Meals Lately + Other Musings about Veggies, Exercise & More…

I don’t know about you guys, but for me it feels like January is flying by! This so isn’t my usual when it comes to the snowy, dreary winter seasons. Most years, the long, dark days seem to drag on. But life has been busy for me over here in Chicagoland, and as my work schedule has picked up over the holidays, I hardly realized how quickly time was flying.

Today marks the last Monday in January of 2021, and in general I’d say that not much feels too different from 2020, but I have a lot of hope for what the spring and summer will bring. In the mean time, I’m continuing to list out the events/milestones that I’m looking forward to and different celebrations that my family has coming up. It helps keep my mind in a positive place and my attitude up even when the sun-less-ness has me tempted to get down in the dumps. (Another big thing that helps is the fact that Tues-Thurs I start work at noon, so I have all morning to get natural light!)

How do you cope with the winter blues?

Things I’m Loving Lately…Food Edition!

I think the last time I posted a roundup of my favorite meals was back towards the beginning of the COVID quarantine. It’s not my usual habit to take pictures of my meals and snacks, but I realized that I’ve been enjoying some tasty creations lately and naturally had a buildup of food pictures on my phone that I’d been sending to friends and family. I enjoy seeing meal and snack ideas on other blogs, so I thought I’d share some recent ones.

Do you like seeing what other people eat?

This has been a favorite breakfast lately. My husband makes an AMAZING homemade sourdough sandwich bread (I’m spoiled) and I’ve been loving it buttered with soft boiled eggs. After eating this, I went back for a third piece of buttered toast, and I also ate a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes (unpictured) on the side.
I got tired of the crockpot and pulled out the dutch oven to make some braised beef stew. This recipe involved searing the beef in bacon fat before cooking, and it was so good. I’m not always a huge fan of bacon, but I’ve been loving it with brussels sprouts (below) and in this recipe. Instead of simmering the potatoes with the sauce, I roasted them separately for extra flavor. Garlic green beans on the side.
A few weeks ago, I had a late night craving for Honey Bunches of Oats and in full disclosure, I headed out at 8:30 pm specifically to buy and eat this cereal. It’s been a nightly snack ever since. After finishing off the regular size box in a few days, I wised up and purchased the giant size. I enjoy it with Fairlife milk for extra protein before bed.
My husband and I have been making mid-day mocktails with kombucha and flavored seltzer. Sometimes we add a squeeze of lemon or lime, a splash of orange juice, or a swirl of honey, but sometimes we just like it plain. I make my own kombucha with a SCOBY that my sister gave me, and flavor it with cranberry or pomegranate juice that I buy from ALDI. It’s so much cheaper to make it myself than to pay $4 per bottle.
This brussels sprouts recipe is mind-blowing. My husband and I love roasted brussels sprouts as it is, but around Christmas we went to a cooking class and learned how to make a bacon vinaigrette to pour over top of the roasted sprouts. Bacon makes another appearance here in a very welcomed way (I’m not usually a fan of bacon, or so I thought.) I’ll be sharing the recipe soon because it is so freaking delicious. (I’ve eaten it for almost every meal…for breakfast with soft boiled eggs, I had this bowl plain for lunch, and it makes a great side dish for dinner.)

The Value of Vegetables

Speaking of vegetables with rich sauces (i.e. bacon vinaigrette), I got to thinking again about the role of vegetables in life. Diet culture makes it seem like every person needs to focus on eating even more vegetables, and while the falseness of that statement is another post for another time, I wanted to share some thoughts about what we tend to believe the value of vegetables to be in general.

In many diet books, vegetables (especially raw vegetables) are considered unlimited foods. I hate the idea of unlimited foods because I believe (and as intuitive eating teaches) there are natural, biological limits to the amount of food to eat at a given time, and our bodies give us signals that inform those choices. I have personally binged on plain raw spinach and baby carrots to the point where I became physically ill because I was trying to avoid the other food I was craving, because I was bored and figured it was harmless to gorge myself on raw veggies, or because I wanted to binge on something and started with raw veggies before moving on to the pan of brownies. I still remember one time during my eating disorder days when I ended up with profuse diarrhea consisting of half-digested spinach because I’d eaten four giant plates of raw spinach for dinner the night before, thinking I was “being healthy” because I’d exceeded my calorie goal earlier in the day. Ugh.

Contrary to what the media tells us, the value of vegetables is not in their calorie count. They offer sources of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need, and are an additional source of fiber (beyond whole grains, nuts, and other plant foods that contain fiber.) We should eat them not as a means for avoiding or displacing higher calorie foods from our plates but rather because of what they offer us inherently on their own.

The same principle applies to all other foods, which is why vegetables aren’t supposed to displace or replace things like rice, potatoes, meat, cheese, eggs, bread, peanut butter, or olive oil. Just as kale offers us nutrients we can’t get from most other foods, eggs offer us nutrients that we can’t get from most other foods…etc. We need variety, abundance, and balance, and we would die pretty quickly if we only ate kale.

That being said, a vegetable is still a vegetable no matter how it’s prepared. Whether we’ve battered and fried it (hello, zucchini fries), sautéed it in butter, dipped it in ranch, or covered it in delicious bacon vinaigrette, the value of the vegetable—fiber, folate, and all—still remains. The diet industry talks about high calorie toppings as a bad thing, but I am adamant that they are a good thing if they increase the likelihood that a person will be eating an appropriate amount of vegetables.

Gentle Movement, Exercise & Bodily Attunement

Just like our bodies tell us when to start and stop eating, I firmly believe that they give us similar signals about how much and when to exercise. That being said, sometimes we don’t feel like exercising in the moment, but we feel better (sometimes hours later) when we do get a workout in. (The same is true with eating. Even if we don’t feel like a snack in a given moment, we feel better later if we eat something.)

However, in the slump of winter blues, I’ve been finding myself a little confused about the signals my body is giving me for exercise. Usually, I exercise in the morning before work and feel great in the afternoon, or I exercise after my early shift and it picks up my energy levels from the afternoon dip. But lately, with the woes of cold weather and short days, I’ve been feeling more tired than usual, and my joints get a little achy from the cold. Some mornings, even yoga feels more tiring than it’s worth, and that’s left me confused. Sure, I still feel good in the afternoon, and I’m grateful for the extra flexibility it affords me, especially since sitting at a desk can leave me feeling stiff. Ordinarily when things like this happen, I interpret it as a signal that my body needs an extended period of rest—no exercise for a week or two. I actually ended up taking a break over the holidays, but it made me feel even more tired than when I do work out. (eyeroll)

Ultimately, I’m sharing this to illustrate the point that our appetites, our exercise signals (or signals for rest) can easily be clouded when other things are going on in life. Not getting enough sleep, depression, illness, digestive issues, hormone problems, pregnancy, and more can all affect the normal, healthy signaling between our brains and our bodies. When we respond the way we know we should when our bodies give us signals an our bodies don’t respond as we expect, it often clues us in that something is going on beneath the surface. This is just one of the many reasons that it can be challenging to transition from a diet pattern into an intuitive framework for food and movement. But even though it’s challenging and our bodies sometimes confuse us, it’s SO worth it!

Do you find intuitive exercise to be a challenge?

Weekly Word

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

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