I have eluded to this several times lately, but I've been working hard since July at losing some weight. There are a hundred different ways to "diet" in this world, and I choose none of the trendy ones. I prefer to eat healthy, high-quality, minimally-processed vegetarian food, chock-full of fresh, local, in-season produce. Lately, I have been eating just a bit less than I typically would, and focusing much harder on getting in enough exercise on a daily basis. (Lunchtime walks? Check. Weekend bike rides? Check. 21-day yoga challenges? Check. Running errands on foot? Check.)
I have been using My Fitness Pal to track my meals and exercise, and people, it's working. Not as quickly as I would like, but well ... I'm 35 years old and have a job that is primarily sedentary. Slow metabolism? Check. Lack of movement in my daily life? Double-check. Wah. It's frustrating sometimes, but watching the number on the scale go down, feeling stronger, feeling more physically-fit, feeling healthier, is definitely winning out most days.
(Donut Crawls aside. Yeah. Sometimes you gotta splurge.)
What have I learned from using My Fitness Pal? Well, for starters, I figured out why I gained so much before -- I just ate way too much. Sometimes, it sucks being short. My calorie needs are much less than a tall person's, (and MUCH less than a tall man's,) and well, on a 5'1" frame, there's only so many places where those extra calories can go. (I was having a conversation with a coworker, who happens to be pretty tall, the other day, and stated, "if you gain 5 pounds I bet you don't even notice." She replied, "I don't." I continued, "if I gain five pounds, my pants don't fit!") The really crappy part about this is, a scoop of ice cream, or a chocolate chip cookie, or a bowl of popcorn has the same number of calories regardless of whether you are tall, short, or in-between.
So, yeah. I have been paying attention. I hate that I have to, because I would prefer to just eat and enjoy my food, but given my sweet tooth, propensity towards preferring carbs, my genetics, my age, and my sedentary job, I don't have much of a choice at this point in my life. Boo. (Anyone else out there feel me?)
What else have I realized? I DON'T EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN. Oh, yes, it's that horrible question every vegetarian dreads -- "but WHERE do you get your protein?" See, thing is, it's really dead easy to eat enough protein as a vegetarian. It's really easy not to, too, when your body tends to crave carbs.
So, I have been paying WAY more attention to my protein intake these past few months, and you know what? It's working. Protein does help you feel full. Protein gives you energy, clear skin, healthy hair and nails. So, I eat more protein. My Fitness Pal wants me to eat upwards of 60 grams per day, (there's research about protein helping fuel weight loss out there, which is why I think the recommendation is so high,) but I consider it a good day if I go over 50 grams. Some days are more, some days are less.
I have a whole new relationship with string cheese I never thought I would have. Cottage cheese and I are BFFs (sometimes I go through two cartons in a week.) I bought an all-natural, vegan protein powder for my smoothies. (I don't much care for it, though. Do you have one you like? Please share!) I eat eggs for breakfast ... often. Sometimes I eat eggs for dinner, too. I have consumed more hummus in the past four months than I think I have in the past four years. And beans? Heck yes. Tofu. (Super firm tofu, even, 'cause it has more protein.) Tempeh. Almonds. Peanut butter. Bring it on. I can do this "protein thing."
I have realized that, as I have increased my protein intake, my intake of carbs has decreased. No longer do I scarf down two slices of toast for breakfast. I have one slice of toast with two eggs. And you know what? Breakfast #2 keeps me full much longer than breakfast #1 used to. I will never, ever be "low-carb," but I definitely think "less-carb" is working for me.
In the quest for protein-rich snacks that are relatively low in calories and NOT string cheese, I have been crunching through batch, after batch, after batch of roasted chickpeas. Not just any, ordinary chickpeas, mind you ... SALT AND VINEGAR ROASTED CHICKPEAS. 'Cause if roasted chickpeas can taste like my all-time favorite flavor potato chip, well, they should!
I started with this recipe from Oh She Glows, with good results initially. I did grow frustrated, however, that sometimes my chickpeas on the outside edges of my pan would burn while the chickpeas near the center would still be soft, despite frequent stirrings mid-bake. What's a roasted chickpea-loving gal to do? Turn down the oven, increase the time, and work low-and-slow to her advantage.
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
1. Pour your chickpeas into a small saucepan, and add enough white vinegar just to cover the chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then remove the chickpeas from the heat, cover, and allow the chickpeas to sit in the white vinegar for 20 minutes (or longer, if you want a stronger vinegar flavor.)
2. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Drain the chickpeas, and toss with the oil and salt. Arrange the chickpeas on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake the chickpeas, stirring every 20 minutes, until they begin to brown and dry out. Keep baking, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the chickpeas are completely dry and crisp. (This may take 45 minutes or over an hour, depending on your oven, your baking sheets, etc.) Cool the chickpeas completely, then store in an airtight container.
What are your favorite flavor combinations for roasted chickpeas? (Because I'm sure, eventually, I'll get sick of salt and vinegar. That just hasn't happened yet. Mmmmmm....)
And, what are your favorite protein-rich vegetarian snacks?