I’m usually not one to make resolutions- let alone keep them. But this year, as New Years coincided with Sean leaving for 10 weeks, I decided to make a concious effort to make a few “healthy lifestyle” changes. While I don’t consider myself to be on a diet, I have made a consious effort to cook more, first to save money from eating out and second to be healthier.
One of the biggest ways that I’ve tried to accomplish this is by always bringing a lunch to work. I usually am bad about this- I’ll bring left overs a couple times a week but end up going out for big sandwiches or mexican two or three days a week. At about $10 a meal, it was hitting my wallet as well as my body.
I’ve also started eating breakfast- I never used to, or would sometimes just grab a granola bar or a pack of crackers. Now I eat either 1 scrambled egg or a greek yogurt, usually. This keeps me full all the way until noon & makes it a lot easier for me to make good eating decisions.
As far as lunches go, I have been trying to prepare 4 lunches every sunday night. This gives me 1 day’s cushion in case we order in for a webinar or client meeting (I let myself eat out if it’s provided by my office.)
Usually, I make salads. I can make 4 lunch salad portions pretty easily in one go. I grill 1 pack of 8 chicken tenderloins (2 per lunch) and use 2 small-medium heads of romaine lettuce. I then top them with whatever I’ve got around or am craving- some of my favorites are Apple Walnut, Raspberry Peach, Southwestern, or Crunchy Asian. I also make 4 servings of a salad dressing at once. My favorites are a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette, creamy asian, or southwestern. I usually put it in an old spaghetti or mason jar.
I make the salads “assembly line style”. I sit out 4 tupperwares and go down my ingredients. I chop lettuce and divide among the four. Chop toppings, add to 4. Add chicken divided among 4. This makes it really easy & fast compared to making one each day. Also it clears room in the fridge by using up all of things at once. I have had salads stay good as long as 10 days if sealed tightly with NOTHING wet in there- no dressing for sure! Keep that separate! I have seen “mason jar salads” all over pinterest but I don’t do that for 2 reasons- first, I like a big container. It lets me dump in dressing & shake it well when I’m ready to eat. I also eat it out of the container so I don’t dirty up a work-kitchen plate or bowl. Secondly, I think the dressing makes it soggy & not last as long- no matter how you layer it. Just my experience!
Now- I know some people are anti-salad. But these aren’t your grandma’s salads, people. To make a salad good, filling, and something that you will actually crave & look forward to eating (you’re hearing me right!) you need to focus on 2 things: The lettuce to topping ratio & a crazy good vinegar based dressing.
First lets talk about the lettuce to topping ratio. I think the biggest thing most people think of when they think of salads is boring dry lettuce. Maybe a slice or two of tomato or cucumber. boooo-ring! I keep my salads topping heavy. I also try to chop everything really small- including chiffonade-ing my lettuce! Seriously, it makes every bite more delicious when you can squeeze some of everything in. I like my salads to be no more than 1/3 fresh crunchy romaine, 1/3 protein (grilled chicken, nuts, or low fat flavorful crumbled cheese like feta) & 1/3 fruit (peaches, berries, apple, crasins), veggies (cucumber, carrot, brocoli, asparagus, onion, green onion), or “crunchies” (like rice noodles or tortilla strips). Keep everything small so you can get flavor explosions with every bite! It will keep everyone going back for more!
Now- dressings. go in your fridge, grab all your bottled dressings, and throw them in the garbage. They are trash and gross and once you try a real homemade dressing, you will never want to go back. I promise. A light, vinegar based dressing is going to add flavor & moisture to the salad while drawing out & complimenting the flavors off your toppings- not smoother them in mayonaise. Plus, you’re gonna save a lot of $$$!
I home make all of my dressings. When we are having them for dinner, I make a fresh batch every meal. I have started “mass producing” it for lunches- about 4 or 5 helpings at once. But it seriously takes just 2 or 3 minutes, people, and its great. I use a mini blender that I got for $15 from the outlet mall- you know, the kind designed for smoothies? Like this one. Then I add my ingredients- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, rice vinegar for asian dishes) and add spices. Garlic (minced), onion powder, and salt and pepper are my favorite. I’ve added poppy seeds, paprika, and ground ginger. To give a fruity flavor, add a table spoon or two of sugar free preserves raspberry, peach, mango- it gives amazing flavors. If you want a more straight forward flavor, add maple syrup (the real stuff- not aunt Jemima people!) for sweet flavor. If you want a creamy dressing- add plain greek yogurt. It will blast your dressing with creamy protein while still keeping it fresh and healthy. As always, it’s important to taste along the way & add contrasting flavors- sweet to balance out the sour, etc.
Then, I take the salads & the dressings to work. I usually try not to take more than 2 at a time so that I don’t clog the fridge (don’t be that guy!) But I am careful to never be without. That’s when you end up eating out.
So overall, I’ve done great with this resolution. As long as I keep on with the planning ahead, I definitely think this has been a successful lifestyle change- and I guess that means an accomplished resolution as well!
Have you been keeping your resolutions?