Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Diet tips... and spirituality?

I've been in Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet now for a little over a week, and I would like to share some of the tips and tricks (and yes, ways of coping) I've found that seem to work.  I also discovered something surprising about this diet, which is that there is a spiritual side to it that lends itself nicely to an Earth-centered religion like mine.  But more on that later; first, some information that might be helpful to anyone else navigating their way around the South Beach Diet.

Replacing bread:  Ever try to make a sandwich without bread?  What you make might arguably be more like a salad with meat and cheese in it, and of course the proportions have to be tinkered with.   But it's obviously not impossible, and doing so will expose the true purpose of bread in a sandwich:  it's simply a delivery system for all the other stuff - a place to put your hands when eating it, basically.  With that in mind, you can replace bread with diet-friendly delivery systems, such as celery, lettuce, and cucumber.  Celery and cucumber can easily be used to scoop tuna salad, chicken salad, or egg salad sandwiches.  Cucumber slices (instead of crackers) also make great little platforms for Lunchable-style sandwiches of sliced meats, cheeses, veggies and various spreads.  And let's not forget lettuce:  lettuce cups or lettuce wraps can be used with everything from burgers to shredded meat fillings to traditional sandwich ingredients, if you get creative.

Going out to eat?  I've also noticed that there are quite a few more options for dining out on the South Beach Diet beyond eating salads all the time.  Middle Eastern food, such as gyros or kabobs, can simply be eaten without the pita.  Falafel (fried balls of garbanzo beans mashed up with onion and parsley) is another good option (although keep in mind that it IS fried, and it does have a small amount of flour in it.)  Just make sure to eat plenty of greens with the falafel, and again, ditch the pita.  Chinese food has plenty of low or no-carb choices, including my favorites, Broccoli Beef, Cashew or Almond Chicken, and Mu-shu Pork (without the wrapper.) Basically any meat/veg or meat/nut dishes, bean dishes, and steamed or stir-fried vegetables are just fine.  Steer clear of rice, sweet or fruity sauces, and anything breaded.  You can also go out for Mexican food on the diet, and eat your way around the carbs.  This means don't eat the rice, tortillas, or taco shells, and look out for potatoes in some restaurants, too.  I usually eat beans and cheese, ceviche, or get a tostada and eat everything except the shell.

Quick and easy, or on-the-go:  soup and chili out of the can are my new best friends.  Because chili is usually nothing more than beans, meat, and tomato sauce with spices, there's no reason it can't be eaten on the South Beach Diet.  The same goes for many canned soups, especially bean soups.  In both instances, make sure to read the labels and check for any hidden sugars, and choose soups without rice, pasta, or potatoes.  Hummus is another one of my staples.  You can make your own with just a few ingredients, or you can buy it ready-made at most grocery stores (Trader Joe's plain organic hummus is awesome.)  Dip raw veggies in the hummus, or slather it on cucumber slices with pieces of last night's cold leftover chicken on top for a quick lunch (another personal favorite).  Also use any of my sandwich suggestions above for an easy, take-with-you lunch that can be made ahead of time. (I used to take these with me on field trips when I worked at a summer camp.)

Cook a lot and adjust recipes:  To get by on the South Beach Diet, you are going to have to do a fair amount of cooking for yourself.  Following this diet is, in fact, one of the ways that I'm learning how to cook.  And I've discovered that  I can still use many of the recipes out there with just a few minor adjustments.  Take, for example, the Italian Wedding Soup I made last night for dinner.  The original recipe calls for pasta to be added to the soup, which we all know is not allowed on the diet.  So I simply omitted the pasta and added carrots and extra beans and spinach to the soup instead!  The result was a big pot full of sausage, bean, and veggie goodness that is not only diet-friendly, but hearty and filling, too.  Plus I have enough leftovers to make a few more meals, which I can have this week or freeze and eat later when I don't feel like cooking.  Yum!

I've often read that this is the way a lot of people following the South Beach Diet operate:  they cook up a whole mess of food on the weekends, and then eat that the rest of the week or freeze what they make for future use. So I'm following suit, and learning to cook in big batches.  I can't wait to see what new recipes I will be making now that I've subscribed to a CSA box!  Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it as I go... (For those of you who don't know, "CSA" stands for "community-supported agriculture."  A CSA box is a crate full of local, often organically grown produce delivered to your door on a subscription.  But I'll get more into that in my next post.)

Alright, the diet spirituality discussion is going to have to wait.  Part 2 coming soon...

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