two salads, one bowl

One week remaining in the super healthy reset month, a.k.a. #healthyoctober, Sobetober, Octsober, and still going strong!  It hasn’t been easy!!!  In fact, the hardest part has been the sobriety, mostly because of the ubiquity of alcohol in my new locale/work environment.  So instead, I’ve been drinking a cocktail of willpower, stubbornness, and fear of failure, which has allowed me to maintain a clean sheet.  Hurray for questionable motives!

What’s that?  What have I been eating?  Well, as I mentioned in my previous post, it ain’t home cookin’.  But what the New York lifestyle lacks in homemade, it makes up for tenfold in a cornucopia of options online and delivered in seconds.  And healthy is trendy, so you better believe there are restaurants catering to whole-food, raw-food, gluten-free, local, organic, fair-trade, über-vegan, level five.  And yet, my staple has been, shock of shocks, a salad.  But not just any salad!  A custom salad conjured up by mouse click with all the fix-ins a person with a primarily plant-based diet is proud to call his own.

My new employer, Yext, provides two free meals per day (yes, we’re hiring) when ordered on Seamless, a magical service that delivers pretty much any kind of food at pretty much any hour to your doorstep.  (And if you live in New York, and you hadn’t heard of Seamless…you’re welcome.  Also, you really should get out more.)  Many restaurants allow you to “build your own salad,” where you can choose the leaves and various other toppings.  My usual is something like kale/spinach, beans, grape tomato, red onion, Portobello mushroom, avocado, and tofu, with some modifications here and there depending on what the place offers.  I always get the large salads, but they’re just not big enough.  So…I order two.  Because of the pricing structure of the “build your own salad” offerings, and because variety is the spice of life (and basically required when you eat salad every day!), I build two completely different salads.  And then, well, I think you know what happens next…

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Using the old Coke can technique measuring stick for size reference.

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So a bowl of salad walks into a bar…

a new city, a new bowl

Been quite a while indeed since my last post. And much has transpired: I moved to New York!! As with traveling, moving breaks the routine and destroys the environment I create for myself to make it easier to eat healthy. Add to that the fact that I was a temp-housing/hotel-hopping/couch-surfing transient for over five months, and the fact that I’m a night owl with a penchant for exploration in the city that never sleeps…well, let’s just say sticking to the routine I had in Seattle was an uphill battle.

Now armed with a permanent mailing address and a renewed energy, I have decided to figure out a new strategy that will work in New York. Much of my approach to eating healthy in Seattle was to cook and eat at home. But in New York, I’m more likely to use my oven for storing winter clothes than roasting broccoli.  So to jumpstart the process of figuring out how I’m going to make the healthy eating thing work in my new locale, I am doing a super healthy October. For me, that means this: no meat, no fish, no dairy, no animal-based proteins of any kind, no bread/enriched white flour, no sugar, no soft drinks, no alcohol.

People have been asking “why?” and “isn’t that a bit excessive?” I don’t expect that to stick — it’s just a tactic I use. For me, overcorrecting and then dialing it back is a lot more effective than trying to take small steps in the direction I want to go.

Well, so far, so good. Except for trace amounts I can’t control and one careless dip of a grape tomato into a tiny bit of pesto (I forgot it has parmesan in it!), I’m pitching a perfect game one week into the challenge. And, yes, this does mean a lot of salads. You know what they say: a new city, a new bowl.

A New City, A New Bowl

sustaining the flywheel

I get asked from time to time if it’s hard to maintain the healthy eating at such a high level.  It’s not a piece of cake (pun intended), but I have a few habits I’ve developed that allow me to keep the flywheel going.

  1. Don’t keep unhealthy food at home.  Apart from alcohol, I have an extremely low amount of unhealthy food/drink in my house.  And what I do have is only there because I already had it, like if I bought some snacks because I was having friends over who wanted more than just carrot and celery sticks.
  2. Do keep plenty of healthy, ready-to-eat snacks on hand.  So that when I do get that hankering for just a little something, I end up choosing something healthy because it’s available and convenient.
  3. Have some ready-made/easy-to-make backup dinner options.  When I don’t feel like making dinner from scratch that night, it’s great to have something ready-made (my go-to is a veggie stew) or something that I don’t have to spend much time preparing.  Or at least I can combine with something else so I still save time/effort.
  4. Eat at home as much as possible.  Options for healthy food when eating out are limited, and it’s difficult to know/control all the details about the constituent parts of your meal.
  5. Get to know restaurants that do have healthy options.  So if I do end up eating out, I have some healthy mainstays to choose from.  My new favorite is Veggie Grill.

The way I’ve really gotten this to work is by spending a few hours prepping for the week on Sunday (or Monday night if I’m travelling or run out of time).  And it doesn’t have to take a long time.  Here’s what I did in 3 hours last night after work (including driving) to set myself up for success this week.

  1. Went grocery shopping at Costco on the way home from work.  Got the ingredients I needed to make my weekly veggie stew, fruits and veggies for snacks, and other stuff I might like to use during the week.  Because I do this regularly, I already had some of the ingredients I needed at home (like beans).
  2. Made a veggie stew/chili.  (That’s an 11 quart pot.)  I’ll post the recipe another time, but it’s basically a veggie chili recipe (based on the one from Eat to Live), and I just throw a bunch of other vegetables in there.  This time it had carrots, celery, onion, garlic, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, corn, mushrooms, and spices (chili powder, cumin, Mrs. Dash, and some cayenne pepper for a kick).  Some of the ingredients are frozen (like chopped spinach or broccoli) and others are canned (like beans and tomatoes).  Fresh is usually better of course, but veggies are so much more nutritious than the alternatives, I don’t get hung up on using frozen/canned vegetables.  And in some cases, frozen can be more nutritious than fresh because of time spent in shipping, sitting on shelves, and so forth.
  3. Prepared some fruits and veggies as snacks.  Every week, I cut and wash some fruits and veggies and pack them in plastic containers so that I always have healthy snacks ready to go.  For fruits I usually do blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, but this week strawberries were not available.
    For vegetables I usually just do baby carrots and celery sticks, but this week I added some broccoli.
    And I make a LOT of each.

And after dishing out the soup into plastic containers, here’s how my fridge looked.  Still some beer in there, just in case… :-)

a flog is born

Since going on this ultra-healthy eating kick, people ask me, “so if you’re pretty much not eating meat, or fish, or dairy…what DO you eat?”

Short answer: I eat to maximize nutrients per calorie, which means a LOT of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Long answer…

Dishes

  • Comically large salads
  • Vegetable soups/stews/chilis (I usually make one on the weekend big enough to last several days)
  • Grain bowls with LOTS of vegetables
  • Fruits, nuts, and seeds, mainly as snacks/desserts
  • Fish, on occasion
  • Meat of any kind, only when I’m out
  • Dairy, pretty much never
  • Processed foods – extremely low amounts

Foods
In general, I’ll eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds of all kinds. Here are some foods making more frequent appearances.

  • Vegetables: cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage), green leafy (spinach, chard), yellow/orange (carrot, squash, sweet potato)
  • Fruits: lots of berries (especially blue and straw), citrus fruits, apples, bananas, tomatoes, avocados
  • Beans/legumes: black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, soy beans, lentils
  • Nuts/seeds: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds
  • Grains: quinoa, buckwheat, barley, farro, wheat berry, brown rice, steel cut oats

Protein
But, where do you get your protein? Turns out, vegetables, beans, and even some whole grains are pretty high in protein too…

Comically Large Salads
As an example, today I had a ginormous salad with spinach, cucumber, tomato, and avocado. Typically, I’d throw some red onion in there, but I was out. But, I did have extra avocado, so I made a dressing: avocado, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro. Here are a couple pics of the salad pre- and post- dressing. The bowl is LARGE – that’s a pint glass next to it for scale. If that doesn’t convince you of its enormity, here are the amounts of the contents: half a pound of spinach, 1 whole English cucumber (they are quite large), 1 lb. grape tomatoes, and 2 medium avocados (1 cubed in the salad, and 1 for the dressing). Elaine would appreciate the big salad.


Nude


Dressed

Flog
For 10 days, I kept a food log. I wrote down EVERYTHING I consumed, except water (good, bad, and ugly). It is not doctored in any way, and it is complete. If you notice a meal missing, it’s because I chose to skip it because I wasn’t hungry. Now for some caveats… This 10-day stretch includes a trip to visit friends and family in California, which necessarily means going out and eating stuff that’s not so nutritious (e.g. Del Taco). I didn’t eat any grain bowls, and I ate a lot less fruit than usual. You’ll see even during the week after returning home from the trip, I’ll have the occasional peanut butter cup or handful of pretzels. And there’s a fair amount of alcohol in there, which goes completely in the wrong direction when it comes to maximizing nutrition per calorie. But by and large, I do my best to increase vegetables, fruits, etc. and reduce processed foods, meat, and dairy.

Date Time Meal Food
11-Sep 7:45 AM breakfast 16oz steel cut oats and raisins
11-Sep 11:00 AM snack 4 clementine oranges
11-Sep 12:00 PM lunch 2lbs of salad/veggie items: broccoli, cauliflower, roasted mushrooms, sesame green beans, roasted tofu marinated in sweet chili/soy sauce, cabbage stir fry w/ celery, onion carrot, wheat farro salad w/ corn, tomato, peppers, onions, cucumbers, cilantro, lime juice, salt, greek salad w/ kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, bean salad w/ red beans, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, cilantro, cucumbers, lime juice
11-Sep 3:00 PM snack handful of pretzels
11-Sep 5:30 PM snack handful of almonds
11-Sep 8:30 PM dinner santa fe chickin (no meat) and tortilla soup at veggie grill
11-Sep 9:30 PM drinks 2 bourbons
12-Sep 9:00 AM breakfast banana
12-Sep 11:00 AM snack 3.5 oz trail mix: peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, MnM-like candies
12-Sep 1:30 PM lunch 2lbs of salad: mixed greens, green beans, lentils, beets, bean salad, spinach, farro salad, cauliflower, broccoli, marinated mushrooms, roasted eggplant
12-Sep 4:30 PM snack handful of pretzels
12-Sep 6:00 PM snack handful of pretzels
12-Sep 7:00 PM snack handful of pretzels
12-Sep 10:00 PM dinner pint of almond milk and a large bowl of veggie chili: garbanzos, black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, corn, kale, garlic, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yellow carrots
13-Sep 11:00 AM breakfast vegan box lunch: indian garbanzo bean and grain salad, baggie of baby carrots, an orange, vegan brownie, peanut butter/chocolate lara bar
13-Sep 1:00 PM lunch vegan box lunch: indian garbanzo bean and grain salad, baggie of baby carrots, an orange, vegan brownie, cherry pie lara bar
13-Sep 7:00 PM dinner large bowl of veggie chili: garbanzos, black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, corn, kale, garlic, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, yellow carrots
14-Sep 6:30 AM breakfast fruit cup at airport: strawberries, blueberries, grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple
14-Sep 8:00 AM snack couple of tea biscuits and a small glass of bloody mary mix
14-Sep 1:45 PM snack 2 tiny baggies of peanuts
14-Sep 2:15 PM lunch 2 tilapia filets, with pasta, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a beer
14-Sep 9:00 PM dinner korean food family style: kalbi beef spare ribs, kimchi fried rice, spicy rice cakes, soju, mango flavored soju, and a beer
15-Sep 1:00 AM drinks 1 beer
15-Sep 3:00 AM snack del taco: 2 chicken soft tacos, 2 classic beef tacos
15-Sep 10:00 AM breakfast fruit cup: strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew
15-Sep 12:30 PM lunch spinach salad at corner bakery
15-Sep 2:00 PM snack tiny carrot cake sample at veggie grill
15-Sep 3:30 PM dinner veggie borscht a little black bread, and some cold smoked steelhead salmon
15-Sep 5:00 PM drinks 2 cognacs
15-Sep 8:00 PM snack banana
15-Sep 10:00 PM drinks half bottle of cabernet, glass of dessert wine, and a beer
15-Sep 10:00 PM snack 3 pieces of cold smoked steelhead salmon
16-Sep 3:00 PM lunch veggie chili and a beer
16-Sep 7:00 PM dinner 2 pieces of bread and butter, 2 oysters, 1 fried green tomato slice with mozzarella, chilean sea bass, broccolini, brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas with mushrooms, corn, and 2 glasses if white wine
16-Sep 8:00 PM dessert a little bit of pineapple upside down cake and blackberry cobbler and a chamomile tea
16-Sep 10:30 PM snack small bowl of veggie chili and a banana
17-Sep 6:30 PM breakfast fruit cup at starbucks: cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, grapes, strawberries
17-Sep 8:00 AM breakfast scrambled eggs, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and provolone cheese on a toasted flatbread on plane
17-Aug 12:30 PM lunch 2.5lb salad: spinach, bean salad, broccoli, beets, brussels sprouts, indian tofu curry, indian lentils, indian chana masala
17-Aug 11:00 PM snack 3 pieces of cold smoked mackerel
18-Sep 10:00 AM breakfast 3.5 oz trail mix: peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, MnM-like candies
18-Sep 3:00 PM snack 1 reese’s peanut butter cup
18-Sep 6:00 PM snack 1 beer, 1 beef skewer, 1 small piece of prosciutto flatbread, 1 small piece of veggie flatbread
18-Sep 7:00 PM drink 1 bourbon
18-Sep 9:15 PM snack 1 mandarin orange
19-Sep 8:30 AM breakfast 1 banana
19-Sep 11:30 AM lunch 2 lbs. salad
19-Sep 1:30 PM snack veggie burger patty
19-Sep 3:00 PM snack 1 beef rib, 1 pork rib, 1 chicken thigh, tiny piece of cornbread, half a beer
19-Sep 7:00 PM snack some pistachios and a banana
19-Sep 10:00 PM dinner large bowl of veggie soup and a mandarin orange
19-Sep 11:00 PM snack large bowl of strawberries
20-Sep 8:00 AM breakfast 1 banana and a handful of pistachios
20-Sep 10:30 AM snack 3.5 oz trail mix: peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, MnM-like candies
20-Sep 12:00 PM lunch 2 lbs. of salad
20-Sep 4:00 PM snack a few handfuls of pretzels
20-Sep 6:00 PM snack a few handfuls of pretzels

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