Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad
I get asked a lot of questions as a food blogger. Some are about food. Some are about blogging. Some are more personal. But one of the most common questions I get asked is, "How do you stay so skinny when you cook so much food?!"
First, it’s hard. Really.
Work, being a mom, a wife, a blogger. AND trying to stay in shape is a lot of work.
Here are some of the rules that I use to a balance food blog and skinny jeans:
1. I don’t eat fast food. It is a really rare occasion when I do, and never, ever, ever for dinner. More of a road trip occasion, or an I’m running late so I’m going to grab the one sandwich under 400 calories at Quiznos occasion. And no chips, and an unsweetened iced tea.
2. I always eat breakfast. Once in a while I have fatty things, like that french toast I still can’t stop thinking about. But 5 out of 7 days, its 2 slices of reduced calorie whole wheat toast (or whole wheat english muffin) with 1/2 tbs peanut butter each. For breakfast, you want the trifecta: low cal, high protein, good carbs.
3. I read ALL the labels of everything I put in my mouth. And just assume that you will have more than the serving size. For instance: most cereal puts a "serving size" of 3/4 a cup. Really? That’s less than my cup of coffee. You will probably have more like 2 cups. So that cereal that you think is only 175 calories. It’s probably more like 430. Thats like eating a burger. But at least the burger is worth it. Bottom line, if you are counting calories, measuring your food is a BIG part of that.
4. Snack well. I like to get the most food possible for the least amount of calories. It’s like a game. But I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, and even when I did, those 100 calorie packs aren’t really a calorie bargin. I want 2, and if I’m going to eat 200 calories, I’d rather have a snickers. This is one of my go to snacks: 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced, drizzled with lemon juice, sprinkled with salt and chili powder. It’s like 15 calories. I also do that to radish slices. Crispy and salty. Like chips, but good for you.
5. Know your weaknesses. I know I like to cook big breakfast on the weekend, and eat more for dinner when I get to cook for other people. So on the weekdays, I eat a low dairy, high plant, low fat diet. Such as: Salads with low-cal dressing (or just balsamic vinegar) or even my favorite salsa instead of dressing, non-dairy soups, roasted veggies with skinless chicken.
6. Know your calories. I have the Lose It app on my phone (it’s free) and I try to stay under 1,600 calories a day during the week. Give up calories where you can, but don’t feel like you have "earned" an extra slice of pie. That just ruins all the work you did. The truth is, unless you are an Olympic swimmer who burns 14,000 calories a day, you will never reach your goal weight with exercise alone. Never. You have to get your eating in check. Can you indulge? Sure, once in a while, but make sure you make up for it but eating lots of plants. Don’t starve yourself, it makes your body store everything as fat. So you are hungry and still gaining. That sucks. Think of calories like you think of money. You only have so many (probably around 1,700 a day if you’re a girl) to spend before you go "into debt" (meaning: gain weight). Is that mediocre lunch really worth half of your calorie budget? Do you like that White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks 600X more than a regular cup of coffee? Because that’s how many more calories are in it (a venti White Chocolate Mocha, with whip has 620 calories, a plain cup of coffee has about 5 calories). Spend where it counts, cut when it doesn’t.
7. Find the WHY. I have a Masters Degree in Psychology. Did you know that? It’s true. The mental part is hard. Probably harder than being hungry, is being unmotivated. Write a list of WHY you want to stay (or get) in shape and post it everywhere, and keep updating it. And talk yourself down when you do want to grab for that bad stuff. Oh, and don’t keep in the house, it just makes it that much more difficult for yourself.
(pretty much my WHY for everything good in my life)
8. Replacement behaviors. This is an important part of therapizing yourself. Find your bad habits and replace them with good ones. For me: 3pm candy jar. My coworkers all have them, and I do as well. Instead of wandering around chatting with the intention of snacking, I walked my office building for 15 minutes, stairs and all. Now, my candy jar is filled with candy I don’t like and I’m not even tempted to eat, just for those people who come to visit with the intention of snacking.
9. Just have one. If you really want to try a new recipe for cupcakes, pie, cookies, thats OK. Try and plan to make them when you can give the rest away. For me, most of the fun of cooking is having a recipe in my head and trying to figure out how to make it work in the kitchen. But most of my food, the sugary, high fat stuff, is given away. Take it to the office, or to a friends house, or let your husband take it to his office. Find a charity, like a women’s shelter, that might want it. Or throw it out. It sucks to waste food, but is it really doing any good taunting you from the fridge? Or, you can make a half or a quarter of the original recipe using an online site like Half Recipe.
10. Move a lot. Even though exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as we would like, it’s still important to move. For me, it’s spin class. Because it’s the most amount of calories I can burn in the least amount of time. If I really push myself, do everything that spin guy is yelling at me to do, I can burn nearly 700 calories in an hour. Thats a lot. Do that 3 times a week and thats 30 lbs a year. Find something that you will actually do, and do it. A lot. Spoil yourself with dance class, then treat yourself to shrimp cocktail (fairly low cal treat).
11. Water is essential. Get a water bottle and carry it around like a security blanket. First, it flushes out your body. Second, the human thirst reflex is so weak, it is often mistaken for hunger. Drink a lot of water and you will eat less and glow more.
Now onto the recipe. This makes 2 large entree sized portions, at about 330 calories each, or 4 side salad portions at about 165. If you want a little more, you can add 3oz grilled skinless chicken.
Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad
1 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
1 1/2 cups fresh kale, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 large roasted red bell pepper, chopped
2 tbs shallots, minced
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp raw honey (sub agave for vegan)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Boil the sweet potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted, boiling water until fork tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon, allow to drain. I did a guest post of Eating Rules about the proper way to cook quinoa, if you are interested.
In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, sweet potatoes, sage, kale, cranberries, and red pepper. In a small bowl, add the shallots, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Drizzle over the quinoa salad, tossing to coat.