What we eat to lose weight (and keep it off)

08/29/2012 at 2:38 pm | Posted in mangia!, weight loss | 6 Comments

Back in December when the nutritionist handed Marc an eating plan that allowed only 1200 calories a day, I thought I would never be able to do it. The truth? It sucked at first. Bad. I felt hungry a lot of the time, and I had to distract myself from thinking about food. The new portion sizes also took some getting used to.

But then, after a few weeks, it became easier. And after a few months, I can hardly remember how (or why) we ate differently.

For us, it’s all about modifications. Instead of frying fish and slathering it with tartar, we grill it with brown rice and veggies on the side. Rather than eat a whole plate of pasta (which in most cases equals 3 to 4 servings), it became a side dish. We added a bunch more fruits and vegetables to our diet and cut back on red meat. And we subbed in baked chips, Skinny Cow ice cream and Who Nu cookies for treats.

Also important? We didn’t deprive ourselves of the foods we love. Everything in moderation.

To give you an idea of our new diet, here’s how a typical week of eating shakes out …

This was probably the most eye-opening change for me. I used to pour a big bowl of cereal with skim milk and a tall glass of orange juice. Sounds healthy, right? It’s certainly not bad for you, but that meal also has a ton of calories and didn’t keep me full for very long. So I cut out the fruit juice and only occasionally eat cereal. I added lots of protein in the morning. And fruit. One of the things I love best about our diet is that I can eat as much fruit (and as many vegetables) as I want.

Typical breakfasts for me:

– Whole-grain English muffin with 2 TBS peanut butter and half a banana sliced on top, watermelon on the side.
– One egg and one egg white scrambled, with orange wedges on the side.
– Nonfat Greek yogurt topped with peaches, blueberries and a sprinkle of Honey Nut Cheerios or Kashi.
– On days I need to move fast, I’ll eat a bowl of Special K with blueberries and skim milk.
– I drink water in the mornings because I’ve never liked coffee.

Lunch didn’t change all that much. We’ve always eaten whole wheat breads, lean meats and raw veggies. We don’t eat regular chips any more, and we’ve cut back on the amount of cheese and mayo on our sandwiches. Small adjustments have big impact.

Here’s what I like to eat for lunch:

– Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with 1 oz cheddar, lettuce, tomato and dijon mustard. Pretzels, pickle and Diet Coke on the side.
– Morningstar Farms black bean burger (pictured above, although you can hardly see it under all the toppings) with salsa, lettuce, an ounce of shredded cheddar and about a tablespoon of reduced-fat sour cream. Carrot sticks, a few baked Cheetos (YUM) on the side.
– Egg scramble with one egg, one egg white, deli ham, green pepper, onion, tomato and a bit of cheddar cheese.
– At work, I’ll pop a Lean Cuisine in the microwave and eat it with pretzels or carrot sticks and a Diet Coke. Not the best lunch (those frozen meals are packed with sodium and carbs), but it gets me by on busy days.
– Pita bread stuffed with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots, a slice of American cheese and reduced-fat Italian dressing.
– Green salad with grilled chicken, a bit of cheese, veggies and low-fat dressing.

This meal has changed the most. On our regular rotation used to be baked spaghetti, beef stir fry with noodles, fried fish and lots of processed rice and pasta side dishes. We still have taco night, but now with healthier toppings and plain brown rice (which, when mixed with salsa and corn, is just as good as any box mix).

Here are some of our favorite dinners:

– Chicken cooked in the skillet with a little olive oil (or a grocery store rotisserie chicken) and barbeque sauce, corn on the cob, steamed brown rice, tomato slices.
– Green salad with grilled chicken, boiled egg white, veggies, a bit of cheese, a serving of croutons, with low-fat dressing.
– Grilled fish with onions and green peppers, grilled summer vegetables, baked sweet potato fries.
– Taco night! Whole wheat tortilla stuffed with chicken, one serving of cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, corn, salsa and one serving of low-fat sour cream. Steamed brown rice on the side.
– Grilled pork tenderloin with roasted brussels sprouts, green salad and whole-wheat roll.
– Other favorites include spaghetti pie and chicken pesto pizza. We also steam a lot of green vegetables: broccoli, asparagus, green beans. I’ve been meaning to experiment with roasting these for some extra crisp and flavor.

– trail mix
– Skinny Cow dark chocolate dreamy clusters
– plain dark chocolate
– roasted almonds
– a cup of Greek yogurt
– fruit!
– carrot sticks with low-fat ranch dip
– Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches
– Who Nu and Snackwell’s cookies
– frozen yogurt
– banana “milkshake”: blend one chopped frozen banana with 1 TBS peanut butter and a splash of skim milk

Eating Out
Man, this is tough. My favorite restaurants are Mexican, Italian and Southern. So I eat enchiladas, pizza and chicken biscuits in moderation. At the beginning we didn’t eat out at all. Once the weight started coming off, we allowed ourselves the treat of eating out every now and then … and we made healthier choices.

One of our favorite things to do as a family is go out for pizza on Friday night. So the nutritionist advised us to load up on the salad bar (avoiding unhealthy toppings and dressings), and then eat only two slices of pizza. It worked! And if I eat a hamburger, I ask for green salad on the side instead of french fries.

But there are time when a girl just needs to eat what she wants. See: fried pickles and cupcakes. So on those (special) occasions, I just go easy on my other meals that day and try to squeeze in some extra exercise. No biggie.


I hope this gives you an idea of the types of foods you can eat to lose weight — or maintain a healthy one. If you have questions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below. I’ll also keep adding healthy recipes to the mangia! category over there in the sidebar.

Up next in this week’s weight-loss series? Exercise. I actually like it now. Crazy, right?


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  1. Amazing! I’m so proud of you!! Yesterday’s post with pics was awesome!! (and-I know this is missing the point of the post-but I love your striped plate.)

  2. I also believe that everything in moderation is key to losing weight. I’ve cut down on eating beef, which has made a difference as well.

    I really like the muffin with peanut butter and banana for breakfast! I’m going to have to try it 🙂

  3. What a great blog, thank you for sharing some great information, when we are trying to lose weight we need all the support we can get.

  4. What a pleasure to read some authentic, realistic information about real life weight loss, there is no much rubbish on the market, it is simple and easy to read. I will definitely be following you in future.

  5. thanks for sharing this information from your experience. very insightful! 1200 calories, wooosh!! I’m struggling to do 1500 on MFP. did you guys use a food scale to measure food out or just eyeball it? i’m finding that training my eyes for the correct portion size isn’t easy…

    • Same here … portion size is tricky. I didn’t use a food scale, but I did use measuring cups/spoons to try to gauge some of what I was eating. Meat was a guessing game. I pretty much cut my plate in half (from what I used to eat). Hang in there!

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