A Farewell to Carbs

A 30-something navigating the world of Type 2 Diabetes while remaining fun, fashionable and fabulous.

Taking stock 01/26/2012


If you don’t have it, you can’t eat it.

That’s one of the Weight Watchers mantras. When I first heard it at a meeting last week, I took it to mean that if you didn’t have the bag of chips or the box of chocolates in the house, you wouldn’t be tempted.

I joined WW about seven years ago and had a lot of success with it. I lost 75 pounds in about a year. I gained it all back, of course, as soon as I stopped going to WW meetings. I joined again last Tuesday because I had to admit to myself that I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing in terms of how many calories I was supposed to eat or how many calories I was actually consuming. WW makes everything fairly easy by converting nutritional values into “points” and then giving everyone a points value to hit every day.

Getting back to the point of this post, I had forgotten how  much planning went into the first couple of weeks of WW. Just planning a day’s worth of eating to make sure you’re staying within your points but not eating them before noon is exhausting at first. I spent large chunks of time last week contemplating committing armed robbery at fast food restaurants, but instead of making off with the cash drawers, I’d be demanding burgers and fries. (I decided against it after realizing I’d have some horrible nickname. Leave your suggestions in the comments. Best one will win a prize as yet to be determined.)

Back to the point again! As I acclimate to life on the WW plan, I came to realize that the mantra means more than “don’t keep tempting foods around.” It also means keeping healthy foods around for easy, healthy meals and snacks.

Because I was a former weight watcher, I haven’t lost the habit of buying certain healthy foods at the store and keeping them around to build meals. Here’s a few suggestions:

PANTRY

I think I’ve mentioned my obsession with Trader Joe’s. We don’t have one in my little corner of Pennsylvania (someone get ON THAT PLEASE!) but when I visit my folks in Virginia, I always go over and stock up. I usually get two boxes of Trader Joe’s brand Whole Wheat Couscous, which I use like brown rice. It takes literally 5 minutes to make. I also pick up a couple of sauces to add zip to meat and veggies. Among my favorites are the green curry simmer sauce, satay peanut sauce and pesto sauce. None of the three are what you would consider low-cal or low-fat, but used in moderation, they all fit into my eating plan. I usually also have some jarred spaghetti sauce, one that is low-salt and has no added sugar or fat, on hand.

Additionally, I pick up a couple of BIG bags of lower-carb trail mix when it’s on sale at Target or the grocery store and then portion it out into single servings with my trusty kitchen scale. I also have mini-bags of microwave popcorn (again, read nutrition labels carefully) for night-time snacks. Quick-cooking oats, Minute brand brown rice and whole wheat pasta round out my pantry basics. All three are high in fiber, which bring down their net carb content, and are easy to cook.

A quick note: With the exception of the TJ’s items, most of the pantry staples go on sale once a month or so. I stock up when they’re on sale, or find a coupon, to bring the cost down a little. I buy the Sunday paper each week and go through the grocery store sale circulars and the glossy coupons circulars and plan my meals and “stock up trips” around what’s on sale. A little planning and the store club cards usually saves me $500+ a year.

FREEZER

I buy family packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they go on sale. Then I separate them out into packs of two in freezer bags (make sure you write the date on the freezer bag!). Then I can pull out one bag for each meal. Ditto on ground beef, steak and pork — wait until they’re on sale, portion it out at home and then fill your freezer with a month’s worth of meat.

I also buy frozen veggies, usually the kind you can steam in the bag but with no added fat or sugar. In addition to using these in stir fry dinners, I also can heat some up and eat them as a snack with a little pesto or cheese. Frozen edamame (the kind still in the pod) is a delicious snack. Heat it up and shake some low-sodium soy sauce on them to add a little more flavor.

Deli flats, small pitas and low-cal, high-fiber English muffins can stand in for toast, be used as a base for mini-pizzas or sandwiches or even as a snack with some hummus. I keep them frozen and just pull one out at a time. Twenty seconds in the microwave should defrost them, and then I toast them or stick them in the oven to warm ’em up.

I also buy sugar-free popsicles — usually fudgesicles and the cherry-grape-orange ones — as a sweet treat. It’s not the same as ice cream, but it’s often a decent substitute.

Finally, I keep a couple of frozen diet meals around. I know they’re high in sodium and they don’t taste as good as a homemade meal. But if it’s really busy at work, a Lean Cuisine can help me stick to my eating plan.

FRIDGE

I usually pick up some apples and a grapefruit because they have a longer shelf-life than more delicate fruits (like peaches and strawberries). Since I’m REALLY REALLY picky about fruit  (I will not eat fruit that’s the least bit squishy or brown. I know how weird it is), staying fresh for more than a few days is a good selling point.

I also buy a bag of lettuce mix for quickie salads and a bag of spinach, which does really well as an omelette filling. Sliced mushrooms (also for omelettes), roma tomatoes and a big bag of baby carrots are also regularly occurring cast members in my produce drawer.

Finally, I keep a bottle of low-sodium soy sauce and a bottle of minced garlic in the fridge, as well as some bottled sparkling water, a couple of containers of Greek yogurt and some low-cal string cheese.

And that’s about it, in terms of what I *ALWAYS* have in the house. I replenish these as I use them, so the spaghetti sauce might need to be replaced once a month or every other month. Fruit and veggies get used up faster, as does the chicken, the string cheese and (sadly) the popsicles.

Keeping a well-stocked pantry takes away some of the difficulty of planning a meal. Because (say it with me!) you can’t eat what you don’t have.

Your turn: What’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer?

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Finding some friends 01/19/2012


I want to thank all of you readers for stopping by and listening to my musings about health, eating, working out and living life as a young diabetic. I appreciate especially the comments and likes. It’s nice to know I’m not just typing from a black hole in space.

One blog I’ve discovered through the comments is Diabetic in Denial, whose author is so similar to me and my experiences it’s scary. I hope she’ll continue to post about her successes and setbacks. It helps to read about someone who is in the same boat.

I’ve also really been enjoying Fat Chick Fed Up, especially a recent post about how much success she and her husband have enjoyed on the scales. She’s been an inspiration to me, and I wish her all the best.

Finally, Mindful Eating Mama has a lot of very thoughful posts about eating. Her post on keeping a food journal and not writing down the “bad food” she eats — like it won’t count if it’s not put to paper — is something I do ALL THE TIME.

Your turn: Are there any other health/fitness blogs out there that I shouldn’t miss?

 

Human Guinea Pig*: Greek yogurt dip 01/16/2012


*An occasional feature wherein Diabetic Diva reviews products that purport to help with a healthy lifestyle. She receives no compensation or sponsorship for these reviews. Curious about a product? Suggest one by e-mailing Diabetic Diva at diabetic.diva79@gmail.com.

I was at the grocery store the other day, stocking up on fresh produce to nibble on during the week when I saw a new dip. No, not a dorky guy feeling up the out-of-season peaches! A new creamy concoction near the bags of mixed lettuce.

Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know I like dunking things into sauces. Apples in peanut butter, carrots and celery into spicy ranch, tortilla chips into warm, cheesy spinach artichoke dip,  chicken wings and (imagine me making Homer Simpson-like noises) ….

Ahem! OK, getting back to the topic at hand. The new dip. Yes. I’m a big fan of Marzetti’s southwestern ranch dip for my veggies, but it’s pretty high in calories.

So when I spied their new line of greek yogurt veggie dips called Otria, I was intrigued. With 60 calories and 2 grams of carbs for the spinach artichoke variety, it isn’t such a bad choice.

And it tastes pretty good, too. I tried it with the classic carrot sticks and also with some whole wheat pita triangles. There’s a definite tang that you get with greek yogurt, and it’s a little watery. I was a little weirded out by egg yolk and fish oil listed in the ingredients, too.

Rating: 3 stars out of a possible 4.

Cost: About $3 for an 8.75-ounce package, which has about 8 servings.

For more information: http://www.marzetti.com/products/marzetti/product.php?bc=44&cid=65.

 

When multitasking goes bad 01/12/2012


I think I’ve found a goal for next month already: Ending my habit of multi-tasking eating.

You know what this is: When you eat lunch at your desk so you don’t miss that important phone call or so you can catch up on e-mail. Eating breakfast while reading the paper. Mindless snacking while watching TV. Wolfing down dinner while driving somewhere.

We all lead busy lives. But my multitasking eating habits have gotten so bad, sitting down in front of the TV or curling up with a book triggers the urge to eat. I’m not even hungry, but I find myself with my head in my carbohydrate cabinet, trying to find the cheddar popcorn.

Well, some new research shows that people who savor their food — really concentrate on it while eating it — eat less. And it makes sense. Instead of plowing through the bag of chocolate while watching a DVD, letting it melt in your mouth slowly while you concentrate on the flavors will likely leave me feeling more satisfied. And, as we know from years of prevailing wisdom, it takes the brain about 20 minutes to catch up to the stomach when it comes to feeling full.

If I think about it, I can’t remember what my bagel and cream cheese tasted like this morning. I grabbed it on my way in to work and began eating as I made a to-do list that stretched onto two pages.  No wonder I was hungry an hour later.

So I think I’m going to stop and really focus on what I’m putting in my mouth when I eat something. I’ll put it on a plate and eat it at a table, with no distractions to divert me from the taste, texture and smell of the food. I deserve to enjoy what I’m eating, and I deserve to take a short break to nourish my body.

Your turn: Do you eat while doing other things? What are some strategies you use to curb this habit?

 

Single and satisfied 01/11/2012


Before you read this post, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBko_3wT44Q

OK. Welcome back. Can we talk for a moment about how much I hate most 100-calorie packs? They’re bullshit. There’s, like, 10 tiny wafers in there that taste nothing like actual Oreos or Nutter Butters. They don’t satisfy my hunger. If anything, eating one of them makes me want to break into the nearest vending machine and clean it out of snack cakes.

Plus, a box of 100-cal packs are, like, eight times the price of a package of Oreos. The thrifty side of me rebels every time I consider buying a package.

See, 100-cal packs operate under the principle that people can’t control themselves enough to refrain from eating half a bag of chips at one sitting. Or, if you want to be kinder about it, they operate under the principle that that people don’t know what a serving size looks like. Honestly though, if a serving size is a 100-cal pack, I kinda want to jump off a very tall building.

But what if you just opened that bag of chips (or that package of Oreos or whatever your treat of choice is) and portioned it out into single servings right away? It’s cheaper, takes only a couple of minutes and is tailored toward your tastes. And for anyone who thinks “But I’d just eat several DIY single servings  in one  sitting,” I say this: You could do the same thing with 100-cal packs. In fact, I’ve done it with 100-cal packs. (It was a moment of desperation. STOP JUDGING ME!)

So here’s how you do it. At the store, check out the nutrition facts on the treat you’re thinking of getting intimate with and decide whether the serving size is something you can live with. If not, put it back on the shelf and back away slowly.

If so, buy it and bring it home. Don’t be scared. Just get out your trusty scale, measure out single servings and then package it up.

As an example: We don’t have a Trader Joe’s store anywhere near where I live (can someone from TJ’s get on that, please? I sent the petition in to open a store in Scranton, PA months ago!). So when I visit my family in Virginia, I usually stock up on a couple of things I really like. One thing I always buy is Trader Joe’s trail mixes.

Trail mixes are good snacks for me because they’re packed with protein from the nuts. They can be high in carbohydrates, though, both through the dried fruit and from the extras like chocolate chips or M&Ms. So before I buy, I check the nutrition facts and find a mix with 13 carbs or less per 1/4 cup.

When I get it home, I break out my trusty kitchen scale and start portioning out servings.  Then I pour each serving into a snack-sized plastic baggie (which are smaller than the sandwich-sized baggies, so it looks like there’s more food in them!) and then label it with the calories, fat, protein and carbs of what’s inside. Tada! Instant, DIY single-serving packs you can grab for your lunchbox or as a midnight snack.

An aside: Most nutrition facts have both an ounce or grams as serving size as well as an approximate measurement in teaspoons, cups, etc. I’ve found that portioning it out in grams or ounces is much more accurate. Food scales can be found online and in stores for a $15 or so. Invest in one and find the zen in knowing exactly how much you’re eating.

Your turn: What’s your favorite treat? Have you ever tried portioning it out ahead of time so you don’t have to be tempted each time you open the bag?

 

Smart snacking 01/10/2012


Right now, I’m sitting at the computer trying to make it another 45 minutes before putting something in my mouth. I really, really want chocolate or maybe a cupcake (OK, OK, I want both). I’ll probably end up having some carrot sticks and hummus, since I’m committed to this getting healthy thing.

Visions of red velvet cupcakes dancing through my head got me thinking about the whole emotionally-fraught world of  snacking. And I remembered that I found this quiz to ascertain whether you are a “smart snacker.” The quiz, from the very useful site SparkPeople.com (which some big important magazine once called “Facebook for dieters”), is interesting but not because it actually gives you useful information on whether you are, in fact, a smart snacker. I think anyone taking the quiz probably already knows the answer to that — and that the answer is not “Yes.”

What’s interesting to me about this quiz is that it is so freakin’ obvious what the RIGHT answer is and just as obvious what your ACTUAL answer is. Here’s a sample:

When you crave something sweet, what do you usually do?

0 Nothing. I don’t eat sugary foods.

0 Go for a piece of fresh fruit.

0 Chew on a piece of fruity, sugar-free gum

0 Search for candy, cookies, chocolate — anything to satisfy my sweet tooth!

Ummmm, yeah. If your answer is the first one, go away. You don’t belong here. You’re not human! (Kidding. Good for you if it’s the first answer. But I will need to cut you to see if you bleed.) The correct answer, if you want to be a smart snacker, is the second or third option. But the fourth option is pretty much my answer, up until a few days ago.

It’s hard to choose the right answer when you’re smack in the middle of a craving for cake slathered in cream-cheese frosting. Making bad food choices is a habit. It’s something I’m used to doing. And that habit has gotten me to where I am today — more than 75 pounds overweight and diabetic.

Habits can be replaced, of course. And that’s what I’m trying to do by setting two goals a month. Slowly putting in place new habits, good habits to replace the old, unhealthy ones.

Your turn: Are you a smart snacker? What are your stumbling blocks and what strategies can you put in place to change your bad habits into good ones?

 

What’s cooking: Eggplant-portobello chili 01/08/2012

Filed under: cooking,strategies — Diabetic Diva @ 7:37 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Because I’m a busy, single girl, I try to cook one or two dishes on Sunday and eat the leftovers for a few days. This cuts down on the time I spend in the kitchen during the week — leaving room for hitting the gym, hanging out with friends and, of course, working. And having meals in the fridge, prepackaged and waiting for me helps curb the temptation to stop at a fast-food place for a quickie dinner or lunch.

Tonight, I made one of my favorite go-to recipies: Eggplant-Portobello Chili. And because it uses a slow-cooker, I can dump it all in and forget about it until I get home tonight. The recipe comes from the Weight Watchers Slow Good Super Slow-Cooker Cookbook, which might be out of print but can be found used in a bunch of places.

One note: This recipe appears to have a pretty high carbohydrate count — 51 grams a serving. BUT! There’s 13 grams of fiber, which can be subtracted from the total, meaning there’s actually 38 net carbs. That’s much more reasonable, but obviously follow the directions of your nutritionist or doctor about the amount of carbs you should be eating at each meal.

What you’ll need:

1 (1-pound) eggplant, peeled and diced

1 and 1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 large onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 poblano chile pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 pound of sliced portobello mushroom caps

14 and 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes in sauce

8 oz can of tomato sauce (no salt added)

15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 and 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder

1 and 1/2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons of cornmeal

1/4 cup of light sour cream

1. Sprinkle eggplant with salt and place in a colander. Put a plate on top of eggplant and weight it with a large can. Let the eggplant drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze eggplant of excess liquid with hands or clean kitchen table. (This step is not necessary if you’re using small eggplants, which do not usually get as bitter as large ones do.)

2. Place onion, bell pepper, chile pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, brown sugar, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker; mix well. With the back of a spoon, gently press the vegetables down so they form an even layer. Place the eggplant on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cooker. Cover and cook until vegetables are fork-tender, about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

3. About 20 minutes before cooking time is complete, gradually stir the cornmeal into the slow cooker until blended. Cover and cook on high until thickened, about 15 minutes. Serve with sour cream.

Servings: 4 (about 1 and 3/4 cup each, with 1 tablespoon of sour cream)

Nutrition per serving:

Calories: 271

Fat: 4 g

Cholesterol: 6 mg

Sodium: 587 g

Carbs: 51 g

Fiber: 13 g

Protein: 9 g