Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let's Talk About Food...


My soapbox blurb: Food is fuel. It is not a reward. It is not there to help ease your emotions. It is there to fuel your body with the energy and nutrition you need to live a healthy life. Before you put something in your mouth, think "Is this contributing to my good health?"  Every time you put something in your mouth, you are choosing to do so. Choose wisely! Healthy food is delicious!

The photos: These photos were taken on my iPhone, so they aren't great quality, and I'm no food stylist!

My story:  For the last twelve weeks, I have been participating in Michelle Bridges' 12 Week Body Transformation challenge. I joined up because it had been about 10 years since I had done any regular exercise (since my first baby was born) and I was feeling unhealthy. I really wanted to make some changes, to bring exercise back into my regular schedule, and to set a great example for my two girls. My dog, Coco, benefits too, because now she gets regular walks, and her excited backflips when she sees me put on my runners are so wonderful! My husband is already a runner. He has been running non-stop for 10 years. He runs a minimum of three days a week, with fitness/strength training once a week, and a long run EVERY Saturday. 10 years!! That's commitment for you! My relationship with exercise is not so great, but I do feel AWESOME when I've finished a workout, so fighting myself to get going with the exercise in the first place will be a constant battle that I WILL fight and I WILL win. I want to be fit and healthy.

The side benefit (for me) of doing this challenge was that it comes with food plans as well as exercise plans - every day has been planned for me! I can't tell you how much relief this program has brought me over the past 12 weeks. I have not had to think about any of my meals at all, I just used the shopping list, and cooked the recipes. I now have enough information to do the planning by myself, and now that I know HOW to plan my food, I can (and will) do it!
Spicy lamb meatballs with quinoa tabouli

Last October, I had reached the end of my tether with cooking the family food. Both my girls are fussy, and they are fussy about different things, so no meal was peaceful because one or the other was complaining. My hubby and I found ourselves cooking the same old (boring) favourites, eating less and less vegetables, and not enjoying our food at all. Hubby is an ex-chef, and I LOVE cooking and food. This was terrible!  I decided that if the kids weren't going to be happy with any of the meals anyway, that I would return to cooking healthy food and they could just live with it.
Beef kebabs (off the sticks), tzatziki, salad, pita bread

The first six weeks, both my kids complained. My eldest daughter kept saying, "Ugh! Not meat and vegetables again! When are we going to eat some REAL food?"  The funny thing is, her idea of meat and vegetables includes just about every variation of meal under the sun!
Lentil, beetroot, spinach salad with ricotta

My little girl (5 years old) just continued the mantra, "I don't like it!"
Tuna and cannelini bean salad (I'm not a tuna fan, but this is GOOD!)

Some of the food I wasn't too sure about, but I only allowed myself a few things that I wouldn't eat. I determined that I would eat EVERYTHING and give it a go. What don't I eat? Sweet corn, kangaroo meat (too flavoursome for me), mushrooms. That's about it.
Thai beef salad

At the six week mark, hubby and I were ecstatic with our new lifestyle, and finally the big girl started exclaiming over some of the meals (with a sheepish look on her face). She stopped asking when we were going to go back to "normal" food and started accepting that this was our new normal. She started to eat what was on her plate, without comment (unless the comment was positive).
Tandoori lamb with mango and pappadum salad (a family favourite)

The little girl is still resisting. But she IS five years old and at the peak of her fussiness. Along the way she has discovered some favourites of her own. Who would have thought that a fussy five year old would like a spinach omelette?
Spinach and two cheese omelette

The biggest challenge for our family has been conquering the sweet tooths. My challenge has been letting go of croissants, but the rest of my family love sweets - sweet drinks, sweet food, lollies, cakes, desserts. I haven't cut sweets out completely. I do make banana cake and banana bread. I made lamingtons. These have been on the 12WBT program. I also made sticky date pudding the other night (not on the program) and had three very ecstatic family members falling at my feet in gratitude, LOL! BUT, the family now enjoy these as the occasional treats that they are supposed to be, and really enjoy them! By occasional, I don't mean daily, and I don't mean weekly, I mean occasional. Treats, not regular programming in our menus.
Cajun chicken with sweet potato and avocado salad (mouth wateringly good)

In the photos you will see a lot of spinach. This is because I LOVE spinach. Where a recipe calls for rocket, I substitute spinach. Often I won't have lettuce in the house, so I will use spinach instead. I rarely run out of spinach, because I like to eat it all the time! Spinach is one of my favourite foods, along with mango and tomato.
Sweet and sour pork

I didn't start this journey to lose weight. I was sitting at a healthy BMI, and really just wanted to shape up and get healthy again. It turns out that my body had other ideas, and I have actually lost a little weight in the process (but not too much). My body has reshaped though, so the difference (to me) is huge. My hubby has lost weight and is rapidly approaching his goal race-weight (he is about to launch into his competitive running season). Our eating habits have changed massively. Before, we weren't eating well-balanced nutrition, and we were suffering cravings for the wrong foods. Hubby often skipped breakfast, and I often didn't have breakfast until after 9am (at work). Since we started eating healthy food at every meal (breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and sometimes dessert), we are FULL and we are SATISFIED. I'm so excited about this! I keep the house stocked with healthy snack options, so if we really are hungry, we have good options available to us.
Chicken salad with herbed yoghurt dressing (another family favourite)

An interesting fact about the food plan, that I didn't notice for ages, but dawned on me recently. There is very little bread or pasta or potatoes. Since these are foods were used to live on, I can't believe I didn't miss them! We still eat bread (wraps are a favourite lunch option), but I no longer buy several loaves a week. I have turned to making bread and just cutting off a piece of the correct weight for the portion size I need.

Portion size is one of the keys. Hubby and I used to eat enough dinner for two or three people (each). No wonder we weren't hungry in the morning! I have learned how to make proper portion sizes for all meals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all pretty much equal in calorie content, so our energy levels remain constant all day long. Sometimes I have trouble fitting in the meals that I make. I love that I can eat dinner and then tell myself at the end of one plate of food, "Okay, that was great! And that was enough!"

Let's talk about drinks. Drinks are for hydration. The best hydration is water. Children should not drink anything but water or milk on a regular basis (no juice, no soft drinks). Adults should be drinking water. Not soft drinks, not energy drinks, not juice (eat your fruit and get all the goodness!). I do have a weakness - I still have one or two coffees a day. My alcohol intake has reduced dramatically (to one or two glasses of wine a week). I was having two or three glasses of wine, four or five nights a week. Then I realised how many calories are in each glass of wine. No wonder my waistbands were getting gradually tighter! And I was usually having that first glass to "get over" my day. It turns out that I don't need the alcohol to finish my day, I actually feel better when I don't have any! Who would have thought? LOL!

Coco cooling off after a run

So while I am finishing off the 12 week challenge, I am continuing the new lifestyle. Our whole family have benefited. We are healthier. We are happier. We ALWAYS eat dinner together at the table and talk about our day. Hubby and I are feeling and looking better than we have for a long while. My kids are eating a more varied diet and finding new things they like. My dog gets the exercise she so dearly loves. Because I plan our meals, I shop once a week. I don't throw out any food at the end of the week anymore. Our fridge is bursting at the seams on shopping day, and approaching empty by the end of the week. Having no food waste is good for our budget and good for the environment. Because I plan our meals, I don't have to think at the end of a long day at work. I just make the meal that was planned. It's magic!

Will I continue the dreaded exercise? Sigh! Yes, I will. ;-) I am a master of excuses, but I have found that I can argue with myself and overcome the excuses. I believe that one day the excuses will reduce and I will have a new exercise habit that I just do!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!