Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting Through Weekends, Restaurants, and Holidays

I vowed to myself that when I started down the road of my new food lifestyle, that I would not be too hard on myself. I would do the best I can in all circumstances. I did not want to box myself in or create a rigid way of being. I would just go with the flow and thank God I found my way to make healthier choices. I see it as a constant give and take, where I add new things and take away others. I grow out of certain food behaviors naturally, and become inclined to choose the healthy food now. It becomes easier with no stress on me or my husband.  

Because of my husband's music business, we are on the road during the weekends. 
I try to attend at least one gig a week, now that I am healthy enough to get around again. That puts us in the situation of being in a bar/restaurant to have dinner or a snack. Usually it is not a varied menu at most of these places. When Ben is on his own at a gig he has some kind of salad or chicken wings, and will drink water or seltzer water. When I am out a gig bar/restaurant I try to have a salad or veggie wrap, and perhaps some sweet potato fries. I usually bring my own bottle of spring water with me. Most of the time we try to eat at home before the gig whenever possible to avoid the unsuitable food problem.

After my doctor or lab appointments, we usually go to the local Panera for lunch. For 
a fast food place they have very good tasting food, and do have some sustainable practices regarding their business. I get the soup and salad combo, and get the apple instead of the french bread. Oh don't get me wrong, I do still love their bread, and Ben usually chooses the baguette with his meal. So I take few bites of his...a pretty good alternative! I also will take the apple home for a snack later, where I can peel it properly, as I do not know if it has pesticides on it. Panera only gives you blunt butter knives that do not cut through apples, sadly I have tried with no success. Also we no longer get any sweets from their bakery to take home, and I do not miss them at all. Now I look over to the the Panera bakery section and think "Oh that is way too much sweetness for me!" 

Ben received a gift card from one of his students to go to the Olive Garden restaurant. When we go we probably will get their soup and salad combo, or perhaps an eggplant Parmesan dish. Anything with veggies would be good, as I have no desire to eat pasta. Kinda strange because I was a big pasta eating girl. We had it for dinner in some form every week and my hubby loved it every time. Of course he can get it if he likes. Recently I tasted my granddaughter's spaghetti. Since I have changed to mostly gluten-free I have to say that pasta is tasteless to me. Whoa! That's a good thing.

Over the holidays I tried making the old traditional 'Toll House' cookies with gluten-free flours. They were okay, and Ben did eat them, but no big whoop. Not everything comes out perfection. I have not practiced much with the vegan style desserts, so I have a learning curve there yet to master. My son loves the original recipe Toll House cookies, so I made him a special batch. I did have three of those cookies over the holiday weekend. In the past I would have eaten a ton of those cookies! Those were one of my all time favorite comfort foods just warm from the oven, all melted and gooey! Oh how things have changed! I am patting myself on the back for getting through the desserts of the holidays!

My son's most favorite dish I make is beef-stroganoff, which is always made special for him when he comes home for Christmas. This year I used grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free beef, but that was my only concession to this recipe of my new food choices. I am hoping when passover season comes around to get the limited time only gluten-free Manischewitz egg noodles. I hear they are good tasting.  Most gluten-free pasta products taste like cardboard and mush. If these egg noodles are good I will stock up and then have some to use for next Christmas. Yes, I still loved my beef-stroganoff along with everyone else, although I took a much smaller portion. I did make the vegetarian chili for our lunch on Christmas, and that was loved by all. Plus I also made a wonderful healthy salad, pistachio sweet potatoes and French onion green bean casserole. Both of the later dishes were from 'Foodwishes' and were super delish! Go watch those videos because you will fall in love!

I don't know enough about all the plant based recipes to really go all out on the Holiday at this point. I suppose that my skills and knowledge will get better over the years, as 
I get more comfortable with all the new ingredients. It has only been six months doing this change over in eating. I give myself the room to grow in health and learning. Following food blogs and trying new recipes has been a great help and I highly recommend that strategy!

When we have time to go out to a nice restaurant we try to pick out more plant based food for our meal. Many good restaurants seem to be getting with the program, and will offer vegetarian foods with multiple choices. Many restaurants with good chefs will source their produce and meats locally, and that is good for everyone! It makes the food not only tastier, but far more healthy! We are also trying out some local vegetarian restaurants, and really enjoying the new cuisine that they prepare. That is 
a fun food adventure. One mostly vegan restaurant even had a breakfast brunch that was quite tasty! 

Sometimes we go to a sushi restaurant, because I am craving seaweed salad which is happily also excellent for the thyroid. We have been brave and even eaten BBQ eel sushi and loved it, although we have no desire to eat raw fish sushi. At this Japanese restaurant they also have those tables where the chef chops everything fresh in 
front of you. If we get one of those tables next time, I might get some kind of fried rice for a treat. But really I am wary of rice because of the GMO factor.

I have found that when you are on the road and you suddenly get hungry, that is when you make less than stellar decisions about food. It would be best to have some home made trail mix or fruit in the car to stall the craving to just eat immediately at what ever food place is around. This will curb your appetite till you can get to a place where you can make better choices. 

Two recent examples are my picking up some nuggets from Chick-fil-a, and another was stopping at a favorite Chinese restaurant when the hunger pangs struck. Those little nuggets were my favorite fast food. So as I started eating them this time, knowing it was not a good decision (simply because I do not know anything about where this chicken meat came from). I then said to myself, "Okay self! You pay attention to what you are eating and why you are eating this box of nuggets today. How is it tasting? And why did you like these nuggets so much?" This turned out to be a great exercise for my mind. My first response to my self was that I was just hungry and wanted to eat right now. And actually they did not really taste that good to me anymore. Plus I knew they would mess up my digestive system, and they did. I am going to get some organic pasture raised chicken and make my own nuggets to freeze, so when me or my granddaughter wants nuggets we can eat something better. 

At the Chinese restaurant I tried to do much better. I ordered seaweed salad, some avocado sushi, along with spring rolls, and fried rice. They were all okay, but not the deliciousness I had remembered. I just think the new foods I am eating are far more flavorsome.  Probably because they are very fresh! Duh! We picked up a couple kinds of seaweed at the natural food market, so I can try to add this to my diet at home. 
We added some into a salad last night and we really enjoyed that it was so crunchy!

Recently we went to a wonderful party where they had a buffet of foods, and I did my best to find the interesting foods that had vegetables. I also found a container of grape tomatoes and a container of blueberries. So they both were good healthy munchies. 
We had planned on eating something before we left home, but that never happened, 
so after a forty five minute drive we were very hungry. Luckily our hosts had a good variety to choose from. I also don't eat shrimp and crab products now, because of the pollution and oil spills into the water where these crustaceans are bottom feeders. 
They always messed with my digestive system anyway, even when I loved them!

We juice approximately 5-6 days a week. Over the weekends while being busy and not always at home, we usually miss a day or two of juicing.  Boy we really do miss it when we do not have our fresh vegetable juice! The other great thing about my juicing and plant based, mostly gluten-free eating is how much my digestion has improved!  I used to pay dearly for days when we went out to a restaurant. I seemed to live in the bathroom in the past. No longer! It just does not happen like that any more! I can live my life extremely healthy, and enjoy eating out with no worries as long as I make good choices. We look forward to finding more good food restaurants that are creative with vegetables and checking them out. Perhaps I will remember to take some pics in the future and share them on the blog, with a little review of the experience.

The point of this blog post is to say every day is a new day, and if you miss a day of juicing, or eat something you wish you had is the day to get back to your healthier ways. No worries... no pressures. Just get back to the good stuff most of the time. It is a continual growing and learning experience. My husband and I actually crave plant food now, and we find them much more flavorful than the old way of preparing standard foods. That is a very good thing, and we really look forward to all the new foods and recipes we will learn about!  So be kind to yourself as you learn what is good for you!  Eat up and enjoy!

Here is a helpful blogpost with tips on handling going to a party by Alex Ortner.

UPDATE: THREE YEARS LATER - I now can say I lost the taste for beef and chicken. I eat some salmon and sardines for my bones as I have osteopenia. I am plantbased nutritarian. I cannot eat at chain eateries like Panera any longer. I choose farm to table local or organic restaurants. Even my husband rarely eats any type of meat. I finally got him off lunch meats as well as the so called organic types. Most of our food is organic with very few exceptions. We have also bought a Berkey water filter and make up our own non plastic water bottles for the road. Everything takes time and sometimes you may have life circumstance that get in the way of eating better. Just return to eating the way you know is best for your body and health as soon as possible. It is not a race... just something you need to do for yourself in the long term. All the best! You are worth it!

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