Dinner Plans

Are there really people out there who create a weekly menu plan? Because even though I have compiled a healthy trove of  lo-co recipes, these past few weeks I’ve been just… well… totally disinterested in figuring out what to cook every single day.

This led to an alarming increase in so-so-so-not-lo-co takeout in the waning summer months. Which explains my recent break from posting. Very embarrassing. Oh, and not healthy.

The only good thing I can say about the past month is that I’ve upped the exercise quotient. I have been spinning at Joyride every week – even after the need to train for my bike trip ended … a new personal best.  Thank you Emma, for your inspiring music!

But I can’t spin every day.  So here’s what I’m trying to kick-back into lo-co gear.

For running, there’s an iPhone app called Nike Plus which tracks where you are, your run time and distance, and coordinates with your iTunes playlists.  It doesn’t require a chip or anything tied to your shoe anymore – all you need is your iPhone or iTouch.

Nike Plus plays right into my OCD need for knowledge; it’s really quite motivating.  Oh, and it’s totally free.  Woot.  And it automatically downloads results to your computer so you can see how many miles you’ve run over time. My husband and I love it.

So exercise, check.  (Though that will become problematic as the weather gets cold…sigh).  But for now, I run outside and spin.  So that (just, hah) leaves the dinner nightmare.

I tried a few things to get re-motivated for cooking healthy, lo-co dinners.  Online searches for new menus left me uncharacteristically bored.  Two beautiful (and expensive) new cookbooks have been skimmed but not used. Melissa Clark and Julia Moskin’s columns in the New York Times are interesting as always, but have just not inspired me to cook a new dish.

But the August 22 NYT article, “You Plan, I’ll Cook: Leaving the Menu to Others” hit home. I was particularly inspired by the efficiency of a service called The Fresh 20:

“… the Fresh20, a meal-planning service that provides recipes for a week’s worth of healthy dinners. Monday might be ginger and garlic pork with snow peas and red peppers; Friday, Napa rice noodle salad with Asian peanut dressing and mangoes. The week’s shopping list has 20 ingredients and is calibrated to eliminate waste (snow peas, carrots and red peppers appear in both days’ meals) and to cost $75 for five dinners for a family of four, or $3.75 a person per meal.

Ms. Swank Meili now shops for food just once a week. She is back at her pre-baby weight without, she says proudly, making one trip to the gym. And she is not stressed by figuring out what to cook and “making a million trips to the grocery store.”

Baby-weight-loss and cost savings were not what did it for me. What got me excited was the efficiency of this program: each week you get a menu, shopping list (which even offers quantities for substituing chicken or turkey for beef) – and you incorporate leftovers or earlier prep required for some meals later in the week.

A recipe skeptic, I warily checked out their site and was delighted to find that the menus looked like recipes I’d use – fresh ingredients that have steps (not just opening cans) but are also not too intricate… no one wants dinner-party recipes for every day. These recipes actually look like they’d taste good and be relatively easy to make.

So I joined.  I chose the ‘classic’ menu; they also offer vegetarian and gluten-free subscriptions.  Here’s what’s on this week’s menu:

  • Orange Glazed Pork Tenderloin
  • Halibut Puttanesca
  • Cuban Pork Sandwiches
  • Spaghetti and (turkey for me) meatballs
  • Grilled squash, plum and white bean salad.
Sounds great, no?  
I’ve just printed out the shopping list and am headed out for my 2 mile run.  Then it’s off to the grocery store armed with an already-printed-out shopping list.  I am almost… almost… almost excited about cooking this week. 



Exercise DAILY? Really?

For me, food is the most interesting AND most difficult part of this Lo-Co quest.  I enjoy cooking, so searching my cookbooks (and buying new ones!) for recipes to jump-start this Lo-Co journey has been fun.  That said, I am starting to enjoy it less, as the pressure mounts to PLAN and then actually MAKE a healthy dinner every day…or at least most days. Or, more accurately right now, some of the time.

But there’s more to the Lo-C0 equation than just diet.

There is also exercise.  Now here’s the thing – I’m in decent shape.  Sure, there’s always that 5 lbs that’d be great to lose.  But I do exercise – we have an elliptical in the house, and I go to a spin class occasionally and sometimes even run.  (Like 2 miles, max.)  And those gym-rat activities are OK, but the only exercise I think is FUN is tennis.  That said, I’m pretty ‘active’ as the parlance goes.

But when I started looking into the key things to do to lower cholesterol, exercising daily is listed.  Here’s what the Mayo Clinic site (the link is listed in my Resources page) said:

“Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help improve your cholesterol levels. With your doctor’s OK, work up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps … And, you don’t need to get all 30 to 60 minutes in one exercise session. If you can squeeze in three to six 10-minute intervals of exercise, you’ll still get some cholesterol-lowering benefits.”

DAILY?  REALLY?  Is that absolutely necessary?  Because who can do that?  Who has that kind of time and commitment.  Oh, right, someone who doesn’t eat ice cream daily.

OK, if I have to exercise daily (and I need to ask my doctor if  the daily part is critical), my pick would be to play tennis.  That I could happily do every day.  Though frankly, even if playing tennis daily helped my cholesterol, it’d wreak havoc on my body parts – I already snapped an elbow tendon and have bursitis in my heel.  Sigh.

I guess I could try to exercise every day that I don’t play tennis.  I mean, the elliptical is literally 3 steps from my side of the bed.  I get that makes me very lucky.  And really, how hard could it be?  I should start tomorrow.

Luckily, I have a tennis clinic tomorrow morning.