I was reminded of something recently, and I wanted to remind all of you, too. Since it’s the beginning of the year, and lots of you out there have probably made New Year’s Resolutions involving health and nutrition, I have a little tip. This past December I wanted to make it through the month without gaining any holiday pounds like I usually do. I didn’t have a great October/November (weight and nutrition wise) and I got into bad habits that just stalled out my metabolism. I had a great plan to get back on track in December and it involved a low-cal diet and extra cardio (let’s be honest, to compensate for the goodies I planned to eat!) I work with an excellent trainer and when we met on the first of December, he (knowing my habits well) gave me some very different instructions. Instead of a low-cal diet, he told me to do the opposite; a rather high-calorie diet. I was to make good choices, obviously, but eat a normal diet and hit nearly 2000 calories each day. That’s a lot of calories for someone my size. And that cardio I planned on? Nixed. None. Nada. No cardio allowed. No running, no elliptical, no stair-climbing. He knows that’s my safety net and I figure I can always eat an extra brownie and run it off the next day. So for that month my job was to just focus on solid resistance training each day and to eat constantly. At first it was actually really hard. I felt like I was eating when I wasn’t starving and that felt weird. I made sure to eat every 2 hours though, all day long. What happened was that my body got trained to expect food that often (good, healthy food) and soon I was hungry on the dot, every two hours. My metabolism learned to work again and I felt better than I had in weeks.
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That being said, I was worried with all of the eating I was doing, it wasn’t doing me any favors on the scale. My trainer warned me I might even gain a pound or two during the month, but that it would all be beneficial in the end and this is what I needed to do to fuel my body the right way again. Well, at the beginning of this month, I hopped on the scale again and guess what I found?
My weight was down, but only by 1 1/2 pounds. Good but not anything to rave about. But then I got pinched and prodded and measured to find out what the numbers actually mean, and after the calculations?
4 1/2 pounds of fat, gone. The 1.5 weight loss was because I also put on 3 pounds of solid muscle. Now that is something to rave about. I was an inch smaller around my waist and lost another 1/2 inch around my hips and arms. So why am I telling you all this? Because it’s a good reminder to me and everyone else of one of the most important keys to weight loss:
I’m constantly hearing friends say things like, “let’s go out tonight because I’m starting no sugar for 30 days tomorrow!” “Let’s drink juice for a week!” “I can only eat steamed egg whites and broccoli right now!” “Ack, carbs! Stay away!” ” And it’s so easy to get caught in stuff like that when you want to see quick results. But I know from experience that the key to good health is solid nutrition. It doesn’t mean you have to give up certain food groups or go crazy and starve yourself. And it’s not as complicated as many people make it out to be. For me, remembering to eat really regularly, eat enough, and eat balanced meals (including fats and carbs) helps me fuel the right way and have energy to work out and make it through my day.
That was a long little ramble, but I think it’s a good reminder. If you want to lose weight, sometimes you need to remember to eat MORE! And as a side note, because people have been asking in comments and on Facebook and Instagram, I will share more on this subject. I haven’t until now because it can kind of be a touchy subject with some people (and a rather personal one for me), but I’ve lost a significant amount of weight in the past couple of years (you can see the evidence here!), and have a lot of thoughts that I believe can help, and hopefully inspire, others. I’m working on the posts right now, so keep your eyes out over the next month or so and I’ll share my story.
Okay, so I mentioned in my last post (another great salad, scaled for 1) that every few days I either grab a rotisserie chicken when I’m at Costco (because it literally pains me to buy them anywhere else for half the size and twice the price) or cook up a few chicken breasts in the oven to have in the fridge for things like this. I’ve found that a 4-ounce serving provides a hearty amount to keep me full, and a good serving of protein (about 22 grams). It’s about 1 cup of diced or shredded cooked chicken. Chicken Salad from a deli is often loaded with fat and calories, so it gets a naughty reputation, but a good healthy chicken salad is totally doable. This is one of my go-to lunches during the week.
I love a lot of crunch in my chicken salad, so there must, must be celery in there,
along with green onions for flavor. Another must.
I also need a little sweetness. Red grapes are always great in chicken salad, so you can certainly use those, but I choose to use a sweet apple. It not only adds crunch and sweetness, but also has a much more favorable nutritional profile than the grapes. Apple (leave that skin on!) will add fiber, and they’re also very low on the glycemic index.
I also love the color of the red apple in there. Just make sure you’re choosing a variety that is both sweet and crisp. Honey Crisp, Fuji, Gala, Braeburn, and Pink Lady are all faves of mine.
For the “sauce” we’re not doing anything crazy here- I’m staying with traditional flavors of mayo and sour cream. There are a lot of options out there for lower-calorie mayonnaise and I would not recommend all of them. Honestly, a little bit of a bad mayo can totally ruin a recipe. One of my favorites is this Best Foods Light (Or Hellemans’s on the East side of the country) – I always just remember the lid color because there’s so many options! I also like this one, made with olive oil. It’s great for recipes like this, and on sandwiches, etc. The only thing I absolutely will not make with low fat/light mayo is ranch dressing. It just isn’t worth it!
Along with a tablespoon of the light mayo, add a tablespoon of light sour cream or greek yogurt. For the seasoning, I keep it simple with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste) and curry powder for flavor. I also put in just a tiny bit of red wine vinegar (honestly any kind of vinegar is fine- white wine, rice vinegar, even balsamic) because I think it’s benefited from a little acidity. But if you don’t have vinegar, it’s no biggie.
Another optional is fresh parsley or cilantro. I usually have some in my fridge so I toss it in there. Fresh herbs brighten everything. No prob if you don’t have any.
Then just mix it up. If you have time to think ahead, I think the flavor is significantly improved by an hour or so sit in the fridge. So this is a great one to make in the am (or even the night before) and take to work, or just have it ready to go at home when hunger strikes. Right before serving, stir in a few toasted almonds.
This is a good-sized salad. It’s enough that you can eat it plain and still be filled up, or you can put it on a piece of whole grain bread, wrap it in a tortilla, or pop it in a pita.
Skinny Chicken Salad
A great mix of sweet, tangy, and crunchy, this Skinny Chicken Salad makes a fantastic lunch.
- 4 ounces shredded or diced (cooked) boneless, skinless, chicken breast (abt 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup diced celery
- 2 tablespoons sliced green onion
- 1/4 cup diced sweet, crisp apple
- 1 tablespoon light mayo
- 1 tablespoon light sour cream or Greek yogurt
- optional: 1/2-1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
- 1/8 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sliced almonds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients except almonds and stir to combine. If possible, chill for an hour or so before eating.
- Before serving, mix in almonds.
- Eat in a lettuce wrap, on whole grain bread, in a wrap, or in a pita.