Planning for better eating

I must talk about food a lot, because I tend to get a lot of questions about the way that I eat — either because of my health choices or my hobbies, both of which make a huge impact on how I consume food. I get enough questions, in fact, that I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog post to what makes me a big fat pig healthy, happy lady.

Let me begin by explaining a bit about the way that I eat. About a year and a half ago, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. My reason for doing so is three-fold.

My family’s genetics. This was a big one for me. My dad was 38 years old when he had his first open heart surgery, so from a young age, I’ve made the conscious effort to put the right foods into my body based on the sheer terror I have over getting my chest cracked open. My mother has also battled breast cancer and she’s a diabetic. Not to mention the vast majority of her side of the family is obese. So, in a nutshell, I chose to become a vegetarian because I am vain and fear being overweight and having surgery. It’s for my health, guys.

The environment.  Yes, I care about the world that I live in. And I also believe that our major food corporations are ruining our health. So I like to stick with locally sourced foods grown without pesticides and pink slime and soylent green and who knows what else.

Poor, defenseless animals. You can also blame my dad for this one. He once took me to get a cow butchered. I’d tell you more, but I’m working on a more poetic version that you can hopefully pick up in bookstores one day. Plus my grandmother used to tell me about how she’d rip heads off of chickens and thinking about her snacking on turkey necks during Thanksgiving dinners still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Let me also assure you that I don’t just jump into something like vegetarianism without doing tons of research and learning the right ways to go about eating. I am not one an I-eat-nothing-but-boxed-macaroni-and-cheese-and-frozen-cheese-pizzas vegetarian. I cook from scratch every night using fresh vegetables. I don’t eat canned food (OK, I eat canned beans so I don’t have to soak them) or boxed meals or frozen dinners. I’m a girl who slices up mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions during the hour it takes my dough to rise so I can make a homemade pizza.

Before you laugh me off as if all I do is stay home all day cooking, please keep in mind that I work full-time, I take a graduate level college course each semester, and most importantly, I have roller derby practices 3-4 days a week (plus a two hour commute each practice). I should also mention that when not skating, I run 6-7 miles a day.

In other words, I’m a vegetarian athlete who has no time on my hands.

I’m typically a person who absolutely hates to plan. But it was killing me each week needing to figure out the fastest way to make meals that could support my lifestyle. Which is why I found ways to make it easier. The Owl and I will make a plan for the week and prep as much as possible, keeping my crazy schedule (and his trivia nights) in mind.

Here’s how we plan a week:

Saturday. This is shopping day. This is the day we peruse vegetarian magazines and cookbooks to see what looks good. Together, The Owl and I will make a list of what sounds delicious for the week. On the weekends, we’ll try to go with our higher maintenance, more indulgent meals. A great example is my favorite cold weather stew from the Post Punk Kitchen. Isa’s rustic winter stew with polenta — topped with a pile of sour cream — is best served under the covers watching a horror movie. Just my 2 cents.

Sunday. Derby morning. I’ll be sure to pick up a couple of Luna bars to eat to tide me over through an early morning practice. Then, because Sunday is date night (thanks, Adult Swim, HBO, Showtime, AMC, and PBS!), we’ll cook up something spectacular for a marathon of our favorite shows. One of our favorite meals lately has been enchiladas. I’ll fill tortillas with black beans, caramelized red onions,  spinach, and potatoes, smother them in enchilada sauce and freshly grated cheese, and bake them until they’re bubbly. Happy date night indeed.

Monday. Derby day. I adore veggie burgers, and thanks to Pinterest, I recently stumbled across the king of every veggie burger in existence: the crispy quinoa slider. Since becoming a vegetarian and stepping up my roller derby training, I’ve fallen madly in love with quinoa for its health benefits. I’ll mix up a batch of these and freeze them, then pop them into a pan for a quick and easy pre-practice meal. They are heavenly. Make sure you make that chipotle mayo and add some avocado. You’ll thank me for days.

Tuesday. Derby day. I recently started craving egg sandwiches for some odd reason. I’ve found that frying an egg in olive oil with a little salt, pepper, and thyme is the perfect super-fast meal. Stick the fried egg on a flat bread bun with some fresh spinach and provolone, then stick it in the oven until the cheese is melty. We’ll eat it along with roasted Brussels sprouts, which I’m learning to crave pretty much daily, and it’s a great pre-practice dinner.

Wednesday. SCRIMMAGE. We need something that’s fast and delicious, and that can give me some quick energy to last through a whole night of scrimmaging. We found a great recipe — linguine with caper and green olive sauce — that takes less than 30 minutes to make, is delicious, and helps me stay moving for two hours of intense practice.

Thursday. Class. Can you guess? I need something quick and easy. Since I don’t have to exert an extra 1000 calories at class, I’ll make something that’s light but filling. My friend Ivanna Bereave shared a recipe for the perfect soup to tide me over: asparagus avgolemono. It is quite possibly the best soup you’ll ever taste. Serve some fresh baked bread from a local bakery on the side and you, too, can sit through class feeling quite content.

Friday. Ahh, a night off. While you might think it’d be tempting to take a night off from cooking, I usually feel the opposite. I’m anxious to spend some time cooking up something delicious. A new recipe discovery has been roasted vegetables with a lemon-shallot sauce. It takes a bit of time to cut up all of the vegetables, but if you’re short on time, you can always cut down on the amount of vegetables you’re roasting. But hey, variety is a pretty wonderful thing.

Brussels sprouts make everything better
Brussels sprouts make everything better

Breakfasts. I need something that’s quick and easy. Typically, I’ll pick up some Greek Gods honey vanilla yogurt and top it with frozen blueberries and some granola I pick up from Natural Grocers. Or I’ll stick oatmeal in the crock pot overnight so it’s hot and ready in the morning. Throw in a side of coffee sweetened with French vanilla coconut milk creamer, and it’s the perfect way to start my day.

Lunches. Leftovers. It really can’t get any easier than that.

Snacks. Well, sometimes I forget snacks and then I make poor choices like gorging on a king size Snickers bar. But other times, I make great choices, like picking up fresh cucumbers to slice and season, or cutting up celery to dip in all natural peanut butter. Swoon!

Now that you know my secrets, what are some of your tricks and tips for a healthier you?

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