I want to make this clear: I am not on a diet. I am however making a conscious effort to eat less crap. I know that making such a decision in January stinks of a new years resolution that is destined to fail and make me miserable, but I promise that this isn’t a ‘January’ thing – I just needed to get Christmas out the way first…
Anyone who knows me will know that I freakin’ love food. And if you have ever seen me eat you will also know that I am an eating machine. Given the chance I will eat until I cannot move, until my plate (and yours) is empty, and the table and cupboards are cleared. Seriously – I am a machine.
Since I started running 18 months ago my appetite has changed dramatically. I am genuinely hungrier and I crave completely different foods. I’m a firm believer in listening to your body and appreciating why you crave foods and when. However since moving to South London I often don’t get home from work before 8pm and I just eat what is easiest to prepare and what I know will fill me up quickly. My diet has become increasingly bad and this has to change. I’m not necessarily putting on weight, and I don’t particularly want to lose weight, but my diet makes me feel sluggish and really heavy, and I think that having a healthier belly will make me a happier person and a better runner.
I’m going to make some small and simple changes – things that as a sensible grown-up I should already be doing.
1. Eat breakfast.
I don’t do this and it sucks. There really is no excuse. I wander past the kitchen in the morning where my flatmates will be sitting munching their muesli and I just make a cup of tea… I have gone through phases of eating breakfast regularly in the past, but it took serious self-discipline to get up 10 minutes earlier to make time for it. However, I did do it and must do it again.
2. Prepare snacks.
I eat a lot. And often. There’s nothing wrong with that, just as long as my between meal snacks aren’t sticks of butter. I have a few after work committments during the week that mean I don’t get home for dinner until quite late. Starving myself from lunch til a late dinner is just silly, so I will keep a stash of something at work for those days. I don’t know what that something will be yet – something more exciting than Ryvita, but less exciting than cake I suppose.
3. Less bread.
Not no bread, but less bread. This isn’t a carb-obsessive declaration, but simply an acknowledgement that 5 slices of bread a day is a little excessive and should probably be knocked on the head…
4. 5 a day
No, I’m not going for a faddy approach to veggies here, but have you ever tried to eat your 5 a day? I was a devout vegan for 4 years (until I developed some tummy problems) and so I know how easy it can be to eat my 5 a day and also how veggies can fill you up. Seriously, if you make yourself eat that extra portion of veg, there won’t be any room in your tummy for bread.
5. Be prepared.
Life can be a bit hectic and so I need to plan a little further ahead than just tomorrow’s dinner. I too often come home to an empty fridge and rely on snacks (read: sandwiches) for dinner. So I need to get a grip and write a shopping list.
Today is my last day off before starting work for 2012, so I am going on a jolly to the supermarket, with a shopping list. I’m going to try a smoothie recipe from Runners World that contains ‘hunger-busting’ almonds to take to work. I’ve also decided that cup-a-soups are probably not the most suitable lunch for a runner that is stepping back up to 20 miles a week and so will probably make some falafel for my lunch box. Couscous is also on the list as I make a pretty kick ass moroccan couscous salad that keeps well in the staff room fridge for a few days worth of lunches and after work snacks.
And steak. I really fancy steak today…
3 apricots (stoned)
1 tsp ground almonds
125ml soya milk
Juice the carrots, apricots and orange, then blend with the soya milk and almomds. Yummers!
1 tin of chickpeas
Half a red onion, diced
Garlic – couple of cloves
Juice of half a lemon
Some coriander – I normally chuck in a teaspoon or so
Cumin – again, a teaspoon or so
Parsley – a teaspoon or two depending on how you feel about parsley. It works ok with not much.
Can you tell that I just kind of make up my felafel recipe?…
Chuck it all in a bowl together and blend with one of those wonderful handheld blenders. Stick it in a tupperware tub and it will keep for a week. Roll the mixture into balls and flatten to fry in olive oil or oven bake as and when you want it.
Red and Yellow peppers
Couple of tomatoes (diced), or sundried tomatoes.
Chickpeas (if you like them)
Coupleof handfuls of sultanas
Couple of chicken breasts coated with cajan spice from a jar (optional).
Couple of vegetable stock cubes
Cumin – er… a teaspoon or two
Make the couscous according to the packet instructions, but add the stock cubes to the boiling water. It makes the couscous taste nicer, trust me.
Cook the chicken however you fancy. I either fry it (without oil) or grill it. Once cooked chop up into smaller chunks
Cook the veggies in a saucepan with olive oil until they’re nice and soft and sweaty. Add the sultanas and cumin and stir.
Mix the couscous, chicken and veggies together.
This can be left to cool and kept in the staffroom fridge for a few days. Honestly, I’d cook it Sunday night and still be eating it Friday lunchtime, but I have a pretty hardy immune system built up over years of living in shared houses with some very questionable fridge contents… Food Standard Agency guidleines would probably suggest a shelf life of 3 days or something, but you’re a grown-up who can look this up for yourself.