As many people did, I indulged a bit over the Christmas holiday week. I was saved from seemingly endless co-worker-made indulgences, subcontracter/vendor gifts, client gifts, etc., by the fact that I couldn’t eat anything anyone brought to me. (My husband could, and did. We passed the rest of it along to grateful relatives.) But I made up, at least somewhat, for what others couldn’t make me by making goodies for myself–allergen-free buckeyes (we were in Ohio for Christmas), raspberry-laced brownies, etc. In fact, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had to remind myself that I did not need to keep pace in my Christmas consumption with the people around me.
I came home 1.2 pounds heavier than when I left. It’s gone, as of today, but the gain was a reminder that eating sweets daily, eating full-plate portions of fattening foods, and not exercising (I was sick) will add up to weight gain that I don’t want or need.
As sad as it is, the long-term, historical status quo in this country (for most of us, at least) is to eat unhealthy foods, and even a week of such indulgences can reset a person to continue back down the unhealthy foods path. However, I don’t regret partaking in the holiday food tradition. As I’ve discussed on this blog, my goal with how I treat my body is to take care of myself, and with the holidays, a bit of indulgence can be healthy. Barbara Kingsolver discusses this issue in Animal Vegetable Miracle, the excellent book I’m now reading:
For most people everywhere, surely, food anchors holiday traditions. I probably spent some years denying the good in that, mostly subconsciously–devoutly refusing the Thanksgiving pie, accepting the stigma my culture has attached to celebrating food, especially for women my age. Because of the inscriptions written on our bodies . . . we are supposed to pretend if we are strong-willed that food is not all that important. Eat now and pay later, we’re warned. Stand on the scale, roll your eyes, and on New Year’s Day resolve to become a moral person again.
But most of America’s excess pounds were not gained on national holidays. After a certain age, we can’t make a habit of pie, certainly, but it’s a soul-killing dogma that says we have to snub it even on Thanksgiving. Good people eat. So do bad people, skinny people, fat people, tall and short ones. Heaven help us, we will never master photosynthesis. Planning complex, beautiful meals and investing one’s heart and time in their preparation is the opposite of self-indulgence. Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful. . . .
The key, for many of us who have struggled with our relationships with foods, is to get back on track with healthy eating after the holiday has ended. So, as many of us do at this time of year, I set about planning my upcoming week’s meals to be healthier, to continue the self-nourishment the holiday meals provide for some of us with, well, fewer calories involved. Healthy foods can be just as delicious, and definitely as nourishing, as high-calorie and high-fat ones.
One of my primary goals–one of the easiest, most visually obvious ways to take care of myself–is to make sure that my meals are high in vegetables–and, occasionally, fruits–though vegetables are superior when one considers the cost/benefit ratio of calories to vitamins/antioxidants/etc. Specifically, I aim for a number of my meals to consist of 2/3 healthy vegetables–vegetables that may have a moderate amount of healthy fats in their cooking, and vegetables that are definitely seasoned well (garlic, Mrs. Dash, lemon, lime, orange, Lawry’s seasoning salt, fresh herbs, et al. are excellent additions), but which are not smothered in dairy or other high-fat, low-benefit sauces. If I get even close to 2/3, I know that I am doing well with what I am eating. Take our meal last night, for example:
This plate contains (local, pastured, organic) chicken enchiladas in corn tortillas with a red sauce and goat cheddar; garlicky broccoli; and a fruit salad of fresh grapefruit, tangelo, orange, avocado, and cilantro. As you can see, a little over half the plate is strictly fruit and vegetable–with the avocado providing a wonderful contrast and a bit of healthy fat in the fruit salad. The enchiladas are not strictly vegetable-based, obviously; however, they do contain quite a bit of rich vegetable power in the thick, rich tomato/onion/dried pepper sauce. This plate isn’t 2/3 vegetable, but it’s getting there. And it’s definitely helping to reset my mind to enjoying and craving vegetable-centric meals.
As a side note, that plate is actually too full–I only ate 2/3 of the food I put on it–but it’s also a salad plate. After reading the great book Mindless Eating, my husband and I only pull out our full-size plates when we are having more guests than we have salad plates; otherwise, we find ourselves eating less and being satisfied when we eat on salad plates.
I do believe in intuitive eating, but I don’t believe we can simply intuit how to eat very easily in American culture. I also know for a fact that we have to deal with our emotional sources of eating (sources that might tell us to eat when we don’t actually want/need food), and I know that we have to work at setting ourselves up for success. Mindless Eating contains a good bit of solid, research-based information that will help keep any of us who are working on health and weight management on the right paths. Eating off salad plates was just one of the good ideas I culled from the book.
This is our meal plan as we ease into the new year:
Sun., Dec. 30th:
Lunch: Leftover veggie/apple/sausage soup
Dinner: Chicken enchiladas with red sauce and goat yogurt; garlicky broccoli; salad of citrus (1 orange, 1 grapefruit, 1 tangelo) and avocado with cilantro
Mon., Dec. 31st:
Lunch: Cherrybrook waffles (good taste and texture, but not super-crispy) with cranberry-orange sauce (1 c. cranberries, juice and rind of an orange, some maple syrup, 1 T ghee, and 1 tsp. arrowroot powder cooked together on med. till most of the cranberries pop) and candied walnuts–it was easy and delicious!
NYE dinner with friends at Beleza (what I consider the best gluten-free, allergen-free restaurant in Atlanta–I can eat every dessert on the menu and nearly every main-meal item!)
Tues., Jan. 1st:
Lunch (Jenny B. visiting): Salad with roasted winter vegetables (acorn squash, sweet potato, carrots, onion, turnip), toasted nuts, pan-fried goat cheese rounds, and honey/lemon dressing
Baking: Cranberry-orange muffins (using certified gluten-free oats and the recipe from Sophie-Safe Cooking)
Dinner: Kale & black-eyed peas in a sundried tomato broth with cornbread (The recipe doesn’t call for black-eyed peas, but I’ll be adding fresh ones. Eating greens on New Year’s Day is a Southern tradition that is supposed to bring good fortune in the new year. As a bonus, beans & greens are a staple of many cultures for a high-protein, inexpensive meal. Also, they’re really tasty. I’m excited about trying this inventive recipe for them.
Wed., Jan. 2nd:
Dinner: Dan cooking (I’ll write about my husband’s new kitchen role soon in a post about money and food.)
Thurs., Jan. 3rd:
Dinner: Warm sweet potato salad with fresh corn and canned black beans added (I adore this salad recipe; the dressing was amazingly satisfying with the veggies when I made it before.)
Fri., Jan. 4th:
Dinner: Personal pizzas topped with a garlic/ghee sauce with pears, Roquefort (I just learned it’s made from sheep’s milk!), toasted pine nuts–salad greens & 1/2 red onion tossed with honey/lemon dressing (left over from Tues.) on top of the pizza
Sat., Jan. 5th:
Lunch: BLSundriedT topped with avocado/dijon sauce and a side of tomato soup (Freeze leftover bacon, save bacon grease for jambalaya)
Dinner: Use gluten-free Curry Simple yellow curry sauce to simplify yellow curry soup recipe from Bon Appetit, 12/07, p. 76
Sun., Jan. 6th:
Lunch: Oatmeal with sauteed apples and toasted walnuts, side of grapefruit
Dinner: Jambalaya (no seafood, chicken added) for simplicity meeting (This recipe for jambalaya was one of the only things I could eat at a large holiday gathering we attended. I loved it.)
Mon., Jan. 7th:
Dinner: Sally works late; Dan makes dinner
Tues., Jan. 8th:
Tasting dinner at Whole Foods (7 courses, each with wine–$20/person! Moreover, the wonderful chef has worked with me to make sure I can eat most of the courses at each monthly dinner.)
Wed., Jan. 9th:
Leave for our trip to Seattle and Vancouver in the morning! (We get back the night of the 17th.)
I know we’ll be able to enjoy some healthy, fabulous, satisfying meals at restaurants in Seattle and Vancouver, as well. Please email me at sally dot parrott at gmail dot com if you have suggestions for where we should go in those cities for me to find good gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free, soy-free food.