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The Saturday Skinny: Quick meals can also be healthy on weight loss journey

By: Don Chaddock, Gold Country News Service
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There are times when I find my life lacking color. Maybe I'm stuck in a rut, doing the same things over and over again. After winter, spring provides ample color - a feast for the eyes. Wildflowers, fruit trees and bulbs are in full bloom.

While driving, walking or hiking, I like to admire the beauty around me.

The same can be said for my plate. If everything is the same color, that's a good clue the meal probably isn't going to aid me in my weight loss quest.

I'm frequently trying to juggle work, care for two small children and still meet my outside commitments. Somehow, I have to find time to fit in some essentials such as eating breakfast, packing my lunch and cooking dinner when I arrive home. I often feel like there aren't enough hours in the day, so why bother? Wouldn't it just be easier to grab fast food or order pizza?

Since I've lost 91 pounds as of Friday, I don't plan to do anything to reverse that trend.

So, here are some quick tips that I've found helpful to avoid the fast-food trap.

PLAN MEALS AHEAD

I know what I like to eat and what works for my lifestyle. So twice each week, I cook a lot of the components of my meals in advance and make sure I have the quick ingredients for the rest.

My go-to meal on the go is baked brown rice, black beans, roasted asparagus and a salad. To mix it up, here's another good one.

VEGGIE PATTY (Trader Joe's brand)

These are quick and nutritious, taking three minutes per side over medium-high heat in a skillet.

As a side dish, I serve up roasted sweet potato wedges and lemon-tahini sauce (which can also be picked up at Trader Joe's in the refrigerated section near produce).

SALAD

For added color, a salad of spring mix lettuce, spinach leaves and garbanzo beans (or black beans) is perfect. For dressing, I use a low fat yogurt dressing (about 45 calories per serving). The meal takes virtually no time to throw together if the sweet potatoes were cooked ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. (To cook the wedges, click here for the Saturday Skinny column featuring that recipe.)

OTHER TIPS

Schedule an afternoon of cooking. For me, that's Sunday. I usually bake brown rice, roast sweet potato wedges and yam halves, and either grill some chicken breasts or mushrooms and some asparagus. Then, I pack it all away - some in the freezer and the rest in the refrigerator. Now I have plenty of food cooked to pack in my lunch or eat for dinner.

PACK LUNCH THE NIGHT BEFORE

When putting away dinner, I grab the left overs and use them to pack my lunch, supplementing with frozen veggies. My lunch containers have portioned areas, so it's easy for me to maintain a good balance in what I'm packing. The next morning, I grab my lunch box, throw in a freezer pack, my pre-packed lunch and two low-fat yogurts (for my 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. snacks).

A busy lifestyle doesn't have to mean bland, boring pre-packaged foods. I do not purchase those frozen meals that promise health and weight loss. My experience has found them lacking. I'm not a dainty man and I have a real appetite. Avoid these if you can.

WHAT AM I DOING?

Someone asked me recently what I'm doing to lose weight. If you read the other installments of this column, you can see it's a combination of healthy eating and exercise. That's the formula that works best for me. I don't have a personal trainer (but that would make it easier), am not enrolled in any weight loss program and don't have expensive gym equipment at home. In fact, other than a few hand weights, a mat and resistance bands, I have no gym equipment at home. I also use the Wii Fit Plus and The Biggest Loser Challenge for the Wii game console. Losing weight can be done on your own.

Don Chaddock's column The Saturday Skinny publishes online every Saturday. Share your stories with him at donc@goldcountrymedia.com and follow him on Twitter @anewsguy.