Tag Archives: Cook

Weekends

The weekend is over, sadly, and I wanted to do a quick recap of what worked for me, health-wise, and what didn’t this weekend. Since weekends are always tricky for everyone I imagine, I think it helps me to be aware of what I do to hopefully improve my willpower for next weekend.

This weekend, I am proud of:

– My 5-mile run on Saturday morning, where I discovered a little secret path alongside the river. Finding new paths along the same running trail I always run down made my run so much more enjoyable.

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– Cooking dinner at my friends apartment. Not only was it cheaper than going out (I’m so broke!), but it was healthier and we could control exactly what we were putting in our bodies. We made ratatouille (sauteed eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil), quinoa, and baked sweet potato wedges (with rosemary) and drank some [very cheap] red wine.

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– Waking up early to go running on Sunday with my friend, and taking 15 minutes out of our run to do some intense exercises like burpees, jump squats, spiderman pushups, crunches, etc. Working out with someone helps keep you motivated and it pushes you to work a little harder than you would when you’re alone. A great way to start the day!

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Went running here.

– Having a picnic with another friend (it was the first day of warmth in Paris) and bringing our own healthy lunches instead of buying something expensive and less healthy. I brought tuna with avocado and tomatoes on a slice of whole wheat bread, an orange, and some almonds. My friend brought a lentil salad, hummus, guacamole, and fruit. Again, it was a great way to save money and to stay healthy at the same time.

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Everyone had the same idea as us. Picnic in Paris.

– I walked everywhere on Sunday. Like literally everywhere.

– Because of the heat, I think, and because of all the protein in my tuna lunch, I wasn’t hungry the rest of the day on Sunday so my food choices were light and healthy (for the most part) – mostly fruit and nuts.

I had a few slip-ups, like we all have, that involved cookies, ice cream, and doritos, and I’m not entirely proud of all of those choices, but they were tasty and great and overall this weekend was SO much better (health-wise) than last weekend, when I feasted like crazy and regretted it for days. So much about weekends involves being social, and so much about being social involves food, so its often hard to stay on track with your goals during those two critical days each week. But I’m learning to develop awareness of what I do on weekends and why, and I aim to use this awareness as motivation to improve my habits slowly. As I’ve said before, a lifestyle change or improvement happens little by little so I’m trying to make small improvements here and there to eventually reach a better level of willpower and personal strength. This weekend I learned how nice it can be to make your own food, bring your own food, and live cheaply. I’m looking forward to applying this next weekend, and to tackling a new challenge along with it.

What did you learn this weekend? How do you hope to improve that by next weekend?

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Overcoming the Dinner Hurdle

I may have touched on this a bit before, but since I’m an au pair and I live with a host family who provides my food for me, I’m often at the mercy of whatever is available or made for me as my only option for food. My host mom is an amazing cook (she always says she would have loved to be a chef/restaurant owner in another life) and I am lucky to be surrounded by such tasty meals all the time. The thing is, as is the case with most gourmet eating, the emphasis is mostly on flavor and not so much on nutrition or health, and this is especially true in France, where people eat for pleasure above all else. Typical French cuisine consists of copious amounts of red meat, butter, creme fraiche, cheese, bread, and wine and I’m really starting to understand why people are so constantly blown away by this so called “French Paradox”… despite this insanely unhealthy diet, French people are not generally overweight! Now, I don’t know the stats on heart health in this country, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the numbers are not so pretty. French people insist that they are healthy, but I just think thats bullshit, to be perfectly honest. I think they smoke enough cigarettes to keep their appetites at bay and they probably walk enough in a day to reduce the obvious effects of the food they put into their bodies, but still, their diets are pleasure and flavor based, and thats it. I mean, they do know how to enjoy “the finer things in life”, thats for sure.

Anyway, tangent. My host mom is an amazing cook, and in general her cooking is healthy enough (and incredibly tasty), but considering my “dietary needs” (cholesterol, which she knows about) and my general desire to lose a few of the pounds I’ve gained since coming here, I feel like things could be quite a bit healthier. Its tough, though, to make special requests in a culture and in a family that values food in such a sensory and emotional way, so I’m just trying to find my balance… allowing myself to enjoy and partake in meal times like any other member of the family, while mentally setting limits for myself and making small efforts here and there to improve my meal in a way that works best for me. It’s really not easy, and I struggle with it every single night. But every dinner time, I hope it will be a little easier than the night before.

Tonight was one of these typical struggles for me, and I am proud of myself for being strong enough tonight to set a few small, but symbolic limits for myself. Dinner was homemade pizza tonight (thin flaky crust, pasta sauce, cheese, sausage, chorizo, ham, tomato), which is incredibly hard to resist, of course, because its pizza and who the hell doesn’t love pizza? I had one slice (about the size of two small slices) and I filled up the rest of my plate (and my stomach) with green beans and lots of water. When I was offered a second slice, I immediately felt the guilt I always feel in refusing food from my host mom, so I initially said “yes, but just a small one”, and as she was cutting the pizza, I sat there and momentarily thought about why I was accepting another slice, I asked myself if it was worth it for my body and my heart to eat that, and I wondered if I would be strong enough to change my mind and eat more greens instead. To be honest, I thought about this blog a lot, and of those small handful of followers I already have, and of the promise I made a few posts back to be honest with myself and with you, and I knew I wouldn’t want to come here defeated. So I politely said I had changed my mind because I realized I had eaten enough, and alas, I said no to more pizza, and that, my friends, is a miracle.

For the second course (since there is always a second, and often third or fourth course here in France), I had a plain yogurt along with the girls (they added sugar or preserves to theirs but I opted out and I’m proud of that!), and I again said no to dessert! Another miracle.

Maybe the pizza was not the best thing in the world for me, but I think I handled it as well as I could by filling up on fiber-full greens (fiber helps keep you full!) and getting some decent protein and calcium from the plain yogurt as my “dessert”.

This is the type of hurdle I have to learn to overcome, and every day is an opportunity for me to learn just a little bit more, about my own ability to assert some type of control over my health, even when it is mostly outside of my control. As I said before… “If it is important to you, you’ll find a way…”

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Peanut Butter + Banana Protein Smoothie

Holy mother of all that is good, I just made a bomb fucking smoothie. Check it out…

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1 banana

1 scoop protein powder (I use Sun Warrior vanilla)

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1/2 cup almond milk

About 1/8 cup water (or however much you think is necessary. Just a little is fine)

Blend that shit up. Drink it on down. Maybe cry a little ‘cus its so damn good.

I discovered that my house does indeed have a blender – a hand blender, actually, which is even better. So, since I’m tacky and had nothing else, I used whatever I could find (a nasty old tupperware container. IT WAS CLEAN I SWEAR) and tossed all my ingredients in there to blend. I was decent enough to drink it out of a cup for you, so be thankful.

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Almond milk? In France! C’est n’est pas possible!

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I would prefer natural, organic peanut butter, but in France, anything “natural” or “organic” or “healthy” or “not a complete hazard to your health” is considered snobby and is super expensive, or just doesn’t exist, so finding Skippy was a little miracle for me at the corner supermarket. Ehhh. (I’m not really complaining… lets be honest here, we all know Skippy tastes better than the watery organic shit.)

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Looks like the kind of thing you make when you’re a kid and you think its funny to waste a bunch of food for the sake of your stupid little game. Like mixing ketchup and wet, soggy bread, or something, and trying to convince your little sister to eat it. NOT THAT I EVER DID THAT OR ANYTHING…

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Et voilà! Your perfect barf-colored smoothie. It’ll knock your socks off, I swear.

** Note: I originally added 4 ice cubes, but my blender couldn’t crush them so I took them out, mid-blend, and added them back in later, only to realize that smoothies with ice cubes in them are kinda weird, so I took them out again. For future reference, use ice cubes if you have a real blender. If not, just skip them.**

This loin-tingling sensation has 285 calories and it’ll keep you full for hours. Its great for post-workout, or for breakfast, or for whatever moment in your day when you’re like, damn, I waunt that. Because even healthy people can treat themselves! Shiet.

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“Lean, Clean, and Green”

IMG_2345 Yesterday was Wednesday (you’ll probably hear me talk about Wednesdays a lot), and as part of my duties on Wednesdays as an au pair, I get the pleasure of cooking lunch for myself and the girls. I love this part of my day for many reasons, but mostly its because I get to be in control (for the most part) of what I eat, when most of the time, eating with the family means I don’t really get to choose. I try to make the Wednesday lunch as healthy as possible, filled with lean protein and vegetables, because I want the girls and I to get all of our proper nutrients. Especially for their sake, I know kids don’t often enjoy eating all the things that they should eat, so feeding them a balanced meal sometimes involves a little creativity. I’m lucky that my girls (there are 3 of them) are good eaters, at least the older ones, and they actually love a lot of vegetables that I would have hated as a kid, so in that sense, its not too difficult to feed them something healthy. I struggle more with the youngest girl (6 years old), obviously, but I’m glad she loves quinoa and chicken and green beans! So thats exactly what we ate yesterday.

My baked chicken breast was really simple, and incredibly juicy and flavorful. I just laid out the chicken breast in aluminum foil (in a baking dish) and spread a little bit of olive oil on both sides, added some salt, pepper, and a few random, unlabeled spices that smelled nice (mostly like italian seasoning, rosemary, etc), and I covered it with chunks of onion and tomato, and cooked it in the oven at around 350 degrees for… a while? I don’t know, I just eyeballed it. To make sure its ready, just cut a little slice in the thickest part of the chicken to see if its still pink inside, and if it looks ready, well, you know what to do.

The quinoa we had was a combination of quinoa and bulgur wheat. Prepare it just like rice, in other words, 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. Bring the water to a boil, pour the quinoa in, and lower the temperature to a slow simmer for about 15-18 minutes (or until all the water has been absorbed). I sometimes add salt to the water before cooking, but not always because occasionally (meaning, I’ve done it once and I always mean to try it again but never do) I might want to use the quinoa for breakfast and I’d rather it not be too salty. Sometimes I’ll add olive oil, maybe I’ll cook it with half water, half chicken broth, or maybe I’ll toss in some diced onions, or some raisins, or whatever, and let it cook all together. Quinoa is super versatile, so just let your imagination run wild, and don’t be afraid of messing up, its pretty impossible with quinoa.

**PS: Quinoa is great for kids because its a complete protein (you know, like chicken or fish), so if they’re fussy and they’re the type of kids who only want to eat plain pasta or rice, try substituting any of those terribly nutritionless grains (white carbohydrates are worthless) for some hearty superfood quinoa and you can easily trick your kiddos into eating protein (8 grams in a 1-cup serving!) and not just refined carbs. Quinoa is also high in fiber, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and its gluten-free (because it’s a seed) so it is all-around a nutritional powerhouse, and your kids have no idea. Sneaky little food. **

The green beans were frozen. Not ideal, but there weren’t any fresh ones available and French people love to say that their frozen food is better than everyone else’s (i.e. Picard), so I just bit my lip and accepted frozen veggies over no veggies. Those are easy to make… just boil them, until they’re ready to eat (10-15 minutes)! I added some salt, pepper, and olive oil for taste.

The girls and I loved our healthy little lunch, and even though the little one didn’t eat green beans, she finally accepted the quinoa after fussing over the “weird little black things in it” that were “stressing her out” (her exact words) and she ate the chicken like a champ. I felt pleased with my meal, and I was even able to sneak a really quick picture of my plate while the girls weren’t looking (I imagined the oldest one would wonder WTF I was doing) so I could post it here on Le Blog.

As the Tone It Up girls say, it was lean, clean, and green. And I feel great about that.

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Salad Bowl

One of the things I’m slowly learning is how to use what I have on hand to eat as healthy as I can. Since I live with a host family, I don’t exactly have control over what groceries they buy or when they buy them, so I’m often at the mercy of whatever is available here, which is not the typical food that I would normally buy at home. One afternoon, after a good workout, I went upstairs and, because of my limited time and my general laziness, I came dangerously close to eating something stupid for lunch, like cereal and cheese or whatever. But I took a moment to think about it and I decided to try to make some type of salad with whatever I could find, and surprisingly, it came out pretty damn good. So good, I ate the whole bowl.

(In my defense, lettuce takes up a lot of space on a plate so I had to use a salad bowl to be able to eat properly)

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In my salad, I used lettuce (yes it was the lame kind, but beggars cant be choosers), leftover bits of chicken, a bit of a red bell pepper, shredded carrots, raisins, walnuts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Not too shabby for a whatever-I’ve-got salad, I must say.

It’s moments like those that remind me that I am strong enough to say no to the easy way out and to prioritize my health above my instincts to not care. In general, my host family does have healthy options at home, but they are different from what I’m used to or what I normally like and I have to get creative in order to feed my body right. I think this is extremely important for anyone in a remotely similar situation to mine, like people on a budget (which I totally am on), or people also living abroad, or people without a lot of time (aka, everyone), or whatever your circumstance may be. Taking 5 – 10 extra minutes to prioritize your health will payoff in more ways than I can count, and in ways that extend far beyond just the immediate impact of a good meal.

Making your body (your one and only vessel where your soul can exist!) a priority is of incredible importance. It doesn’t have to be about getting abs or having a jiggle-free ass… those things are accessories, if you work hard enough for them. More importantly though, it’s about maintaing a healthy weight, because obesity is one of the worlds greatest killers and it seriously affects the global economy because of its effect on healthcare systems. Its also about prolonging your life so that you wont spend your old age in a bed, that is if you are lucky enough to make it to old age. Its even about making the right choices for the environment, for the economy, for your society, by choosing raw, natural, organic, local food over processed, mass-produced, government subsidized food-like products. Its about knowing your own strength, your standards, and your needs and working hard to maintain them all in a positive light. Its about loving yourself enough to care about this one precious body and life of yours. Eating right is just simply the right choice, and there are just no two ways about that.

As I’ve heard many, many times over, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.”

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Holy Oatmeal

This morning, like most mornings, I made myself my favorite breakfast food: oatmeal. Considering that I have high cholesterol, oatmeal is an amazing and delicious breakfast option, as it is filled with soluble fiber which helps absorb the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol in your bloodstream. It is also incredibly filling, which is great if you are trying to watch your weight because you wont find yourself starving in an hour like you would with other less nutritious breakfast foods, like sugary cereal or white bread. Oatmeal doesn’t overload you with calories (less than 150 in a serving), it has a good amount of protein in one serving considering its a carbohydrate (about 6-7 grams) and its super versatile so you don’t have to get bored with the same toppings every day.

My usual oatmeal (cooked with water, not milk) consists of a scoop of protein powder, cinnamon, ground flax seed, mixed berries, and maybe a few slivered almonds or walnut pieces, but I will make do with whatever is available. Here in France, my host family doesn’t tend to buy berries, flax seed, protein powder, or nuts (much to my disappointment) so I have had to buy some of my own supplies in secret, while expanding my oatmeal horizons by occasionally adding apples or bananas, or, my most recent discovery, peanut butter.

This morning I had already eaten some plain yogurt with preserves (a very French breakfast), which would have been fine but the preserves are very sugary and, well, I love sweet things so I kind of had a lot. So when I went for my second meal (of my 5-6 small daily meals), I wanted it to be a little lighter than normal, so I made oatmeal (measured exactly one serving because my eyes always deceive me when I try to eyeball it) with a scoop of protein powder, cinnamon, and just about 3 walnuts, broken into pieces. It was satisfying, filling, and as delicious as always, and not too high in calories.

Used this handy kitchen scale to get my portion correct

My oatmeal trying to seduce me with its romantic morning glow

Since today is Wednesday (and I’m an au pair), I work all day because French kids don’t have school on Wednesdays (lucky fuckers) so I don’t really get much time to exercise. I know I probably should, you know, wake up at like 6am and work out in my tiny little room or something, but I have totally lost my ability to wake up early for exercise (there was a time when I would wake up at 5am and be done with exercise by 6:30 am. Those days are long gone, but I hope one day I can get them back) so Wednesdays are what I will call my “rest” days, because I flat out don’t do shit. I spend 12 hours with a 6-year-old and I spend most of those 12 hours praying that she will be good to me…

Anyway, since I don’t get any exercise on Wednesdays, I have to be extra careful with what I eat because I won’t really be burning much off. To be perfectly honest, I’m rarely extra careful. I’m at home all day, usually near the kitchen with the kids, and my lack of willpower is on attack mode. I’m hoping that writing about it in this blog will start to help keep me accountable, so for whoever is reading out there, I urge you to hold me to my promises, including my promise to be honest with myself and with you!

Back to oatmeal.

There are tons of healthy oatmeal recipes out there for those of you that might not be entirely convinced about the mothafuckin deliciousness of this kickass healthy food. I use Pinterest to find great recipes, most of which I never try (but sometimes I do, and I’m rarely disappointed), but in case you’re feeling up for it, here are a few links to oatmeal recipes that look amazing, though don’t take my word for it… I’ve never actually tried most of these. (Though maybe now that I’m posting this, I actually will!)

Baked Oatmeal

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Blueberry Cheesecake Oatmeal

Clean Eating Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

And a Youtube video with a few quick recipe ideas for oatmeal:

Thank you to WebMD for providing me with accurate nutritional information on this holy delicious food.

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Tuna Discovery

Canned tuna.

My first thoughts are usually, “ew, wtf”, mostly because I’ve always associated it with tuna salad, which I hate. Just the smell of it makes me want to vom. But I guess reading so many bodybuilding blogs has incepted the idea of canned tuna into my brain, because I actually bought some to try the other day. With my own money, I paid for canned tuna. Who am I?

** I should mention that as an au pair, my food is technically taken care of by my host family, unless I go out to eat with friends, in which case I use my weekly allowance to treat myself to a night out. Otherwise, any food that I eat at home should be fully provided by my family, WHICH IT IS, but before I get too into it, I just want to say that I often feel like certain key parts of my diet are missing and I haven’t had the courage to really ask for them yet, so I’ve resorted to using my allowance towards buying my own groceries and hiding them in my room, like a little fucking squirrel. I’ll talk more about this later. But either way, for the sake of this post, I paid for tuna, and a bunch of other things, featured below. **

Anyways, back to canned tuna. I usually hate that shit, but reading about bodybuilders and their love for canned tuna, I decided to give it a try because I figured they know something I don’t. Holy shit, they were right! One small can of tuna, about 100 grams (or about 3.5 ounces), has around 120 calories and 29 grams of protein.

Let me repeat that.

120 calories. 29 grams of protein.

For those of you that don’t know what that means, let me explain. My Sun Warrior protein powder has about 80 calories and 17 grams of protein in one serving. Four scrambled egg whites have about 70 calories and 14 grams of protein. A 3-ounce portion of ground beef has over 230 calories and around 21 grams of protein (not to mention tons of sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat). Even a 4-ounce piece of salmon has more calories (165 ish) and less protein (24 grams) than a small can of tuna.

My mind was blown when I read the nutrition label, and without hesitating, I bought a can to test it out.

After a really tough work out this morning, I knew I needed to feed my muscles with plenty of protein, so I made a tasty little tuna-based lunch: canned tuna, 1/4 avocado, 1/2 tomato, olive oil, salt, pepper, all mixed together and served over two small slices of whole wheat toast (each one about 50 calories). Boom! It tasted fucking delicious and I could practically feel my muscles getting more defined with each bite.

Dig in to this little bitch… I have been converted!

Open-Faced Tuna Sandwich

Note: I collected some of my nutritional information from this handy site: www.fatsecret.com

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