Sunday, December 02, 2012

How I eat

I've kept off a 40 pound plus weight loss for more than 4 years now, and a big part of how I've learned to eat  is by using decadent ingredients in small quantities.  I've also had to follow a low salt diet at times (harder than losing weight!), which introduced additional highly flavored  ingredients.  Here are my favorites.

Sweet Ones:

Callebaut Chocolate Chips (60% Cocoa Mass)
Valhrona Cocoa Powder
Frozen Cherries (no pits!)
No sugar added apricot jelly
Peanut Butter (in moderation)
Molasses (in moderation)
Brown Sugar (in moderation)
Pumpkin pie spice
Chocolate Syrup (Hershey's Special Dark)

Savory Ones:

Bacon Salt
Truffle Oil
Truffle Salt
Balsamic Vinegar
Ponzo Sauce (citrusy and soy together, yum!)
Eggs with runny yolks
Bacon bits
Chicken Sausage
Parmesan cheese
Pesto (find different types/flavors)
Roasted nuts (I find these hard to moderate, though)
Cultured Whey Chipotle Yogurt Cheese (low sodium, lactose free, reduced fat & hard to find)
Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime
Lemon & Lime Juice
Fresh and roasted garlic
Bolthouse Farms Dressings
Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix
cherry tomatoes (plain, roasted or sauteed)
sliced mushrooms (adds unami)
garlic gold garlic nuggets
smoked salt
smoked meats & cheeses
real butter (in moderation, and only where you notice it -- like on toast)
goat cheese (lower in fat than other cheese, and very flavorful)
curry paste
light coconut milk
avocado (in moderation)
artichoke hearts
heart of palm
frank's read hot
feta cheese (fat free or reduced fat)
muir glen fire roasted tomatoes

Healthy Base Ingredients:

These aren't super exciting by themselves, but they generally have a low calorie density and when combined with some of the ingredients below make for a good meal or snack.
Pumpkin (use as a substitute for fat in baking goods, also good as a flavoring)
Chickpeas (there are a lot of surprising recipes using pureed beans to get a good goey texture in both sweet and savory dishes)
Frozen Overripe Bananas
Steel Cut Oats (The other kinds don't keep me full)
MultiGrain Bread (La Brea or something similar) (in moderation)
plain popcorn
polenta/grits (easy in the microwave)
Egg Substitute
 lean proteins:  shrimp, shellfish, tofu, poultry, 96% lean ground beef, etc.
Nonfat Greek Yogurt
Skim Milk

Examples of how I use these:

Tonight's dinner (fend for yourself, so I wasn't pleasing anyone else) was a broccoli bowl.  Steamed broccoli (2-3 servings), an egg over easy dumped on top, truffle oil, truffle salt, and parmesan.  Yum.

Tomorrow's breakfast (for me and both kids):  Breakfast Quinoa.  I just made a batch of quinoa (thank you microwave rice button).  Tomorrow I'll reheat single servings and top with chocolate chips and defrosted cherries.

One of my default breakfasts is an egg scramble -- mushrooms and tomatoes, sauteed, scrambled with half a cup of egg substitute, topped with half an ounce of chipotle cheese.

Frozen fruits, microwaved to create a "sauce", topped with greek yogurt and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Most of my household loves savory oatmeal -- overnight steel cut oats (in the microwave), topped with bacon bits, some sort of cheese, and (for me, at least) sauteed onions/garlic/tomatoes/mushrooms.

A quick soup for a work-from-home day -- chicken broth, curry paste, shrimp, light coconut milk.

Greek yogurt with sauteed fruit & brown sugar, or sauteed tomatoes, or canned pumpkin & pumpkin pie spice.

Banana "ice cream" with peanut butter and cocoa powder.

Celery or apples with peanut butter.

Baked oatmeal (with banana for sweetness and consistency, and chocolate chips for decadence).

Tall-nonfat-no whip mocha.  :)

Shrimp & garlic sauteed in half butter half olive oil, served over polenta.

Is this a perfect way to eat?  No...  but it's better than a lot of the alternatives, and keeps my weight consistent and my family well fed. 

p.s.  I'd be happy to share specific recipes if anyone is interested.

Friday, May 25, 2012

10 "rules" to get your kids to eat better

I've gone deep in the last couple of months on how to improve my kids eating habits.  There are a lot of great resources out there from Ellyn Satter's books, to the awesome It's Not about Nutrition blog to recent book French Kids Eat Everything.  Here are the 10 rules I've distilled from those sources.

1)  Fruit or Veggies at every meal or snack

By far the easiest way to improve your kids nutrition *and* get them used to eating good food is to serve fruits or vegetables or both at every single meal, including snacks.  While I try to make these fresh fruits and vegetables most of the time, frozen, dried or sauced/pouched are my "emergency" rations.

2)  "One happy bite"

This is the biggest "lightbulb" moment for me -- it's not about getting the undesirable food into their tummies, it's about training their tastebuds.  Even tasting and spitting it out starts to train the tastebuds -- how awesome is that?  The toddler regularly eats apples and sugar snap peas by chewing them up and spitting them out, and that's just fine.  And it takes the pressure off -- trying new things is not a commitment to eating a lot of it.  (Likewise, serve very small portions of challenging foods -- 3 small bites is less daunting than a quarter of a plate.)

3)  Limit kid food to "special treats"

Goldfish.  Applesauce pouches.  Puffs.  My toddler would live on these foods if I let her (and they taste good, don't they?), but they are training her to prefer crunchy, slurpable food products instead of "real" food.  My new guideline is to let both girls have them when they are offered by others, but to avoid them except for holidays and celebrations.  (And puffs we went cold turkey on -- they were just *too* enticing.)

I also try to eat at ethnic restaurants that don't have a kid's menu at least half the time.  (I'd love to wean them off of the kid's menu at other restaurants, but it is hard once you have readers or have set up precedents.)

4)  Don't eat or serve the same things in a row.

A lot of kid's eating habits are just that -- habit.  Since *you* get to decide what your kids are offered, don't offer the same favorite habitual things every meal or snack.  I try to rotate fruits (and the meals they are served with), snacks, meals, breakfasts so they are different from day to day and meal to meal.  Keep them guessing!  (And teach them they can't demand whatever they want, although I do sometimes allow choices between one or two things.)

5)  Always serve something you know they'll like, but...

This is more of a "parents peace of mind" tactic, but if you put something (healthy) that you know they'll like on the table, then everyone has a fallback when you serve more challenging food.

6)  "Course" it out so that the "favorite" default foods are served *after* the challenging foods. 

This was the best way to get the toddler to start eating better -- once she saw her favorite foods on the table, she wanted them!  So now I start with cold vegetable starter, and keep the fruit, bread, cheese or yogurt for last.  It also works with the 7 year old -- she's much  more likely to eat a couple bites of cucumber if it's on the table while she's setting it than if it's competing with the main course.

7)  Don't serve "bad" food just for the "nutrients."

This is things like fruit juice with vegetable juice in it or veggie bootie.  Your kids are getting enough nutrients.  Teach them treats are treats, and should be treated as such.

8)  Realize there are multiple attributes -- flavor, texture, temperature -- that affects how something "tastes."   

Identifying these patterns allowed me to see that the 7 year old would eat "crispy" vegetables, so we expanded from the occasional carrot into raw sugar snap peas, cucumber rounds, celery sticks, krispy kale and bell peppers.  We also work on the texture of things like split pea soup by watering it down so it's more palatable.

9)  Treat tasting new food as a science experiment. 

When my girls weren't into fresh peaches, we experimented with peach flavored applesauce, freeze dried peaches, canned peaches, as well as fresh peaches.  You can see how this relates to #8 as well.  After her "one happy bite", I ask my 7 year old to describe how something tastes -- most vegetables are "green and potatoes", but when she used that on raw jicama, I "called" her on being lazy.

10)  Put them in charge. 

I always read the "Let your kids cook, they will be more likely to eat it" advice and never found it to work with my oldest.  (She also grows vegetables she won't eat.)  However, when I wanted her to start eating soup, it did work to provide bowls of meat, vegetables, pasta, broth, and flavorings so that she could put together her own soups (and her parents could add sriracha sauce to theirs!).

I developed and implemented these rules for my family slowly, but I feel much more confident that we are all eating much better and they are developing healthy habits for life.  I hope they help you too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Parenting notes from Bringing Up Bebe

I liked Bringing Up Bebe, but then I like any parenting book that supports "my way" of parenting (and this one does).  Here's my specific take-aways (mostly around feeding.):

1)  Le Pause -- wait a moment (or 5!) before responding.  In other words, don't hover.  Especially true for babies learning to sleep, but also good for teaching kids to rely on their own resources instead of expecting rescue.

2)  Eat at set times.  Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner.

3) Start dinner/meals with a "cold vegetable starter."  -- this has *totally* worked for us.  I've been putting out raw veggie plates with dip and the amount and variety of vegetables both girls eat/try has increased.  (Admittedly from 1 piece to 4 pieces, but that is a big multiplier.) 

4)  Course out meals.  I don't put *anything* else on the table until the starter has been eaten (at least some).  Then I put out the main.  Cheese, bread, and fruit (my family's go-to foods) are not put out until last, if I'm serving them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It takes a posse

There's another discussion of women in programming raging on the Internet.  This time, it's in Ben's digital humanities world, about expecting and teaching humanities students (often women) to code.  One comment on the post is by Stephen Ramsay who teaches a digital humanities course. He encourages his students, often women, to continue by taking computer science classes.  They almost always drop out, even after being highly competent in his introductory class.  Here are some of my thoughts on how to keep that from happening.

1)  Critical Mass is having enough women (or some other minority group) that you don't stick out.  From my observations, 10 is the bare minimum to reach critical mass.  Only 2 is not enough.  So 2 in a group of 20 are still extremely self conscious.  10 in a group of 250, however, "works".  I personally consider 10% a "successful" number.

2)  Build your own posse.  If you have people to sit with, to do homework with, to make fun of the obnoxious, under socialized geeks in the room with, it helps.  It takes a while to do this organically -- I found a CS major roommate and then started dating another one.  The class ahead of my had a particularly high performing posse of two women and a man.  Some of the later-joining CS majors in my class came over as a group of 3 women.  When Stephen takes one of his students to a programming contest, it doesn't work.  All the imposter syndrome comes out in force.  The fix?  Take a *group* of students.  (Even if you have to drag them or bribe them.  :)  )  You can also build posses by finding older female mentors for beginning students, or starting or joining "women in tech" organizations.  (In college I was on an early listserv for women in CS called Systers and started a campus "Women in Computing" group.)

3)  Go meta.  I spent my senior year of high school reading about women and achievement, then followed it up with a major in the Study of Women and Gender.  Most people won't have to go so extreme, but finding one good survey article about women's experiences in CS gives you a framework and vocabulary for understanding, analyzing (the geek's favorite way out of an awkward situation), and talking about what's going on.

Hope that helps, Stephen.  Good luck!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

21 things to do with leftover roasts

1.  hash
2. potpies
3.  shepherd's pie
4.  hand pies
5.  enchiladas
6.  tostadas
7.  tacos
8.  quesadillas
9.  grillades
10.  nachos
11.  sandwiches
12.  melts
13.  french dips
14.  dippers for cheese fondue
15.  salads
16.  pastas
17.  soups
18.  stews
19.  stir fries
20.  biryani
21.  curry