Nutritionally Dense


I’m never dieting again. I’m sick of it. (Okay, I’ll probably diet again, never say never) but having lost and gained a bunch over the last ten years, I’m just over it.

None-the-less, I think perhaps my dietary habits are, well, not the greatest. So two weeks ago I announced that for five nights we were going to eat healthy. Not count calories, not follow some weird set of rules and restrictions about carbs or fats or anything like that. And if we were hungry, we would eat more. In fact, I announced, I was going to try to eat healthy for five days. And by healthy, I meant I could have as much good food like lean meats, vegetables, fruits and whole grains as I wanted. If I wanted a slice of havarti and an apple for a snack, I would. But if the food struck me as more empty calories than nutritional, I wouldn’t eat it. And that on Saturday, I could fall face first into a breakfast taco if I so desired.

Poor Bob. “Sounds great!” he said gamely.

I planned five wonderful, healthy meals. Lemongrass shrimp and stir-fried vegetables. Vegetable chili (which is just chili with less meat and more beans and added vegetables.) I made a big batch on Sunday so I could lunch on it, too. One night we had a salad of tuna and chick peas and green beans in a vinaigrette and it was, dare I say, fabulous? We had crock pot chicken cacciatore that was also, dare I say, quite tasty?

Bob said, “Great dinner!” although I suspect that his idea of great doesn’t normally include canned tuna with green beans and chick peas. Still, it tasted a lot better than it sounded.

And the bonus? I felt better! (I suspect that sugar and I don’t get along.)

The truth? I did not go a single day without eating something nutritionally bankrupt. And on Friday I fell into a box of sugar cookies and came groggily awake in the late afternoon, surrounded by crumbs. But since I’m not dieting, you know what? That’s okay.

So I’m not dieting this week, either. And last night we had a skirt steak salad (greens, a little crumbled chevre, red onions marinated in red wine vinegar, a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar and a gremolatta of parsley, garlic and serrano pepper.) (I made up the recipe. It was good.) And then I had ice cream. I’ll let you know when I manage an entire day.

Tuna Garbanzo Salad

2 quarts water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (1 inch) cut green beans (about ½ pound)
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
dash of hot sauce
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons light mayo
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 7.8 oz jar of premium tuna (or a can that’s close) packed in oil, drained and flaked
greens (arugula, spinach, iceburg lettuce, whatever floats your boat)

1. Bring water and salt to a boil. Add green beans, cook 4 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender, drain and rinse with cold water. Combine green beans, shallots, chickpeas, dash of hot sauce and garlic in a large bowl.
2. Combine mayo, vinegar and paprika in a small bowl and stir well. Add the mayo mixture to the green bean mixture and toss gently.
3. Arrange a cup of greens on each plate. Put about 1 cup of the bean mixture on top of that. Put about ¼ of the tuna on top of that.

28 thoughts on “Nutritionally Dense

  1. We were out of milk. (We drink latte’s at home: Laura’s are skim, mine are 1%.)

    I went to the store after dropping Emma at school and they didn’t have either variety so I went to the next nearest (and far superior) store (same chain, just lightyears better) and got milk. At the first store I walked past the powder sugar donut holes without a twitch but at the second…

    I had those empty calories this morning and Laura had cereal and pointed out (and not for the first time) that I hurt the entire family by bringing these nutritionally bankrupt foods into the house.

    Me, I’m going to go have another one. To save the rest of the family of course. I’ll throw myself on that land mine.

    Bad Steve! Bad!

  2. In the last week there was a published study of four of the more popular diets (including atkins) and at the end of one year, they found the average weight loss in the group of overweight people ranged from 3 pounds to 10 pounds.

    While Atkins came out on top, it didn’t come out significantly ahead. There was much greater loss of weight than this initially but they all tended to gain back.

    I was hearing about this on the podcast “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” and the point made was, Look, what works is life-long changes in your behavior, not a periodic diet you later leave. Eat less, eat better, exercise more.

    For the rest of your life.

    This makes lots of sense to me. I still bought those donut holes this morning.

  3. Yeah, well almost anyone can lift a 20lb weight and hold it overhead for a minute or two. How many can do that for an hour? How about for the rest of your life?

  4. Over the course of a lifetime one package of donut holes won’t kill you. It’s donut holes every day that are a problem. Of course, over the last two years (after having shed my post-move weight) I have done nothing but stress eat, with calamitous results: bad day=ice cream. Really bad day=ice cream and a donut.

    I do know how to eat healthily, but no one else in the house seems to be interested, and there’s something so disheartening about making something fresh and delicious and having two or three people look at it as if it were crawling with bugs. They’ll go away to college someday…

  5. Let me put it another way, I almost wish for robot overlords, when it comes to diet. To shock me into exercise and feed me precisely calculated amounts of appropriate food items.

    But food is art, dammit! Food is expression. Food is lots of things beyond sustenance.

    Someone was talking about addictions to food and while this is extreme language it is not completely without merit.

    How easy would it be to quit smoking if you still required one cigarette a day, to stay alive?

  6. Simulcomment with Mad.

    Noble Girl has gone ovo/lacto/pesco vegetarian for animal cruelty reasons. Oddly enough, she still hates most veggies.

    Twilight Ninja Girl tried this earlier, then decided that she could eat poultry, too–just no mammals. She eats a few more things than Noble girl but sheesh!

  7. You are all going to die.
    Before you die, you are all going to become fat.
    If you wish to avoid this fate, you will have to perform a profoundly evil act, something truly vile, something that you will regret for the rest of your life.
    You will have to retain a souvenir of this act: perhaps an animal skull, perhaps a photograph.
    Then, you will not get fat.
    However, you will still die.
    Donuts suck.

  8. Before you die, you are all going to become fat.
    If you wish to avoid this fate, you will have to perform a profoundly evil act, something truly vile, something that you will regret for the rest of your life.
    You will have to retain a souvenir of this act: perhaps an animal skull, perhaps a photograph.

    There’s gotta be a website with a collection of these. A museum of “Objects of Dorian Grey.”

  9. Mad’s post #7 and Steve’s post #8 essentially nailed it for me and many, many others. Food is the most common mood-altering substance we all use.

    And you can’t go cold turkey from it.

  10. McQ, can I come live at your house?

    …I love healthy food. I prefer it to unhealthy food.

    …I hate cooking, and I am a lazy eater.

    …If there is healthy food that is in front of me and ready to eat, I go with that. If there is unhealthy food in front of me and ready to eat, I go with that.

  11. Morgan, all this week I’ve been lunching on kisir, which is Turkish Tabbouleh. It’s so healthy. It’s great cause you can make a batch at the beginning of the week. And then, when I am tempted to eat something, its already there. And you could come live with me any time.

    But I really want a doughnut. Or three.

  12. Personally, I’ve never dieted because I could never get past the first 24 hours of depravation. (I can’t eat what on this diet? Screw that!)

    However, I have decided that part of the problem with diets is that we don’t eat “real” food any more. We drink low-fat this and that instead of putting real cream in our coffee. We eat margarine instead of butter. And instead of treating soda like a treat, we treat it like a necessity.

    And don’t even get me started on corn syrup, American portion size, and anything with Olestra in it. (Sweet nattering Jesus, why would anyone eat something that could give them “anal leakage?”)

    When The Dude and I were in Europe a few years ago, I ate A LOT. Every day it was full fat yogurt, butter, cream, pastries, crepes, mmmmmmmm, you get the idea. And I lost weight during this eating extravaganza.

    So now I try to eat the way I did in Europe. Smaller portion size, but better food. And if I want a cookie, fuck it, I’m having a cookie.

    I love your “eat nutritionally dense foods” idea, Maureen. It’s difficult to get as much of what you need without them. I just wish broccoli wasn’t so damned good for you. The only way I can tolerate it is with a healthy dose of cheese sauce.

  13. Doug — My theory still is — If you’re at the top of the food chain, you should act like it. You eat the things that eat the plants. Make them do the unpleasant work.

    I will admit to having lettuce on my cheeseburgers, though.

  14. It’s immoral to eat anything that can’t run away. That having been said, eating those poor defenseless veggies, yum.

  15. Yep, Linda, I’ve read about that one. It makes sense to me in many ways, because we didn’t evolve having such plentiful calories and fat and sugar around us, and our survival drives, which cause us to gorge so that we can get through famine times, sabotages us terribly.

    I’ve done the ketosis diet, back when I was in my 20’s and feeling the need to lose about twenty pounds. It worked fine, with me eating lots of hamburger meat and peeing on the little stick that tells you whether you’re in ketosis. Enjoyed peeing on the stick and feeling rewarded when it changed color, and lost the weight without ever feeling deprived.

    Back at the beginning of this century, I lost almost 70 pounds. I did it by essentially cutting my caloric intake to about 40% of what it had been, for about 8 months.

    Didn’t control what sorts of food I ate or try to balance fruits and leafies or do meal plans or anything like that. I just ate much less. I also walked at least a half an hour a day, sometimes an hour.

    I felt great and strong and lean. I maintained the weight for a year or so, then let it slip away. Walking and not eating for comfort are practices that must be maintained, and the less you do them, the harder it is to get back to them. They must become habits for life, as has been mentioned above.

    As soon as I get this cast off, I start walking again.

    …One of my favorite bumper stickers: If God didn’t mean for us to eat animals, why did He make them out of meat?

    I respect the Vegans out there; they’re better people than me in an important way. But I’m a carnivore, awful as the implications may be, and I don’t think I’ll become enlightened enough to change that.

  16. Well said. I’ve been a big proponent of, “Whatever works for you, go for it.” It’s figuring out what works. I could reduce my caloric intake or eat vegan and lose weight, but felt like crap. Food allergies–gluten in particular–didn’t help either. Paleo was my nutritional satori. Perhaps there’s a genetic predisposition, being that I’m part native America. My body seems to prefer meat, vegies, fruit. I find also I recover quicker during and after exercise. Again, it works for me and makes sense.

  17. Steven left out the most important finding of the comparison of the four diets. The people on the Atkins diet experienced a significant healthy reduction in blood pressure. Searching the web I find that aspect of the study didn’t make it into most of the coverage.

    The other interesting result is that none of the participants did a good job of adhering to their particular diet plan.

    I’ve been on a low-carb (less than forty grams a day) diet for seven years. It works really well to help control my diabetes.

  18. Yeah on the poor adhering to the diets. Though one possible explanation for the the Atkins success was that it is the simplest of those diets, I heard. So easier to follow.

  19. I like the meat eating idea. I like the exercise idea. If we combined the hunting of the meat with the eating we’d get protein and exercise. Where did I put my hunting bow.

    Seriously, I eat meat, however, I think the proportion of vegetarians in modern society would quadruple if we had to kill and butcher the carcasses of the animals.

  20. I like the idea of the Paleodiet and the pointy stick thing. Problem is there are way too many things you can jab with a stick that is still bad for you. But in theory it still sounds like a winner to me.

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