foods you enjoy, if you’re not treating yourself, then you’re only getting half the experience and, on top of that, you’re going to feel deprived and unhappy….and maybe a little cranky.

So here is my advice for those leftovers after you have mindfully enjoyed your holiday dinner, party, etc.:

Set Deadlines

Just like you need to set boundaries with people who maybe aren’t so good for you to be around, you need to set boundaries with foods that aren’t so good for you, too. Having those unhealthy foods in your fridge or pantry for a week is too long – that could be 7 days straight of indulging and, the longer you’re off the bandwagon, the harder it is to jump back on.

I recommend setting a deadline of 3 days. After those 3 days are up, sort through what you have and part ways with those problems foods – like gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, pies, white bread rolls, cranberry sauce (sorry – it’s basically just sugar), etc. Keep the good things – the veggies, the turkey (not the skin), whole grains, you get it.

Moderation and Mindfulness

Just because you have the foods from the big holiday meal, doesn’t mean you have to replicate that big holiday meal every time you have some leftovers. Before you toss those unhealthy options out, you should absolutely enjoy some – but do so with moderation and mindfulness. What does that mean?

Start with smaller portions. Using a smaller plate is helpful for this. I also recommend dishing out your small portion and then putting everything back in the fridge even before you warm up what’s on your plate – this will help curb that temptation to pile more on your plate or go back for seconds.

Finally, eat that delicious, indulgent food slowly, chew it completely, really enjoy it. Eating slowly and mindfully allows you to get more enjoyment out of your food and you will feel more satisfied by it. Don’t forget that digestion begins in your mouth with the process of chewing and salivation and your stomach doesn’t register the food you put in it right away – eating slowly will help you absorb more nutrients from your food and help prevent overeating.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you have some less perishable leftovers – maybe some candy that never got opened or alcohol that wasn’t drunk – and you want to use them at your next get together, remember the old refrain “out of sight, out of mind.”

It seems simple and almost silly, but it’s been proven that if you aren’t able to see those temptation foods, you will forget about them and they won’t tempt you. With this in mind, put those treats in the back of the cupboard with lots of healthful foods in front of them, or put them on a bottom shelf with healthful foods at eye level. You could also put them in an opaque container so you can’t see them. It’s been shown that having healthful foods fully visible and unhealthful foods not visible or out of reach prevents people from opting for the unhealthy foods and getting off track.

A quick note on food donation: I deliberately didn’t suggest donating leftovers in this post for several reasons. One is that many pantries and soup kitchens will not accept homemade or opened donations for sanitary reasons. Additionally, most leftovers are perishable which makes it difficult for pantries and kitchens to take them as they will spoil too quickly. That said, if you have unopened items, then by all means, donate away.

Following these three pieces of advice will help you enjoy the holiday fun without getting completely off track. Wishing you good health this holiday season!

Recovering from Holiday Eating

The holidays are a time for family, togetherness, gratitude, and very often, overindulgence. There is no way to “undo” your holiday overindulgence, but you can bounce back on track so one big party or meal doesn’t slippery slope into another and other. Here are my rules for overindulgence recovery:

1.Don’t try to compensate by skipping meals the next day

Many people think that they can balance out what they consumed the day before by simply eating less, or none at all, the next day. This simply isn’t how our bodies work and taking this approach will do far more harm than good. In addition to making you cranky, deliberately skipping out on meals will leave you ravenous and often leads to binging and poor food choices. Instead of trying to balance out your calorie load, focus on eating healthful foods and grazing on them throughout the day instead of eating a few larger meals. You will feel better, both because you aren’t starving and because you are nourishing your body, and you will be setting yourself up for getting back on track and staying there.

2. You can’t run your way out of that second helping of pie

You might often hear people say that they are going to hit the gym extra hard the day after their jumbo holiday meal. Again, this is not the right approach. First of all, it’s not feasible to truly burn off all of those calories and then some. Second of all, this is a really good way to overdo it or even hurt yourself, thereby taking you off track for a longer period of time. Instead of trying to burn off everything you ate over the course of an entire day in a 2-hour gym session, just do your regular workout. If you want to kick it up a little bit for a little extra sweat and burn, that’s fine, but running yourself to the ground is not the answer.

3. Drink lots of water

Let’s be honest, many of us overindulge in more than just food over the holidays. Over consuming alcohol plus eating so many salty treats at parties and the dinner table can leave you dehydrated and feeling terrible. Drinking plenty of water during the party or holiday dinner will do two good things for you: 1. it will help keep you hydrated, and 2. it will help prevent you from overeating as much because drinking water slows you down and makes you feel full. Drinking plenty of water the next day continues that rehydration process to get you back to feeling good again.

4. Be gentle with yourself

This is a big refrain you hear from me all the time. Be gentle with yourself. It is way too easy to beat yourself up for going off your diet or eating until you felt sick but berating yourself for it does you absolutely no good. In fact, it could foster a mind set of “well, I’ve already completely ruined my diet and I have no self-control so why should I even bother trying?” Instead, appreciate how delicious the food was and congratulate yourself for realizing that you don’t want to continue on that course. Then you can get back on track.

Those are my tips for recovering from any holiday overindulgences you may be feeling the effects of this weekend. There are more holidays ahead of us, so I will just leave you with this: remember that there is nothing wrong with indulging occasionally – the key is that you do so mindfully so that you are truly enjoying it and you don’t overindulge.

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Frozen Cauliflower Crust

Cauliflower has been quite the rage for a while now and, not to miss the party, Trader Joe’s has released a frozen cauliflower pizza crust, much to the delight of TJ lovers and the carb conscious consumer. After reading about how excited so many health bloggers were, I decided to pick one up and put it to the health coach test.

Overall grade: 2.2/10

Nutrition

Right off the bat, I was not thrilled about this product based on its nutrition label. Essentially, they have taken a wonderfully nutritious vegetable and turned it into something nearly nutritionally devoid.

The serving size is 1/6 of the crust (which, by the way, will leave you hungry). At that serving, this crust contains 80 calories, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein, 10 mg of calcium (0% of your daily value), 0.1 mg of iron (0% of your daily value), and 60 mg of potassium (0%of your daily value). Doing some basic math, that means that the entire crust contains 480 calories, 6 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 60 mg of calcium (6% DV), 360 mg of potassium (7.6%), 0.6 mg of iron (3% DV) and 102 carbohydrates.

Let’s compare that to an actual head of cauliflower, which contains 146 calories, 1,758 mg of potassium, 12 grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, 12% of your DV of calcium, 472% of your DV of Vitamin C, 13% DV of Iron, 55% DV of Vitamin B-6, 22% DV of magnesium and 29 grams of carbohydrates.

The vast majority of recipes to make your own cauliflower crust call for a full medium head of cauliflower, so you will get much more nutrition from making your own rather than buying this.

Nutrition Score: 3

Ingredients

Typically when I see prepackaged products like this, I assume that they are going to be full of preservatives and fillers. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the ingredient list for this pizza crust. In this order, it contains: cauliflower, corn flour, water, corn starch, potato starch, olive oil, and salt. Short, simple, real.

But here’s the rub. We would think that cauliflower would be the most plentiful ingredient in the recipe, but the nutrition facts indicate otherwise. Either the cauliflower has been stripped down and processed into flour or there isn’t very much cauliflower in this at all.

Another concern that I have here is that this isn’t labeled non-GMO so the corn used to make the flour is probably genetically modified.

Ingredient Score: 5

Ease of Prep

According to the instructions, you are supposed to top the crust and cook it frozen in a 450 degree oven. To make it crispy, it says to put it directly on the rack. Whatever you do, DO NOT PUT IT DIRECTLY ON THE RACK. Why? Because before it gets crispy, it thaws and gets soft and then flops and falls apart on the bottom of your oven and fills your apartment with smoke. Clearly, Trader Joe did not test this product before putting the instructions on the box.

Prep: 0

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This is what happens when you follow the directions and place the crust directly on the rack to make it crispy. Pro tip: DON’T

Texture

Because of the unfortunate demise of most of the crust before we realized what was happening and threw a pan under it, I can’t tell you if this crust actually gets crispy. As it was, we salvaged what we could and finished cooking it. The texture was….foamy. Like styrofoam. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either.

Texture: 1

Flavor

The flavor was also negatively impacted by the crust catastrophe because everything in the oven tasted like burning. The few pieces that didn’t taste like fire, didn’t have much flavor to them at all. So it wasn’t good or bad.

Flavor: 2

Overall, Trader Joe’s cauliflower pizza crust was disappointing. There are so many recipes out there that are more nutritious and flavorful that I would say it’s worth it to save your money and invest your time in making your own. Is this convenient? Yes, but I don’t think it’s worth the trade-off.

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The final product after we had salvaged what we could from between the rack prongs. It’s a bit blurry because of the steam and the smoke in the oven.

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

If you are one of the many parents who struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables, you are going to love this recipe. If you are an adult who hates eating vegetables, you are going to love this recipe. If you love alfredo. you’re going to love this recipe. The sauce has the velvety texture and creamy flavor of alfredo, but contains just a tiny amount of cheese and is made of cauliflower. Instead of milk or heavy cream, you use the water you cooked the cauliflower in for a liquid so you’re still able to get some of those water-soluble nutrients from the cauliflower. You won’t even know you’re eating a vegetable! What’s even better is this is super quick and easy to make.

A quick note on the pasta. I always recommend whole wheat pastas over white pastas – it is far more nutritious than white and it’s also more filling. However, this sauce is made with water and whole wheat pasta tends to soak that up very quickly so you end up with a grainier textured sauce. I still don’t recommend white pasta. I would say go with a brown rice pasta or a whole wheat blend, like whole wheat and quinoa pasta. It will act less like a sponge while still not being an empty carb. I recommend using penne or ziti because it catches some of the sauce inside of it so you get even more flavor with each bite.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup water (from the cauliflower)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 box whole grain pasta, cooked

Equipment

  • Blender

Directions

  1. Break up the cauliflower into florets. Place them in a large pot of water and boil until soft.
  2. While the cauliflower is cooking, saute the chopped garlic cloves in the extra virgin olive oil for about a minute – just long enough to bloom the flavor. Scrape the garlic and oil into the blender.
  3. Once the cauliflower is soft, add it to the blender with the salt, water from the pot, and parmesan. Blend until the sauce is smooth.
  4. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta. Optional: top with a little more grated parmesan and cracked black pepper and enjoy!

Using a small head of cauliflower, I had some extra sauce leftover using one box of pasta. So. if you buy a larger head, you may be able to make enough sauce for two boxes of pasta.

If you want to take this one step further, add some grilled chicken and broccoli to it!

Cauliflower Sauce
This sauce is so incredibly velvety and creamy!

Roasted Beet, Avocado & Quinoa Salad

With the warm summer months fast approaching, this refreshing and nutritious side dish is bound to be a crowd pleaser at any cookout. What’s more is it looks as good as it tastes! Bright colors like this are a great way to get picky kids to eat something healthy! They can even help mix it all up!

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

For the Salad:

2 cups cooked quinoa

4-5 medium-sized beets, diced and roasted until soft (I suggest par-boiling them first to cut down on cook time)

1 orange bell pepper, diced

2 avocados, cubed

For the Dressing:

3/4 cup fresh cilantro

2-3 limes, juiced

1 orange, juiced

1 tbsp agave nectar

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (may need to add more, depending on flavor and consistency)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. First, prepare the dressing so the flavors can bloom while you prepare the rest of the salad. Combine the cilantro and fruit juices in a blender and blend about 30 seconds until beginning to get smooth and combined. Add the olive oil gradually and the agave nectar and continue to blend until liquified. Add a dash of salt and pepper and place the dressing in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. Prepare the quinoa according to the package and roast the beets until soft (you can also just boil them but I find that roasting makes the flavor sweeter).
  3. Allow the quinoa and beets to cool before adding the other salad ingredients. You can place them in the fridge if you’re on a time crunch.
  4. Once the quinoa and the beets have cooled, combine them with the diced pepper and avocado in a large mixing bowl. Remove the dressing from the fridge and give it a good shake to mix it all up again. This is where you want to taste it to make sure that it’s the balance you’re looking for. If not, you can add more oil, salt and pepper, or juice. I leave this up to the chef because some people like things zestier than others.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix together, serve and enjoy!

 

 

Phase 2 Check In

In my last blog post, I was ending Phase 1 and starting Phase 2 and was concerned about what impact having foregone protein for that week would have on my athletic performance so I wanted to give you an update on that.

I deliberately eased back into things last week so I could have been feeding my muscles protein for a bit before pushing them to get right back to it. So I started out easy with some walking and by Thursday I did a pretty intense strength training circuit and then did an hour-long cardio dance class on Friday. So I was able to get back into things fairly quickly. I was definitely sore after the fact, but I don’t think it was much more so than it would have been otherwise.

Since last week, I have done a 4-mile run one day, followed by a 3-mile run the next, plus some arms and abs and yardwork and I’m feeling really good.

So, if you’re concerned about cutting out major protein sources for a week, don’t be. Both physiologically speaking and speaking from my experience, there are no adverse effects from this one week without protein (note: men who participate in Fresh Start can consume certain proteins during the cleanse week).

In terms of food, I am still not craving the things I used to crave. Let me be specific: I haven’t craved pizza once since my cleanse week. I always always always want pizza, so this is a really BFD. Add to that, coffee, wine, bread – all things I love and were always my vices – I don’t crave them! Imagine you’re trying to lose weight or get on a healthier track. Now imagine how much easier it would be if you didn’t crave cake or pizza. How amazing is that?! So you can see how this program is a great way to get you set up for sustained weight loss.

One final food note: I’m only human and I did cheat over the weekend. I had Mexican food and two beers… and MAN did I regret it. My body just isn’t used to beer and corn chips and cheese anymore – and it shouldn’t be! I should say, if I had moderated better, I probably wouldn’t have had that much of a reaction, but the fact is that my body has changed.

In the next couple days I’ll be posting some smoothie recipes on the blog to keep things more exciting for Phase 2, so be sure to check back for those.