In the interest of full disclosure, I am being provided with 42 Healthy Choice meals, a counseling session at BlogHer, and am being compensated. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
See my first post in this series here.
I am one week into my Better for BlogHer challenge from Healthy Choice. As I mentioned last week, I am replacing one meal a day with a Healthy Choice meal and doing my best to follow Tara Gidus’s tips (and yes, I’ll be sharing some today).
So what do I think so far? I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised. There are three different types of meals for me to choose from, Café Steamers, Complete Meals, and Select Entrees. I’ve been doing my best to try a different flavor each day so that I can see what I like and don’t like. So far, it’s mostly been in the like category.
I will admit that I definitely prefer the Café Steamers to the Complete Meals (I haven't tried the others yet). The complete meals come with veggies on the side and a dessert, and while this is a great idea for dinner, I actually find that I don’t need these. Both types of meals are in the 300 calorie range, but the serving size is large enough that I can eat one and not feel hungry twenty minutes later.
The Café Steamers taste fresher to me, which I love. They also have quite a few Mediterranean and Asian inspired options, which I love. I’d rather have a spicy meal with lots of flavor like that than the more traditional meat and potatoes type entrees that the Complete Meals offer (barbeque chicken, chicken parmigiana, fajita steak, spicy shrimp diavolo, etc. The Complete Meals taste fine, although the desserts are a little sweeter than what I make at home, but I just prefer the Café Steamers; it’s a me thing.
To give you a rundown of my thoughts of each meal, I’ve had:
Chicken Margherita: I liked it. It had a little more sauce than I needed, and I’d probably pour a little out before putting the main food into the sauce, but it had great flavor. I do wish that the Café Steamers had their chicken chunks more into bite-sized pieces than the larger chunks they do, but that might also end up drying out the chicken. It’s definitely not a deal breaker.
Roasted Sesame Chicken: I actually really liked this one - or at least the sesame chicken part. I loved the crunch of the sesame seeds and the taste of the sesame sauce with the brown rice. The mixed veggies with this were ok, but they were more steamed than I would make them at home (I like my foods pretty al dente). The gingersnap peach dessert was a little sweet for me and very gingery flavored. It was ok, but definitely not my favorite part of the meal.
General Tso’s Chicken (not my spelling choice): This was another Café Steamer, and while it wasn’t exactly like the food I’d get from a great Chinese restaurant (for one thing, it wasn’t fried!), it had some really nice flavor and spice to it. It wasn’t super spicy – and I probably would have been ok with more heat to it, but I know I’m probably in the minority when you look at mainsteam America – but I really enjoyed this one.
Sweet & Spicy Orange Zest Chicken: I continued with my theme of Asian-inspired Café Steamer options with this one. Again, it wasn’t the fried chicken from a Chinese restaurant, but I really liked it. The chicken chunks are nice pieces of chicken (one of my main complaints from certain Chinese restaurants!), and the sauce has a great citrus flavor that I enjoyed. I accidentally bought a second one of this flavor, but I’m not bothered by that in the least! I also appreciate how they have a variety of vegetables mixed into each of these entrees, which makes them healthier and helps to ensure that I’m getting my daily dose of vitamin V (vegetable).
Sweet & Tangy Barbeque Chicken: This was another of the Complete Meals. It had chicken chunks that were really moist bathed in a decent barbeque sauce. The side for this one was corn niblets – my favorite – and it also came with an apple crisp XXXX. I actually left a bit of the dessert behind for two reasons. First, I didn’t need it because I’d gotten enough food with the rest of the meal, and second, it really was too sweet and syrupy for my tastes. When I make an apple crisp, I tend to make almost all apples with just a little syrup being created. But again – that’s the way I cook and eat, and I know I’m in the minority when it comes to not preferring very sweet desserts.
Balsamic Garlic Chicken: I went back to the Café Steamers, with a Mediterranean inspired choice. The balsamic garlic sauce for this was really good, and it actually wasn't too heavy or too much for me, which I'd worried about a bit. The pasta wasn't the al dente I make, but it was still a good fit. Interstingly, the chicken bites here were much more bite sized, which I appreciated. I liked the variety of veggies in this one from the spinach to garlic to red peppers.
Chicken Pad Thai: Ok, so I took this one out of the microwave and I was confused. It smelled like chicken curry, not pad thai (and I love pad thai - yes, I make my own). I had my husband smell it without telling him what I was thinking, and he told me it smelled like yellow curry chicken. Aside from my disagreement with the labeling (and granted, closer examination of the box showed that it was "chicken pad thai with a light curry sauce" - ummm curry = Indian and pad thai = thai. Once I adjusted my thinking to curry, it was really good. This one, I enjoyed - lots of great crunchy vegetables, and a decent curry. I was looking forward to pad thai though, so it would be great to have a "real" one someday.
I'm excited to keep trying new choices. Unfortunately my local grocery store isn't the best - not only do they sell the entrees for more than the recommended cost per the Healthy Choice website, but their selection leaves a ton to be desired. Tomorrow I am headed out to a different store to see if I can find some of the other options I'm intrigued by: grilled whiskey steak, roasted beef merlot, chicken teryaki, fire roasted tomato chicken, marinara manicotti formaggio, etc.
I have to say that these meals have been perfect. Somehow, I thought that being a stay-at-home mom would give me more time. It hasn't. I am home less now than I was when I was working. The quick meals like this - filling, well-rounded, and yummy - are perfect for when I'm running in and out of the house. I've eaten one in the eight minutes I had between dropping Mister Man off from Tae Kwon Do and running to my softball and between the gym workout and getting Little Miss to gymnastics.
And the benefits? I don't know if it's the meals I'm eating (with more protein and fiber than I usually do, I think) or just coincidence, but running this week has been awesome. My 28 minute run on Monday? I felt so good I kept going and ran for 35 minutes. My 30 minute run on Wednesday? I did 31 minutes, and only because I was pressed for time (yeah, that whole gymanstics thing!). I've finally gotten through my barrier of running longer distances, and I'm so excited.
And the scale at the gym (granted, it's a different scale because my regular gym is closed for remodeling, but same model at two other locations)? I've actually finally lost some weight. It isn't a ton, but I was at 156.4 today - another pound and a half, and I'll find out what I weigh without the two wet towels, toiletries, and heart rate monitor. Whoo hoo!
I have some tips to share with you, too, as promised. Tara Gidus is the nutritionist working with Healthy Choice, and I received some healthy eating tips that I'm trying to take to heart. I'll share some this week and the rest over the coming weeks.
Don't make excuses. According to a recent survey, being too busy is an obstacle to eating healthy, with nearly one out of three people having too many social events (30%) or not having time to prepare healthy meals or snacks (29%). Uhhh yeah. I fall into that category. I do great for awhile, but then I go the excuses route and go for the quick and easy - and not so healthy! This is a good reminder that I'm accountable and need to stay that way.
S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. Food is meant to be enjoyed, so slow down and taste every bite. Take sips of water and put your fork down throughout the meal to remind yourself to slow down. This is another one I need to focus on - uhhh did you see above where I talked about the 8 minutes I was in the house to cook and eat a meal? When I have time to sit down for a meal, I am pretty good at this one. I enjoy food, and I'm a slow eater. But too often I'm running around and fueling without focusing on the food. Huge difference.
Track your spending. Not dollars, but calories. People who keep a record of what they eat lose twice as much weight as people who don't. I can so vouch for this one! I used SparkPeople a couple years ago and was so healthy and fit and actually lost weight. I tracked everything I ate. And that also meant that when I was at Costco walking past the samples, I thought hard about whether or not I wanted to write that down later - or figure out how to write it down! All those little things that "don't count" really add up during the day. I need to go back to the nice folks at SparkPeople - and yes, it's free!
Get enough sleep! Not having enough sleep can throw off your hormone balance and contribute to gaining weight. Ummm yeah. It's now 11:27. And I'm not off to bed yet. I really need to work on this one. I used to set a lights out time of 10pm where I would go up to bed to unwind by then at the latest. I've gotten away from that lately, especially this summer. I need to ensure I'm getting enough sleep again.
On that note, I'm headed to bed. Wish me luck in this next week - I can't wait to see what foods I try and how I progress on this journey to Get Better For BlogHer!