Well into the second month of the home cooking experiment and things are moving along better than expected. With a repertoire of easy, delicious recipes on hand – having enough food available has become much easier for my client. He has found that the Mediterranean Tuna Salad can be made with cooked chicken breasts for a little variety, Kale Pesto with brown rice pasta is an easy lunch, dinner or even snack option, and that raw granola is easy to assemble to take along on a busy day. He’s also experimenting on his own, cooking up brown rice, steamed vegetables and grilled chicken breasts at the end of his day in preparation for the following days meals. Recently he asked for a few more easy recipes to try to expand his options and his palate. He continues to enjoy the challenges and benefits inherent in this experiment and with this daily practice, he is solidifying some of these habits so that once the experiment is over, he can continue to embrace some of what he has practiced. So far, he has found this to be an enjoyable challenge.
As for me, I have to a good degree been practicing home cooking for some time now. I just find that I feel so much better when I eat simple foods prepared at home. However, while I’ve always made a point of regularly preparing easy meals and soups for quick dinners at home, I’m not usually as strict as I’ve been during these past 6 weeks. Lunch might often be a soup or tuna salad that I purchased on the fly, and with it, the sodium and fat inherent in take out foods and the subsequent “blah” feelings attached. Other times, I would meet friends for dinners or brunch on the weekend and although mindful of intake, like most people when eating out, I’d consume more than my body actually needs. So while I was fairly good before, this experiment has focused my attention to home cooking in a whole new way and the benefits have been amazing.
What both my client and I have noticed, is that while food intake with regard to volume has been more or less the same on any given day, we are both experiencing some weight loss. For me, it has been a joyful experience. Losing weight without thinking about it as a by-product of eating delicious and healthy foods is just a plus on an already enjoyable journey as far as I am concerned. How great to not have to think about losing weight and having the weight come off anyway?
But for my client, this has been a less than desirable consequence, which came as a bit of a surprise. You see, when he and I began working together, he needed to make dietary changes to manage a fairly serious health condition. In taking control of his nutrition, he not only successfully overcame his health issues, he also sidestepped a potential surgery and lost 30 pounds! One would not have thought he needed to lose 30 pounds to look at him, but he kept the extra weight well camouflaged under his shirts around his mid-section – the very worst place to hold weight. In changing his eating habits he navigated himself to optimal health, as proven by a series of tests conducted three months into his new diet and supplement regime, in addition to the weight loss. Now he boasts a 15% body fat, which is lean indeed. So to lose extra weight on top of that was not one of his intentions. His struggle has been to keep weight ON, even though volumetrically, he is eating more or less the same.
In noticing a tendency to weight loss despite no change in portion sizes or frequency of meals in both of us, I got to thinking that something else must be going on. And I suspect there is. There is definitely something inherently different in the preparation of home cooked foods. Perhaps the cleanliness of the food was helping us metabolize the food more efficiently? Perhaps the quality of the ingredients? The oils? The salt? Or maybe it is all of it.
Delicious Take-Out that Really Adds Up!
If you read the book The End of Overeating, then you know that food establishments create dishes that have high salient qualities, meaning they are designed to hit major pleasure centers in your brain to keep you coming back for more. The recipe for creating this involves layering fats on top of salts on top of sugars on top of more fats, salt and sugar. They have perfected the quantities and doses needed to get you so hooked on a particular dish that you become a repeat customer. The proliferation of food establishments in this country, is testament to this methods effectiveness.
Conversely, home cooked meals are typically less loaded in salient ingredients. Most of us are somewhat mindful of oils and salt in our attempt at healthy eating. This was obviously the case during the experiment, so while the volume of food we are taking in might be the same, the calories are likely not.
When I ran this theory by my client, he told me an interesting tidbit I had not known before; when he used to get roasted potatoes for breakfast prior to taking on the experiment, he used to layer them on top of napkins in order to soak up some of the oils. Looking further, we realized that the soft shell tacos he ordered for dinner were likely brushed with olive oil, and the rice bowls he ordered from the Japanese restaurant for lunch likely had oil and sugar in the recipe. Taking into consideration that a tablespoon of oil is about 130 calories, these tiny little add-ons were probably contributing an additional 450 calories, on average, to his intake in a day. By reducing that many calories a day in just oils from home cooking, he was on track to losing just shy of a pound a week. No wonder he felt like it was a challenge to keep weight on. While his volume remained unchanged, his caloric intake was less. Additionally, the foods we were both eating were healthy, nutritious, clean and fresh which in turn, likely made them easier to digest, allowing our metabolisms to run more efficiently, thereby fueling our system in a more complete and thorough way. All of this added up to some weight loss and a spike in energy levels. How great is that?
So far, the home cooking experiment has been a huge success. The main challenge is making time in busy schedules to have enough food on hand to start the week, which is largely managed through weekend shopping trips and prepping time. But the benefits have far outweighed the challenges. Not only are we feeling great and losing weight (although only one of us is happy about that), we are also saving money and feeling more focused and efficient at work. All good stuff. Another great outcome? I have heard from many of you that this has inspired you to make a greater attempt to have more home cooked food. I love hearing that! Keep the feedback coming and until next time, here are a couple of more recipes to add to your weekly repertoire of healthy options. Enjoy!
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
- 1 (6oz) cans chunk light tuna, drained well
- 1/4 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well
- 1/4 chopped red pepper
- 8 sliced Greek olives
- 1 scallion, sliced thin
- 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
- couple dashes dried oregano
- 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil
- juice of half lemon
- freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the ingredients. Mix all the ingredients together well. Serve atop a green salad or in lettuce cups. (Serves 2)
Asian Chicken Salad
- 2 cups shredded chicken breast
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- ½ cup shredded cabbage
- 3 scallions, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- dash of tamari
In a large bowl, combine the ingredients. Salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy! (Serves 2)