On wheat-free, low-calorie, cheap eating

It’s hardly surprising, as a self-confessed chocoholic, that I had very little awareness of what foods were good and bad for me growing up. Of course I knew the basics: meat and two veg, lots of fruit and vegetables and not much sugar right? But somehow the details of carbohydrates/proteins/calories/poly-unsaturated things all passed me by. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you for the life of me what was high in calories and what was basically ‘free’ from calories. Except maybe water, I knew water didn’t have calories.

I also assumed that carbohydrates meant your basic staples: potatoes, bread, pasta, rice. I had no idea it extended beyond that.

Now I’m almost 6’2″ and fairly slim so losing weight isn’t high on my agenda, but taking care of myself is. Feeling healthy, alert and like I’m treating my body well, impacts my mood and general outlook, so recently I’ve been finding out a little more about food. Being wheat-free has also meant that I’ve become far more aware of what is in what I eat as I have to check ingredients all the time to make sure they haven’t somehow snuck wheat in (you’d be amazed, it’s in so much)!

Those of you who are already wheat-free will know that with this particular diet, similarly to many other intolerances, often comes a high price tag. But I’m starting to find ways to eat healthy, wheat-free, low-calorie foods for a reasonable cost so I thought I’d make a note of them in case, as is likely, I forget these little tips I’m learning.

Breakfast

Simple: fruit, yoghurt, occasionally granola if made with pure oats and natural honey

Lunch

Here’s the fun one. I’ve only recently discovered that sandwiches are unnecessary calories, which isn’t so bad because gluten-free bread is not anything worth shouting about. Get rid of the bread but don’t get rid of the delicious and the filling. There’s no point in being hungry because if you’re anything like me, you’ll just keep snacking on whatever is close at hand.

Here’s my plan: Salads, but not your traditional lettuce, cucumber and tomato (although sometimes they’re fine too). I’m more interested in quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, sundried tomatoes, roasted courgette and pepper, sweetcorn, dried apricot and beetroot. You can pick and choose whichever of those you like the most and add in extras or change the basics but it’s healthy, it’s low calories, it’s wheat-free and it’s pretty cheap when you spread it out over a week of lunches. It’s also easy to get variety in there. I’m easily bored.

Dinner

The two biggest things I have learned about keeping dinner healthy and cheap are:

  1. Lots of vegetables (seriously, lots)
  2. Fish

I’m certainly not a vegetarian but most of the time I can give or take meat so we only have it once or twice a week and intersperse it with veg meals and fish (the cheaper fish types, rather than salmon or seabass despite our esteemed Prime Minister mistakenly believing the latter to be a modern staple of the society he governs). I also only have pasta about once a week, if at all. I’ve become more of a rice and potatoes girl.

Lots of vegetables is crucial as they tick all boxes: they’re cheap, most of them are low in calories, they’re healthy, they’re filling and they’re naturally wheat-free! I have felt so much better since I switched to eating so much veg.

Overall

There are some principles that apply across the board:

  • Reasonable portion size – you always feel rubbish when you overeat anyway.
  • Figure out how to tell the difference between hungry and thirsty – not as easy as you’d think.
  • Don’t eat when you’re bored because you’re not really enjoying it anyway – I’m a sucker for eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate when I’m bored even if I’m not hungry.
  • Don’t take the fun and yum out of food – I definitely haven’t cut out my chocolate, desserts and snacks. I eat little and often but I’m simply more aware of what it is that I’m snacking on, what actually fills me up and asking myself whether I really want what I’m eating. You don’t need to cut out on the fun stuff to eat healthily and cheaply.

So what have I learned?

  • Vegetables fill you up and tick all important boxes.
  • Eating fish at least once a week and meat a little less often really does make you feel better and saves the pennies.
  • Lunch doesn’t have to be a monotonous calorific sandwich, nor the incredibly boring daily recurrence of soup. It can be fun and filling without being expensive. It’s all about the pulses and the variety.

So. It turns out ‘meat and two veg’ and ‘lots of fruit and vegetables’ weren’t so far off the mark after all.

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Goals in limbo

I’m still not quite at a place where I am happy to set myself monthly goals. They were really fun and motivating at the start of last year but being present in the moment and simply appreciating the people and blessings I already have in my life have become my priority for this season. I do have goals for 2015 as a whole, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t, but I’m not quite ready to go back to setting myself monthly aims. There’s simply too much going on in the rest of my life to add in extra ambitions. They would become a burden, rather than the motivator for change that I love them to be.

That said, there are a few things I would like to do more of in the coming months and these I am happy to commit to writing because they can be achieved without much time or effort and could perhaps even encourage me towards a place where monthly goals are back on the agenda.

More brunch – 2015 got off to a great start with Eggs Benedict brunch but it has hardly happened since and that’s such a shame. Brunch is such a weekend delight.

Switch out my wardrobe – About 18 months ago I spent some time (as one of my goals) figuring out my style, what suits me and what makes me feel good. I have made quite a lot of headway in making sure my wardrobe is filled with those items but I’m not there yet and it’s still in the back of my mind. So I’d like to get rid of the items that don’t quite fit or aren’t quite me and slowly refill my wardrobe only with items that give me joy to wear.

De-clutter – Whenever my mind is cluttered and I don’t feel like I have space to process or room to achieve ambitions, creating space in my physical environment helps. I’ve never been particularly attached to possessions and regular de-cluttering reminds me of what is really important in life – certainly not ‘stuff’!

Bake and read – For some reason, being in a time of limbo has meant that I have had inclination neither to bake nor to read, both of which I usually love and find incredibly relaxing. So while I wouldn’t naturally pair these two activities, I’d like to do more of both.

Just four things, but four things that will hopefully spur me on towards a place where change, new challenges, new experiences and a productive time of growth are a natural and innate part of me once again.