Saturday, August 11, 2012

Veggie Gluttons: They do Exist! (Part 2)

This is the second half of my entry on plant-based over-indulgence. Part 1 here!

1. Eating until I'm full or past-full.
This is undoubtedly the hardest adjustment to make after forgoing the indulgent American lifestyle. Just because the food I'm eating is high-nutrient and low-calorie, doesn't mean I have a free license to feed myself to the point of imminent explosion. I still need to listen to my body and to stop eating when I'm a 6 or 7 on the scale of being full (0 being ravenous, 10 being Thanksgiving stuffed).

At this point in my overhaul, I still occasionally stop at 8 or 9. Stopping there is always a cause for regret. I feel like bloated roadkill and kick myself for the hour or two it takes afterward to feel deflated again.

Half the battle is accepting that I should only respond to true hunger signals (no matter how much that innocent little goodie beckons for just one more "taste"). I like to eat! It's pleasurable! And that's why it demands moderation.

A lot of prayer, repentance, and requests for grace go into this one.

2.  Eating because "it's time."
Adjusting to the idea that I don't have to eat lunch just because it's 12-on-the-dot may take years to warm up to... I still don't even think I'm ready to fully embrace it. I eat scheduled meals partly because that's what we do as humans and because I personally love routine.

One Sunday morning as I was scurrying to get a smoothie together before church, I defensively snapped, "I NEED BREAKFAST!!" at Zach as he was encouraging me to get out of the door on time. Uhhh, yeah. Three-headed-morning-monster at her finest.

And it's not necessarily because I'm always ravenous in the morning, but because it's my routine. It's what I do. Now I don't necessarily think I should be skipping multiple meals until I'm mouth-wateringly starving. And honestly, waiting until all the mega-fiber in my system totally breaks down before I put dinner on the table for Zach isn't terribly realistic or fair.

So yes, I do think I should eat 3 square meals a day (and a small snack to boot!). And no, routine isn't wrong. But I do need to get better at heeding hunger signals before mindlessly packing in the next course as scheduled. Again... this could take some time.

3. Eating because others are eating. 
One of the most liberating things about going plant-based is that it has totally obliterated the peer-pressure dynamic surrounding food choices that used to haunt me. In my pre-veg days, I could eat fairly "well" (as far as the American standard of "healthy eating" goes) and not really crave Dorito's or donuts on my lonesome.

But once I was around friends and family who were eating these foods, I couldn't help but dive right in. It wasn't even like I favored these sundry "delights," but the pressure of everyone else's hands in the pot was subconsciously irresistible to me.

Now that I'm plant-based and the banquet table of health-poor goodies before me are "no-foods" for 101 reasons (mostly because they're uber processed, dairy-laced, deep fried, loaded with sugar, made with hydrogenated (trans) fats or enriched white flour... to name a few), I really don't care that others are eating a feast of limitless SAD foods or feel like I'm missing out on much (my taste preferences have really changed that much).

But the act of eating, regardless of the food in question, is still pervasive. Simply seeing people bring food to their lips and chew away contentedly makes me want to do the same. When everyone's lining up for ice cream, I'll feel the need to grab my little baggie of homemade granola and start munching away.  Or when we head to Starbucks and Zach gets a frappucino, I need to get a banana or a tall decaf for myself so that I don't feel left out entirely. I may not be hungry for food (many times I'm not), but I want "in" on the social eating agenda. This needs work.

4. Eating/baking because I'm curious.

This is where baking gets me into trouble. I am on a total baking kick right now! The difficulty of substituting plant-friendly alternatives in such a precise, scientific endeavor is a challenge that I'm antsy to master! "I WILL make the perfect vegan cookie without you, White Sugar!"

I want to try all sorts of recipes all at once (and my baking "wish list" gets longer every day). Every other evening or so I am quartering a cookie or bread recipe just so I can see "how it turns out." Of course this is a fine and fun hobby! But every time I bake something, I need to try the batter, the half-cooked crumbles, and one or two servings of the finished product to assess my success. By the time all of this is done and the pans are washed, I've indulged in 3-days worth of desserts. 

To fix this, I need to reign in my curiosity and exercise more patience between baking experiments (thankfully the imminent mania of full-time graduate school will help with that!). I also need to control my impulse to keep nibbling on my creations. It probably tastes fine... I don't need 11 mouthfuls to ascertain that.

5. Eating because I don't know when I'll get to eat next. 

This is a biggie when traveling. There are many times I will down a meal just because I'm not sure if I'll be able to eat in 3 or 4 hours when I know I'll be "starving!" (What a dreaded predicament!) I need to bring snacks, put the meal in my bag for later, and simply learn to wait. When true hunger comes, then I'm free to dig in.

6. Eating because I don't want to throw anything away.

There's merit to this one; it's obviously poor stewardship to waste. And now that I buy my own groceries (and everything else a home needs), you better BELIEVE I cut the soft spots off of fruit and freeze 3 ounces of brown rice for later. (Mom was right: "Just wait until you start paying for things. Then you won't be so wasteful!")

But I shouldn't be overloading my body with excess calories or sugars just so I can clean a plate or use up a leftover. Part of this just requires better planning (although I think we have the realistic ration of weekly produce pretty down pat).

Also part of it might mean making less at the outset and freezing more leftovers after the fact (sometimes if something's not a hit with Zach, I need to bring extra to work to share or eat it myself for the next few days).

7. Over-eating because I'm distracted.

I stopped multi-tasking while eating a meal or snack a long time ago. I've definitely heard that doing other things while eating (watching T.V., reading, browsing the web) not only leads to accidental over-eating but also diminishes the eating experience itself. When you don't concentrate on your food and savor the tastes, textures, and the pleasurable event that eating is, you're likely to want to eat again later so you can make up for lost enjoyment. Hey, we only get to dig in 3-4 times a day! There's plenty of time to focus on those other things later. 

I've also read that every mindless bite we take while snacking costs approximately 25 calories! (12 bites = 300 extra calories on the pile... almost a meal's worth). No wonder we so easily exceed our recommended 1,500-2,000 calorie per day limit. We probably eat 1 or 2 "meals" alone just while zoned into a movie! Well, if I'm going to add 300 calories to my daily allowance, then I better darn well enjoy it!

But I've found that being distracted while you eat with friends and family is pretty unavoidable. It's one thing to achieve intentional eating when you're home alone at your kitchen table. But over-eating occurs more frequently at social gatherings than it does when I'm alone because my attention is wrapped up in the wonderful faces and conversation around me. (Hence why I tend not to monitor my food tank as I mechanically insert mounds of chips and salsa into my face).

When I'm talking with and enjoying people, and subconsciously mirroring their eating, I end up way more stuffed than I hoped to be at the outset. This just requires better multi-tasking (which women are supposedly famous for :). More simple self-assessments throughout the meal, and a little more independent self-control in the process, can go a long way in such situations.

And I understand that this is a process. In the course of 5 months, I have attempted to not only radically overhaul my diet, but amend my indulgent habits as well. And this is definitely a journey (for lack of a less fruity word). I try to be positive, learn from my hiccups, and give myself grace. "Okay, you shouldn't have eaten that second bowl of soup. Next time you can remember that you probably can't do all that soup and a whole sandwich in one meal."

When I'm tempted to dwell on what's lacking, it helps to give thanks for what's been accomplished instead. In the words of Joyce Meyer, "I'm not where I want to be, but I'm not where I used to be!" Praise God for that!

Okay, now onto the food (which clearly we love)! This week I made a batch of "cream" of broccoli soup (with sauteed okra on the side - what a fun new veggie discovery! Ways to de-slime and prepare this neglected side dish here).

I apologize if anyone is over these blue dishes. They're my main set. :)

In my pre-veg days, I dearly loved Panera's broccoli cheddar soup and would proclaim it's savory superiority throughout the entire soup kingdom. And while this version obviously lacks half of it's name (i.e. cheese), this smooth and flavorful puree is still a real delight! The husband enjoys it, too, which is always a good sign of something's crowd-pleasing potential! :)

Whole wheat drop biscuit and sauteed okra dipped in cornmeal

“Cream” of Broccoli Soup
  • 3 medium broccoli stalks, peeled, and florets (about 3 cups)
  • 2 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup loose chopped parsley (if using dried, 1/8 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp powdered or crushed dried rosemary (more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp dried powdered or crushed dried thyme (more to taste)
  • 1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 diced yellow onion
  • ½ cup raw cashews, blended into a puree
  • 1 tbsp flour (wheat, brown rice, etc.)
  • 1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 1/8 tsp salt or to taste (if using)
  • Black pepper, chili powder, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. to taste
  1. Peel broccoli stems. Chop stems and florets into small pieces
  2. Blend cashews in blender with splash of water to make a smooth puree (there may still be small cashew pieces remaining)
  3. Chop parsley (if using fresh), reserving 2 tbsp to mince as a garnish
  4. Place broccoli into stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender - about 5 minutes
  5. Peel and crush garlic cloves, dice onion. Sauté on medium heat in water for 10 minutes. Add to pot
  6. Place broccoli, liquid, parsley, thyme, rosemary, salt and pureed cashews in blender. Puree until smooth. Set aside
  7. White sauce: Heat the pan, add the flour and cook on low for ten minutes.
  8. Stir in nondairy milk with a whisk, bring to a boil then simmer till thickened, stirring constantly with the whisk (approx 10 minutes). This is important - otherwise your sauce will be lumpy. If that happens, blend it.
  9. Stir in broccoli puree. Adjust salt if needed, and grate pepper in to taste
  10. Heat gently (don't boil). Serve immediately, garnished with minced parsley

Adapted from this site.

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