By Maria Schulz
Recently, I started trying to get more fruits and vegetables into my everyday eating rotation. This may be a no brainer for most people, but it took some getting used to for me.
Did someone say pizza?
I’ll admit it, I like pizza (the more cheese the better), tacos (sour cream! Guacamole!), and sandwiches (chicken! Cheese! More please!), fully sweetened sodas, and cookies. My carb heavy lunches were leaving me exhausted and made staying conscious problematic. This would be fine if I spent my days sitting poolside, but HR people tend to get cranky when you’re in a carb-induced coma at your desk.
Too much pizza
It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve started to enjoy my salad days. I found out that the more colors you can get into your salad, the better, so I’ve begun adding dark blueberries, bold yellow cherub tomatoes, fire-engine-red strawberries (yay! They’re in season and look so great in my salad), shredded carrots, and purple cabbage. I will admit, I add a couple of tablespoons of beige crotons because I like the contrast between the tan of the croutons and the green of my lettuce leaves. Also, I’m a carb-a-holic. Baby steps, people.
Looks good and tastes good too
Since I need protein to get through my day, I add some roasted turkey or chicken to the mix. If my cravings are strong, I will opt for some chopped up bacon or slices of ham. Otherwise, my salad days become BORING.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a big old cheeseburger with fries and a glass of soda, or even a milkshake. So, every once in a while (like my husband’s birthday or Mother’s Day), I let myself have those things. Ice cream in particular conjures up all sort of happy memories (not to mention the fact that it tastes AWESOME). My parents used to take us to Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor to get us shakes or sundaes. Those were good times. So naturally. I was delighted by my coffee-flavored shake the last time I had it. Then I found out it had SEVEN HUNDRED calories! Not so in love anymore. For now, we’ve broken up. But next time I bow to that particular siren song, I will ask for a second glass and drink half.
You evil temptress
The thing is, once I started cutting back on the enormous portions and carb-laden goodies, I actually felt better. So my occasional HUGE cheeseburger, fries, and soda become a small, homemade cheeseburger (I can control what goes into that burger), a measured portion of homemade fries (slash the salt), and a bottle of water. If I am dying for pizza, I’ll have one slice and I try to get it with ricotta cheese and either spinach or broccoli. A regular slice is good too, as long as it’s thin crust (no stuffed crust. Too many calories, too little time).
I use an app on my phone to log the calories since I had no idea how many calories I was taking in. That’s been the most helpful change I made, since I think about what I’m going to eat. If I want to have McDonald’s or White Castle that day (old habits die hard), I know to eat less calories at other meals. That way, I stay on track and don’t feel deprived.
Take human bites
What works for me may not work for you, but here’s what I found: deprivation awakens my inner BINGE MONSTER. If I am desperate for some ice cream, I have it. The difference between before and now is that I measure it out. I don’t eat artificially sweetened or low fat ice cream. It’s full fat and full flavor all the way, and I don’t eat it every single day. I tap into my inner lazy self and put the carton away once I’ve measured out my portion. Somehow, it’s enough. I don’t need to eat a giant soup bowl of ice cream with a side of angst-ridden guilt.
Portion size is key
I try to remember that salads can also be calorie bombs, so I look for ways to limit the excess calories. Again, I measure out cheese if I absolutely have to have it (tip: a couple of teaspoons of shredded mozzarella will give you a burst of cheesy flavor with a low calorie hit). Then, I choose a low fat, high flavor salad dressing (Balsamic vinegar to the rescue). I add about 3 ounces of lean protein, and yes, croutons if I want them, and I’m good to go. A glass of wine every once in a while is a much needed treat that I hear can be good for you too.
Less carbs and better choices mean that no afternoon naps are required.
Recipe: Turkey and Strawberry Salad
I love a salad that includes protein, fruit, and vegetables. Be like Mikey from Life cereal fame: try it! You’ll like it!
2 cups greens (spinach, romaine, iceberg…you choose)
2-3 ounces of turkey (or chicken)
½ cup strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
½ cup blueberries
½ cup yellow cherub tomatoes
½ cup Shredded carrots (optional)
½ cup Shredded purple cabbage (optional)
2 tbsp. croutons
2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinaigrette
Put your greens, veggies, and fruit into a bowl. Add your turkey/chicken, cut up into bite-sized pieces) and croutons. Pour on the Balsamic and toss to coat. Enjoy!
TIP: I work all week, so I find it helps to roast a big chicken on Sunday. I serve that for dinner and then save leftovers for the week. Then, I cut up my greens and fruit and store them in airtight containers. That way, I can pull out whatever I need and make a quick lunch all week long.
Mix it up, people
For 10 more fruit and veggie salad recipes and inspiration, go to: http://dailyburn.com/life/recipes/creative-fruit-salad-recipes/
So…what’s your favorite type of salad? Have any healthy eating tips? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!