“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
Whenever my nephew spends the weekend with us, we always go out for breakfast Sunday morning. It is our Sunday morning ritual with him. Usually, we go to Slainte, an Irish pub in Fells Point. Great brunch. However, I wanted a change of scenery so I decided that this past Sunday, we would go to the Broadway Diner instead of Slainte. I, of course, ran this by Jack ahead of time. He likes routine. So I knew I had to give him a good reason for the switch. “They have chocolate chip pancakes,” I told him. He immediately said “Yes!”
So off to the Broadway Diner we went. And he indeed ordered the chocolate chip pancakes. We opted for the small stack from the kid’s menu, (although I swear all they did was take off the third pancake from the adult version. They were huge!) They were also more like lots of chocolate chips with a little pancake batter. He was in heaven. I ordered my omelet with veggies, a side of bacon and a fruit cup. But oh did I look longingly at those damn pancakes. Finally, I could not take it anymore. I put aside my half eaten omelet (I had eaten all of my bacon of course), picked up my fork, and I stabbed a piece of pancake. The minute it touched my lips, I knew I would not be able to stop at one piece. And I didn’t. It was a little difficult trying to get the pieces off the plate without Jack seeing me (Hey, is that Big Bird?), but I managed to eat enough to fulfill my chocolate/carb craving. Did I feel guilty during my indulgence? No. Did I feel guilty afterwards? Nope. Will I have chocolate pancakes anytime soon again? Probably not. And honestly, if we do go back to the diner for breakfast with him, I most likely will not have the urge to eat those pancakes again. I have tasted them once. They are not something I would eat on a regular basis. But you never know….
So why did I not feel guilty? Why did I not feel ashamed for giving in to my craving, for wanting those pancakes? Because there was no reason for me to feel ashamed. It’s food. And food is good. Of course, if this had been me two years ago, even a year ago, I most likely would have obsessed about the fact that I showed no self restraint. That I had set myself backwards two weeks or some nonsense. That I might as well call the whole day a bust because I ate pancakes. That I ate them, and OMG, I am not even training today! What a world! What a world! What was I thinking? But seriously, there was no guilt. And it was the same reason I did not feel guilty eaten all of those tostones (fried plaintains) when we were in Puerto Rico this past month.
Or the fried cheese. Or the beer battered chips with my burger. Or the tostones.
(I said that already, didn’t I? Hmmm. tostones.)
Because unlike a few years ago, I have learned to develop good eating habits and those eating habits trump my “Just one more piece of pancake, Jack” any day. Because I know that I can enjoy my tostones guilt free, armed with the knowledge that when I return home to Baltimore, I will not have the luxury of eating them again because no place that I frequent serves them. Or the fried cheese. Or the beer battered chips. Unlike two years ago, I can now enjoy a meal that may include something not compliant with my regular daily eating habits because I know that my next meal most likely will be 100% compliant and the next day, all meals will be compliant meals. My eating habits help me easily enjoy eating foods that I do not normally eat on a regular basis. I can eat those pancakes and enjoy them, really enjoy them, and not feel like all of my hard work just flew out the window.
So what are these good eating habits that I have established? Well, first and foremost, I make a point of eating at least 10 servings of vegetables a day ( I probably eat closer to 15). That’s veggies with every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s a lot of vegetables. When I am thirsty, I drink tea or water and stay away from juice, smoothies, sweetened coffee or teas. No soda. I’ll add some stevia to my tea and coffee for sweetness. And if I drink coffee, I drink it black. I eat protein with every meal (at least 20-30 grams) – eggs, egg whites, ground turkey, chicken, fish, the occasional steak or beef burger. A habit I have really had to work on is eating SLOWLY. I continue to work on this one as I have always been a fast and intense eater. But when I do eat slowly, I find that I get fuller quicker and then the next habit kicks in – eat until I am 80% full. I get anywhere between 8 and 9 hours of sleep each night which helps me not feel like I am starving during the day and want to snack constantly. I focus on the quality and quantity of my food. 99.9% of my food is whole food. The rest may come out of a wrapping of some sort, such as the occasional protein bar. Most of the time, 100% of my food is whole food.
This was not the way I ate two years ago. This was not the way I ate a year ago. Just like strength training is a journey, so is eating. And as you grow and change and continue to discover how your body responds or does not respond to training, so do you discover how your body responds or does not respond to eating and eating certain foods. We are not all made the same. Some of us have allergies to certain foods. Some of us do not. Some of us are picky eaters. Others of us (such as myself) will eat anything you put in front of them. Some of us have food intolerances. What works for one person may not work for another. Yes, we all need vegetables. We all need to drink more water. We all need protein. But how much, how often, steamed or raw, animal or plant protein…it all depends on the person. Yes, goblet squats are good for everyone. But not everyone can squat to proper depth. Not everyone can squat due to movement issues, knee problems. Some people may need to squat to a box for some time. Some made need a heel lift. We should all learn to squat in some way or another but our training should be specific to our needs. The same goes for eating.
That being said, many have inquired about my eating strategies lately. I recently wrote about how I ate when I was in my 20’s vs. how I eat now here. And wouldn’t you know, things have changed even since I wrote that piece. As I said, it is always a journey depending on where you are in your life, in your training, what your goals are, etc. Yes, I am still eating eggs. Yes, I am still eating ground turkey and brussels sprouts for lunch and vegetables with every meal but I have made a few changes to my routine. I recently reduced my nut consumption including nut butters (peanut and almond butter). I was hitting the nuts pretty good and realized that I was eating them without even thinking about them. The nuts were adding up. Not so smart. I have also cut out my nightly snack which was becoming a chocolate concoction of egg whites, protein powder, unsweetened cocoa, avocado or mashed banana in some form or another. But, Emily, egg whites? Protein powder? Certainly THAT is okay to eat? Sure….but then I was going to bed feeling very full and uncomfortable along with extra calories that my body did not need or want.
Eating to eat, I call it. So I cut it out. Bye-bye homemade, “clean” brownie and protein pudding. Just because it is “clean” doesn’t mean it is void of calories. I decided that if I wanted something after dinner and before bed, I would have some fruit. A cup of grapes did the trick along with a nice cup of ginger or peppermint tea. And that’s what I have been doing after dinner, if that. And wouldn’t you know? No more upset stomach. And my energy is better during the day because I am feeding it just what it needs and no more. And most importantly, this way of eating allows me to have some of my nephew’s chocolate chip pancakes without feeling like I wrecked my whole day. I am enjoying food again. I am enjoying eating. Because life should be more than what you are eating, what you ate and what you are going to eat. Develop good, basic eating habits and the world is your tostones. Hmmm. Tostones.
Here is what is working for me these days.
- 1 egg and 1/2 cup of egg whites- Omelet w/mushrooms, olives, red cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, grated carrot, spinach
- 1/2 cup of 2% cottage cheese
- 1/2 a grapefruit
- Earl Grey tea.
- Turkey burger w/ grilled brussels sprouts
- A side salad (same ingredients from my breakfast salad)
- Iced tea (Black or Green.)
- Protein shake (Typically if I train in the afternoon after lunch) or fruit/raw vegetables and cottage cheese.
- Grilled chicken sausages from Whole Foods (made fresh in the store!), salmon, steak, grilled chicken, pork chop loin (depending on the night)
- Steamed veggies: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower or asparagus or large salad (again depending on what night it is) and sometimes little potatoes.
Snack: If still hungry, I will eat some grapes. Or the occasional piece of carrot cake. Hmmm. Carrot cake.
Eating isn’t rocket science. But developing good, sound eating habits does take time, patience, consistency and perseverance. Don’t beat yourself up over your eating. If you are trying to make better choices and eat healthier, take it one day at a time. One habit at a time. One chocolate chip pancake at a time.
Recipe for Turkey burgers
- 2 1/2 lbs of ground turkey
- 1/4 minced red onion
- 1/2 red pepper, minced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
- 1/8 cup of Soy sauce
- 1/8 cup of Liquid smoke (enough for a smokey flavor)
- One egg
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup of bread crumbs (optional)
Preheat the grill to 400-450 degrees F.
Combine the onion, red pepper, garlic, soy sauce, liquid smoke, egg, salt and pepper. Mix together. Add the turkey and using your hands, squish everything together until everything is combined. If you want plump turkey burgers, add the bread crumbs. If you want smaller, less plump burgers, do not add bread crumbs.
Make the patties and depending on how big or small you make them, you could make anywhere between 6-8 burgers. Since we grill our turkey burgers, you may want to spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray before putting the patties on the sheet then spray the burgers so they do not stick on the grill.
Place the burgers on the grill and cook for 10 minutes until done. Flip burgers over half way through. Cover the burgers with aluminum foil to keep them moist