Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The protein/carb balance

I had this IM mini conversation with my husband recently. I thought it made an excellent blog prompt, so here it is:

J: So does the BFL [Body for Life] mantra still hold true in your eyes - for every carb you eat, you should eat a protein?
InstantBlue: Mostly, but not so strictly. If you're going to eat a carb, you should have protein to go with it. But really, it's about averaging it out across the day. It's fine to have just a carb by itself, if the protein balances it later and, you don't HAVE to have a carb always. Just protein alone is ok, too. For example, on BFL, you would not eat just a chicken breast and veggies for lunch, you'd add some whole grain bread or oatmeal or something too. Now, I often eat just protein and veggies, no carb. And I'll often save the carby English muffin from my breakfast and save it for about an hour after I eat my eggy-protein dish. In general, I try to keep my carbs to less than 40% of my daily intake, and my proteins to 30% or more. (I have no restrictions on fats at all, but it's pretty hard to eat too much fat if you're eating the kinds of things you should be eating anway! (: ) Works for me so far!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Zucchini Lasagna

Another pasta-less idea, using veggies instead of noddles, this time
inspired by the March/April issue of Clean Eating magazine. I changed
the recipe a little to make it less soupy. If you like this, you
should try spaghetti squash instead of noodles, too.

Nutrition: 235 Cal, 6g fat, 17g carb, 29g protein (based on my tomato

1 lb ground beef, browned and rinsed
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small onion, diced
3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick
1 jar spaghetti sauce ( I used Trader Joes Organic with Mushrooms, 25oz)
2 c low fat cottage cheese
1 egg
3oz mozarella, divided and shredded

Cook, drain, and rinse the ground beef and set aside. While the beef
is browning, steam the zucchini slices until soft, about 3 minutes.
Set the slices aside and let them cool slightly.

Spray your pan with non-stick spray and sauté the onion until
translucent, then add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Mix in
the beef and the whole jar of tomatoes sauce.

In another bowl, combine 1oz shredded mozzarella cheese, the egg, and
the cottage cheese.

Gently squeeze the steamed zucchini to remove excess water, then layer
1/3 of the slices on the bottom of a 9x9 pan. Spread half of the
cheese mixture over the zucchini, then add half of the sauce mixture.
Make another zucchini layer, followed the another cheese and sauce
layer. Finally, layer the remaining 1/3 of the zucchini over the top,
and spread the rest of the shredded mozzarella over everything. Bake
for about 30 minutes, until the cheese on top is melted and slighly
browned. Mmmmm.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

One of my favorite cookies is a bar cookie that my mom made when I was
a kid. They are an oatmeal and peanut butter bar, covered with a layer
of melted chocolate chips. Mmm! I love love love those cookies!

I decided that I should try to healthy them up, since a stick of
butter and 2 cups of sugar in the recipe means you can only have one
bite if you're trying to be good :( Now, I'm not going to lie: the
following recipe is tasty, for a protein bar, but it's not even close
to being as yummy as the real thing. I do like them, though, and they
will satisfy my chocolate-peanut craving for now :)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
Mix together:
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c splenda
1/4 c apple sauce
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 egg white

When the above are combined, add:
1/4 c almond meal
1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats
2 scoops protein powder (60g total)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mix until everything is well-combined. Pour into a greased 9x9 pan and
bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes. Don't over bake them or they'll be hard
and yucky. It should be just barely set, but not dry.

Spread 2 oz (4T) of chocolate chips over the top of the hot bars and
let them melt for about 10 minutes. Spread the melted chips over the
top of the bars with a knife. Allow them to cool completely (if you
can wait...hehe). I cut them into 8 bars. Mmmm.

Nutrition: 160 Cal, 7g fat, 1g sat fat, 17g carbs, 9g protein

iPhone Fitness Apps: Lose it!

I've been trying out a few different fitness-related iPhone apps, and a few are pretty good. I'm giving the food and exercise tracker, Lose it! a try for a few weeks instead of Fitday. It's a really nice program that works well for rough tracking, but is limited in how precise you can be. It is very pretty and easy to use, and has a very comprehensive food and exercise library. But more important, you can add your own foods and exercises. It's designed with weight loss in mind, so when you set it up, your only options are to maintain your current weight, or lose weight at a rate from 0.5 to 2lbs/week. It automatically calculates your target calories based on your goal, and it's really easy to change goals whenever you want. If you choose to lose weight, you choose the rate and it tells you the date you can expect to meet that goal by. The recommended calorie ranges pretty much agree with calculations I have done for my body weight in the past, assuming a sedentary activity level. And exercise you do is added to your calorie budget on a daily basis. So, if you exercise more, you get to eat more.

I like:
  • customizeable nutrient tracking. If you want to monitor fat/carb/protein ratios, sodium intake, etc, you decide what you want to track and it displays it. You also don't have to see nutrients you don't want to track. I personally only care about fat/carb/protein stats, so that's all I've chosen to track.
  • food database includes lots of fast food items and major brands you find at the supermarket
  • every pre-programmed food and exercise has a cute icon, which makes it pretty to look at
  • it fits in my pocket and I can log my foods anywhere without having access to the internet
  • Under the nutrients tab, it displays both your current daily stats as well as your weekly averages. Very cool.
  • You can create your own custom exercise, so if you use a heart rate monitor and know your exact calorie burn, you can use that. Very cool.
  • It gives you immediate positive reinforcement when you exercise, because it adds on the amount you just burned to your daily calorie budget.
  • Your current number of calories consumed so far are displayed at the top of your food log section in a cool mathy formula. It shows your total budget - calories eaten - exercise burn = your net calories. And your remaining balance is shown next to that. It toggles between a green "under" and a red "over" to tell you how you're doing.
  • You can make your own recipes! You just add all the ingredients and then tell it how many servings it made and it automatically divides it up. It will definitely help keep your food log less cluttered!
I don't like:
  • the food database doesn't have many units to choose from. Most foods are measured by volume (cups, tablespoons, etc) with no option to use grams or ounces. Boo.
  • You may only select whole numbers of your unit between 0-99, and fractions 1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, and 3/4. It seems pretty good, but here's an example of it being a pain: My Greek yogurt has a serving size of 8oz or 227g. I wanted to input it in grams, but can't add more than 99g. blah. Also, sometimes I have 1/16 or 7/8 of a unit. I want those there, too!
  • There is no option for a decimal point. For example, if you input a new food that contains 2.5g saturated fat, you have to either enter 2 or 3 grams. Boo.
All in all, this is a great app, especially considering it's free! If you want to log your food (and exercise) and you have an iPhone, I would totally recommend this app. It's much more convenient than a paper log or a web-based log.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A science experiment

I've been wondering for a long time just how much fat you get rid of when you drain ground beef. I've also been taking draining it to the next level by rinsing my ground beef in hot water to get as much of that icky melted beef fat out of there as possible. Yes, I realized I'm probably also washing away any special beef flavor along with the fat, but seriously, it's ground beef. Not the choicest of beef cuts, you know?? Plus also, usually ground beef is the base for some kind of saucy goodness, not the flavor of the meal itself. I've always kind of hoped that a significant portion of the fat gets removed by draining/rinsing, and it seems like it makes sense. There is a very large exposed surface area for all of the fat to exit the meat easily, and when you heat it up like that, it melts and separates itself out, right?

So, tonight my dear husband requested we have tacos, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to see once and for all just how much draining and rinsing really helps. Here's what I found out:

I browned a pound of ground beef (well, 17.76oz, actually.), then I carefully drained as much liquid fat as I could off into a container and massed the drained fat. I was surprised to get 62g just by draining! The original fat content of the 17.76oz was (according to the nutrition label) 102g, so just draining removed 60% of the fat. That was way more than I expected.

However, I still could see the melted beef fat coating all my tasty ground beef crumbles. Bleh. So, I took the whole pan, beef and all, and massed it. Then I rinsed it out thoroughly with hot water, and drained off the water and massed it again. I rinsed off another 27 grams of fat. Woo.

So, all in all, my pound of beef lost 89 grams of its 102 original grams of fat. 87%!

So here's the bottom line:
Before draining and rinsing: (per 4oz) 290 Calories, 23gfat, 0g carbs, 20g protein

After draining and rinsing: 107 Calories, 3g fat, 0g carbs, 20g protein.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My Bento Boxes

I have a growing collection of fun lunchboxes to bring my breakfast, lunch, and snacks to work with me. In addition to it being practical, since don't have the option of going out for lunch on my job, it also makes bringing my food with me more fun. If I can pull out a cute or attracive (or both!) container, I actually enjoy my food more. Yes, it is silly, but whatever. My food is pretty and healthy. woo.

Here are a few of my favorites.

This is definitely my favorite lunch situation right now. It's the Zojirushi Mini Stainless Thermal Lunch Box, in a green. For me, it actually holds a lunch and a snack like yogurt or cottage cheese. I love it because it looks good and isn't bulky to carry around. It's main dish compartment is vacuum insulated, but I've never tried this feature since I have a refridgerator and microwave in my office. Unfortunatley, to be perfect, it needs one more container for breakfast items.

When I bring the Zojirushi Mini Green above, I usually also bring a breakfast omelet in this cute orange Daiso box. I got it at Marukai, my local Japanese dollar store for $1.50, and it seems to be just a good quality as the $10 Leaflet Tight box I have below. It's the perfect size for an omelet, and the seal around the lid means it doesn't leak that myster egg-water all over my bag.

Here's my Mr. Bento. It's a classic among bento-packers, and it's perfect for bringing my entire food supply for the day with me to work. It has 2 vacuum insulated containers, and two non-insulated ones. It ends up holding my lunch entree, lunch veggie, extra snack, and breakfast omelet perfectly. It's a true workhorse, but sometimes it bulkier than I want. I'm thinking of decorating it with stickers or colors to make it prettier....

I love this one, but it's a little big for just my lunch, and a snack usually is too leaky to fit in the extra compartment, so I don't use it as much as I would like to. :( But it just makes me happy to look at it and think about it's name: Leaflet Tight. (What? Sometimes the translations are so random and funny!)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Cathe's STS Ab Circuits: Yoga-Based Abs

I tried this the other day, in place of my Chalean Extreme ab routine I am supposed to do (but honestly...I HATE doing ab workouts, and if they're not built directly into a workout I'm doing, it's more than likely that I'll just skip it I have only done the CLX ab workout once in my 4 weeks of the program).
It was surprisingly good. It was expecting it to kick my booty, and to be kinda challenging/painful in that yoga way that I hate...but it actually made me feel like I did a mini yoga practice that I didn't have to force myself through. I will do this workout again when I need to do abs.

It seems like one of those things that seems easier than it is. It starts with some rolls onto your back, kind of as a warm up. Then you do some boat poses/v-ups, which are more challenging the higher you hold your legs. Then we did bicycles, levitation holds in lotus position, levitation holds in pike position, some planks and side plans, and some down dog/crocodile/up dog sequences.

It was more doable for me than most Cathe workouts: I could do the whole thing without gasping in pain during any of it. But I felt challenged and well-worked. I think the yoga aspect of holding the positions for a long time was a nice change from endless crunch variations. I also think it's a workout that automatically adapts to your level - you'll hold your legs higher or lower depending on your current ab strength, so you'll be able to customize it to your level pretty well.

What I'm eating

Here's a typical day of what I've been eating recently:

breakfast: omelet (4 egg whites, 1c spinach, 20g feta cheese)
snack: toasted English muffin with 1/2T natural peanut butter
lunch: dinner leftovers, usually ~4oz lean meat and 1-2c steamed veggies or spinach
snack: 1/2c Greek yogurt with 1/2T honey and 1/2c frozen berries
dinner: 5-6oz lean meat with 1-2c steamed veggies (alternates between chicken breast, steak, fish, and pork)
snack: protein pumpkin bread or string cheese + fruit (- or- something naughty like ice cream a few times a week to keep me happy! :) )

Plus, I usually have 2-3 cups of magic coffee machine coffee throughout the day. I know, it's bad for me, but it makes me happy, so whatever. And if I have 3, one is decaf....

One thing that I have realized that that I don't have to go out of my way to eat low fat foods. Especially dairy products. I use full fat cheeses and low fat (instead of non fat) cottage cheese and yogurt. It's much tastier and keeps me more full and happy than when I tried to eat all non fat dairy items.

This pretty much works out to be equal portions of carb/protein/fat and usually just under 1400cal/day.

I tend to take it easy on the weekends, but still count everything I eat. Usually, one weekend day is much higher in calories and carbs, closer to 2000, but it still averages out to the macros I've been posting. I consider one weekend day per week to be a "refeed" and kind of like a high calorie zig zag day.

Macros Week of 1/31-2/6/09

Monday, February 02, 2009

STS is here!

I haven't had time to crack them open and play yet, but I'm so excited!!! I think this will definitely kick p90x's butt! I can't wait for a different workout every day of the 90 day rotation. I think I'll have to at least try some of these before I finish the Chalean Extreme rotation. Poor Chalean, it's not you... it's just that I've been waiting over a year for my Cathe STS, and now that it's here, how could I not try it out? :) :) :)