Thursday, January 22, 2015

Food for Thought

Being that it's right after the holidays where I eat practically literally everything in sight, I've been putting a lot of thought lately into eating more mindfully. Yesterday I came across this article in the Times, which shows what 2,000 calories (which is about the average amount of calories an adult needs to consume on a daily basis, give or take a little for your weight/sex/age) looks like at a relatively large span of different kinds of common restaurants, and then shows the amount of food you can eat for the same amount of calories by cooking at home. In a lot of cases in the restaurants, 2,000 calories only got you one meal, or in some extreme cases, one item! The gist of the article, basically, was that even if you're not specifically trying to limit calories, when you cook at home you're going to consume fewer calories per meal.

Ever since we moved into our house, eating meals we've prepared at home has become much more of a regular occurrence for Jeff and I. When we were in the apartment, of course we had a functioning kitchen, but it was small and crappy and just wasn't a place that I liked to spend a lot of time in. Of course, I still baked (way more than I do now, actually), but after doing all of the baking that I did in that cramped space, I just didn't feel like putting in the effort to cook many meals. We ended up eating a LOT of takeout and Wawa, or a lot of the time I'd just eat my meals at work (which wasn't hard, seeing as I worked in a restaurant then). Even though I wasn't cooking a lot, I still tried to make a conscious effort to eat as healthfully as possible, but "as healthfully as possible" was usually still pretty unhealthy. Plus, it took a lot of effort trying to select things to eat that were relatively light, so a lot of the time I'd end up eating something like a side of mushrooms or a sweet potato for dinner. Not ideal.

Now that we have a kitchen that I love to cook in, I cook at least 4 nights a week, and a lot of the rest of the nights we eat leftovers from previous nights (which is also generally what I eat for lunch). I try to limit eating out or takeout to one night a week, sometimes two if we're extra busy or have social stuff going on. I'll admit that I'm not the greatest at meal-planning; I usually just buy a bunch of random stuff that can be mixed and matched to last throughout the week, and fly by the seat of my pants. I could definitely save time and money by planning better, so that's something to work on, but I feel like I've gotten pretty good at working with what I have, especially when it comes to putting leftovers/odds and ends from previous meals to work. I used to be terrible about throwing food away, but now I at least put forth an effort to use what I already have before going out and buying new stuff.

As I've mentioned before (since you probably didn't catch my subtle sarcasm), I don't diet. That said, I do try to make healthy choices overall. Sometimes I'm good at this, sometimes I fail completely (I say, as I munch on a pretzel rod smothered in Nutella). Since I've been feeling (physically) pretty gross from all of the indulging I've done over the past few months, I'm trying to make a concentrated effort to freshen up my eating and pack my meals with actual nutrients that I've been ditching in favor of butter and cheese. Oh, all of the cheese. I don't cut anything out or make all sorts of crazy swaps to make my food practically calorie free or swap all of my refined grains for farrow and chia seeds, because that's not practical for me (and Jeff would probably leave me), but I do try to pack my meals with tons of nutrient dense veggies, and attempt to make little switches here and there, such as quinoa or brown rice instead of white rice or pasta. Another thing that I do that actually makes meals easier as well as healthier is to eat primarily vegetarian a few nights a week. I don't really even do this on purpose a lot of the time; some nights it's just easier to throw together a meatless dish.

One thing that I like to do on nights I don't feel like working out a composed dish is to throw together whatever I have laying around, especially vegetables that are looking on the sad side or bits of leftovers from previous meals. For example, the other night I made this:

Carmelized Onion and Spinach Bowl
Loosely adapted from Dinner a Love Story

Slice a couple of onions, and cook in a glug of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium low heat for 15-25 minutes (the longer you can wait, the better they get...but you have to keep an eye on them). Once the onions are nice and brown and melty, toss in some salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add a generous handful of spinach, and sauté until the spinach wilts. At this point, you have a very tasty topping for...anything you have on hand. I served mine over a little bit of brown rice cooked in chicken stock, and Jeff's over some leftover penne. It'd also be delicious over quinoa, a baked potato, some couscous, or whole grain spaghetti (which is how I serve it on the reg). If you're feeling saucy, it's great with some crushed red pepper flakes, or if you're feeling cheesy it's great with some parm grated over it.

I did this with onions and spinach, but you get the idea. You could do something similar with whatever veggies you have laying around - roasted cauliflower is always great (as is roasted broccoli), or a favorite of mine is pan seared brussels sprouts with corn cut off the cob. Get wild. Dinner's a piece of cake.

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