The Quest for Less: Calories

Evening, everyone! Yet again another post without food in it..well, without cooking instructions, at least. Not that I’m not cooking us dinner, on the contrary, I totally am. I’m just not cooking anything amazing. Last night I made broccoli and chicken with packaged alfredo sauce. Why? Because I swear if I eat another bowl of rice I am going to scream. The Ryan is still on his low calorie kick, and I have been trying my hardest to come up with a 400 calorie or less meal for dinner, but yesterday, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I have been staring at the unused pastas hanging out in our pantry taking up space for weeks, so yesterday, enough was enough and I made pasta..Calories be damned!

“But why do you even eat so much rice anyway?” I can hear you saying it now. The Ryan wants a starch in his food, and I can completely measure and control the amount of rice he gets (therefore controlling the amount of calories he gets) and he wins with his starchy side. I will also do potatoes, or just plain veggies. I was hoping to be able to adapt some quinoa and lentils into our diet and cut out a bit of the meat calories while still holding the protein, but according to the Ryan, quinoa “tastes like ass.” So that became a big fat “nevermind.”

I am also plagued with my desire to bake bake bake my little heart out (you can thank Jessica for this curse!) and we all know that nobody in their right mind can eat just one cookie. I actually baked more oatmeal raisin cookies and worked them out to be anywhere between 80-107 calories per cookie depending on the cookie’s size. Fine, if you can eat just one or even two..otherwise, forget it. I will actually be taking a bag of cookies to work with me for our new intern tomorrow. She’s excited to help us rid ourselves of these cookies, and we’re happy to oblige.

So I now find myself in a dilemma – what on earth do I cook that isn’t repetitive and boring but that is 400 calories or less (per meal…3 a day)? Breakfast and lunch are sorted, and I’m cool with that. But dinner has been endless chicken and rice, pork and rice, beef and rice, stir fry this, stir fry that…on and on and on forever. I picked up some tilapia, lamb and shrimp today to sort of mix it up a bit, so that will help me. But I’ve been finding myself researching substitutes for sugar, substitutes for eggs,  oil, you name it, I’m looking it up. Anything to afford me the ability to make my favorite foods and have healthy treats without the added calories. Someone brought peanut butter cookies in to work yesterday and they were 130 cals a cookie. I had three. 390 calories and one meal’s allotted calorie count later, I was feeling the guilt. (But they were just so yummy!!)

And what can I bake?? Nothing. Or so it seems. Which has led me to do some research (and purchase yet another cookbook) into substitutes I can use in cooking and baking to cut down on the calories. I have also been researching Stevia, which is the only non-artificial no/low calorie sweetener out there, and am intending to attempt to bake some scones using stevia + sugar free applesauce as a sub for the sugar in the recipe.

Thus far, I found a good amount of tips and tricks on some subs for common items I use in my kitchen, so I figured I’d list them here for you:

– Instead of oil, use nonstick cooking sprays – they even have butter flavored (though it smells like butter, we tried it on some popcorn once..gross!!).

– For baking, instead of oil or butter, you can replace up to half of the fat with applesauce or prune puree.

– Instead of oil for dressings, use flavored vinegars like balsamic or raspberry.

– Broths and stocks are calorie free but add flavor.

– Instead of sour cream, use plain, non-fat yogurt. (We eat a lot of Greek yogurt in this house.)

These are just the things I would sub in our house – for the entire list of substitutions, click here.

While I was researching, I found some great links to information about stevia and how to use it as a replacement for sugar. A couple of sites that I liked the most and found most informative were ReplaceSugar.com and Family Fresh Cooking. FFC is actually a blog, and she goes into great detail about how/why she made the switch to sugar-free, how she uses different forms of stevia, and she also offers recipes with stevia. I also found a product called Sunsweet Lighter Bake, which can be used to replace 3/4 if not all of the fat/calories you would otherwise get from butter in baking (it’s a butter sub..thank god because butter is 80-100 calories per tablespoon and this stuff is, instead, 35 calories per tablespoon. AND you only need half the amount of it that you would need of butter…that makes a HUGE difference!). I have not fully researched it yet, but it seems promising, and I’m keen.

To boot, I am a huge….I repeat HUGE fan of Ranch dressing. Hidden Valley to be specific. I have been trying to eat more salads… a) because it’s summer and b) because I am really really tired of eating a sandwich every day. I can honestly say I have probably eaten a sandwich 95% of the days I’ve been to work since January. So..salad? Yes, please. While browsing Pinterest today, I actually found this recipe for homemade ranch dressing using a packet of Hidden Valley (omgosh!) dressing mix and plain, non-fat greek yogurt. And a bit of milk. And the whole jar is 255 calories….SQUEE! I think I died and went to heaven. Once I run out of the bottled stuff (yes, it’s my weakness and is SO in my fridge…=P), I am totally going to make this!

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So, long story short, I’m working on a bunch of innovative ways to save my hobby and be healthier and help the Ryan lose weight. I have been thinking of looking toward gluten free stuff, but in my preliminary googles, I haven’t found anything that suggests that gluten free flours or baking mixes or whatever they are, are any lower in calories than normal flour. And, of course, I’ve posted on Facebook to try to tap my vegetarian/vegan sources for ideas, but it hasn’t been very well received. If any of you have any successful tips, hints, comments or suggestions, I am totally open!  And if any of you are on a similar journey, whether for similar or different reasons, I hope that this helps and I wish you the best of luck!

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2 Comments

Filed under Baking, Cooking, Food, Uncategorized

2 responses to “The Quest for Less: Calories

  1. I joined Weight Watchers a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve been on a similar quest for low-cal meals that aren’t boring as hell. Without making this about my own blog, I have come up with some good options, including Tilapia Tacos, pork loin, and tonight…Shrimp and Green Bean bake with couscous. I have had zero luck with sugar substitutes in baking – blech! I’d rather just indulge once in awhile! Good luck to you and the Ryan!

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