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It’s always nice to look back at my blog entries and see no discernable pattern.

Anyway, this year I’m thinking about health. I’ve already gotten more sleep in the last four days than I’ve had in the last four months of 2014. (Of course I’m exaggerating, but it certainly feels that way.)

I’m one of those horrible people who is actually excited about getting healthy. I got resistance workout bands for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to resuming my regular walks.

I’ve done this before. In 2007-8, I’d lost 70 pounds and kept it off, mostly, until late 2011 when fate bestowed an exciting, life-altering concussion upon me, and I couldn’t do anything physically challenging for several months. For the first few months, “physically challenging” was “getting out of bed”. Anyway, I gained all the weight back, and from 2012 until just this past June, I’ve been caring for an elderly relative in my home, which didn’t allow for much autonomy. I was able to do some walking and running, and even some training for a triathlon (which I stupidly didn’t prepare for very well the day of the race, but that’s another story). But I didn’t really do much with my diet.

That changes tomorrow, at the official end of the holiday vacation.

As a general philosophy, I like to go low-carb, but not insanely low-carb. My body doesn’t process carbohydrates very well, and I can lose a significant amount of weight just by limiting carbs to about 150-175g of carbohydrates / day, and not even thinking about fats or protein. Of course, your mileage may vary, biology being unhelpfully inconsistent.

(After a certain point I will hit a plateau, and that’s when I actually have to pay attention to all my macronutrients and my calorie intake. To calculate a good calorie intake and proper macronutrient levels, I use the free calculators over at freedieting.com.)

But right now I’m looking at a low-to-moderate carbohydrate diet of 150g / day. I’ll allocate it like this, probably:

Breakfast: 15g
Snack: 15g
Lunch: 45g
Snack: 15g
Dinner: 45g
Snack: 15g

I’m vegetarian, so getting high-protein, low-carb foods does involve a bit of research but not much. Here are some foods (both high-protein and not-so-high-protein) I usually turn to when I’m on my diet:

V-8. This is 35 calories in a 5.5oz can. It’s 5.5g of carbs (after you subtract fiber) and it’s a great little drink to take your vitamins with.

Low-carb bread. We have a whole wheat bread that boasts 70 calories and 10 net g of carbs in two slices, which is fantastic. It also has 5g of protein for those two slices. With this I will make some very simple sandwiches, which are great for packing up and taking to work:

  • Tomato sandwiches. A little light mayo (35 cal/tbsp), thick slices of tomato (5 cal/slice) and some salt make a really good sandwich. (This New Jersey girl always enjoys a big, flavorful Jersey tomato.)
  • Egg sandwiches. You can make an egg (70 cals) and put it on two slices of bread (70 cals) with the light condiment of your choice for a sub-200-calorie lunch.
  • French toast. This is essentially an egg sandwich where the egg just hugs the bread tighter from its inside air pockets. Use a sugar-free syrup, or a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or even a sugar-free jelly.
  • Cheese sandwiches. Mozzarella and American cheeses are the lowest calorie cheeses I could find, coming in at 80 and 70 calories per ounce, respectively. I used to like to have half a sandwich and a light soup or broth for lunch.

Low-Fat Cottage Cheese. Coming in a 80 calories for a half cup, this food has 14g of protein, which makes it extremely filling. Also, only 3g of carbs. I like to mix mine with low-sugar jellies or preserves.

Oatmeal. It’s about 120-150 calories for 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal, but the volume increases significantly once water’s added and it’s cooked. It’s a bit high on the carbs at 25 net grams per serving, but if you’re looking for something for lunch to accompany something high in protein (like cottage cheese!) this is a nice partner. I add stevia and cinnamon, and sometimes throw in some lower calorie chopped fruit.

Greek Yogurt. You can use any yogurt, but I like Greek yogurt, because it’s high-protein and very creamy. I used to get unsweetened applesauce, stevia, and cinnamon and mix them with yogurt. You can also use unsweetened peaches, or really any fruit that isn’t too high in calories, like berries.

Berries. Strawberries, blueberries and blackberries are wonderful to add to things or just to eat as a snack. A cup of sliced strawberries is moderately filling, only 50 or so calories, and a net 9g carbs.

Light soups. These are great for a quick meal, though you have to be careful with prepared soups, because they’re usually hella high in sodium.

Vegetables and dip. I have never been good at light ranch dressing. If you’re going to have ranch, go ahead and just have it. That being said, you can dip vegetables in hummus as well. Also, sour cream is lower in calories than you think, and mixed with some spices it’s not too bad as a veggie dip. Try onion powder and garlic powder paired with parsley in your sour cream, or perhaps dill, lemon juice. Add a little salt if it’s too bland.

Light Soy Milk. There’s only one brand of soy milk that I can stomach, 8th Continent Light. It’s not really soy-like, and it’s only 50 calories per cup, with 8g of protein. Don’t get the vanilla. Just…trust me on that. (I don’t know. I generally like vanilla and I hated it. You might like it. But I tried to warn you.) Also, keep in mind that soy is a pseudo-estrogen, so you don’t want to do this too often, but it’s ok every once in a while with cereal.

Special K Protein Cereal. Speaking of cereal, 10g of protein and net 16g carbs for 3/4 cup make this a good breakfast or lunch choice.

Salads. A bowl of vegetables and a light dressing. Gets the job done. Add an egg and/or some lower-fat nuts and/or beans for protein.

Beans and Lentils. I put beans in everything, but especially soups and salads. I have been known to add a tiny bit of sugar to kidney beans and just eat them straight. You can coat them with a bit of salad dressing. You can blend them and add them as a thickener to things (more soups, especially). I used to make a potato soup that was actually a good percentage blended navy bean.

Giant Dill Pickles. These are big, crispy, and you definitely feel like you’ve eaten something.

Popcorn. I have a terrible habit of eating while I work. A big bowl of air-popped or microwave popcorn does a nice job of giving me something to munch on without piling on the calories.

Here I will also mention edamame and quinoa, because they are both complete proteins, but they’re not low-calorie.

There are also a few vegetarian faux meat products that are nice.

  • Yves’ Tofu Dogs are 45 calories per dog and taste just as good (as far as I remember) on light bread with ketchup and relish.
  • Also from Yves, their meatless turkey slices will set you back about 100 calories, but are 16g of protein and 5g of carbs.
  • Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patties are 110 calories, net 6g carbs and 10g protein.
  • Quorn “Chicken” Cutlets are 80 calories per “breast”, with 3g of carbs and 11g protein.

I’m also planning on doing some of my own protein shakes. I’ll let you know what happens with that. I’ve never played with protein powder before, and I now own a large cardboard cylinder of it.

Ok, that’s it for now. Please feel free to add any low-carb, low-calorie suggestions in the comments below! I’m sure as I put my diet into action, I’ll probably remember more things to add. It has been several years since I’ve done this.

(If you’re looking for a good place to get nutrition facts for all manner of fresh, packaged, or restaurant foods, I recommend going to Calorie King.)