Foods

Hunger

I was reading posts in a group on facebook that supports people trying to lose weight and become more healthy. It is based on the weight loss story of Brian Flemming. It’s a closed group, but they do take pretty much all comers. You can find the group here.

As I was reading today a topic was raised that has come up many times before – hunger. The person was asking how people who have been successful at losing weight have dealt with hunger. She said she could probably eat 6,000 calories in a day, and still be hungry.

I know how she feels, I was that way once as well. When you are in a cycle of overeating, you lose track of what hunger really is. Your body starts to crave certain foods, and your brain mistakes that for hunger. Foods with the right combinations of fat, salt and sugar are even engineered in such a way to feed into that craving, and actually make it increase. There is a great book called The End of Overeating by doctor David Kessler that goes into great detail about this phenomenon..

All the talk about hunger got me thinking. I didn’t read the book until I was 8 months into my journey, but by then I had adjusted my thinking on food, I had beaten hunger. How did I do it?

What I said on that group, and what I will say here is that I learned to be comfortable with a hunger feeling. At first it was very difficult, but over time I was able to reset my brain and how I think about being hungry, until I actually looked forward to the feeling. What I shunned was the feeling of being stuffed, and instead I embraced a slight hunger pang in my belly.

I am now at the point where if I finish a meal, and still feel a little hungry, I consider it a victory.  That slight hunger is my body telling my brain that it’s got enough fuel, and it is good to go.

For all of us looking to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, getting back in touch with what hunger really is, and separating it from a craving to over eat, is essential. True hunger is the body telling us it needs fuel. But when that feeling makes us want to overeat, it is a different kind of craving altogether.

As I am writing this post, it is about 6:45pm. I finished eating dinner (blackened tilapia, grilled asparagus, and a leafy salad) about 20 minutes ago. I feel slightly hungry right now, and I am totally fine with it. In fact, I am happy about it.Later this evening I will treat myself to a cup of grapes while I relax with a book or watch some TV.

If you are struggling with hunger, try this. Try learning to enjoy that feeling a little. Portion out a meal that is appropriate. Once you have eaten it, sit for a while and listen to what your body is telling you. If you still feel slightly hungry, let that feeling sink in.

I promise, you won’t die of starvation with that slight hunger feeling. And, the more you can embrace it, and the more you learn to listen to what your body really needs not just what your emotions want, the sooner you will be able to slay the hunger beast.

I’ve been doing some cooking

A few weeks back my wife was really under the weather. As a result, I was in charge of all meals. Rather than making runs to carry out places, I decided to increase my skills at cooking.

I have done my share of cooking in the past. There are the traditional barbecues on our grill on the patio to be sure, but I’ve done more than just that. Because I was in Boy Scouts, and later was a Boy Scout leader, I did pick up other cooking skills as well. I can cook most anything I set my mind to at camp.

Now, let me make this clear. My wife is a far superior cook to me, and I will never have her skill level. That said, I can hold my own.

Now that she is back healthy, I am keeping on with sharing the cooking chores. Last night we decided that a grilled chicken salad was in order. Over the weekend we’d put together a great salad of greens, cucumber, tomato, carrot and onion. All we needed to do was add a protein.

Rather than just grill the chicken breast, I decided to try something a little more fun. 20150309_170442We have been using the Louisiana Cajun Blackening spice on our fish for some time. (In fact, that is one of the dishes I recently added to my repertoire). While we were on a trip to New Orleans, my wife picked up the bottle of Louisiana’s Pure Crystal Hot Sauce. I decided to find out what would happen if I combined the two.

For this dish, I selected a cast iron skillet. First I coated the boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken breast with the blackening seasoning, then I sprinkled on a generous portion of the hot sauce. Once it was on the griddle, I did the same to the other side. Here is how it looked:

 

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I used a fairly high heat, and cooked the two pieces for about 6 minutes on the first side. When I turned them, they looked like this:

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After another 6 minutes, I wasn’t sure that the breasts were completely done, so I sliced them and put them back on the grill for another minute just to make sure. Here is me taking a selfie while cooking. As you can see, I have my game face on.

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Once it was all done, it was time to assemble the salad. My wife had the honors to go first.

20150309_173309And here is how my salad looked as a finished product.

20150309_173320This is a very low-point salad. All of the greens, tomato, cucumber and onions are zero point. The seasoning and hot sauce add no points to the chicken, so it ends up being about a point per ounce. I put about 5 ounces on my salad. To finish it, I added Frank’s Red Hot Sauce instead of salad dressing, so the sum total of my salad was 6 points.

I went back for seconds on the greens and such, and also coated that with Frank’s. So, I ended up with a 6 point, very filling, hearty meal. My wife said she loved the taste of the chicken, so it is a keeper as well.

I am also not Rachael Ray, but I did accomplish that meal in less than 30 minutes.

Bobby-C’s Restaurant Survival Guide – Texas Roadhouse

As I am progressing through the restaurants for this guide, I am initially choosing those where I frequently eat. I started with Applebee’s, and continued with Ruby Tuesday. For this week’s installment I decided to check out Texas Roadhouse.

My family goes to this chain often. We enjoy the steaks, salads, and side dishes. The atmosphere is usually quite fun, and we always have a great time. It seemed a natural next place to do an analysis of, and to create a guide for Weight Watchers like me to help with making sound choices.

Imagine, then, my dismay when I could not find their nutrition guide on line. Instead I found this blurb:

Thank you for contacting us regarding our nutritional information. At this time, we offer calorie counts in the menu section of our website next to each menu item.

We can assure you that we are cognizant of the demand from guests such as yourself to provide more detailed nutritional information, but there are several factors that make this difficult.

Many of the large foodservice companies that offer specific nutritional information can do so because their food is pre-packaged and/or pre-portioned. Since we make our food from scratch — including the bacon bits, croutons, and dressings — it is next to impossible to provide exact nutritional information because of slight variations that depend upon whomever prepares the food.

We also make our bread from scratch each day and hand-cut our steaks, so again, we do not have the exact information printed, like some food service operators or what you may find in the grocery store.

We have attempted to provide some information in the past, but we pulled back after some guests complained we were not detailed enough. In addition, some enterprising folks tested the food, and when it fell outside the guidelines, they threatened legal action. As such, we stopped providing our special gluten-free menu, for example.

Sorry, but I think this is a cop out. Basically, they are saying “It’s too hard, but trust us, it’s all good.” I am sorry, but that just doesn’t cut it for me. While I can look up the points associated with various cuts of steak or pork, and try to estimate the values for their servings, I am left guessing when it comes to how things are prepared. What is in the broccoli? How is the rice prepared? What point values are there with the bread?

Their blurb makes it seem as though there could be great variability when dining in one Texas Roadhouse compared to another. But, my experience tells me that isn’t the case. I’ve eaten in 5 or 6 of their locations, and have found things like their side dishes, bread and appetizers to be remarkably similar. In fact, I would venture to guess that it is all identically the same from place to place.

Panera Bread (which I will analyze in a future post), bakes their bread fresh every day, at each location. Yet they are still able to provide detailed information on their food. Same for many other restaurants.

It really makes me wonder what they are hiding at Texas Roadhouse.

I tried the link they provided called “Recipes”, thinking I could glean their ingredient list. Nope.

On their menu they provide calories, but nothing else. With all the alleged variability in their cooking process, one is left to wonder what the value would be of these calorie counts.

So, where does this leave me? Since I started this journey toward better health, I have tried to become a more informed consumer of food. I realize that many, local restaurants don’t have the resources to provide detailed nutrition information for their menu, and I am willing to live with that limitation. But when it comes to a chain, like Texas Roadhouse, that excuse just doesn’t cut it for me.

I have decided that I am going to be avoiding Texas Roadhouse until they can get their act together to provide nutrition information that can help inform my choices while dining there. Perhaps you will want to do the same.

On their site it was hard to find a place to leave a comment, but I did find the email address for their Director of Public Relations. Here is the info:

Travis Doster
Director of Public Relations
6040 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, KY 40205
Phone:  502.426.9984
Fax:  502.515.7260
travis.doster@texasroadhouse.com

When this post is published, I am going to be sending a link, along with an email about my displeasure at their lack of information. Honestly, I have no expectations that it will matter, but I will be letting them know that I am making a conscious, healthy choice to dine elsewhere until they publish their nutrition information.

Bobby-C’s Restaurant Survival Guide – Ruby Tuesday

Last week I published a post called Beware the wolf in salad’s clothing. In that post I broke down the salad choices that are on the menu at Applebee’s, and found some eye-opening facts. While I was working on that post I decided that it would be good to create a series on restaurants. Over the past week I’ve decided that this series will be called “Bobby-C’s Restaurant Survival Guide.” For this week’s installment, I am going to look at the menu for Ruby Tuesday.

Since starting my Journey toward better health, my wife and I have become regulars at the Ruby Tuesday near our home. Initially we went there because we received a coupon in the mail. The restaurant has been in our neighborhood for quite a few years, but it hadn’t really popped up on our radar. With coupon in hand we went in. Once there, we were reminded that Ruby Tuesday features a well-stocked salad bar, which meant that I had plenty of opportunity to tailor a salad to my liking. I’ll talk more about their salad bar below.

What we also found was that they had a menu that seemed to have plenty of diet-friendly choices. Until this week I hadn’t taken a disciplined look at that menu, but I have now, and it turns out my instincts were correct.

Ruby Tuesday’s menu features two different categories of choices that can both be very diet friendly; The Fit & Trim Choices, and the Smart Eating Choices. One quick word before going into details. Ruby Tuesday does not provide information on how much sugar is in their dishes. This isn’t part of their nutrition guide. I have left that out of this discussion only because the data was not available. With that said, here is the chart for the Fit & Trim Choices on their menu

ruby tuesday fit and trimThe first thing to note is that this menu does tend to have a lot of sodium, some dishes more than others. I highlighted the Chicken Bella in yellow, because it is close to the maximum daily amount suggested for an adult of my age. Also, the Petite Parmesan Shrimp Pasta is actually over that 1,500mg limit for the day. If you suffer from hypertension, you should choose carefully from this menu.

On the plus side, the menu is full of choices that are low in Weight Watchers points. No dish exceeds 16 points. I have had several of the dishes from this menu, and my wife has had others. We can both attest that they are well prepared and tasty.

In addition to the Fit and Trim menu, there are also the Smart Eating Choices.

ruby tuesday smart eatingHere again, there are a few dishes that are very high in sodium, but overall there are fewer than on the F&T menu. One interesting thing I noted is that while Chicken Bella appears on both lists, it has different values. When ordered as a Smart Eating Choice, there are fewer calories, less fat, and less carbohydrate. Also, there are fewer Weight Watcher’s Points. I have had the Chicken Bella, but I honestly don’t know from which menu it came. The difference is 3 WW points, which isn’t huge to me (my daily allowance is 45 points). But for someone smaller than me, or a woman, both of whom could have a significantly lower daily allotment of points, the difference would be more substantial.

My favorite dish on this menu is the Blackened Tilapia. In fact, our regular waitress knows that this is most often my go-to choice in the menu. It’s well seasoned, and well prepared. It is a single filet of tilapia. There are no sauces added to it, so the 5 points matches the amount allocated in the Weight Watchers App.

Remember, when calculating points for the meal you have to include the entree as well as the side dishes. As I said, one of the things I really like about Ruby Tuesday is the salad bar. It features a wide variety of items that can be put on the salad. It starts with field greens and spinach, in addition to ice berg lettuce. I prefer to have my salad with plenty of spinach and field greens. Then there is a nice variety of things like tomato, broccoli, cucumber, and more. The only topping in the first 2/3 of the bar that has points associated with it is peas. Toward the end of the bar there is shredded cheese, croutons, chopped bacon (actual, real bacon), and more. There are also some prepared salads that have mayo in them. I tend to avoid those. Finally, there are the dressings. Here is the nutrition information for their dressings:

ruby tuesday dressings and saucesI included some of the other sauces as well for your reference. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I avoid almost all salad dressing. I prefer something like Frank’s Red Hot Sauce when making salads at home. When I am at Ruby Tuesday, I opt for the bottle of Balsamic Vinegar at the end of the bar, which I sprinkle on. There are 0 points in Balsamic vinegar. I know that many people don’t like salad without dressing, so I have provided the stats.

One thing to note, which I found very interesting. The difference between Ranch Dressing and Lite Ranch Dressing is negligible. Both end up at 2 Weight Watchers Points per ounce. What the Lite Ranch saves in fat, it makes up for in Carbs. So, beware of that little glitch.

For those of you interested, I have included here the prepared salads and combos that you can order from the menu

ruby tuesday salads and combosAs you can see, most of these combos are a nightmare when it comes to sodium. Also, they tend to be high on Weight Watcher’s points. For my money, and for my allocation of points, they don’t really cut it.

In conclusion, I am not making it much of a secret that I really like Ruby Tuesday. I think they provide a menu that is rich in foods that support my weight loss and overall fitness goals. And, with their clean, well-stocked salad bar, they give me the option to tailor my meal to my needs.

35 points for a salad?!? Are you #*&@ing kidding me?

Last night I had dinner with a friend. Our wives were playing BUNCO at my house so I needed to get away.

After some discussion we decided on Applebee’s. When we got there we found a pepper crusted sirloin that was only 350 calories. Sadly, they were out of it. I perused the menu and opted for the Oriental Chicken Salad.

I didn’t check the Weight Watchers  points for it before ordering. It’s a salad for crying out loud, how bad could it be?

THIRTY FIVE POINTS!!! That’s how bad.

Needless to say, I went over for the day. It’s one day and certainly not the end of the world, but it did serve as a reminder. Just because they call it a salad doesn’t make it healthy.

I will Remer to check the Weight Watchers app next time.

Interesting article I found on healthy eating for children

Last week I was cruising around the internet reading various articles about healthy eating and weight loss. I was inspired by a blog post in Kassie’s blog about how  losing weight is only part of the journey. I was thinking through the other aspects of becoming more healthy. I was reading I came across an article at fieldsofflavor.com called “7 Mistakes Parents Make Feeding Their Children.”

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The article is a good read, and one that I think all parents should have a look at. But, I also think there are some lessons for we adults who are struggling to get our weight under control. As I was reading it, I thought about some of the attitudes I have about food that were created and nurtured in me in my youth.

When I was a child, it was not acceptable for me to leave the dinner table with food on my plate. My mom refused to ever make anything special for me that wasn’t what others were eating, but I did have to eat what was made for dinner. Like any child I had certain foods I didn’t like, but for me it was more about portions. I had to stay until all was done, even if I wasn’t hungry anymore. Sadly, we put that same onus on our children when they were young as well. I have seen other parents allow their children to leave with food still on the plate, and it always plucked a chord for me. I wanted to see them have the same rules I had, after all, they worked for me, right? Of course ignoring the fact that I was thinking that I was morbidly obese, and couldn’t begin to see the link.

It is healthy to leave food behind. In my journey I have been taking smaller portions, but in restaurants they typically send out the full plate. It has taken some time, but I am becoming more comfortable with either leaving food on the plate, or taking some home for a future meal.

What things in this article speak to you about your food habits and how they are affecting your journey to better health?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny find on Reddit that speaks to us all

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The other day I was bored and was looking around on Reddit in the humor section. This picture caught my eye. I apologize that I can’t find it now to credit the original poster. The caption that went with it was that a friend’s daughter was using this book as her food journal. The saying on the front is what sold it to me.

How often do I find myself snacking because I am hungry? The answer is that it is pretty rare. Usually when I am snacking it is because I am, or as this picture suggests, my stomach is bored. In my experience, snacks are a main cause of overeating. Even when I was at my largest, it wasn’t usually the meals that did me in, it was the stuff in between.  It was the Kit Kat bars, the quick trips for $.99 menu at McDonalds, the bucket of nuts, and so on. True, I did still consume a lot of points at meals as well, and that is under control now, but what was really sealing the deal was the snacking.

Today my snacking is done with zero, or very low point foods. Here are some examples:

  • 1 oz of nuts – works out to about 1/4 cup. It doesn’t look like a lot when I pour and measure them, but they pack 5 points. Usually enough to get me from lunch to dinner when dinner might be late
  • Fresh fruit – depending on what is in season, a peach, orange, apple, banana, clump of grapes and so on fit the bill. I will sometimes have these instead of the nuts after work, or later in the evening to replace dessert
  • Fresh cut vegetables – we try to keep a plastic tub of cut carrots and celery in the fridge at all times. A quick handful has no points, and satisfies the need to chew as well
  • Skinny Pop popcorn – you can buy the full size bag and measure a bowl, or buy the 100 calorie bags. For either one, try adding some Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. If you like hot sauce, you will thank me later for this idea that I got from my son.

There are other things that I snack on from time to time, and I will continue to post lists in the future.

Bottom line for me is knowing the difference between hunger and boredom, and knowing that 5 points is enough for one snack.