Browsing Category: diet countdown

20-day diet prep plan: Day 19 – salad lab and quiz

make some salad; creamy italian dressing

If you haven’t already read and done Day 20, start there. Seriously; you have to. Today depends on it!

Today’s two assignments: Experiment with salads, and take a couple quick quizzes.

Assignment 1: Make some salads

paleo food gift; creamy italian dressing

Remember those groceries you bought yesterday, based on Day 20? (No? See, I told you you have to start at the beginning!) Make two or three different kinds of homemade dressing, and play around with salad contents. Make yourself a few mini salads, and eat your experiments. Call it lunch or dinner. You might also prep a salad for lunch tomorrow.

Notes for packing salads: You can pack greens and vegetables together, but don’t pack anything containing salt or sugar with the greens or veggies. The chemicals will break down the cell walls and make them wilt. This includes cheese, salted nuts, dressing, and cooked meats, including bacon and salami. Here are some more great tips for packing salads, from The Kitchn.

Assignment 2: Take two easy quizzes

Take these quizzes to help determine which diet might be best for you right now.

You don’t need to figure out what diet is best or commit to anything today. I’ll give you some more guidance over the next few days, regarding what to do with your results.

Prep plan, Day 19

New Year, New Diet: 20-Day Prep Plan! (And my salad equation)

20-day prep plan for starting a new diet

Are you thinking about starting a new diet — excuse me — a new way of eating at the beginning of the new year? Good for you!

applauding minions

 

Why not stack the odds for success in your favor? Instead of just diving in unprepared on January 1, use these last three weeks of December to gird your loins for battle! I’m here to help.

Every day, I’ll be posting an activity or two that will help you mentally or physically prepare for a fresh start on January 1. The weekday assignments will usually be pretty light; the Saturday and Sunday assignments will involve a little more time. But this is time that will pay forward to bring you greater success next month.

And since we’re starting on Saturday, we’re going to dive right into it! Your assignment for today: make a grocery list then do some shopping.

Get groceries for healthy salads

One of the things that can make or break your efforts to stick to healthy eating is knowing a few easy meals that you can throw together based on things that you always have on hand.

Salads are an easy meal, and can be a healthy choice that fits into almost any diet plan — as long as the dressing isn’t full of sugar, corn syrup, and other sugary things.

Here’s my equation for creating a delicious salad:

Greens + onions + something sweet and tangy + something crunchy and maybe salty + cheese (optional) + protein (optional) + dressing, including some healthy fat!

Your greens can be spinach, romaine, kale, mixed baby greens, or any combination. Iceberg lettuce contains few nutrients, though, so you’re better off with something else.

Onions can be white, yellow, green or red, or they may be blended into the dressing. If you’re concerned about onions overpowering your salad, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes or so, then drain them before adding to the salad.

Sweet and tangy is usually fruit, but can also be vegetable. Tomatoes are popular, as are craisins or other dried fruit. Consider other possibilities: fresh berries such as blueberries or sliced strawberries; diced apple or pear; or chunks of mango, orange, tangerine, or grapefruit. Diced cooked sweet potato is another nice option.

Avoid relying on croutons for your crunchy item. Nuts are gluten-free, low carb, and higher in nutrition. Skip anything candied or sugared; use raw or toasted pecans, walnuts, cashews, pepitas, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, almonds slivered or sliced… You get the idea! Crisp/crunchy veggies also work well: celery, jicama, cabbage. Crispy bacon is another solid option. Cuz bacon makes everything better! And a few crumbles of real, good quality bacon is not a diet breaker.

If you’re not avoiding dairy, cheese makes a nice addition to many salads. Popular choices include feta, blue cheese, and goat cheese. Parmesan and cheddar are appropriate for certain salads. Anything is possible, though. Except Velveeta. Please: never Velveeta!

If you’re going to make your salad a meal, some thinly-sliced, already-cooked meats will bring the protein you need. Chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, tuna, leftover salmon or crabcakes are all fair game! Eggs are another possibility: hard-boiled and chopped, or fried and laid on top! (Just look up #putaneggonit on Instagram!)

We’ll talk more in the coming days about the error of low-fat thinking, but for now, please just trust me on this: your salad needs fat! Lack of fat is one of the things that will make you hungry again in an hour or two. (Sugar is the other.) So replacing those low-fat, sugar-filled, store-bought dressings with healthy, whole-food, homemade dressings is going to make a huge difference in the frequency and strength of your cravings.

While there’s great controversy about which fats are healthy and which are not, pretty much everyone agrees on these: olive oil and avocados. Bacon, cheese, eggs, and nuts are other possibilities, but more controversial.

So make sure you have a good quality 100% extra virgin olive oil on your grocery list. (My favorite everyday brand: California Olive Ranch. Because it’s made in America, I figure it’s fresher, which is important. You can get it at Dillon’s and World Market. Possibly other places, but I know those two for certain.)

Oh, and this is not a hard-and-fast rulebook (except for the low-sugar, some-fat rule); just a few parameters to get you started. There are no salad police!

Not sure how to combine these? Study some online restaurant menus for inspiration, or search for salads on allrecipes.com, or your other favorite food blog.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

antipasto salad

Sugar-free salad dressings

sugar-free poppy seed dressingI have several sugar-free salad dressing recipes on this site. Peruse these and pick out two or three you’d like to try:

Now make a grocery list of salad and dressing ingredients based on what you’d like to try, and hit the store! (If Creamy Italian is one of your picks, go ahead and make it today; it tastes better when the ingredients have had several hours to mellow and blend.)

Want to follow along for the rest of the countdown? You can do that by…

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20-day prep plan for starting a new diet

Cream and half-and-half; prices and ingredients compared

Organic Valley - cream ingredients + cost

My husband drinks copious amounts of cream every day in his coffee, and for ages I just picked up the Kroger brand cream at Dillon’s. Then one day I noticed that the ingredients list included more than just cream…

Kroger brand cream ingredients

What the… ?

Food and health geek that I am, of course I had to look all those things up.

I frequently refer to Chris Kresser’s site, because he seems to do a good job of looking carefully at what the facts say, not just passing on the latest hysteria. His take on carrageenan:

“Carrageenan has been frequently portrayed as significantly more harmful than is supported by available evidence. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a known carcinogen, and although some studies implicate carrageenan in ulceration and inflammation, some show no adverse effects…. Because the evidence isn’t conclusive either way, I recommend avoiding carrageenan, especially if you have a history of digestive problems.”  (source)

(Interesting side note: Carrageenan also shows up frequently in commercially made soy milk and almond milk.)

Mono and diglycerides are synthetic fats derived from either vegetable oils (not a good thing) or animal fats. (source)

Polysorbate worries me a bit. Some mice studies have shown that “relatively low concentrations” of polysorbate-80 “induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type [mice] and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder.” (source)

In English? If the mice study holds true for humans, even a small intake of polysorbate-80 could cause general inflammation and/or pre-diabetes in anyone, and severe colitis in people who are genetically prone to colitis.

So, not conclusive evidence, and not terribly precise. But if I can find an easily accessible, not too expensive alternative, I’ll go for it.

Which of course means more research! So I hit a couple stores and gathered some intel. This isn’t exhaustive research, by any means, but it does make me feel like I’ve done my homework and can make an informed decision.

Here are various brands of cream available at Dillon’s and Whole Foods Market in Wichita KS, and their ingredients and cost per ounce.

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Kroger - cream ingredients + cost

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Hildebrand - cream ingredients - cost

As reader Mary O. reminded me, local dairies are almost always a better bet than national brands, and you may be able to find local cream for much less outside the grocery store. Google and ask your health-minded friends for local sources.

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Organic Valley - cream ingredients + cost

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Kalona - cream ingredients + cost

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And, just to be thorough, here’s some info on half-and-half, as well:

Kroger - half-and-half ingredients + cost

Note: Disodium phosphate and sodium citrate are salts used to preserve foods or improve their consistency. I couldn’t find any research on either of them.

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Kalona - half-and-half ingredients + cost

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So, my research concludes: The most pure options are the Hildebrand cream, the Kalona cream, and the Kalona half-and-half. Of these, the Hildebrand cream and the Kalona half-and-half are the cheapest and similar in price.

Note: Hildebrand products come in glass bottles which cost an additional amount for deposit, but if you return them to the store, the deposit is completely refunded. Whether it’s worth the extra hassle is your call.