Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Convenience Factor

Wow, I got some really good information, advice, insight and book/website recommendations in the comments yesterday! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. It is very helpful to see what others are choosing and why as I make my own decisions about what to eat, and what's healthy for me. I have narrowed down a few things (like still having beef no more than once a week, usually local and grass fed, and including dairy *for now* and perhaps trying cutting it back or out at some point in the future. Also wanting to get off all types of sweeteners except moderate occasional use of local honey and maybe Stevia.) Simpler is better for me. I have to calm my mind enough to ear my body when I am making these choices.

But then there's the convenience factor. I admit it, I like convenience. In fact that is why I used to get up in the morning and grab cold pizza for breakfast even though a spinach omelet sounded better. It's just easier and faster to grab cold pizza rather than getting out the pan, prepping veggies, cooking, and then cleaning up. This is actually a bigger factor for me than I thought. There's two reasons: one, I am busy (sometimes). And two, I am lazy (sometimes). After a long day or even in the middle of a busy day I do not like having to go through a process of

1. looking at what food is available
2. deciding what to eat and how much
3. prepping and cooking the food
4. sitting down to eat
5. cleaning up the mess

THAT is why fast food, Lean Cuisines, and prepackaged foods are so popular! Just grab and eat! Simple and fast. But I am trying to get away from that kind of thing and back to a more basic (meat, veg, fruit, nuts, etc) diet.

I have honestly struggled with this all my life. I grew up eating convenience foods where the most cooking my mother usually did, if at all, was to boil some hot dogs or make a box of macaroni & cheese. When I went off to college I ate a whole lot of Ramen noodles. I learned to cook when I got married, and I liked it, but now I am busier and less patient and frequently my kids are not even home for dinner (some work, some have other things going on). Even when they are, they tend to like the foods they grew up eating: home cooking like beef stroganoff, spaghetti and meatballs, sloppy joes, bacon cheeseburgers, pot roast and mashed taters, stuff like that. Which is fine, and I adapt. But in general I do not want to be consuming noodles and casseroles and higher fat meats and mashed potatoes. I can figure out the dinner part, if I work at it. The kids will eat baked salmon and a side of brown rice and veggies. They will eat roasted chicken. But then I am still stuck trying to figure out breakfast and lunch.

I need easy and convenient. A pre-made salad goes icky after a couple days. So does cooked chicken breast or fish. I have tried making a ton of extras and freezing them in individual portions. But I dunno, maybe I am just rebelling here because I seem to be making it a bigger deal than it IS.

It's just that I need to form new habits. I need to expect to take a little time in the morning to make something healthier, even if it's just a smoothie. So I am trying now to factor in the convenience factor so I don't end up just grabbing what's easiest. Like this morning, I saw the "easy stuff" in the fridge, which we do have on hand for my working/college attending kids who needs something to grab and go, and I just told myself NO, and made some eggs scrambled with spinach. And you know what else I had? Half an apple. And you know what? I realized that I have not had an apple in OVER A YEAR. And as I ate that apple, I thought, it is time to make some changes.

I am heading out to my ultrasound and doctor appointment in a couple hours. I am very nervous. Think good thoughts for me please. I hope they will just tell me it's nothing, or to monitor it... not biopsy, not surgery... but I will just have to deal with whatever comes.


Anonymous said...

Sending positive thoughts your way. xoxo

NAN said...

When I first was married, I made monthly menus! I live alone now after feeding a family of 5 for many years and I still make menus- weekly though heehee. I use the grocery ads too and coupons. Good luck at the doctor's- the unknown is usually the worse part. Also, you can recruit those college aged kids to help you in the kitchen too! My son is a great cook and loves to stir fry.

Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

Yep, convenience IS a factor. I never realized how much I depended on prepared foods until I moved to Russia...where there are none.

Cooking meals from scratch is a pain in the butt, yet I know exactly what I'm eating.

It always strikes me when I go back to the States how many convenience foods there are in the grocery stores...After a week or so, I always get sucked back into using those same foods because it's...convenient!

Hope your appointment goes okay!

Jesse said...

I thought of you when I read this article today: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-vegans/2011/03/31/AF1wbw0D_story.html

Not because of the veganism but for the point they discuss about getting plant-based proteins. It was one of my biggest mental challenges when I went vegetarian for health/ethics reasons (how will I ever get enough protein?) and I've surprised myself to find how unimportant it's been as I adjust to the diet. There are still days when I crave an entire block of tofu, or even (yes) a red steak, but I try to approach those cravings carefully to figure out what I might *really* want (iron, for instance!) and getting it elsewhere. Good luck as you implement these changes or solidify ideas you already had about your diet.

spunkysuzi said...

Convenience is definitely a factor for me.
Planning ahead is what keeps me on track.
Sending positive thoughts and a "hug" your way :)

hopefulandfree said...

It's challenging to learn to recognize--and fully BELIEVE--that your self-care needs are far more important than living efficiently. Efficiency is for machines. When we talk about "convenience" I think many of us are prioritizing efficiency over self care. Anyway, that's something I've found to be true about myself.

Thinking good thoughts for your appointment. Remember, you are much stronger than you can ever imagine. Trust that you will find enough support, no matter the outcome. :)

Eschelle said...

(((happy healthy vibes)))

I still can't seem to get myself to MAKE breakfast, let alone eat it lol!! UGH i battle that demon...

❦ fitcetera said...

Hope everything works out well today, Lyn!

Debbie said...

The convenience factor weighs heavily for me too. That's one reason why breakfast is almost always one of two things. Oatmeal with a chopped up apple & cinnamon or non-fat, plain yogurt with honey, a chopped up apple and cinnamon.

I said a prayer for you, I hope that everything goes well.

Leslie said...

Convenience is very important for me too, Lyn. I do tend to be lazy when it comes to food prep, esp. when I'm over hungry - then grabbing whatever isn't nailed down is a default setting.

My best antidote is doing prep on the weekends - a mess of roasted veggies that lasts me most of the week, maybe soup, a roasted chicken...also having plenty of fruit on hand. You're working on finding what will work for you, and when whatever that is stops working, flexibility will allow you to find the next right thing.

Anonymous said...

I make enough oatmeal and scrambled eggs for a few meals. They reheat just fine.

Anonymous said...

I use to have the same problem, I never had the time to cook and didn't like the cleanup. I liked quick and easy, the best thing I started doing was preparing my foods ahead of time and purchasing a freezer. I freeze most of my meals (lunch/supper) for the week and will take them in my lunch or grab them out of the freezer after work. It's handy, once and a while I will cook a fresh meal but I make sure that when I do I have lots left over and it goes into the freezer. Saves tons of time, lots of cooking, cheaper for groceries cause you can buy in bulk and are prepared when you go to the grocery store and makes planning ahead really simple.. lots of great books out there too for cooking in bulk.

LHA said...

First, I hope you had good news at the doctor today. Lyn, you have faced a lot of difficult challenges in your life and have overcome them. Take the knowledge of these victories with you as you face whatever it is that comes up in the future. You are a strong person!

As for the convenience factor, I have found a partial answer to this in cooking some lean meals in quantity and refrigerating them or even freezing for a quick meal. In the summer I often throw some chicken breasts, lean steaks and hamburgers and even vegetables on the grill once a week and eat them in different combinations or even use cut up in salads during the week. While these things are on the grill, I sometimes am cooking up vegetables in the kitchen too! I have a very hectic work schedule and usually only have maybe one day a week to cook much so this is the only way I can do it. My family eats these things too when I am away at work, so everybody eats better.

Good luck!

Dinahsoar said...

Go look at Margie's blog, where she posted her menus...see how simple she kept it. It will give you some ideas.

I don't do much cooking and use basic foods.

Goat cheese with walnuts, curry powder, honey and rusks for breakfast. All I 'cook' is my coffee.

Lunch is a protein like peanut butter or sardines or salmon or tuna or cheese or egg, with/on diet bread (it saves carbs and calories to eat diet bread) and a side of V8 and some carrot sticks.

And dinner is a protein with 2 or 3 veg on the side, usually frozen. Or a big salad with a protein portion if I'm in the mood for salad.

Snacks are fruit based--like smoothie in a bowl, to which I always add protein in the form of protein powder or yogurt.

Or yogurt with fresh fruit like strawberries, with walnuts, unsweetened chocolate chunks and a big glob of fat free Cool Whip.

If I need a sweet and I don't want to use many calories I grab a sugar free jello cup and embellish it...usually fat free Cool Whip.

I spend very little time cooking or prepping food.

I've lost 30 pounds, never been easier and I never go hungry.

The key is to understand how the food you eat affects blood sugar/insulin/appetite. Once you know how this works you will know what to choose and your appetite won't run a muck.

It took me 40 years to figure this out. Better late than never but earlier would have been best.

Bunpoh said...

I missed the suggestion post yesterday, but I want to say that I find eating Primal (as opposed to paleo) is pretty quick and convenient. It never takes me more than 15 - 20 minutes to grill or bake meat of some kind, grill or steam or sautee veggies, or 5 - 10 minutes chopping up a salad with feta or goat cheese. I just eat fruits and nuts or cheese together when I want a snack, or grab some greek yogurt and throw some fruit and honey and ground flax on it, or maybe eat that for breakfast. An egg or two whisked with 1/4 c. ground flax, 1/4 c. water and sweetener microwaved for 30 seconds, then throw in blueberries and/or pecans and microwave another 30 seconds is my lazy breakfast. Omelets take 15 minutes, tops. I think it's easier than eating stuff out of boxes where you need to cook sauces and stuff, personally.

I love your recipes, btw. I am gonna try your cauliflower pizza one of these days.

Good luck at the doctor's. My heart is with you, I hope everything turns out okay.

Cinner said...

Sending positive thoughts your way, wishing you well with the doctors office. hopefully you get good news. take care.

Diandra said...

I am sure you will be fine.

Plus, I understand that part about convenience. This is why I like to pre-schedule meals (always knowing I can change plans if I actually want to). My breakfast looks the same EVERY DAY - frozen raspberries, oats, low-fat yogurt and some chopped walnuts. I don't want to think about it in the morning. Lunch (at the office) - usually a roll or some bread with whatever is available (cheese, chicken, tomato spread, whatever) and a huge load of raw veggies. And I have a weekly dinner plan - every Saturday while the BF gets ready for our grocery tour, I will sit down and plan the meals for the next week. If I had to think about what I actually *want* every day, I would end up with pizza or pasta almost every day. But I know from friends that this way of organizing the kitchen is not for everyone. ^^

Forty Pound Sack said...

I'm just catching up with you and had to make an observation: I do think we can all agree that something like a cupcake isn't good for your body. The thing is? It can be good for your spirit, provided you can enjoy them in moderation. I think you must agree, on some level, since the post before that one was about your son's birthday cake. You clearly put a lot of love into it, and seem to enjoy the tradition. I've been reading you long enough to know that if you really thought an occasional cupcake was truly bad for you, you would not feed one to your children. =)
With regard to today's post, I, too, need a certain level of convenience, and I, too, am constantly confused by all the conflicting information. A lot of prepackaged food, especially the frozen stuff, upsets my stomach for some reason. When I'm in diet mode, I find a couple easy, go to meals and just stick with them. When that gets old I swap one out with something new every couple days. It's not a great long term plan but it works when you just have a few pounds to go.

Karen said...

Wishing you the best of luck for your appointment.

I know the feeling very well. Especially breakfast. Breakfast is HARD. One thing I've started doing is making a "muffin in a minute", which literally takes one minute in the microwave and doesn't involve a lot of faffing about. You can get a recipe here:

I use Stevia rather than granular sweetener and it tastes just fine. I actually make mine in a shallow bowl and then turn it out like a pancake and spread no-added-sugar jam and some organic cream on it. Yum!

CatherineMarie said...

There are some convenience things that are healthy, and minimize cleanup... Trader Joes has a fantastic new chopped salad thing, with cabbage, radishes, etc...you can serve as a salad, or use in a stir-fry.

You can also use frozen veggies. Rotisserie chicken is not a bad thing..

there are convenience foods that are convenient AND healthy.

(and I'm also someone who hates cleanup) I love to cook, but I hate the cleanup portion...

~ Lyndsay The Kitchen Witch said...

This is going to sound strange, but becoming a food blogger has been my answer to sticking with my weight loss plan. When I started getting really interested in food, I realized that in order for this to work, the things I eat have to be delicious. I have many quick and easy recipe ideas. Please feel free to email me if you would like to try any.

You inspire me all the time, so if I can offer this I am happy to.

Thirteenlbs said...

Sending you good thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the point is that pizza is in itself easier than another meal, but that you're already cooking that for your kids, and it's mental energy to cook something separate for yourself. Plus, it's not that frozen broccoli is less convenient than frozen pizza, but it wants a little more doctoring to be as appetizing. I find it helps to think of degrees - salad is great, but defrost some broccoli and dip it into salad dressing and it's good enough for a busy day. My grocery store sells 1-pound bags of a frozen veggie mix - I don't even defrost it ahead of time, add to a less-healthy meal like Chinese chicken. I don't want to live on hummus and pita - but it's still a step up from pizza. A can of garbanzos - open, add cumin, hot sauce, lemon juice - heat and eat. Same thing with a can of tuna. You just have to build up that repertoire bit by bit.