Snacks to help you lose weight

Some may be wondering what I did to lose 97 pounds (so far, I’m 15-20 pounds from goal weight, starting at 245 at 5’3″ and it’s been a year and a half since I started. )

I increased exercise, though not as much as everybody says I should. I cut calories too, but for the most part I was between 1300-1500 calories, not the ultra low calories some fad diets reccomment.

One way I kept hunger at bay was by always having good snacks, a variety that would fit my macros in whatever I was low on. I generally tried to keep my snacks at 150 calories or less so they would be easy to fit into my day. That way, if I had a sudden craving, or just was a little peckish before dinner, I wouldn’t have to suffer.

I’m only recommending things that I actually used in my fitness journey. I am including links to buy them, and if you use my links I might make a little bit of money, but they are suggestions only so if you find a better deal somewhere else, feel free! However, since I like saving money, I’ll be linking to the best priced versions of everything to save you time.

Meat Snacks

“Chomps” are simply amazing. The turkey is my favorite flavor as it only has 60 calories and 10 grams of protein. I also like that the meat is responsibly sourced and not full of additives. You can find them in natural foods stores, or right here.

Lately I’ve also been enjoying these turkey sticks made by “The New Primal”, I like the flavor and the price is good. 45 calories each for these and 7 grams of protein.

These are just a couple examples. I also use jerky, Epic bars, and other forms of meat for snacks. I like using turkey because it’s very lean and usually not as expensive.

Shakes

While I don’t recommend using shakes as a meal replacement, they can be nice as a snack. They are also great to add to things like protein pancakes, oatmeal, or other things. You can use various forms of protein powder but for an all in one, low calorie shake that has vitamins and other things, this mix by Designer Protein. The flavor is good and mixes well with berries and other ingredients to make smoothies. It’s also not super expensive.

Nutritional Yeast is another thing to add to shakes – it’s tasty, savory, and can be sprinkled on food as a seasoning as well. I get this at my natural foods store.

Protein Bars

Protein bars are good as a snack or if you are running around and can’t have a proper meal. For low cost and a good protein content, usually 19-20 grams, as well as a pretty good taste, I like Pure Protein. Their variety packs are nice and I really like the lemon flavored ones too.

The absolute tastiest protein bars, bar none, in my opinion at least, are made by Built. They basically taste like you’re having dessert and the calories range from only 130-180 depending on flavor, plus some fiber. Protein is usually 17-20 grams. I love them so much that I have them for dessert and don’t miss a thing. They also have a ton of flavors – eating one is like having a high end candy bar with a really good chocolate coating. The coconut flavor is just like a Mounds bar, for example. My only issue is cost, but I’ve found they are worth it because the ingredients are good and I don’t feel gross after eating them, or have blood sugar issues. You can get a variety pack here.

Quest protein bars are pretty good too, I’ve had them off and on, and I like their fiber content. They taste pretty good too. If you haven’t tried them, you can see them here.

Vegetables

When I’m going to mindlessly nibble, I cut up some red bell pepper, or carrots, or seasoned jicama, or something else. Snap peas or snow peas are awesome too, especially with hummus or a dip made using Greek Yogurt.

Sometimes I’ll use berries, a small orange, or an apple as a snack. Usually I’ll pre-log the fruit I need and eat it at snack time, to increase my enjoyment and keep myself from getting hungry. There are a ton of good fruits and vegetables out there that make great snacks, just steer clear of dried items because they don’t satisfy nearly as well and it’s easy to overeat them.

I love seaweed snacks. They are crispy and fun to eat, like chips, but don’t load me down. There are a ton of kinds you can buy online but here is one that I like.

Dairy

I love Babybel Lite cheese wheels. They are 50 calories each and as a bonus you get some cool red wax to play with!

Greek Yogurt is a staple in my household. If you mix it with a little zero calorie sweetener and some vanilla extract, then mix in some berries or cut up fruit, you have a fantastic snack or dessert. 3 ounces of fat free greek yogurt with 3 ounces of berries is only around 100 calories and really good for you.

Fat free cottage cheese is great too! Sometimes I have a little before bed if I’m caught with a bad case of the nibbles. Plus it’s slow acting protein so it’s good for if you’re building muscle.

Teas and coffee

Not really a snack but they are fantastic for if you just want something to drink. Most have zero calories. I’ll drink green tea, oolong, black tea, various flavors of Celestial seasonings, as well as home blends, hibiscus tea, dessert teas from Republic of tea, and more. For coffee, if it’s preground I really like Bustelo, or I’ll grind my own. I like doing cold brew. Cold brew is REALLY easy to do in this pitcher.

Also, for tea lovers, I’ve had great results with this tea kettle. It heats quickly, it’s affordably priced, and it has lived on my counter for a few years and not worn out.

Sweeteners

I will use Stevia packets, though lately I really like to use vanilla creme liquid stevia. A few drops of this is fantastic in a vanilla caramel tea. Also one bottle lasts you a good while!

I hope this list has been helpful. I may add to it from time to time. Some items that I use I haven’t included because they are much better to buy locally.

This is six months of progress – started losing weight January 6 2020, and this was taken in July.

The Most Important Aspect of Weight Loss

What is the most important aspect of weight loss? Is it diet? Nutrient Balance? Exercise? Calories in/calories out? Keto? Intermittent Fasting?

Not quite.

Today I want to talk a little about the mental and emotional work that is needed to lose weight, gain health, and keep it off. It’s a subject that I don’t think is covered well enough in many books and resources – people focus more on the details of macros, calorie counting, exercise programs, etc. Without handling the mental aspect, all success will be short lived.

So, here is what I have found so far in my journey from 245+ to 150 pounds.

Never Give Up

I think the most important thing I had to do in my journey was to give up on the idea of giving up. Quitting stopped being an option. Part of that was a decision that I made, but what kept that decision from being forgotten was MFP, because every morning I will log in and read all the updates, and I don’t want to let everyone down. I also had to realize that I am doing this for myself, and nothing, not depression, not scheduling, not stress, not boredom, would make me quit.

Forgive Yourself

I have had to learn to forgive myself too. If I have a day where I go over, or if I don’t exercise as much as I planned to, I say to myself “I will do better, I won’t repeat that two days in a row.” Then I try and take a little time to notice how my body feels when I get off track. Whether if it’s a heavy feeling of having too much in my stomach, a lack of evergy, or a feeling of stiffness from not exercising enough, I notice that feeling and I let it show me why I keep my good habits. In the past I used to say “well, I messed up this day, so I might as well enjoy myself and come back to it later” then later never came.

Be Positive

Another thing that has helped a lot is thinking in terms of challenges to overcome and solutions to be found, rather than obstacles. Once I did really weal on a healthy journey, lost thirty pounds or so, but it was all derailed when I had a broken tooth and could no longer eat the healthy things that had gotten me there. At that time it was insurmountable, partly because other stress in my life was also high, and I just quit. These days if that happened again I’d break out the protein shakes and make a bunch of green soup, sugar free protein pudding, and other things . If my stress levels are really high I have an assortment of herbal teas that are very soothing. I also can feel how exercise helps me relax so I will usually get some minimum amount even if I don’t get in a huge workout.

Connect with how your body feels

Being in touch with my body has helped. Really feeling if I am actually hungry or just “have a case of the nibbles,” for example. Feeling if my body is asking for exercise. This isn’t so hard to do, it just takes a decision to notice more. Perfection isn’t immediate, you have to work at it, but the awareness will come. Another example of this is when I am stressed and inclined to nibble, and I realize that what I really need is a hug, or some kitty cuddle time, or a nap. Food becomes the cure-all, that proverbial hammer that makes every problem look like a nail, but we all have so many more tools than just that one.

How much is enough?

I learned portion control, too, and this is a tremendous tool. It was hard to give up the idea that I could have as much food as I wanted. Having grown up in deep poverty, that was a way I had of making myself feel safe because food equaled safety and comfort. So why shoouldn’t I have a whole bag of chips? I could afford it now. Yet, that wasn’t doing me any favors, it was still too much. My own solution for this is to buy smaller amounts of really high quality food, portion it out ahead of time, and take my time to enjoy it.

“This is the good stuff,” I tell my brain, “I don’t need a lot of it because it’s high quality nutrition and it tastes great.”

And it works.

Celebrate!

I learned to celebrate small victories, not using food but just noticing them and thinking ‘Hey! That’s great!” Going over onto the NSV thread has been a great way to do that, it makes me happy every time I have something to report. Celebrating other people’s small victories in the same way has been great too, it makes me realize that I’m not alone in the journey and it makes me feel good to support other people. So many times we feel like we were the only one to be this fat, or the only one to have this problem, and seeing that we aren’t alone helps us stay motivated and keep going because we see other poeple having success.

Gain Inspiration from Success

Speaking of success, the forums on My Fitness Pal have been a fantastic place for inspiration. I love reading about people’s success stories, and their in-process wins. I can see that there are folks with the same challenges as me, or worse ones in some cases, and they are winning too. I know that I don’t have any excuses, that this thing is possible, not the insurmountable task that I once thought it was. My success or my failure comes down to my choice so why would I choose to fail?

Be Patient

With success comes patience. We return to persistence as the key to success. There will be plateaus, there will be ups and downs. Sticking with it, and tweaking things a bit when results aren’t being found is essential. It took a long time for this weight to get on to our bodies, it’ll take a while for the weight to come off. Quick fixes aren’t permanent. Sometimes we even need to take little breaks to renew our focus. If we learn to be kind to ourselves, to forgive our own failings, then temporary setbacks won’t halt our progress.

How does this all work?

Now the question comes to HOW to do all this? The answers are going to be different for everyone. Part of it comes with time and thought. Brainstorm with yourself. A lot of these realizations came for me when I was writing about my journey but not everyone will have the same exerience. Maybe ideas will come during a drive, or a long walk. Maybe after reading a book. Just beginning to ask yourself these questions will help you think of your own answers. “What are some of my victories during this journey?” “How can I inspire myself to continue after I’ve had the worst day ever?” “What is my most compelling reason for weight loss?” Etc.

The Number One Tip

If I could tell everyone one thing to do, to help them be successful I would leave them with this. “SEEK THE MIDDLE PATH.” Avoid extremist thinking – the idea that if something isn’t an absolute success it’s the worst failure ever. This is still a challenge for me. I still tend towared being a bit polarized but I’m working on it and every time I do it helps me in all aspects of life.

I hope this was useful and helpful to someone. If there is a particular topic anyone would like me to explore further, I’ll be happy to do that. In future I might start thinking about specific examples of different challenges I had and ways I overcame them, because honestly, if there’s a diet mistake to make, I’ve probably made it!

What it’s like to lose 100 pounds

I started my healthy journey on January 6 2020. I had lost weight before, with mixed results, and always gained it back with friends. I was around 250 pounds at that time. At five feet, three inches with fine bones that was a lot of extra weight.

245 on January 6 but I have no doubt that I was higher previously considering the holidays had just gone by. Now I’m flirting around the 150 mark. Many people want to lose 100 pounds, for me it was an impossible dream. So, what’s it actually like to do that, and what does it take?

The first thing that you need is persistence. To be persistent, it helps to understand yourself and what your personal weak points are. That way you can plan around them. It also helps to have a sustainable diet plan that isn’t miserable to follow. My first 85ish pounds were done by simple calorie restriction, ranging from around 1200-1600 calories depending on the day. Though I limited refined sugars and refined carbs, I didn’t cut out any major food groups and I occasionally had treat days. Usually averaging less than 1 a month.

You also need at least a basic understanding of what your body needs in terms of nutrition, both vitamins and also macronutrients like proteins and fats. Awareness of any health challenges helps a lot too. For instance, diabetics might want to pay more attention to how their body reacts to different kinds of carbs. People with things like PCOS or IBS might need supplementation on certain nutrients. I had a problem with low blood sugar which I found was really tied to eating too many refined carbs early in the day. I quit doing that and my problems went away.

What’s it like though?

Generally, it has been a pretty rewarding experience. I feel victorious every time the scale drops or my tape measure reads out smaller. I’ve had to cut way back on certain less-nourishing foods, and I had to learn what portion control actually meant, but generally I feel good. After the first drop of ten pounds or so I felt more energetic and the more weight I lose, the easier it is to exercise and the more energy I have. So it basically keeps getting better and better the more I go.

There’s more room in my car, I can bend over to touch my toes really easily, I can stretch much more easily. I don’t run out of breath walking a half block. If I have to stand for a while it’s not an issue rather than having to sit down every ten minutes. My resting heart rate is in the fifties, my blood pressure is low. I fill up faster when I eat and I’m better at stopping, I no longer hate how I look in the mirror. I don’t have a super hot beach body but I wasn’t aiming for that. I get more respect in public.

Most of all though I’m really proud of myself because this is something I had thought was impossible for so long. It’s not impossible, and if I can do it, you can too.

Was I hungry?

Generally, not. People get the idea that when you have to be starving all the time when you are dieting properly and eating nothing but rabbit food and that just hasn’t been true for me. Actually, I feel LESS hungry much of the time because I don’t eat as much for entertainment and I’m not dealing with all kinds of blood sugar crashes. Even when I’m doing Time Restricted Eating I feel some hunger but I don’t have that STARVED feeling that I did when my blood sugar was out of whack.

How much did I exercise?

On a good day I’ll do an hour or so but that includes errands and household chores. I generally log any activity as exercise that challenges my muscles or gets my heart rate up for a good amount of time. I do some weight lifting though nothing very sophisticated, some calisthenics, some stretching, some pedaling on a mini-pedaler, and change it up as I get bored. When the pool is working I swim. I try to get at least 20 minutes of something every day.

What about the emotional aspects?

Since I ate primarily from boredom or need for comfort, I learned to do different things when I was bored. For comfort I’ll have a hot cup of tea as that’s very soothing. I started getting in to all kinds of interesting herbal blends for that. I rotate my tea selections regularly and that does a lot to keep my palate entertained and my belly satisfied. I also had to deal with some of the emotional issues that had sabotaged me in the past, and start learning to prioritize my own health instead of putting it on the back burner.

How did my tastes change?

When a person changes their diet, they also change their gut microbiome. You can actually train yourself to have different cravings. For example, there’s this one low cal protein bar that I love and I genuinely crave that. I don’t mind though because it’s low sugar and high protein, and I have it for dessert. I also crave different kinds of vegetables now, and when I make a really healthy meal I find that it tastes fantastic. When I have one of my old processed high fat meals, it doesn’t taste as good. Now, there are certain foods that are absolutely zero nutrition but I still like, so I will have those occasionally but control the portions.

For example I learned to make my own pizza, which looks better now than the one in the picture did. But I’d keep it to two slices and make sure I used reduced fat cheese and turkey pepperoni to help keep the calories in line. That kept the spouse happy too because she didn’t have to give up a bunch of stuff. We have homemade sushi rolls every Sunday for the same reason, also portion controlled, and that gives us some wonderful nutrients and healthy fats.

By the way, I eat pizza every friday.

What about goal weight?

I want to lose about 20 more pounds. Basically I want to get rid of this big floppy belly I still have. That’s one hard truth about weight loss, it still may not make you look like a picture in a magazine, but you’ll feel so much better and be able to do so much more. Even though I have that big floppy belly for example, I can still put on medium shorts when I started around 1-2XL shorts. My shirts have gone from 2X to medium also. That’s just to give you an idea. Still, as I have learned about my body and how much weight I actually need, my goal has gone from around 150 (which I just achieved) to around 130. That’s simply because I see how much extra I still have at 150.

What about inspirations?

I went on MyFitnessPal and logged my calories, which not only gave me a better understanding of portions but also showed me the stories of people who had faced some really serious challenges and overcome them anyway. There was someone who was totally wheelchair bound with muscular dystrophy and this wonderful lady still lost over 100 pounds. Another who was born without legs and did something similar. People with health conditions of every type, usually the types where doctors say “you can’t lose weight like this” and they did it anyway. I looked at these beautiful, victorious people and thought “if they can do it, I can too.”

That’s why I’m telling this story, finally. I work an office job. I’ve been stuck at home the last year and a half. I have a thyroid condition. Hormonal issues. I struggle with depression. Despite that I still lost roughly 100 pounds in the last year and a half. I did it, YOU can do it. If one person can be inspired to transform their life I’ll be overjoyed!

Weight loss isn’t a magic fix…

I still have some issues, I still have some things about my body I’m not happy about, but I am very proud of my progress. It hasn’t always been easy but it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be either. I look back at my early pictures and stats and think “was I really that big?” And I know that I was, but I always told myself it wasn’t as bad as I thought, I was just fine. Still, with all the energy and freedom I have gained, I can’t imagine going back. I’m going to enjoy my tasty new foods and healthy habits and never go back.

Your turn!

If you have questions or want me to follow up on this series, let me know. I’d be happy to write more articles but don’t want to cover territory that has been done to death. I would like to focus on the creative aspect of weight loss, to fit with the general theme of this site.

Healthy Journey – Appetite

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m going on a healthy journey, a path that I call “The Journey to Genkijima.” 

I drew a map that showed a path to this mythical, but still very important island, the island of my own good health.  “Genki” is a Japanese word meaning, among other things, “energetic good health.”  “Jima” means island, similar to “Shima.”  It’s not just about being healthy, but being vigorous, positive.  You can see the map I drew here.  I placed gold and silver star stickers for every pound I lost.  I’ve set up different landmarks on the map and the destination, in my mind, looks a lot like the Fall Forest in Horse Isle 3.

At this point I’ve gotten past the lighthouse at One-Derland, and am crossing Bravery Bay.  I had to put more spots on the map to make a longer path because I realized that I should really end up at a hundred and forty pounds, not a hundred and fifty.

That’s been going pretty well actually, even after quarantine, and I’m sixty pounds lighter than when I started.  I still have forty-five or so to go but I already feel so much better.  My blood pressure is way down and my resting heart rate is sixty!

In any case, now that I’ve seen some real success over the long term, I’m going to start sharing some of the strategies that have worked for me.

So today’s topic is appetite.

Big topic! But it can really help if you learn to manage it. Since everybody knows the standard tips about using caffeine or drinking lots of water or eating lots of fiber, I want to go beyond that. As far as I’ve been able to find, appetite has three major causes.

Actual need for fuel/nutrients
Gut biota, number and types
Emotional and mental habits

I’ll take these one by one and show how I have been able to manage my appetite by keeping these things in mind. I have had no uncontrolled binges for about six months now and honestly… I haven’t gone that long without an uncontrolled eating session since I was maybe seven or eight years old, when I wasn’t in charge of how much I ate. I freakin’ love food. Always have. Especially sugar and carbs. So how did I manage half a year without any binges, and without going off the rails after a holiday meal?

Need for fuel/nutrients

A person will have massive cravings if they aren’t eating enough or if the food they are eating doesn’t give them the nutrients they need. If you are missing major nutrients that your body needs, you’ll run into problems, so I try to get a good range of foods to make sure that I am getting the right kinds of fuel. Also I’m eating more and more whole foods because they are likely to have nice little added bonus vitamins and trace minerals that other foods may not.

Gut biota

Increasing amounts of research is saying that the gut bacteria that helps us digest our food has a massive impact on what we crave or even want to eat. The good news is, you can change the population in your gut by persistently eating more and more of the foods that are better for you. Within a week or so, you can see some pretty big changes. For example, now lentils seem really good to me. I’ve also noticed that eating some fiber and prebiotics (the food that survives to the intestines and feeds the bacteria) can make me crave other foods. For example, I started off by cutting way back on sugar and eating more apples and veggies I liked, such as carrots, broccoli, that sort of thing. Before long I was really loving the idea of eating lentils, spinach, red cabbage, whole wheat, and more. Healthier foods actually tasted better to me because of this population change. Also my sugar cravings backed off so they weren’t so insane.

Example of an effect of this change: I thought I’d stashed some gourmet jellybeans for my birthday. My birthday was a “holiday” so I could eat sugar if I wanted to. These were some wicked nice jellybeans, bought at Trader Joe’s, made in Ireland. Yet, because I wasn’t craving sugar nearly as much, I was able to realize that they were left at work, where I couldn’t get to them, and I was able to go “it’s okay, I won’t have them” and continue on with my day. Previously I would have obsessed about it.

Emotions/habits

Our emotions can have a huge impact on our success. Most of us know that. For example, if there is a lot of self sabotage lurking behind the scenes, we might put ourselves in situations that could hamper our success. Habits are a huge part of this too. For every old habit we have, we need to replace it with a new habit. Habits can definitely cause us to be hungry at certain times of the day, and emotions can cause false hunger as well. So we might really need to do some work on ourselves to get to the point where we are ready to gain that health we so richly deserve, and convince ourselves that the effort is really worth it.

Being in touch with what is going on inside us can help us think “I’m not hungry, I’m just bored” or “why don’t I go have a cuddle instead of that bag of chips? That’s what I really want.” Doing that can help you realize that our bodies actually do crave what’s good for them, but sometimes those cravings are harder to hear at first.

With that in mind, I found it really helpful to plan my meals around when I am least and most hungry, and plan the type of meal accordingly as well. For example, I am not all that hungry in the morning – unless I eat a carb-rich breakfast with little protein. At lunch I know hat I’m not usually that hungry either, when I’m busy with work. When I’m not, I get bored more easily and also want more food. I usually have a mid afternoon slump, around teatime, where I really need something to get me through. My spouse and I both like a big dinner, and sometimes I snack in the evenings.

With all that in mind, it works best for me if I do something like this:

Small breakfast, invariably including protein, and caffeine when I want it. No sugar in the caffeine, and carbs must be complex. Example: eggs, a protein bar, a whole wheat flatbread with lentils, or oatmeal with a scoop of PBfit and a couple ounces of blueberries, or pizza if that’s what we had the day before.

Lunch needs protein in it too, so I’ll do something like a protein bar (my go-to if I don’t know what else to have), eggs and veggies, avocado with toast or flatbread, green soup and flatbread, leftover chicken from the dinner before, one of my breakfast options, or something random like roasted chickpeas, or an apple, PBfit, and a beef stick. Once I get back to work I’ll start eating more salads, or maybe sooner provided I can keep them good long enough to finish the leafy greens.

Afternoon snack is handled nicely with a protein shake or an apple with PBfit.

Dinner can be any number of things. It might be pizza, hommade sushi, a cup of rice with chicken on top, soup, chili, whatever. I usually save enough calories from before that I can have a bit more for dinner. I try to add vegetables when I can, and when we have something like udon or other noodles I weigh them carefully and pick a better option like buckwheat soba or brown rice vermicelli. Or we might have rice and baked salmon or a burger and grilled corn. I allow more in the way of carbs at dinner, but still weigh carefully.

Snack might be a square of dark chocolate or maybe some wasabi peas, nothing big. I might have nuts or something like that but I weigh those carefully too. I have a secret weapon if I wake up hungry in the middle of the night or need something right before bed – nonfat cottage chese.

I think this illustrates how appetite tracking works. If I know when I am likely to be hungry, and when I am likely to be not hungry, I can plan ahead and balance things so I get what I need when I need it. I can also plan ahead so if I am unexpectedly hungry I can do something about it – like have a cup of hot tea, or a protein shake, or some cottage cheese for example. I try to make my supplemental snacks either calorie free, or high in protein. Though I eat a lot of low fat foods, I do have fat in my diet, usually in the form of avocado or salmon or nuts or something like that, not usually in condiments. Besides, I would rather spend my calories on protein or good carbs, given a choice.

Other tips that have helped me:

Aside from the above strategy, sometimes it helps for me to have some warm miso soup (about 40 calories) or some tea, whether herbal or caffeinated. The warmth in my stomach gives me that full, warm sensation I’m looking for as well as hydration. This is good for when I know I’ve had enough to eat but I still want a bit of a snack.

Find the healthiest version possible of your favorite foods and work them into your diet.

For example, I LOVE pizza, so I figured out how to make my own, which is not only tastier, but when I make it I can keep it to about 600 calories for two generously sized slices. That’s not only better than any other pizza you can buy at a pizzaria, it’s real pizza, not pita pizza or cauliflower pizza or anything like that. If you made those you could probably do way better than me on the calories. My pizza is a handmade crust where I weigh the flour so I know how much is going into each quarter pizza, with turkey pepperoni, reduced fat mozzarella, black olives, boneless skinless chicken breast, mushrooms, and tomato sauce. The reduced fat cheese and the turkey pepperoni help shave off fat but don’t really affect the taste all that much.

Another example is chocolate. Love the stuff. So I found squares that fit into my calorie counts and I eat them slowly. Dove Promises work pretty well for this and Ghiradelli squares all have the calories on the individually wrapped square.

PBFit has been nice for my peanut butter fix, I make an apple dip by mixing it with cinnamon and water. I also have a favorite brand of protein shake that is lower in calorie and includes some added vitamins.

Weighing food has helped train my eye so that I can more accurately estimate what a proper portion is. It’s a learning tool as much as it is a tool to help me know exactly what’s going into me.

Along with understanding appetite and what causes cravings, thinking of my food as a “budget” helps me out a lot. When I want a huge bowl of noodles I think “is this actually going to satisfy me or is this going to make me want more, when I’ve already reached my limit? What could I do to this so I still get my noodles but I’m better satisfied?” So I’ll cut my noodle portion in half and add veggies. Or I’ll think “this looks delicious but if I start eating it, is the normal portion really going to be worth it, when I’ll just want more and this other thing will be better for me?”

Understanding not only when we are hungry, but why, really helps when we’re trying to retrain ourselves. It can be the difference between steady success and yo-yo dieting. It can also make our journey a whole lot more comfortable!

Unleash the power of snacking

If you’re anything like me and a bunch of other people, you want to start 2020 on the right foot.  For many of us, healthy eating habits are something we’re working on.  One of my biggest pitfalls was snacking… what I call “getting a case of the nibbles.”  I wasn’t really hungry but my mouth was bored.  It would often happen when I was working online, or at my actual job working, or driving.

I’ve started seriously logging my calories lately as well as working out a lot more (okay, working out at all – I didn’t start till December 10)  so that’s been pretty eye opening.  The logging is working because I’m finally being honest with myself about what I’m putting in, what macronutrients it’s made of, and what vitamins, etc, I’m getting.

Since I’ve started thinking of my daily 1700 calories as a kind of budget, I’ve naturally started thinking of snacking in a different way  Basically, if I were to eat something not so great for me, like a bowl of my wife’s fantastic stroganoff or a slice of pizza or something, I want to really enjoy it, right?  Because I can’t in good conscience go back for seconds.  I don’t want the calories to just go into my mouth and not even notice them.  It would be like saving up to go to a concert then not listening to the music!

Since I’m prone to mindless snacking though, I use that as a time to get good food into me.  For example, I’m honestly not super duper fond of mini bell peppers.  However, they don’t really taste bad and they have amazing amounts of nutrients in them.  So when I’m bored I bust out my daily six mini peppers.  I can mindlessly eat those – when I’m done I’ll feel better, have a shot of vitamins, and my mouth will have had something to do.  I also won’t be on the carb spike/crash cycle that will just have me snacking again.

So yeah!  Mindless snacking, when used correctly, can be a weight loss strategy!  Who knew?

Some good items to mindlessly snack:

Mini bell peppers

Regular red, yellow, and orange bell peppers (more nutritious and green) cut up with seasonings on them

Jicama matchsticks with appropriate seasonings

An apple, cut up with cinnamon on it

Carrot sticks

Cucumbers

Celery

Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas

Broccoli florets

…and more!  Just watch out for the high cal sauces and dips.

 

shallow focus photography of yellow and red bell peppers in basket
Photo by Nick Collins on Pexels.com

Roh Tries: Kumquats!

Kumquats are a cute little orange citrus fruit, about the size of a really big olive, that is native to South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.  They have been cultivated in China Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia for quite some time.  In Cantonese “gām-gwāt 金橘” literally means “golden orange” or golden tangerine.

So, you may be wondering, what in the heck do they taste like?

I tried some a couple weeks ago and liked them so much I bought more.  This is what it is like to eat them.

Imagine a very small orange with a rind that isn’t bitter, is thin, and tastes sweet.  Imagine that the fruit inside tastes like a cross between a lime and a lemon.

Originally, I didn’t know any of this.  Then one morning I went into my local Albertsons (the upscale one) and saw a wonderful golden pile of tiny fruits in the produce section.  The pricetag was rather high, so I only bought a few.  But I HAD TO KNOW the secret of the mighty kumquat.  It couldn’t just be a fun-to-pronounce name.

When she was putting groceries away, the spouse looked at my little bag of orange goodness and said “what?  kumquats?”  However, she knows how I like trying new things and thew\se were right up my alley.  I read up on them online and prepared to make my experiment.

When you bite into this fruit you have an initial impression of sour juiciness, but as you chew, the sweetness of the rind mingles with that sourness and makes a very nice flavor that is more complex than that of most oranges.

They also have a light, delicate scent, and are a little better if you roll them between your palms before eating them, to release the fragrant oils.

I would always eat a kumquat whole, or at most, sliced in half.  Cutting them up small would be an issue.  Though, I might not mind making marmalade with kumquat rind instead of orange zest – that might be quite good!

The best kumquats are bright orange with a glossy, blemish free skin.

If you like, here is more information on this amazing fruit!

https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-are-kumquats-2774810

kumquats.PNG

 

I tried the Rotten Zombie Skittles…

…and they weren’t that bad!

If you haven’t seen them, these are Skittles with various evocatively named flavors, mostly delicious, but a few of them are purported to be flavored like “rotten zombie.”

Most people who have written about them think they are absolutely horrible, and the company says that different palates may experience them differently.

I liked them.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I have a taste for well aged human flesh.  To my palate anyway, when tasted with an open mind, I found the flavor of these Skittles to be rather like spiced hamburger.  It was like hamburger with paprika, a hint of garlic and perhaps cinnamon, the kind of thing you might have with spaghetti.   The main oddity was that it was still sweet, because it was still a Skittle.  So maybe even mincemeat?

Anyway, if I had a wild imagination and was thinking of zombies, and it were closer to Halloween, they might be grosser tasting.

You may be wondering why in the world I would want to try Skittles that promised to have a gross flavor hidden among them.

Well, curiosity killed the cat – but satisfaction brought her back.

So when my coworker handed me this fun size bag of Skittles though, emblazoned with the legend “produced with genetic engineering,” I realized that the flavor couldn’t be too gross.  After all, this is a product meant to be safely eaten without having anyone sue the company for attempted poisoning.

Just like the Every Flavor Beans that Jelly Belly makes, the flavors are nasty but don’t really taste entirely like the originals.  Quick example, and it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of:  I ate plenty of grass as a kid.  Lawn grass, beach grass, you name it.  I chose relatively clean sources and long blades, I chewed grass and made whistles from it too.  The grass jelly bean doesn’t taste like anything like the real green plant matter, and I should know.  Therefore, I’m pretty sure that imagination has a pretty large part to play here.

So I ate the Skittles and lived.  My taste buds could be worn out I suppose, and there is that caveat from the company about differing palates, but it really wasn’t that bad!

The second and third days of Obon

Note: One of the more difficult things to do is to pin down exactly when this festival actually is.  Some parts of the country list it as “August 15.”  Others list it as “July 15.”  The difference comes from whether or not you follow the old Lunar calendar.

Now, I started these entries with the idea that one of the festival dates was August 15 in the Tokyo area, which logically should mean the last day of Obon would be on the 17th.  But Japan Talk lists it as ending on August 15!

So here I am, a little late to the party, but there are other years and perhaps one day I’ll get to celebrate the festival in Japan itself.

On the second day of Obon, the party really gets started.  There is dancing and drumming and good food and games.  It’s a colorful, summery event.

Per this article from the Huffington Post:

“The second day of Obon is spent celebrating the spirits’ homecoming. Towns build stages in the center, where dancers perform the Bon Odori, or traditional Obon dance. Although this dance varies regionally, it’s usually accompanied by traditional Japanese drums. Along the stage, booths of Japanese treats, games, and shops provide a festival-like atmosphere. Since Obon occurs in summer, many attendees wear traditional yukatas (light-weight kimonos).”

Sounds like fun to me!

For another perspective, and lots of great pictures, here’s an article from Japan Talk:

https://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/obon

Also, here’s a wonderful blog called Just One Cookbook, and the dedicated page for summer festival foods!  The instructions are great, so maybe you’ll want to try one soon.

https://www.justonecookbook.com/japanese-summer-festival-foods/

The last day of Obon

This is the day when the famous floating of the lanterns happens.  In many parts of Japan this now happens in ponds with no outlet, rather than on the rivers.  This is done for environmental reasons, but in the places where lanterns are floated down the rivers, it’s a truly beautiful sight.  See the two articles above for more details.

As the lanterns float away, spirits of beloved family members are bid a fond farewell, until the next year.

Drive-through-fast egg sandwich

I’m always rushing out the door in the morning and many times I want a hot breakfast but don’t want to spend a half hour cooking and eating it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a small meal I could have that’s relatively balanced and I could make in less than five minutes?

Well, it is nice, because it’s totally possible, and here’s how to do it!

You will need:

1 egg

1 English muffin

1 slice of cheese, or 1/2 ounce of shredded cheese

Salt/pepper to taste

Optional:  Slice of lunch meat, hot sauce, other condiments you like

A tall container to cook the egg in that’s roughly the same diameter as the muffin.  I use a cheap plastic storage container.

A microwave and a toaster.

Directions:

Split and toast the English muffin.  While it’s toasting, crack the egg in the bottom of your cooking container, add salt, pepper and/or dried herbs, and mix with fork or whisk.

Microwave egg on High for one minute.

When muffin is toasted, put cheese on bottom half.  Add your egg, which should have cooked into a fluffy disk that fits perfectly on your muffin.

Add any other toppings you want and close sandwich.  You can wrap it in foil to take with you, or eat it right there.  I like to use a whole wheat English muffin so it stays with me a little longer.

There you have it- simple, easy, can be made in less than five minutes.  That’s less time than it would take to buy something at a drive-thru.  As a tip, soak your egg-cooking container for a while, as it’s much easier to clean the egg out of it if you do.  You could also spray it with cooking spray before use.

 

 

Seriously Easy Berry Jam

Who isn’t tired of paying top dollar for all-fruit jam?  It’s great to make your own, but sometimes a quick and simple recipe that you can whip up in ten minutes is nicer than standing over a hot pot of boiling fruit.  Luckily this recipe exists.

You can make this jam out of any fruit you like using nothing but a spoon, some boiling water, a refrigerator, and a blender.

You will need:

2 pints berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or whatever you like.  You can use fresh or previously frozen.)

1/2 cup boiling water

1 4-serving packet of Jello-style gelatin dessert, any compatible flavor (I like cherry with blackberry, personally)

A blender

A spoon or whisk

A container to keep the jam in

Directions:

Place your fruit into the blender and blend until relatively smooth.

Add the contents of the gelatin packet into 1/2 cup boiling water and mix well.

Mix gelatin and fruit, pour into a container.  Refrigerate for several hours.  The mixture will thicken into a nice, sturdy jam that’s perfect for toast or English Muffins.

That’s it!  This jam is so easy to make and it tastes really good.  You can get fancy and use organic gelatin, or just use packets of Sure-Jell if you want to go ultra-simple.  You can use sugar free gelatin too.  It’s also fun to try different combinations of fruit flavors with your base fruit.  If you like to reuse containers, two pints of berries makes the perfect amount of jam to fit in an old Talenti Gelato jar.  Those make great jam jars.  This jam will keep in the fridge for at least a month.