6 Food Preparation Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle in a Food-Centered Culture

People often ask me what I eat.  There really is no short answer.  Instead, I have to explain that what I eat depends on what I’m doing.  It’s important to me to point this out because often people ask because what they really want is an example of what they should be eating.  And unless you’re dieting down to single digit bodyfat for a bodybuilding show, you should not be eating what I’m eating.  Or unless you are running and hiking triple digit mileage every month, you should not be eating what I’m eating.  Or unless you are a 5’1 mesomorph…ok, you get the point.  We all have different needs.

There are, however, a few things that I do on a competition diet that you can use.  This week I took a look at some of my habits and jotted them down.  I will now pass them on and call them “tips.”  I love blogging!

Tip #1: Don't get mad when you go to the store for yogurt and your significant other requests, as mine did, TWO COOKIES SANDWICHED AROUND A MOUND OF FROSTING AND DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE. It's too soon for a meltdown, so he's lucky...

  1. Invest in tupperware!  I love BPA free gladware.  It’s cheap, it’s light, it’s washable, and if it gets left in the fridge or in my cooler for too long….it’s also disposable.  It comes with me everywhere I go—I promise that if you run into me anywhere, I will probably have one in my purse!
  2. Pick one day a week to plan and prepare food for the upcoming week.  Use this time to make sure you have all of the ingredients for the dinners you plan to make, and make ahead any meals that you can.  Today I will cook 2.5 lbs of chicken and  prepare 2.5 cups of quinoa, just for daytime meals.  To prepare for this week’s dinners, I will  soak beans and thaw fish.
  3. So it’s Sunday and you’ve made five days’ worth of chicken and quinoa, but you know it’s only going to last three days in the refrigerator…FREEZE what you won’t eat until Wednesday.  I work full time now and I won’t have time to cook lunches in the middle of the week.  This method is saving my contest prep so far!
  4. Going back to tip #1: bring your food with you!  Today my family wanted pizza for dinner.  Pizza is not on my contest prep diet…so I have a few choices: I can give in to the temptation and eat pizza, I can sit and wallow in my misery, or I can bring my chicken and sweet potato (that I know wasn’t cooked in butter or heavily salted) with me and order a spinach salad.  I went with the latter option.  You don’t have to be preparing for a contest to make this work for you.  Most people could stick to a diet easily if they lived alone and didn’t have any reason to eat out.  But the reality is that lunch with co-workers, dinner with the family, and other social get-togethers involving food are a part of American culture.
  5. Cook out!  As I mentioned above, food-centered social occasions are a part of our lives that can often feel out of our control.  However, we have more control than we realize.  Today it came up that some friends wanted to get together for dinner, but I’m smack in the middle on contest prep!  So I threw out the idea of a backyard barbeque—I can bring chicken and maintain control over what I eat without calling a lot of attention to myself.
  6. Have a plan!  So what happens when your weekly meals get interrupted by factors out of your control?  Your refigerator stops working and all of your food spoils, or someone springs a dinner meeting on you that you weren’t prepared for…things come up.  Always know your options and have them built in as backup plans.  For instance, my go-to option is sashimi.  Most places serve brown rice.  I have brought a food scale and a measuring cup with me, but by now I’ve learned to eye it pretty well.  Whenever someone invites me to an impromptu lunch that I can’t get out of and at which pulling a baggy of chicken from my purse is inappropriate, I opt for a sushi restaurant when I can.  When all else fails, I have called ahead and explained to managers that I have extreme food allergies to salt, butter, gluten, and dairy.  I don’t recommend this unless you’re in a serious pinch!  But the point is, there is ALWAYS a way, even if you have to get creative.

If all else fails, opt for coffee!

Recipe of the day:  Quinoa (Keen-Wah)

A lot of people don’t know about quinoa, and it seems like many who do are intimidated by it.  If this is you, I’m here to help.

tip #1:  it’s pronounced like  “keen-wah” or “kin-wah”

tip #2:  rinse it first!

tip #3:  don’t rinse it in an ordinary strainer!  Use a fine mesh strainer or a coffee filter.  Mother nature loved quinoa so much she protected it with saponins, a bitter-tasting chemical designed to protect it from insects.  So unless you don’t mind the bitter taste, I recommend rinsing!

My recipe isn’t much of a recipe.  It’s basic cooking instructions with my own quick-and-easy flavor.

1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
fresh garlic, to taste (about 2 cloves is good to me)
red pepper, green pepper, or a combination of both
salt and pepper to taste

Honestly, when it comes to the veggies I put in it, I just use whatever I have in the fridge, which is often the odds and ends left over at the end of the week–a carrot or two, half a pepper or two, sometimes some celery or bits of onion or broccoli.  Just throw them in the food processor for a quick chop.  You can’t mess this up.

Yummmm veggie mush...

Heat oil or Pam cooking spray; add garlic and chopped vegetables and cook for about one minute.  Add quinoa, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 6 minutes, then cover and cook on low for about ten minutes or until water is absorbed.


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