Like most households, we have to routinely rummage through our pantry, fridge and freezer to reorganize the items we use the most and separate them from things that have been shifted around over time.
Because Marissa and I both handle cooking duties in the home (she cooks throughout the week and I tend to cook on the weekends), there are the things we frequently use as well as snacks for Sebastian and Jackson, baking staples and other odds and ends.
Ultimately, we come across things that are no longer fresh or are clearly expired and need to be discarded of.
This, in turn, leads us into conversation about what we might be cooking over the next few days and what we may need to get from the grocery store on our next trips.
Of course, like a good “spring cleaning” can do, when you remove the clutter, you can look at things with a fresh set of eyes and see what you’re working with (and. conversely, what’s no longer working).
On that note, I wanted to write this week’s article keeping in mind the readers who are trying to self-correct and get their own food environment to a place that makes sense for them.
- Is It Time For A Purge? Take some time (30-60 minutes) to remove any foods from the countertop, fridge, freezer, and pantry that you no longer need. This may be expired foods or foods that are counterproductive to your current diet goals. I have certain trigger foods (foods that I can’t moderate the intake of) and Marissa has hers. Periodically, we’ll remind each other what those foods are and every so often, some new snack food appears and we’ll have to make mention: “Oh yeah, I definitely can’t have that in the house right now.” Point noted and that’s typically all it takes to clear the air of problematic foods.
- But Our Kids Eat That… This is a sensitive one. For the most part, the foods that Sebastian eats (for instance) are not foods that rank high in desirability for Marissa and I. However, like most kids, Sebastian likes chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, pretzels, crackers, etc. Since Marissa is normally the one buying the things that Sebastian eats, she’ll buy variations or brands that are less appealing to her to minimize snacking or grazing on those foods. We try to watch the verbiage we use around Sebastian so that we are less inclined to label foods as good or bad. We might define a food as a treat which could be something that’s eaten after a meal or a special occasion. Ice cream and cookies aren’t frequently in our house (Marissa is lactose-intolerant and cookies are one of my “impossible to moderate” foods).
- Research “Easy” Recipes. I taught myself how to cook using Scott Baptie’s excellent High Protein Handbook series right after Sebastian was born (he just turned 4.) I also took a few cooking classes with a friend who used to teach them in the area so I could learn better practices with my knife and some basic prep skills. Since then, I’ve learned what recipes I’m good at and I will frequently turn to Google to look up “easy” or “quick” options for making dinner. For instance, Marissa and I both love Asian and Indian cuisine. So, if I’m cooking, I’ll think about my protein base and look up options that coincide with it i.e. “easy Indian chicken recipe” or “easy Asian pork recipe”. Most easy options have short prep time and don’t take long to cook. To save on time and frustration, I’ll chop up my veggies, garlic, meat, etc. so that cooking moves more efficiently and I’ll set aside the measured portions of my spices. Neither of us care for onions and fortunately, almost any recipe can have onions removed and still taste delicious.
- Get Curious About Spices If you haven’t used a spice in a while (or ever) look up recipes that include it. As referenced above, Indian recipes frequently use a wide range of delicious, aromatic spices like turmeric, cardamom, coriander and garlic. If you’re not a fan of a certain cuisine, search recipes that include a spice. For instance, typing up “chicken recipes with coriander” into Google can lead you down a cool path of options so that you can cook “outside the box”.
- Simple Carb Strategies Neither Marissa nor I are low carb dieters and I generally will eat higher carb than she will to fuel a comparatively more active day. However, one thing that makes cooking at night easy and helps us control caloric intake without calorie tracking is to generally go low-carb at night. We’ll find a protein base (seafood, poultry or beef) and build our vegetable around it. I mentioned above that we both like Asian and Indian cuisine and both of those feature dishes built around rice. We opt for cauliflower rice as a substitute to reduce overall calories, increase our vegetable intake and add more fiber to the diet. I won’t try to convince you that cauliflower rice and regular rice taste the same. They don’t. But, if you’ve got your broth/sauce and the rest of your dish topping the cauliflower, it’s an easy low carb/calorie substitution to make.
- Measure Your Alcohol Most of my clients come to me for fat loss and most of those same clients like to partake in an alcoholic beverage. I wrote a much lengthier article about this awhile back but since alcohol is an easy thing to overdo, start measuring your intake. Marissa and I are almost exclusively bourbon/rye/whiskey drinkers and I will normally post our dinner and drink selection each evening on social media. Our alcohol is always measured and helps us stay on top of something that might otherwise be difficult to moderate if we just left it to eyeball portions.
- Eating Out Is Infrequent I’ll make the comparison between my wife and I. Marissa normally eats 2 meals a day, something light in the morning and then a normal sized dinner (for her needs). That’s 14 meals in a week. Of that 14, she might have 1-2 meals at a restaurant. This is for a few reasons: 1) She has difficulty guesstimating the calories she’s consuming at a restaurant unless it’s listed 2) Most restaurants use butter in cooking and that messes with her digestive system 3) She generally feels better when she’s in control of what’s going in her body. Marissa found an approach which works for her and helped her lose about 35 pounds. By comparison, I eat 3-4 meals a day (21-28 meals in a week) and 5 of them are at a restaurant. I will typically eat out during a work week around my lunch break. I am a creature of habit so I tend to float between the same handful of restaurants and order the same basic thing: it’s predictable and doesn’t take a lot of brain power. Consider yourself in these equations. If you’re eating out more than 20% of the time and you’re struggling with your fat loss goals, think about some of the approaches I referenced above. It’s not impossible to lose weight when you’re at the mercy of restaurants but it is significantly more difficult.
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