Friday, March 15, 2013

Meal Planning - Eating Healthy



At the beginning March I started an initiative to cook more fresh meals at home. With both of us working full time and sometimes working late hours we had gotten in to a rut of having home cooked meals maybe 1-2x a week with dinner for most weeknights being a bowl of cereal, ramen noodles, or chocolate covered pretzels. Further, we never have an organized grocery list, often that meant coming back with things found on sale, like 10 boxes of pasta and sauce. This generally ended in lots of ‘spinach alfredo pastas’ or ‘grilled cheese and tomato’ sandwiches. While there isn’t anything wrong with those meals, I wanted to try something different and less carb loaded. Also, we are still figuring out where we fall on the whole organic vs GMOs debate. We go the organic route on major items like milk, bread, and eggs but will skip on other items. We just knew that eating fresh vegetables and meats with less preservatives where we can control the amount of salt and oil we put into our food was the best route to take.

With a full time job, cooking up daily meals and especially planning them out was not an easy task at 6 pm when the toddler is cranky/clingy and all you want to do is warm up something quick! So I decided to give this whole Meal Planning business seen all over Pinterest a shot. This way we could finally incorporate more vegetables into our diet, lessen the reliance on rice and pasta dishes while also creating a more structured grocery list for specific items only. This month my main focus was soups. Being in last stretch of winter (hoping it’s the last!), making a warm bowl of soup is the perfect way to heat up on a cold night and it’s the best way to incorporate loads of healthy ingredients too. I planned it out so that we would only have chicken (no beef!) with rice once a week, Daal with chapati bread once a week and some form of vegetable soup weekly (the remaining days being for leftovers! Working Mama only cooks hot meals 3 days a week shooooot!). It worked out well because we had enough soup left over most nights for lunch the next day and that meant less money spent eating out at work or less snacking on junk in attempts to skip lunch. Win, Win. 

Halfway through March we have fared well in sticking to the meal plan, here are a few pictures:

 Tomato Basil Cheddar soup 
(using Greek yogurt instead of cream)



 Minestrone soup 

my own spin on it: onions, fava beans, potatoes, cilantro, spinach, carrots, pasta, tomato sauce, chicken broth, topped with parmesan cheese and chopped basil.

I ended up using canned tomatoes in both these recipes even though we had fresh ones at home because 1) we have a million cans of this stuff taking up space in my pantry! 2) I checked if using canned tomatoes was really all that harmful and for these two weeks I decided we’ll take our chances with BPA. 

 In two weeks the only time I’ve veered off the chart was on ‘Leftover night’ when I made a beef burger (ate it so fast no time for a picture!). I tried to keep it somewhat healthy; seasoning the beef with finely chopped green onions/cilantro, salt, pepper, and fresh minced garlic and only using half a teaspoon of olive oil to pan fry it. I topped the burger with fresh avocado slices and had it on an asiago cheese demi roll from Panera. Can I just say this burger was AMAZING. It was SO juicy and just the right amount of flavor to go with a bread that has a bold taste. This was one cheat day I’m glad I took!
Courtesy of Google Images. But it looks pretty similar to mine!
I have to say, this meal plan wasn’t entirely intended to help us lose weight as much as it was to keep us away from snacking on Nutella covered everything and in that respect it was pretty successful. I have felt more full and less tempted to eat sugary, fatty snacks filled with suspicious ingredients. Girl scout cookies arrived in the house FOUR days ago and not a box has been opened, that is MAJOR. It’s a nice change to have a fridge stocked with vegetables, and being a meat lover it was a different experience having beef only once in two weeks! Being a Desi girl I love me some rice so lessening that was a tough choice, and while I could opt for brown rice instead of white, again, I’m a Desi girl and I don’t mess with that. Rice on my plate is white or not at all! But overall, I can feel the difference from the changes already. My stomach is not nearly as bloated by the end of week two as it has been in a while.

This meal plan was only for our 5 day workweek, but we plan to incorporate weekends next month. This was just a test run to see how we do. We slowly wanted to incorporate healthy eating, fresh vegetables and maybe just save chocolate indulgences for the weekend! ;)


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