Thursday, September 15, 2011

Zing Away The Monotony! A Guide to Spicing Up The Essentials

Not what my lunch looks like.
When someone first finds out about my weight loss, one of the questions I'll hear inevitably in that first conversation is: "Isn't it really boring eating the same foods all the time?"  The martyr in me begs to reply immediately with a resounding "Yes!"  When I take the time to think about it, though, yes, I have to be more disciplined than probably 95% of the population, but I don't think I have it all that bad.  Having recently started a full-time job as an instrumental consultant with a music company, co-workers have observed my a-typical habits of bringing my pre-made meals in with me every day, consisting of some plain brown rice, broccoli and a chicken breast.

On first glance, okay, yeah, I get rice and veggies don't smell as appetizing as the Spicy Chicken and Cheese Hot Pockets that went into the microwave before my lunch, and the aroma certainly doesn't linger tantalizingly for hours like the pizza the percussion guys ordered for lunch.  Yes, it does look pretty plain sitting there in the clear plastic Tupperware I use, no sauce or visible accoutrements to arouse any food-lust.

To me, this is the essence of today's food dilemma...the popular convention is to dismiss healthy, or whole food as boring.  The fewer ingredients, the more ordinary the dish, right?  Not always the case.  Problem is, our food culture has conditioned us to react favorably to certain food features, and unfortunately, many of those features aren't desirable ones.  I, like I imagine the vast majority of the population, get excited about foods that look cheesy, saucy, or have a ton of ingredients, but when considering the amount of extra calories that are being stacked on top of the dishes' foundation, I lose my appetite a bit.  

Here's my solution--spices don't give you a major hit in the caloric department, and as long as you use them in reasonable moderation and monitor the ingredients in the hot sauces (sodium, sugar are the usual culprits to keep in check), really give you that extra flavor you look for without the caloric load of typical "binders" such as sauce and cheese, etc.   I hold an arsenal of spices and hot sauces at my disposal during every single meal I prepare and eat.  Let me introduce you to my favorite weapons:

Spice:  McCormick's Smokehouse Maple Grill Seasoning

Love this!  Have to thank my friend Jordan for inadvertently introducing me to this one, I tried it on breakfast eggs while house-sitting his dog this summer, and loved it.  I use it primarily as I did the first time, on eggs with my breakfast, and it gives you a little of that "smoky" flavor, like you're eating eggs on a plate with bacon and pancakes with maple syrup, three foods which aren't ever a part of my morning diet but have a tantalizing flavor nonetheless!  Great on chicken or ground turkey as well.

Spice:  Weber's Smokey Mesquite Seasoning

I have to credit another friend, graduate school roommate Ben, with the discovery of this one...I've used this on chicken, steak, ground turkey, vegetables, in soups, on eggs, and as fertilizer for my window plants.  Okay, not quite, but the point is, this Smokey Mesquite has a flavor which lends itself to just about anything, and it has become one of my favorites!

Hot Sauce:  Sriracha

Wish I could say I discovered this as a diamond in the rough, but this one's no secret...gaining more and more popularity in the US market, the Sriracha brand is a chili-based pasty hot sauce which has with no doubt the most "heat" of any hot sauce I use.  Recommendation here: try it on a bowlful of brown rice and grilled vegetables, with a little lean grilled meat.  Don't bother adding salt, the Sriracha kick is all you'll need!

Hot Sauce:  Trader Joe's Sweet Chili Sauce

A new favorite, I add this one to my daily pre-packed lunch of brown rice, chicken breast and broccoli, with great results!  Adding a tablespoon (I try not to add more, only 25 cals. per tbsp. but a few grams of sugar) really complements the three unspiced elements of my lunch very nicely!


Enjoy!  A few other hot sauces I've tried and enjoy:  Tabasco Chipotle and Original Pepper Sauces, and Cholula Sauce, as made famous by San Francisco Giants' pitcher Brian Wilson on Showtime's "The Franchise" this summer.

Link of the Day:  A good friend just started a blog on healthy (and mostly vegan) eating and excercise, it's worth a read!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mid-Week Update: May 6, 2011

THE STATS: 6’6” (78 inches), 271.4 lbs (Goal: 240 lbs), BMI 31.4, Past week's weight loss (May 2011): -3.2 lbs, 2011 weight loss: -18.4 lbs, total weight loss: 112.3 lbs.

Now that I've gotten the admission of my month-long falter out of the way, it's time for a real update!  After coming clean last week, I got to work, and thanks to my renewed inspiration, this past week's results have been much improved...

I managed to knock off about 3 lbs. last week, with the help of Lose It (see previous post), tracking my caloric and nutrient intake.  So far, this current experience using the Lose It app has proved to be a really positive one.  Again, I'll reaffirm my take from previous posting about the importance of understanding that staying within a calorie limit won't singularly cause the body to become healthier.  Understanding the simple math of calorie intake can help lose weight, but the most important aspect to keep in mind is the quality of the calories eaten.

That's the thing to remember, and when I'm tracking food intake with Lose It, that aspect becomes painfully clear!  As an example, I can eat several heaping bowls of seasoned vegetables for under 100 calories, while a  Mini-size Snickers ice-cream bar (a delicacy in its own right!), consumed in two bites, checks in at 90 calories.  I don't think I even need to answer the question of which will leave me feeling more full.  Keeping this in mind becomes increasingly important when the calorie limit drops with each weight loss.

Stay tuned, hopefully I'll have more good news on the way!

- Dan -

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lose the Pounds with "Lose It!": A Practical Weight and Nutritional Tool (For non-iPhone/iPod Touch users)

About two years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to an iPhone/iPod Touch application (also available for usage as a web site for those without an iPhone, see the address above) called "Lose It!" which helped him count his daily calories on his way to losing about 40 lbs over the course of several months.  The app, which is FREE, by the way, helps users enter everything they eat each day into a simple system which tracks both the nutritional and caloric content of each food item, then stores the information in the app to track the daily, weekly and monthly averages.

The program is designed to help users determine a caloric limit based on their gender, age, height and weight (basically the BMI scale), which in turn provide a basic metabolic rate (BMR).  The Lose It formula gives each user the option, whether they want to set up their caloric limit to maintain their weight, or lose anywhere from 1/2 pound to 2 pounds per week.  The formula then determines how much of a caloric deficit each user need to run per day to lose however much the user specifies.  The caloric limit will adjust based on weigh-in figures, which will lower or raise the caloric limit according to the weight trend.  Users can also enter any variety of exercises they might do, which will be figured into each daily log.

I've had several friends do very well using this application, the one I mentioned earlier used this program exclusively and lost about 40-50 lbs, and another good friend of mine has been using the program for about 4-5 weeks and has lost nearly 20 lbs.  

It's been helpful for me too, and I'll post some updates about how things come along as I continue to use the program.  Laurelin decided to start an account too, to track her food intake (though she needs far less help than I do!).

If you create an account, feel free to add me as a "friend" by searching using my name or email, ddnesbitt (at)

Check it out!

- Dan -