Empty Fridge, Empty Stomach
When I first started trying to be healthy and low-carb, I was always hungry when I got home at night, and the question on my mind was always: “What should I eat for dinner?” It was a hard question to answer especially when my fridge was empty and my list of “should eat” foods didn’t correspond too well with the “want to eat” foods (i.e. I wanted to eat cake – who doesn’t??). These were pretty serious problems, especially when you’re a ravenous monster exhausted from an entire day of work! Keeping on any diet (whether low carb or otherwise) is practically impossible when you’re faced with hunger pangs, an empty fridge (or a fridge full of foods not on your diet), and a fixation on cake (I’m also up for brownies, cupcakes, ice-creams, if they’re good). It’s like asking for your diet to be broken! Well, it’s taken me months and cake still tempts me, but I’ve come to realize that there are three important practices that have made healthy eating a lot easier to stick with (at least when you’re at home!):
1. Throw Out the Bad Food It’s practically impossible to eat unhealthily in my apartment – there’s no sugar, no flour, no pasta, no potatoes, no rice or other grains, no fruit juice, and definitely no cake (I’ve searched!). There is therefore no temptation in front of me at home. Of course, my mind still tempts me, but luckily I’m generally way too lazy to make the effort to go out and buy bad food (although the 7 Eleven on my street corner does do some midnight business from me unfortunately)! But if you’re going to cheat and buy a pack of cookies, be sure to throw out the leftovers (if any) so that you’re not tempted to continue to eat them the next day!
2. Stock Up on Good Food If you just have an empty fridge, then no amount of willpower will stop a hungry and tired you from going out to buy a bunch of “bad” foods. Go to the store when you’re NOT hungry and stock up on “healthy” provisions. What can you buy? There are the staple items: coconut milk, protein powder, eggs, a variety of vegetables (no potatoes or carrots) and fruits. You can also stock up on nuts, dark chocolates and cheese as snacks to take to work. You’re probably thinking that my shopping list doesn’t sound like too great of a meal, but wait, there’s a third step still!
3. Cook Lots on the Weekends and Watch TV I hear the groans coming now: “I can’t cook,” “my food tastes like ****,” “cooking is [insert your complaint here, e.g., boring, tiring, annoying].” Yeah, I know – I made those same old excuses myself! I’ve had plenty of cooking disasters – I still do (I burnt some vegetables two days ago) – and I’ve cooked plenty of dishes that I couldn’t bring myself to eat (you only see the recipes that worked!). But, it’s honestly not that awful. There are many trustworthy recipe websites where you can read reviews of how the food turned out. Many recipe sites like allrecipes.com have user ratings for all the recipes and some recipes even provide a carb and calorie count. Pick easy recipes that get good reviews – there are quite a lot of them. And then it’s just a bit of trial and error. Make large portions over the weekend and store in the fridge to eat over the week. I’ve found cooking to be quite relaxing actually – it allows me to be a bit creative on occasions and most importantly gives me an excuse to watch tv without feeling like I’m wasting my free time! I’m in a job where I sit for most of my waking hours so getting to be standing in the kitchen is a calorie-burner in itself! And lastly, cooking your own food is way cheaper and cleaner than eating out or buying prepared foods. Have I convinced you yet?
EXAMPLE: Food For a Week In case you’re still not a believer (and I sense a lot of disbelief here), here’s an example of what I would cook for an entire week for 2 people over the course of 3-4 hours on Sunday (while watching some tv crime drama on Netflix).
- Boil a dozen eggs, peel, let cool naturally and store in a container in the fridge. There are various ways you can eat boiled eggs e.g. chop up and put in a green salad, chop up and mix with some mayo and mustard and salt to make an egg salad, chop up and mix with soy sauce, sesame oil and a touch of hot sauce, or just eat it by itself (body-builders do it all the time!).
- Buy some washed spinach, grape tomatoes, canned tuna and canned or jarred olives. These are simple to store and you can make a salad in less than 5 minutes with these. As a dressing, try ranch or Caesar or simply olive oil, vinegar, and salt.
- Make some bunless burgers. I’m not a big fan of the beef taste, so I like to put some yellow onions, green onions, sometimes a leek, some garlic, ginger, a bit of garlic and onion powder, and some salt (or basically whatever you want – blue cheese also works well!). You can get grass-fed ground beef at Wholefoods, and it’s easy to just mix the spices and vegetables into the beef. You don’t have to cook it on a BBQ grill – I use a Foreman grill sometimes, other times I pan-sear it in some coconut oil or butter for a more grilled flavor, or I’ve even put the burgers into the oven and baked it (you can also put it under the broiler for a few minutes to kind of sear the outside after cooking it in the oven).
- Make a roast, or pulled pork or chicken in the slow cooker. Slow cooker cooking is the easiest form of cooking! All you have to do is put the meat into the slow cooker, add a bit of water or broth (and spices if you’re feeling up to it) and leave to cook for 8 or more hours on a low heat. The meat comes out tender, and then all you have to do is add some soy sauce, hot sauce, or zero calorie BBQ sauce and it’s a meal. You can cook a lot of meat in one go in the slow cooker, so it can easily last for several meals.
The options are really endless. There are so many recipes (e.g. eggplant lasagna, coconut pancakes, and flax muffins) that you could easily cook a large batch of in a few hours and eat for the week. I like to cook several different dishes so that I can have variety during the week, but how many you cook is up to you.