Low-Calorie Meals

Diet

DTS

One of the issues I’ve been having with “dieting” lately is feeling deprived. I don’t mean the “I’m denying myself food” kind of deprived. More of the, I’m not eating smart and it’s leaving me feeling unsatisfied and hungry. I wrote about this a little while ago and talked about eating more protein and healthy fats. While I do that most of the time, I find that Monday-Friday I pack my food with calories in mind. I have breakfast at home, then bring a morning snack to work (usually fruit) then I have a low calorie lunch and if it’s a gym day I have an afternoon snack.

This has left me feeling low-energy, cranky, irritable, moody AND HUNGRY. I think Michael got sick of hearing me complain about being hungry all the time so he asked me if I’d be willing to try eating “his diet” for awhile. I said maybe. I feel pretty stuck in my ways, honestly. Eating low calorie foods. I’ve gone back to eating soup or Lean Cuisine type lunches at work that never really stick with me too long. BUT they were portion controlled and I knew how many calories I was eating. Besides, it worked for me 8 years ago, right?!? So why isn’t it working now?

Probably because I’m used to eating more. After I reached goal weight and spent 6.5 years in maintenance mode, I was used to eating a little bit more. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, really. Maybe lose that fluctuation I saw but it was never more than 5 pounds.

Also, my activity level is way different NOW than it was 8 years ago when I first started working out AND of course doing 30 minutes of swimming was going to shock my body into losing a lot of weight because it wasn’t used to activity like that. Now? After 8 years of having a fairly intense workout regiment, my body is used to this. So losing is harder.

It’s not that I was unwilling to give Michael’s ideas a try, it’s really just that I can’t let go of the calorie counting. IT WORKED. For a long time. It’s easy, I know how to do it. It’s become a habit that is part of my normal every day routine. He was asking me to ignore counting calories for awhile while I just focused on eating a high protein, healthy diet of whole foods.

Sounds good in theory right?! But ignoring calories is how I gained 15 pounds on my honeymoon. That and the daily pina coladas and Bloody Mary’s… 😉

Anyways, I decided to give it a try. I was definitely in a food rut so it couldn’t hurt, right? Plus I was tired of feeling tired, hungry, cranky and unsatisfied during the week from a too-low calorie intake. (Which would inevitably lead to me eating crap at work.)

1XMAS

Breakfasts

I picked up some ground chicken at the store. It came in a tube, like the breakfast sausages (think Jimmy Dean sausage). It was made of chicken thigh and breast meat and didn’t have a bunch of weird ingredients in it. I cooked it up in a skillet with grapeseed oil and some chopped onions. It cooked up exactly like lean ground turkey meat. The color, consistency and taste was pretty close to turkey, too.

eggs

The package of ground chicken had 4 servings in it, each serving 140 calories. I was getting a little more like 5 or 5.5 servings out of what I cooked up. I added some of the ground chicken to two scrambled eggs and topped it with hot sauce. It was a low calorie, high protein and VERY filling breakfast.

CALORIES: 365 total (that number includes my cup of coffee with creamer in it).

Lunches

So during the week I had two different kinds of lunches: the gym days and non-gym days. Non-gym days didn’t have carbs. An example of a lunch for non-gym days was lettuce with low-calorie dressing and a fillet of blackened salmon. (Salmon blackening below, the ground chicken for breakfasts on the right.)

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CALORIES: Around 400 calories (for the salad, salmon and dressing).

Gym days: Michael made me this crazy delicious salad for gym days. It was quinoa, chickpeas, kale, carrots and chicken with pesto. Having carbs on gym days was required. This was the second week of food prep:

diet
Carrots, blanched kale, chopped red cabbage, chopped pickled beets. The quinoa was cooking, the chicken was baking. The second week Michael skipped the chickpeas and added raw spinach to the salad and I added some raw peppers. It’s a delicious salad!

Dinners

This hasn’t changed much. A protein and a vegetable.

One dinner Michael made was a burger with a piece of bacon on top of a bed of lettuce with a fried egg on top, topped with some hot sauce. Talk about protein! It was absolutely delicious and filling, despite lacking any carbs.

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Snacks

I was still sticking with the fruit for snacks at work. Pre-gym snacks were either pre-packaged servings of hummus from Costco (they are 150 calories) with veggies or plain Greek yogurt with some fruit in it.

Desserts

This is where I fall short. The sugar. I am trying REALLY hard not to indulge in candy at work and trying to skip the desserts at home. Protein shakes are dessert on gym days. This is also beneficial for days I lift weights. 🙂

Will it Work?

I’m on week 2 of this diet, with a few slip-ups due to the holidays and parties. I am trying not to beat myself up over that because for most of the week I was doing well and sticking with it. I was also limiting my sugar successfully! That’s a huge thing for me. Right now I am just trying to get through the next two weeks of holiday foods and festivities and hopefully I’ll start to see some real progress in January.

Anyways, I wanted to share some of the foods I’ve been eating lately because it’s been really delicious and satisfying. So much more so than frozen meals…

Wild Salmon with Dill and Cucumber Salad

If there’s a salmon recipe out there, I will save it to try at some point. We eat so much fish that I’m always on the lookout for a recipe to find a different way to enjoy it with. Of the recipes I’ve tried, there have been a few salmon recipes that have become a staple. The old standby method is blackened salmon. It’s easy, it’s zippy and it goes well with Caesar salads.

Another favorite is the glazed salmon–just mix a little brown sugar into Dijon mustard and ta-da! Yummy sweet mustard salmon. The other favorite is the minced garlic, fresh basil and tomato method. All of these are easy, last-minute dinners that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

I stumbled upon this recipe in a memoir I was reading about an ex-pat living in Paris. I bookmarked the recipe because it sounded so good to me. I used to make something similar–with just a little butter, dill and slices of lemon–but I loved the addition of the yogurt sauce and cucumber. I knew the next time I was making salmon I’d try it this way.

Thursday night I got home and for the first time in awhile did not have errands, chores or the gym after work. I decided it was going to be a lazy TV night. Since Michael was miserable on the couch with his hurt back (poor baby) I made dinner. First, a little mood music:

 

Wild Salmon with Dill and Cucumber Salad

“Saumon a l’Aneth et Salade de Concombre”

from “Lunch in Paris”

Serves: 8

 

Salmon

1 wild salmon fillet (2 pounds)

Extra virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh dill, chopped

Half a lemon

Watercress, to serve

 

Yogurt Sauce

2 cups Greek yogurt

2 TB Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 TB fresh dill, chopped

 

Cucumber Salad

2 pounds pickling cucumbers

Extra Virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt

Black pepper

Fresh dill

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Fish: wash and dry salmon. On a large baking sheet lay out foil, place salmon on top and drizzle with oil. Season with salt, pepper and dill. Seal the foil. Cook 30-35 minutes in oven.  Serve on a bed of watercress. Squeeze half the lemon on the fish.

3. Sauce: combine all ingredients and leave to rest in the fridge. Pass with the salmon.

4. Salad: cut cucumbers into 1/2 inch slices. If you are using regular cucumbers, remove the seeds first. Can be cut hours before but don’t dress until ready to serve.

5. Drizzle cucumbers with olive oil, sprinkle salt, pepper and dill on top. Serve immediately.

I knew this would be a good recipe from the moment I read it. And we almost always have salmon on hand. I prepared the salmon with a little bit of olive oil (which keeps the salmon from sticking to the foil), sea salt, pepper, a little bit of lemon pepper, dill and the lemon slices.


I wrapped the foil loosely and put it in the oven. Doing the salmon in the foil like this makes clean up super easy. While it was baking (I changed one thing–375 degrees instead of 400) I made us simple salads to eat while it cooked.


Spinach salad with half a serving of Craisins, chopped walnuts, balsamic and olive oil. I love this salad.


Next I worked on the cucumber salad. I scooped out the seeds and then chopped the cucumber. I made the yogurt sauce using the recipe as just a guide. I added more dill and a little bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice. The flavors were mild and delicious.


I changed the recipe a tiny bit again. I mixed the cucumber chunks with some yogurt sauce to lightly coat them–sort of like a thick dressing.

The salmon was done and perfectly cooked–not overdone at all. I squeezed some fresh lemon juice on the baked salmon.


Then I topped the salmon with a spoonful of the remaining yogurt sauce. I did not have watercress so I skipped that. I sprinkled a little extra dill on the cucumbers and dinner was served!


What I loved most about this recipe was the mingling of different flavors. The fresh lemon, plain Greek yogurt and dill are a delicious combination. It’s mild but every once in awhile the lemon had a little kick.


Another bonus–Greek yogurt is a great alternative to other things like mayo, sour cream or tartar sauce. The plain Greek yogurt I used was about 60 calories a serving. It added a different kind of flavor to the fish and I loved it! Michael liked it too. He said the dinner was great and he loved the cucumber and sauce. This will make another appearance in our meal rotation for sure.

I’d give this recipe an A-. It’s delicious, EASY and low in calories. The only “downside” is that it’s not that innovative or that different than the lemon pepper salmon I already do. I do love the yogurt sauce though!

We settled in to catch up on old TV shows–we are weeks behind on the new seasons! (We watched a few episodes of Parenthood, The Office and Modern Family.) I snuggled with the sweetest kitty ever:


And look who else made an appearance!


Maya! She even sniffed my hand before running away again. She stood in the hallway behind my chair and cried. I think she wants to join us for our cuddle sessions when we watch TV but she’s just too skittish. Poor thing.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite recipe that includes Greek yogurt? Will you try this recipe?