Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
High-volume, low-calorie meals and snacks are my number one weight loss/maintenance trick. I really focused on this after having Reese. I’m a person who likes to see a lot of variety on my plate, but I want to be able to feel satiated without consuming too much. I’ve found that what works for me is to eat a lot…of low-calorie, REAL food. One typical protein bar contains upwards of 200 calories, and I find it to have the same effect on me as a candy bar: sugar high, sugar crash, starvation mode. Not to mention most of those bars have more chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients than even a Snickers. If I don’t know what it is or can’t imagine where it grows, I probably shouldn’t eat it.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve found and created some SIMPLE dishes that have become my stand-bys for quick and healthy food. Here are some examples of meals and snacks I make regularly:
Feta Zesti: a dish I had at a restaurant in California and can’t stop making! It works well on whole wheat pasta, pita, or—the lowest calorie option—on its own. Chop Roma tomatoes (or any type of tomato, really) and place on a foiled baking sheet spritzed with extra virgin olive oil. Top the tomatoes with a little more oil, sea salt, fat free feta cheese, and oregano. Place under the broiler until the cheese browns.
Ricotta-Stuffed Wax Peppers: exactly as they sound. Lena’s, the Italian restaurant in our town, used to have these and they were super-delish and probably way more complicated. I make a very simple version. Slice Hungarian hot wax peppers lengthwise and chop ends; remove seeds. Fill with light ricotta, salt and pepper. Top with fat free feta and oregano, and place under the broiler.
Lemon Dijon Asparagus: When I was pregnant with Reese, this is all I wanted to eat. I had never liked asparagus before my pregnancy! Must’ve been all the folate. Rinse fresh asparagus (I like the skinny kind) and snap woody stems. Place on foiled baking sheet with extra virgin olive oil, and bake at 400, 25 minutes or so, until they meet your standard of doneness. (I like everything overcooked. Most people don’t.) In the meantime, make the lemon Dijon vinaigrette: ½ c. extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard, juice and zest of one lemon, sea salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together. Pour onto hot asparagus.
Mashed Parmesan & Rosemary Cannellini Beans: so simple, and sometimes I just crave this all on its own. Rinse canned cannellini beans and cook with one cup low-sodium vegetable stock (or chicken stock, if you prefer) on medium-high until beans are soft. Mash with a fork. Season with sea salt, pepper and rosemary. Stir in parmesan. Obviously, if you’re trying to watch your weight, you can garnish with parmesan instead of incorporating bucketfuls into the mix, as I’m always tempted to do. This is like mashed potatoes on fiber-crack!
Truffled Cauliflower Puree: see recipe. You can make this without all the cheese! Just garnish with some parmesan, or hold it altogether and use spices, like sage or rosemary, to dress it up.
Hot Roasted Pepper Hummus: Store bought is fine. Homemade is FABULOUS. I promise I will post my recipe, and my secret life-changing ingredient, because it deserves its own post.
Cucumber, Dill, Feta, and Yogurt: My old standby snack. I keep this in the fridge at work. It’s packed with protein, and is cool and refreshing and very light. Mix plain 0% Greek yogurt (Fage is my fave, and hormone-free!) with a little fat free feta, sea salt, pepper, and dill. Mix the yogurt with chopped cucumbers—as many as you like; they are low-calorie and fill you up!
Mediterranean Veggies with Pasta: Here’s the trick: If you’re like me and lust after pasta, but you’re trying to cut calories and lighten up your meals while still finding said meals filling enough to not make you break open your husband’s box of Nutty Bars that you don’t even like but that are staring at you from the top shelf of the cabinet and driving you crazy and making you think just ONE little bite wouldn’t hurt…then you need to change your ratios. You can still have the pasta (100% whole wheat, that is), BUT only a small serving. And the only way that’s gonna work is by conning your brain and your tummy into feeling full on less. My solution is to load up on veggies, and lighten up on the pasta. And the veggies are so good, you won’t notice the difference. I lightly sautee julienned bell peppers, Greek peppers, mushrooms, broiled tomatoes, squash, baby spinach, and anything else I have in my fridge, then top with extra virgin olive oil, oregano and fat free feta.
Strawberries & Balsamic Reduction: This can be served over greens as a salad, or on its own as a dessert. To make a balsamic reduction, pour a generous amount of balsamic vinegar into a saucepan, and simmer on low until it is the consistency of syrup. It reduces to about a fourth of its volume, and turns rich and sweet. Drizzle over sliced strawberries, with some slivered almonds. Blue cheese is also excellent on top, but fat free feta can be substituted, or cheese can be omitted altogether.
Berry & Banana Blend with Frozen Yogurt: A new favorite dessert. Recently I’ve been reading up on veganism, and I may forgo the fro-yo eventually, along with ice cream, but in the meantime I really love this. The frozen yogurt can be substituted with a soy ice cream, which I’ve never tried, or with frozen kefir—which is tangy and delicious and MUCH more nutritious. Anyway, whichever frozen treat you use, it’s the same idea: pour some frozen berries into a bowl and microwave until warm and juicy. Add sliced bananas, and top with frozen yogurt (or substitute) and cinnamon. Almost tastes like cobbler!
Tofu Salad: I originally got this idea from Bethenny Frankel’s book, Naturally Thin. It sounds kind of icky, and I’ve never been one for real egg salad anyway, but—oh em gee!—it’s addicting! And you can make enough for a couple of days, and store in the fridge for easy lunches. I like to put this on toasted sesame Ezekiel bread, or pita: Mix diced firm tofu with low-fat mayo (or, in my case, Fage 0% Greek yogurt), Dijon mustard, and either salt and pepper or Spike seasoning (which is, for the record, INCREDIBLE, and salt-free!). Way, way, way better than it sounds, and a good way to introduce yourself to tofu if it scares you!
More ideas and recipes to come! Comments welcome :)