Confessions of a Low-Maintenance Cook, Pt. 1

Otherwise titled as “Why I Don’t Post A Lot of Recipes.”

I’ll be the first to admit that most nights, I’m not exactly living it up in the kitchen. Most people I meet are a bit dumbfounded by this. You’re a dietitian though! Don’t you have your own vegetable garden (maybe someday), can your own salsa (nope), and make your own yogurt? (nope, but always wanted to try!) I consider myself a bit more “semi-homemade.” Not the Sandra Lee “Cocktail time!” and Kwanzaa Cake kind of Semi-Homemade, but more like meals that include various convenience ingredients and can be made in under 30 minutes. So maybe the good parts of Sandra Lee with a dash of Rachael Ray. I can almost hear Anthony Bourdain crying right now…

Working with my clients, I’ve learned that many feel the same way. While most more or less know what to do in terms of nutrition and have every intention of incorporating healthier routines into their lives, they’re just not doing it. Then we start to work on the why. Most of the time, it boils down to one simple reason: life gets in the way. There’s a lot of stuff to do and not enough time to do it. There’s work, school, children, animals, the list goes on and on, and what ends up happening is that the day gets away from us and we wind up over-eating or making poor choices mainly out of exhaustion, stress, or the dreaded “hanger.”

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One thing we focus on is letting go of the guilt of not having enough time in the day. Seriously. This is often the hardest part! Then, learn to embrace a simpler approach, and focus on being honest with yourself about what’s reasonable and what’s not. This is the hardest part! Take a good hard look at your goals, and your daily life, and figure out how to make it fit. It’s ok if your meals aren’t 100% from scratch. This dietitian won’t haunt your dreams if you buy a pre-made chicken, or *gasp* go through the drive-through. Let’s look at some of my go-to combinations:

Microwaveable brown rice + Rotisserie chicken + Frozen vegetables + lemon juice + pumpkin seeds

Whole wheat pasta + garbanzo beans + frozen spinach + jarred marinara sauce

Boxed, low-sodium chicken broth + Pre-cut mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) + (more) rotisserie chicken + diced, red potatoes

Brown rice noodles + frozen shrimp + pre-cut or frozen vegetable blend + Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce + chopped cashews 

Frozen turkey burgers + pre-washed mixed greens + sliced avocado + diced tomatoes + diced cucumber + balsamic vinaigrette

Pre-made pizza dough + jarred marinara sauce + diced low-sodium turkey breast + pre-chopped peppers + jarred olives + pre-washed spinach + pre-diced onion

For Part 2, I’ll share with you my favorite go-to brands and products (like those above) that have great nutritional stats, and also fit your budget. In the meantime, let me know some of your go-to, simple meals that keep you from turning in the Hanger Beast!

P.S My sister sent me this picture a while back on Snapchat (add me: eceegee). Sums up my approach quite nicely.

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Insta-Perfect & Tapping into Childhood

Back when my friend Rachel and I were planning our podcast, The Table Chat Show, we noticed quickly that we both shared the same childhood haircut. The same, straight-across the forehead bangs. The type of haircut that your mom gives you on the back porch, preferably shirtless, with one simple pair of scissors. I laughed so hard at this because it’s such a vivid memory. I can smell the scent of the strawberry, Suave shampoo, feel the water droplets running down my back, and hear my mom shouting at me to “HOLD STILL!”

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It’s simple memories like those that I hold near and dear to my heart. It’s also a haircut I’d rather soon forget. Thankfully I’ve moved passed those days, but it also reminded me of the carefree life of being a kid.

My childhood was far from gourmet and I’m ok with that. As my mom would also say, “you turned out JUST FINE.” We ate a lot of spaghetti, hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury crescent rolls, doctored up cake mixes with help from the actual Cake Mix Doctor, bologna sandwiches, fruit roll-ups, my German grandmother’s noodle kugel, Domino’s take-out specials, and meatloaf, so much meatloaf. I actually still eat some of those foods (meatloaf for life), I just put my own spin on them.

With the world of Instagram and all social media, it’s easy to get caught up thinking all of your meals need to be perfectly placed, perfectly portioned, and perfectly perf-perfect. Too many perfects. I think if my 4-year old self had an Instagram, I’d probably have pictures of my comic book collection and the Oreos I had as a snack (which actually sounds like the present version of my Instagram).

But what does “perfect” Instagram worthy eating really look like? For starters, there’s no such thing, and second, health looks different for everyone. Crescent roll wrapped hot dogs and noodle kugel included, there’s room for a lot of different food in the diet and to still be a “healthy” individual! What matters most, and I have to keep reminding my clients about this, is how we approach the day. Not everyday will be the same, and sometimes you’re not going to be in the mood for that salad you planned for dinner. So eat what you truly want, savor it, and move on with your life.

If you think back to when you were a kid, like me in the picture above, you didn’t care about diets and eating “perfectly.” You were, in that very moment, most likely happy with your life. You had pages to color, people to meet, and most of all, many new things to learn and place to explore. You didn’t have time to let negative thoughts cloud your brain. Your life was carefree. While we can’t transport ourselves back to childhood, take the time to tap into your inner-child from time to time.

+ Explore more. As adults, we tend to focus on learning to solve urgent problems. A child, on the other hand, doesn’t have pressing problems that need immediate solving. They’re focused on exploring possibilities and options. For adults, trying new things will make you think in different ways!

+ Be mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment, and children are naturally engaged and present with the world. They’re living and experiencing life as it is with whatever comes their way. Take some time each day to bring some mindfulness into your life, like paying attention to your breath. Even if it’s just for a minute. Take a walk and notice how your body moves – legs, feet, arms, muscles. Prepare a meal from start to finish, cutting, slicing, and dicing ingredients one by one.

+ Do something just for fun. Kids don’t have agendas, only unless they’re told to do something. They also just do things because they want to. When was the last time you did something for no good reason other than you just wanted to do it? Go treat yourself to a pedicure, go see a movie by yourself, or go enjoy that ice cream cone because you want to, and you’re a damn adult who doesn’t have to ask mom for money.

 

What I’ve Been Up To Lately: Spring Edition

It’s definitely been a busy past few months! I’ve actually been working on a lot of behind the scenes in addition to counseling my clients. One of those projects includes a new website! We’re still putting finishing touches, adding content, and adjusting the look and feel, but I’m so excited. It will have a lot more functionality and personalization not to mention more goodies for YOU. Last year when I launched this current site, I didn’t put much thought into the look and feel, as I wanted something simple to just broadcast my services, have the blog, and establish a presence. I’m all about that “just get started” life, otherwise my perfectionist tendencies get in the way. My husband, who has a pretty demanding day job, also just so happens to be my resident coder extraordinaire. I’m very happy with how things are coming together, and it’s looking like it will be completed by next month, June!

Besides a new website, I’m coming up on a year of working for myself which makes me feel all sorts of things. It’s been an incredibly challenging, stressful, life-changing journey, but I’m so happy I jumped on an opportunity that gave me the ability to set up my own practice. It’s also the time that I’ve started to reevaluate my goals I set when I first started. So far, so good! 2015-2016 was a time of exponential growth, both in my career and personally, and I’m feeling like the luckiest dietitian on the planet for the amazing clients I have working with me right now. There’s a lot of truth to the saying, the energy and good you put out comes right back to you!

Here’s what I’ve been up to this season so far:

+ Cooking a lot of simple, easy dishes and mostly vegetarian! For budget and health purposes, we made the switch to eating meat, poultry, or seafood only once a week. We’re definitely more lacto-ovo in that we still eat eggs and dairy products like cottage cheese or yogurt during the week. We’ve definitely noticed a difference in energy levels, our bank account, and overall attitude. When you go vegetarian-ish, you tend to eat more veggies. Imagine that! Our go-to meals have been lots of different variations of roasted chickpeas with brown rice, pasta dishes and “zoodles” with loads of veggies, whole-grain pizzas, veggie sandwiches, green smoothies, yogurt bowls, soups and salads, tofu tacos, and much, much more. Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing some of our fave meal combos!

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+ Listening to my new podcast collaboration, Table Chat, with my girl and fellow dietitian, Rachel Cassinat! She also writes the hilarious Food-ish Blog and has a great post on why we started ‘casting together which you can read here. We’re two episodes in, and have much more content on the way each week! Launching it has been a long-time coming, and we’d be so happy if you check it out over on iTunes and our website, The Table Chat Show. I’ve also added a picture with a link to our iTunes page over on my sidebar for easy access.

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+ Reading lots of web articles like this one on why you should always “flat pack” your suitcase, this one on intermittent fasting (it can work for some), this one one that reminds me of my own meticulous German grandmother, and Padma Lakshmi’s new book, “Love, Loss, and What We Ate.” I picked up her book at CherryBombe Jubilee last month because I knew she’d be doing a signing as you can see in the picture above. I finished half the book on the flight home and have been reading little bits here and there right before bed. More often than not, I fall asleep before getting very far (because I’m lame) which is why it’s taking me forever to finish, even though the book is excellent! Padma intertwines the most beautiful stories of her childhood, combined with favorite recipes, tales of her intriguing and sometimes tumultuous romantic life, how she got her start in modeling, Top Chef, and her lifelong struggle with endometriosis. Girl crush even bigger now!

 

+ Moving around however I can, whenever I can. It’s taken me about a year to get back in the groove with consistent exercise after completing my dietetic internship. Who would’ve thought that focusing on the health of others could lead you to forget about your own health? This is not the case for most people, but I find that when I have an exercise plan, it often backfires. It might have to do with that rebellious side I talked about last month. Instead, I’ve been focusing on getting activity in throughout the day, briskly walking/jogging with my dog for 30-40 minutes each morning at the crack of dawn, and doing some type of strength/high intensity interval training 3-4 times a week. Somehow this relaxed approach to choosing the types of exercise I want to do vs feeling forced into something has been very refreshing and helpful. I’m feeling great, noticing some long-forgotten tone in my arms, abs, and legs, and have much more energy. Lately, my favorite workouts include any of the Barre3 online workouts, Kettlebell videos, and kickboxing. I love me some YouTube!

Let me know what you’ve been cooking, listening to, reading, and how you’ve been moving this month in the comments below!