I Realized I Was Starving Myself (or How and Why I’m Baking Healthier in 2015)

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Almost as soon as we moved to St. Louis, I started having what Buc and I dubbed as “eating emergencies.” I’d be going about my day fine, when suddenly a beast inside me would rear its ugly head and demand, “Feed me!” I became irritable at Buc and said words I seriously regretted and had to apologize for—all from hunger.

So now, in addition to a baby who was transitioning to all solids, I had another reason to reevaluate my diet: Apparently, I was “starving myself.” I concluded that, for my marriage’s sake, I better make a change.

If I wanted the “eating emergencies” and “food fights” with my husband to stop, I needed to stop trying to fend off my afternoon hunger with coffee (which was a great weight loss help in the past), and eat instead. As I listened to my body, I discovered that it really was food my body craved, not coffee, even though I love coffee! (A little less caffeine sure wouldn’t hurt my raging emotions either.) I needed to cook more satisfying meals, which I addressed in my last post; and I also needed to have some satisfying snacks on hand.

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This lumpy concoction was my attempt at the “Fruited Cheese Bread” recipe in What to Expect the First Year. I didn’t read the whole recipe before I began, and this ended up being a lot more work than I bargained for. The bread was decent, but in the future, I plan to seek out similar recipes for my bread machine and use the kneading time for writing time (or something more fun).

But the idea of adding more snacks to my diet unnerved me. I was scared of returning to habits that had put fifty extra pounds on my body in the first place. With all this self- and diet-evaluation, I realized that it was my poor choices during pregnancy that had packed on those fifty pounds. Lots of carbs, white flour, starchy things, sugary things. Bagels, muffins, pizza: these were what I craved most, and what I allowed myself to eat because, hello, I was starving for nine months!

Help for the Hungry (and Unhealthy)

Year of No SugarGood thing that during our move to St. Louis I read Eve O. Schaub’s memoir, Year of No Sugar, in which the author and her family go on a yearlong sugar strike (with a few exceptions). Schaub’s conclusions after her yearlong project struck a chord with me. While I didn’t plan to attempt cutting out all sugar (an almost impossible task), she did convince me to cut down on my overall intake.

Two things I am doing as a result of my heightened sugar awareness:

  • Limiting my sweets intake to about twice a week, as opposed to allowing myself to nibble on junk food every day
  • Trying recipes for muffins, cookies, and cakes that don’t contain sugar (incidentally, these recipes also switch out refined flour for healthier options like whole wheat flour, wheat germ, nuts, and oats)

I’ve been implementing these changes for one month, and you know what? I don’t really miss my sweets. And I feel lighter, fuller, and more satisfied.

Specifically What I’m Doing to Get Fuller and Healthier (and Lose Weight in the Process)

Let me flesh this out a bit more, in case you want to tweak your diet, too: I used to eat something chocolate or sugary almost every day—a few candies, a piece of frozen Sara Lee cake, or an iced coffee from Mcdonalds (I especially loved my iced coffees, but I finally admitted to myself they were full of sugar, and majorly preventing weight loss).

Now I am skipping those choices almost every day but baking one healthy thing a week—like oat cookies, pumpkin muffins, or even Sam’s first birthday “cake”—to eat in place of my junk, or to eat for my snacks.

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Sam’s First Birthday Cake, recipe from “The Best Odds Recipes” in What to Expect The First Year. I know it doesn’t look like much, but Sam actually ate quite a few bites! And I enjoyed these leftovers for days to come.

I’m not into finding obscure sugar substitutes like seasoned baker Eve Schaub. But happily, as I perused recipes to feed one-year-old Sam, I found a bunch of no-sugar recipes in the parenting book What to Expect the First Year, in the “Best Odds Recipes” section. This collection is designed to keep kids away from sugar for as long as possible, but it also provided just what I needed for myself.

The recipes I’ve tried have no hard-to-find ingredients, but rely on staples like dates, raisins, apple juice, wheat germ, oats, and whole-wheat flour. I love that everything on the ingredient list is good for me, and good for Sam, and I have enjoyed “indulging” in cookies and cake for a morning snack, or even for breakfast. I genuinely feel nourished by these healthy treats, and with these becoming my usual fare, I don’t feel bad for having a sugar bomb of a treat once in awhile. On a happy side note, already I’m craving those sugar bombs less and less, and finding that I am satisfied with a much smaller serving of sugar than I used to be (say two Hershey’s kisses instead of a piece of chocolate cake).

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Pumpkin muffins, also from “Best Odds Recipes” in What to Expect the First Year. These look good but tasted a little bland, so if I try them again, I plan to experiment with a little more sweetness.

So far I feel great with these changes, and I plan to continue as long as I have the time to make this “bake-ahead” food. Indeed, baking my snacks ahead of time is key, so that whenever I have a food emergency, I also have a quick and healthy solution.

If you find yourself in the same desperate and ravenous situation I was, and if you want to lose some weight, I am convinced that one of the best things you can do for yourself (and possibly your relationships) is to get your hands on some sugarless recipes, use them, and then stock your fridge and freezer with these healthy, hunger-stopping treats. Your spouse, and your waistline, will thank you.

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Epilogue: Thanks to the diet changes discussed here and in my last post (and probably thanks to all the extra flights of stairs in our new home, the busyness of unpacking, and a mobile baby), I dropped five pounds within the first month of living in St. Louis. And now I only have four more to go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How and Why I’m Cooking Healthier in 2015

IMG_1685One of my resolutions for 2015 was to cook healthier. That’s sounds like a big lifestyle change, but it’s actually not a huge leap for me because I was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, and Adventists are recognized for their extraordinary health and longevity. Huffington Post, for instance, reported that SDAs “live an average of 10 years longer than the American life expectancy of about 79 years.” I’m proud of us for this! (See also this article by The Atlantic). 

Adventists preach and practice healthy living, including a vegetarian diet with lots of fruits, grains, and nuts; no caffeine; observing Sabbath rest; and other measures like fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Now then, why have I recommitted to getting healthier if I’m part of this exemplary group?

Individual Adventists adhere to these corporate beliefs in varying degrees, and my husband and I are no exception. Although Buc converted me to vegetarianism after we married (previously I had just avoided the “unclean meats,” like pork and seafood), I’m the one who likes to eat vegetables–he’s more of a carbs and cheese guy. So, after I noticed that he didn’t appreciate me shaking up his diet, I largely gave up experimental, “healthy” cooking, and caved too often to pasta, pizza, and other carb-y, cheesy foods. Not the best for health, or for weight loss, I realized, when I couldn’t shake my last ten prego pounds.

So several months ago, in pursuit of shedding those last pounds, I severely cut carbs and learned to substitute grains, like quinoa and couscous, in my cooking. More recently, I identified other areas that needed reform–namely, too much caffeine and sugar, and “eating emergencies” that I was ill-prepared for (I will share more in my next post). But the biggest reason I decided to alter my diet was Sam.

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At one year old (can you believe it?), Sam is at a critical place regarding his future health. From observing other kids, I know that the habits set early often blossom into lifestyles. A toddler who eats veggies turns into a teen who eats them; a toddler who doesn’t have to turns into a teen who won’t. I didn’t want to miss this tender opportunity to set Sam’s taste buds on the right course. But I knew this would take some effort.

With Sam now needing to eat real food three times a day, plus snacks, I needed more foods in my tool belt. I needed to become a better cook. Kids have small stomachs and high metabolisms, and they need stuff to munch on throughout the day. I can’t fend off Sam’s hunger with a cup of coffee like I’ve often done with myself (oops…again, more on my personal food issues in my next post). So I simply need to have good food options on hand.

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Tofu veggies and oat burgers. Yum!

To my advantage, I already had a reliable rotation of healthy meals (some of which my hubby will eat!), like lentils, chili, and vegetable potpie; and I had plenty more recipes at my fingertips in the Adventist cookbooks sitting on my shelf. Now, it was just time to use them…but use them wisely, in such a way that Buc would go along with me.

I didn’t think I could change every single meal from cheese- or pasta- to plant-based—and I honestly didn’t want to, as I enjoy a good stuffed crust pizza as much as the next American. But I figured a couple tweaks would ensure a generally healthy baseline, so it would be okay to splurge once in awhile.

The plan I came up with, as outlined in a previous post, was to cook two healthy meals per week, to let Buc choose meals on two other nights, and to go out to eat once a week to give us all a break with cooking and cleanup. So far, our plan is going great!

I’ve found that two “real” cooking sessions per week (I define “real” cooking as having to slice and dice, not just heat up) provide enough to furnish lunch leftovers for our small family on most weekdays. This schedule also leaves room in the supper schedule for Buc to make or request meals closer to his liking, so he is more likely to eat healthy with me on my “real cooking” days. As another benefit, cooking only twice a week (I’m talking on weekdays, not weekends) has freed me up to write more, or do other things for my home and family.

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Vegetable Potpie

So, how is Sam liking this healthy food, you ask? Surprisingly well! Since I’ve implemented my plan, he has eaten oat burgers and tofu veggies, vegetable pot pie, and a mess of other things not often associated with kids, such as onions and kale (I’ve found a strong soup base does much to camouflage these tastes!). Buc is less enthusiastic about my healthy cooking, conditioned as his taste buds are to crave nachos and cheese enchiladas, but I won’t give up providing healthy options, now that I have an extra eating buddy in the house. After all, even if Buc doesn’t always eat my cooking, two out of three ain’t bad!