Salad Simplicity

It’s Friday again and as usual it’s time to weigh-in.

We’re nearing the end of the Salad Fad of the Month and I’m a little disappointed to report that it didn’t really work.  At this point I’m not surprised by that.  I had hoped for a better outcome, but by mid-month it was pretty clear that wasn’t to be.  I won’t offer any excuses for why it hasn’t worked other than the simple reality that eating a salad for lunch everyday isn’t sufficient if your other choices throughout the day aren’t also intended to support the endeavor.

Honestly, I did feel somewhat better on the days (most days) that I ate salads for lunch and it’s certainly a good idea to continue to include them as a regular part of a lifestyle of healthy nutrition, but as a whole strategy for losing weight, clearly it’s not enough.

This last week, I’ve been sick with a cold and a lingering cough that doesn’t want to pass.  I’ve felt pretty bad and haven’t really had the motivation and the energy to do much of anything productive.  This week, I haven’t had salad at all and have had some other things that certainly don’t contribute to weight loss.  With that in mind, it’s almost shocking actually that I weighed in this week at 300 pounds, again.  Once again, the good news is that I have not gained weight this week which given my general laziness and poor dietary choices could easily have happened.

At any rate, I’ll continue with the Salads for Lunch Fad for the rest of the month and begin my next Physical Activity Fad of the Month on the first. I’m still mulling over my choices but will make the decision prior to the first (obviously) and be sure to make the announcement so my legion of readers can follow along and see how I progress!

Fad of the Month: April Possilities

There are a number of potential fad diets to be examined in the coming months but I’ve decided that since it’s finally daylight savings time and spring perhaps the fad of April should be something more physical than nutritional.  I will still try to eat sensible meals but the focus will be on activity and not on food.

Folks, this is going to suck.  I’m not an active, physical person and I’m not an outdoorsy kinda guy.  I hate to sweat.  I don’t like dirt and bugs suck a lot.  On the other hand I live in a really beautiful area and I often think I don’t take full enough advantage of it.  I wonder if I could learn to like the outdoors more.  There are three potential options for April:

I own a bike that has been ridden exactly one time.  I like it.  It’s orange!  I nearly killed myself when I rode it and “haven’t gotten around” to trying it again.  I remember loving bike riding when I was young, and then I got my driver’s license and I seem to have forgotten the joys of bicycling, let alone how to ride one…  Well, OK.  I’ll be fair.  I had a BMX bike when I was young.  There was nothing to know.  Get on, peddle, don’t fall down.  That’s about it.  The orange bike that I like but has only been ridden one time is a 21 speed bike.  I do not know how to ride a 21 speed bike.  The one time I tried, the tires were under inflated, the seat was not high enough and I do not know what gear I was in but I was getting far too much speed per rotation.  First I nearly ran head-on into a curb and then I rounded a corner and out in front of an on-coming car because I couldn’t control the thing.  I imagine if I could figure out the gears and get the bike properly adjusted I could really enjoy riding it.  And besides, dedicated cyclists have sexy legs and look  good in the shorts.  I’d like to look good in the shorts.

I have feet and own a pair of running shoes.  I do not run.  I do not run unless I’m being chased by a very hungry and angry bear… and I’m running down hill… and I have a jet pack… and roller blades, which, you know, not really so much running then.  Every time I have run, I have gotten side stitches and shin splints.  I do not run.  My office building is directly across the street from Lake Merritt which has a 3.5 mile path around it.  I can’t help but see people out there everyday walking, running and bike riding and most of the time they seem to be having fun.  K took up running a couple years ago and when she started she felt about the same way I do.  Since then she’s run a number of races and has really grown to enjoy it.  Thanks to K, I know of a good training program for new runners.   Don’t tell her ‘cause I’ll never hear the end of it (the fact that she reads this blog is inconsequential) but I may have to give her program a shot myself.

The third option for April would actually last more than one month.  Thanks to K, I’m also aware of a program that promises to have you doing more than 100 Push-ups in 6 weeks ingeniously named “One Hundred Push-ups”.  In theory, I could do this one in my house.  I say in theory because I have a four-legged feline friend who seems to think that if I’m on the floor there can be only reason and it’s everything to do with giving him love and attention.  I have never done a proper push-up in my life and am fairly certain I would have to do some sort of modified push-up, as in the girls’ way.  I suppose it’s possible that I could do the program the girl’s way and get through it and then start over doing proper push-ups.  Surely by then I’d be able to do them the “right” way.

I’m also toying with the idea of taking up yoga but I’ve never done yoga a day in my life and I’m having a hard time discerning how to find an appropriate never-done-yoga-a-day-in-my-life beginning yoga class.  Something for consideration down the road but not likely to come together for April.

So there you have it.  April’s fad will be physical.  I’ll run, or bike or push up (hopefully not throw up).  Any suggestions about where to start?  Anything you want to know more about?

An Epic Epidemic

There is an epidemic that is sweeping the nation, possibly the world.  It’s an affliction that is spreading like wildfire throughout the populous affecting us at every age, from the very young to the moderately middle aged.

It came on quietly.  At first no one really knew about it, and then slowly but surely it became more and more prevalent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your humble blogger has been affected by this affliction.  I thought I was safe.  I thought I’d be immune, but alas, it has proven not to be so.  Yes, there’s been a twinge in the back here, a stab in the knees there, while visiting with others who’ve been afflicted, but till now I have not fallen fully prey.  This is no longer the case.

Yes folks, it is true.  I am officially one of the masses who have become afflicted with the dreaded Wii Arm!  But it doesn’t stop there.  Oh no.  I am also suffering from Wii Shoulder and Wii Wrist.  And Wii neck.  And Wii back.  And Wii thighs.  In fact most of my Wii body has been affected by the Wii affliction.

But on a happier note, since setting up my new Wii this weekend, I beat those smug Mii sons-of-bitches Matt and Miyu a couple times at Wii Tennis, and my Wii Bowling game is getting pretty good, though I was pretty worn out at the end and my score began to trail off.  I’m a pretty terrible Wii Boxer and I hit mostly foul balls at Wii Baseball… When I hit the ball, at all… As for Wii Golf, well, I’d say, considering my only previous experience with Golf was at my local Putt Putt, I’m doing quite well.  I’m surprised and impressed by how much playing Wii Sports gets your system going and works up a sweat, so I’d say it was a good investment.  Now if I can just get the cat to recognize that if he doesn’t stay out of the way while I’m Wii Bowling, he just might be taking a Wii trip down the Wii lanes along with my virtual Wii Bowling Ball.


It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another weigh-in.  I’m disappointed to announce that there has been no progress made in my efforts to reduce my weight.  I weighed in today at 300 pounds which is exactly what I weighted last Friday.  I’m OK with this, because there’s no sense in not being OK and the truth is there is some good in this bit of information.

First of all, earlier this week my weight was actually higher than it is today thanks in part to those evil girls in green and their cookies.  I allowed myself to be seduced and I’m paying the price for my weakness.  Actually, I’m paying the price again.  The little boxes of cookie goodness, have gone up in price (I think) and are now $4.00 each for what appear to be smaller boxes!  First, I paid out of pocket and now I’m paying on the scale.  However, I still have three sleeves of Thin Mints left and I bought four (two boxes) as well as two boxes of Tagalongs – TWO WEEKS AGO!  The fact that the cookies aren’t long gone is a true sign of improvement.

Salad_with_avacadoSecondly, (Why is it not second of all?) over the last year or so, my weight has been steadily climbing at an alarming rate.  The fact that my weight has pretty much been the same through this month (actually gone down roughly three pounds.  Woo hoo! Yay me!) is improvement on its own and shows one thing we can take away from this experiment.  It may not be an effective stand-alone weight loss tool, but “a salad a day keeps the pounds away”… the new one’s anyway.

There are 11 days left in the month.  The salad for lunch experiment is drawing to a close.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I haven’t been perfect on this thing but the vast majority of the time I’ve done quite well at sticking to the plan.  With 11 days to go, I’ll reserve official judgment, but it seems clear that salad for lunch everyday, by it’s self, is not an effective weight loss strategy.  Bummer!  It was pretty easy.  Maybe that’s the problem?  There are a number of potential fad diets to be examined in the coming months but I’ve decided that since it’s finally daylight savings time and spring perhaps the fad of April should be something more physical than nutritional.  I’ll still try to eat sensible meals but the focus will be on activity and not on food.

Folks, this is going to suck.  I’m not an active, physical person and I’m not an outdoorsy kinda guy.  I hate to sweat.  I don’t like dirt and bugs suck a lot.  On the other hand I live in a really beautiful area and I often think I don’t take full enough advantage of it.  I wonder if I could learn to like the outdoors more.  No, I have never been a physical person and I’ve got the body to prove it.  Meanwhile I have always been physically attracted to men who are physically fit and I have always fantasized that “one day” I will be one of them.  Well folks, “one day” doesn’t come if you don’t make an effort.  So I’ve decide, that’s what April is going to be about.  Being more physical, increasing my aerobic activity and trying to increase my stamina while dropping some of these pounds.

Check back next week for April’s fad of the month.  There are three or four possibilities I’m considering.  It should be interesting!

Such a Salad Story

I am now about half way through the first Fad of the Month, salads for lunch.  I’ve been about 90% compliant with the plan.  It hasn’t been too difficult to stick to as long as I do a little pre-planning.  I usually make the next day’s salad in the evening, either right before or while I’m making dinner so that it’s ready and waiting for me in the morning.  If I had to make lunch in the morning, I’d never get it done.  It’s simply out of the question.  Some days I can’t even manage breakfast before I leave the house.  So far I haven’t neglected to feed the cat before I leave. Here’s hoping I never do!  <Knocks on head in lieu of wooden surface.>

I have a serious shortage of available decent salads from the local restaurants near my office and the ones that are decent are quite pricey, so with a few rare exceptions it’s been necessary to plan ahead and bring my own from home.  On Monday, I deliberately did not bring a salad with me because I was planning on going to the local burger joint which makes this awesome salad which they call the “Gourmet Mix Salad.”  It is made with spring mix of lettuce, with walnuts, chopped Macintosh apples, gorgonzola cheese and raspberry vinaigrette.  The only thing is, I’m not terribly fond of Spring Mix (which I’ve reconfirmed the hard way this week) so when I order this salad, I get it on a bed of fresh spinach.  It’s really delicious and I haven’t had it in quite a while.  I walked up to the counter and asked Kamal, the proprietor, if they had any spinach today, and of course, they did not.  Lesson learned: Always have a back up plan.

With no alternative plan in place, I had to pick something else from the menu.  The good news is I ordered a club sandwich which surely must be a more healthy choice then the Bacon Cheeseburger I would otherwise have ordered.  The bad news is I didn’t have a salad for lunch that  day.

There are a couple salads I have had recipes for even before starting the Fad of the Month that came in handy in the beginning.  One is chopped lettuce (of course), sliced apples and/or pears with walnuts, dried cranberry’s (the orange flavored Craisens are awesome) and Parmesan cheese.  A separate recipe for a really excellent citrus dressing pairs nicely with this.  It has orange, lemon and lime juices with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The recipe also calls for grapefruit juice, but I’m not a fan and while it’s not a problem for me, there are many medications that come with warnings against consuming grapefruit while taking them, so I leave it out and make up for it with extra orange juice.

Another one I really like is made with lettuce, chopped green onion, chopped bell pepper, a little chopped cilantro, sliced almonds, and a little Parmesan cheese.  Dressing is a simple mix of a few tablespoons of orange juice and a tablespoon of olive oil.

I do enjoy the taste of a good salad with nice, fresh, natural ingredients, but whether it’s my imagination or actual fact, I never really sustain myself for an entire day on just a salad if it doesn’t have some meat in it.  Yes, you get some protein from the cheeses and the nuts but it’s just not enough to satisfy me, so every salad I make that doesn’t already have a meat product in the recipe gets a couple of ounces of chopped up, pre-cooked chicken.  You can buy 6 oz packages in the meat department for a three or four dollars and it makes salads quick and easy and a bit more satisfying.  I like the honey mustard glazed variety but you can also find it in a southwest seasoning or plain.  Now I imagine you’re thinking, ‘Wow, those do sound kind of good but how many times in a row can you eat them?’ and you’d be right.  But, on the third or fourth day of the month, I was standing in the break area in my office, pouring the last of my Wish-Bone Light Ranch (formerly “Just 2 Good”) on the salad of the day and thinking how I needed to find some more recipes (and buy more dressing) when I noticed on the label, directly above the nutritional facts, a badge that read, “Find more inspiration at:  I told myself, ‘Self.  You need more inspiration!’ So I took my salad back to my office and pulled up the website!  Folks, there is an awesome selection of potential salad recipes on this website and I’ve tried quite a few of them!  Some of them were certainly better than others, but I’ll tell you, I would never have come up with some of the ideas and I’d probably still be hurting for salad originality now if I hadn’t given it a shot.  Let’s take a look:

Honey Mustard Shrimp Salad
Honey Mustard Shrimp Salad:

I had this one earlier this week.  Really delicious, and so simple.  Broil or grill ¼ pound of shrimp per serving and “some” zucchini and/or squash seasoned with salt and pepper if desired and sprayed with Wish-bone’s Honey Mustard Buzz Salad Spritzer Dressing.  This dressing is only 1.5 calories per spray and is full of flavor!  And because it’s sprayed or spritzed over the salad it’s more evenly distributed and you end up using less than standard bottled and poured dressings! While the shrimp and squash are broiling (turn it once) prepare your salad greens and mix with a little green onion and cherry tomatoes.  (I’m personally not fond of tomatoes in my salads so I left them out but I can imagine if you’re a tomato-er then you’ll like it.)  Because I prepare my lunches the night before I put the warm stuff in a separate container and just slightly heated it (I also prefer my salads to be cold) in the microwave before eating it.  I combined the cold and warm stuff as I ate so the lettuce didn’t get warm or wilty.  The same dressing is used on the salad and the whole thing was roughly 170 calories.

Raspberry Shrimp & Grapes SaladRaspberry Shrimp & Grapes over Greens Salad:

This salad was surprising and delicious.  I simply steamed about a ¼ pound of shrimp, no seasoning, and allowed it to cool.  While I did that, I washed and quartered a handful of green grapes and thinly sliced some red onion.  I mixed it all in a bowl drizzling some Wish-Bone Raspberry Hazelnut Vinaigrette Dressing over it.  The combination of the grapes and raspberry flavors was really nice and the salad combined to make a very satisfying meal.  The recipe says that one serving is 240 calories but it also calls for only 1/8th of a cup of dressing and I’m sure I had more than that.  Still, as an entire meal a few extra dressing calories really wouldn’t do any harm and the salad was very enjoyable.

Asian Beef SaladAsian Beef Salad:

This salad was actually better than I expected and while making it I got inspired for that nights dinner as well.  I broiled and sliced the steak which had been marinated for a half hour or so in olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Montreal Seasonings, spicy steak seasoning, sliced a carrot and cucumber and washed some bean sprouts and spinach.  I used slivered almonds instead of cashews because I had them already and I’m not terribly fond of cashews.  I’m also not fond of sesame or ginger so I used the Honey Mustard Blast Spritzer instead.  This recipe says 370 calories per serving.  I imagine I was pretty close to that with my substitutions.  By the way, the dinner this inspired was a version of chow mein using whole wheat spaghetti and Worcestershire sauce (I didn’t have any soy) with steak, left over pork loin, carrot, green onion, garlic and bean sprouts.  I would have preferred some celery as well but didn’t have any.  I don’t guess this was really tremendously helpful in the desire to lose weight but it tasted good and it used up ingredients that would otherwise probably have gone bad, so at least I wasn’t wasteful.

Grilled Chicken with Pear & Walnut Salad
Grilled Chicken with Pear & Walnuts Salad:

This simple salad was really tasty and made use of some ingredients that were already on hand.  Simple greens, pre-cooked chicken and half a Granny Smith Apple.  I topped it with walnuts (though I didn’t toast them) and some Wish-Bone Light Ranch.  At 40 calories per two tablespoon serving this dressing tastes as close to the original as you could hope for without taking on the extra calories.  The entire thing was 320 calories per serving and very satisfying!

Mini Pizza SaladMini Pizza Salad:

The truth is this one was a little disappointing for my tastes.  I really enjoyed the bread the night before when I made a second piece to go with dinner.  The next day after spending twelve hours in a zip lock bag the bread was no longer crisp and didn’t seem as flavorful to me.  But more importantly, I do not like tomatoes in my salads and with the simplicity of this salad I didn’t feel I could leave them out.  Heavy on onion and light on much of anything else, this salad left me hungry and unapproachable.  The worst part is that the remaining pita bread began molding within a couple days and I had to throw it away having only used two pieces.  A waste of money!

Harvest Salad With PorkHarvest Salad with Pork:

As you may have gathered by now, I enjoy the flavor of honey mustard and this one was right up my alley.  I purchased a one pound pork loin that was prepackaged in a honey mustard glaze and roasted that in the oven.  While it was cooking I prepared the salad greens, Granny Smith Apple and I used green onion and orange flavored Craisens.  The pork loin made for an excellent dinner and salad for the next day and I had enough left over to augment the aforementioned chow mein!  Delicious!  Using the Honey Mustard Blast Spritzer again, this one came up to about 290 calories.

Baked Goat Cheese SaladBaked Goat Cheese Salad:

I questioned this salad but was willing to try it.  Based on price I opted for part-skim low-moisture Mozzarella cheese instead of goat cheese.  They’re comparable in calories so there was no impact on the nutritional value of the salad.  The cheese was easier to make then I thought and it didn’t melt and ooze like I was sure it would.  The salad itself was simple but tasty and the whole thing clocked in at 320 calories.

After working my way through the selection of salads above, I realized, all it takes is a little information and a little imagination.  Salads don’t have to be an exact science and they don’t have to come from a grubby, commercial salad bar.  You can make your salads at home and you can make them healthy and satisfying.  I made a variation of a salad I sometimes get from Applebee’s by using traditional salad greens some pre-cooked chicken (the southwest seasoning probably would’ve been better but I had the honey mustard), eight or nine black olives sliced, a couple green onions sliced, some chopped cilantro and a little shredded Mexican blend cheese.  I brought a long two tablespoons of Simply Yours fat free sour cream (40 calories) and about a third cup of Pace medium picante sauce.  I also brought a small zip lock bag with an ounce or two of tortilla chips.  Compared to the salads above this one was probably not as beneficial, but I figured the whole thing up to be fewer than 600 calories.  I could certainly have done worse!

The important thing to remember is, vegetables are so low in calories they barely even count, yet they’re a good source of fiber as well vitamins and minerals.  So, go hog wild with the veggies!  The place we get into trouble is with the dressings.  But with a little research and attention to detail you can find some good salad dressings for not a lot of calories.

By the way, I am not being compensated by Wish-Bone, Applebee’s, Simply Yours, Pace or any of their parent companies.  These are just my own experiences with these products.  Now that being said, if Google AdSense happens to crawl this post and decide to put some ads for any of these companies on the sides, please check them out and see what you might find for yourselves!