What We Ate: DASH Diet Meals for 2/10/18 – 2/13/18, Saturday to Tuesday

Given the last period that was rather rocky, my goals for this period were these three:

  1. Get physical. Increase my step counts.
  2. Get inspired. I need some cooking inspiration to keep me (and this blog) going.
  3. Get back to the routine with tasty and DASH diet-compatible eating, plus my blogging schedule.

Let’s see how we did on those!

Saturday

Walking

Ward Island Ramp
Walking around the deserted part of NYC. Aside from following the DASH diet, staying active is an indispensable part of my physical and emotional well-being.

I was really hoping for a good long hike for both my mental and physical well-being, but the rain in the forecast was pushed earlier into the day. We decided to stay in the city and wander around instead. As usual, I didn’t have a destination in mind, so we just started walking. We somehow ended up on Randall’s and Ward Islands, where we discovered that the western side along the Hudson has been spiffed up quite a bit since the last time we were there–at least a couple of years ago. The riverside walkway had a beautiful planting beds on the side, which sported all kinds of grass and hardy plants. I even spotted a big patch of rosemary! Between the gray weather and isolated location, the path was more or less deserted save for a couple of dog walkers and a birding group. As the path wound north, it sort of devolved into a no man’s land with a semi-industrial construction site feel, but still it was a fun discovery.

Arroz con Pollo Bowl
This arroz con pollo was gigantic, too salty, rather oily and utterly lacking in vegetables. Not a great DASH diet lunch! [Whisper: But it was kinda tasty…]
By then, it’d started spitting. Somehow I managed to leave my umbrella at home (how!?), but had a rain jacket on, which helped me get through the drizzle. We went to the Gun Hill Tavern just north of the islands for lunch–or what we thought was the Gun Hill Tavern. Apparently it had been turned into a different tavern recently. It still had a good local beer selection and a wider range of food items than I’d remembered, with a fun sprinkling of Hispanic-inspired items like hangover sancocho. Hubby had a (very good) burger with fries; I had arroz con pollo, which was basically a HUGE bowl of yellow rice with a pretty well-executed grilled chicken breast with a bit of pico de gallo on top. It was way salty with barely a hint of veggies, but it was pretty tasty. I had plenty to take home (which provided a lunch and two breakfasts).

It wasn’t an epic walk I was hoping for, but I did manage to put in around 18,000 steps. I can’t say I checked off Goal #1, but I guess it’s good enough given the weather. 🙁

Cooking up an Inspiration

When we got home, there was a note from our landlord that she needed to talk to us about the lease. Uh oh. I kind of knew what that’d be, but being kept in the limbo was mildly annoying–we both felt the uncertainty looming in the back of our minds as we went through the rest of Saturday.

DASH Diet Inspiration: "Plenty"
Getting some DASH diet inspiration from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty.” The basic components of this dish are roasting in the oven now!

I spent the rest of the afternoon leafing through Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetable-centric cookbook, “Plenty.” I’d bought it many moons ago, probably when it came out, and marked some recipes with post-its. Seeing what recipes appealed to me 8 years ago versus what appeals to me now was pretty interesting! I think the culinary world has finally caught up with where Ottolenghi was when the book came out. Now that I’m more familiar with the flavors and combinations from what I’ve had at restaurants fancy and casual, I’m finding more of his recipes easier to imagine the taste of, hence more droolworthy and intriguing.

As I oohed and aahed over the cookbook, I roasted a pan of sweet potatoes and parsnips. This will be a component of a few meals this week, one of which will be along the lines of one of Ottolenghi’s recipes. For dinner, I made two kinds of poke–tuna with sesame soy sauce and yellowtail with dill, onion, red pepper and lemon salt. These were mighty tasty with white wine, as well as a bowl of rice. Since lunch was almost devoid of vegetables, I made a big miso soup with vegetables, and a quick ponzu-based salad with celery and red pepper. Hom nom nom.

Sunday

We had to talk to the landlord at 11, so we wrote the morning off to errands: Farmer’s market, laundry, grocery store. Totally mundane, but it was gray and rainy anyway… The apartment situation turned out to be exactly what we’d expected, so we’ll be moving! This made me annoyed and excited at the same time–annoyed because I’m pretty sure the move would be a downgrade for a higher rent (our rent has been way below market), but excited for the opportunity for change, as our low rent has been somewhat of a golden anchor that prevented us from living anywhere else in the city. I’m not looking forward to the extra expense, but I do feel a change might be a good thing. We’ll see.

Greek Lunch

For lunch, Hubby wanted to go to an excellent Greek seafood spot in the neighborhood. The choice was either that, or the leftover feijoada before I froze the rest for later, and he went for the eat-out option. I was okay with that; I think we sort of needed the fresh air and “not home” atmosphere after the conversation.

 

Greek Lima Beans in Tomato Sauce
Oh glory! I’m so glad we tried this light and aromatic Greek bean stew in tomato sauce. It was surprisingly subtle and sophisticated, and I want to try making this at home for a make-ahead DASH diet dinner sometime soon.

We tend to order the same few favorites over and over at this restaurant, but this time I put my foot down and went for something new: Greek Lima beans in tomato sauce. This, my friends, was the bomb. All the flavors–acidity of the tomatoes, the sweet fragrance of the dill, the earthy and sweet carrots, the silky beans–were perfectly balanced! Everything was understated yet oddly satisfying. I’m so glad we tried it! The rest of the meal: Olive-studded bread, grilled whiting (which is absolutely amazing–simple, elegant and perfect) and roasted lemon potatoes. Oh, and a complimentary slice of galaktoboureko (Greek custard pie in phyllo), which is to die for. Of course, it probably filled up a couple of days’ worth of my DASH diet sugar budget.

 

Another Walk (Soggy!)

Rain-Soaked Astoria Park
Trying to stay somewhat active despite the occasional downpour. Being active energizes me mentally.

I braved the torrential rain in the afternoon for a walk. While the foggy East River was beautiful, this is the one situation I wish I still had a gym membership. With 10,000 steps under my belt, I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon working on the blog, mostly figuring out how to organize the sugar intake guides.

I reheated the sukiyaki tofu and vegetables for dinner. Two salads on the side: A sesame miso broccoli salad (loosely inspired by a recipe in, you guessed it, “Plenty”) and the leftover ponzu-based salad/pickle of celery and red pepper. I added a bowl of rice, and called it dinner.

Monday

Another work week! I didn’t feel like I had a real weekend (thanks, rain!), but I gotta earn my paychecks… Anyway, I had some of the leftover arroz con pollo and sesame miso broccoli salad for lunch. The usual snack of peanut butter crackers and dried prunes rounded up the work food.

Shiso Sesame Salmon Poke
A mini poke dish of salmon marinated in shiso-scented soy sauce and sesame oil. A delicious and luxurious DASH diet entree (if I can call it that) for just $3 per person. Win!

Dinner was a sesame shiso salmon poke, a stir-fry of shishito, bean sprouts and pork belly, and a bowl of rice. I tried a stir-fry sauce that a friend recently told me about: A mix of sambal oelek and soy sauce koji. It was pretty tasty but not the transcendence I was imagining. 😛 Maybe the ingredients weren’t quite right for that sauce. I might try it with cauliflower or broccoli sometime… We had a small bit of ice cream for dessert, which we probably shouldn’t have, considering the galaktoboureko yesterday!

Tuesday

Italian Lunch at Work
Italian lunch at work. I tried to focus on the veggies with the salad and eggplant chunks in the penne, but I’m pretty sure this was overloaded with oil… (Tasted like it.) DASH diet is hard to follow with restaurant food!

It was another catered work lunch day. It was Italian. I had a standard lettuce-cukes-tomatoes salad, eggplant pasta and chicken piccata in lemon sauce. They were all rather oily… #firstworldproblem I was glad I’d brought a small apple; cold, crisp and just slightly tart, it was a perfect counterbalance to the heavy lunch.

More Walk, on a Work Day!

We walked up along Central Park after work. It was just to squeeze in some extra physical activity on a workday, but it turned out to be a beautiful sunset walk. The buildings along 5th Avenue were drenched in that gorgeous orange-gold light of the dusk as we briskly walked up. It was a tad windy, but all in all, a fantastic, invigorating walk. I need to do this on a regular basis!

Sunset Light on Guggenheim
Walking up along Central Park in the beautiful sunset light, before a pre-made DASH diet dinner of feijoada at home. Staying active on weekdays is hard, but I did well this evening.

I was able to take the time for the walk because I had leftover feijoada ready to go in the fridge. I reheated it when we got home, chopped up some cabbage and celery to go on the side, made basmati rice, and had dinner in about 30 minutes. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out: About 12,000 steps on a regular workday with a decently DASH-friendly dinner at home! Just a few months ago, I’d have resorted to picking up takeout on our way home or stopping by a restaurant for a sit-down dinner. Not now; having a ready-to-go meal in the fridge works so well in keeping us on track for our DASH diet goals. (And, importantly, for our budget also.)

DASH Diet Goals & Reality

The Three Goals

Goal #1 was a struggle–crappy weekend weather didn’t help, but I think I need to do something about my weekday activity level. Since I moved into my current office that’s closer to the subway station than my previous one, I’ve been feeling really sedentary and stale. Balancing cooking at home and weaving exercise time into my workday has been a real challenge. Though my Tuesday plan worked out perfectly, I’m not sure what the permanent answer is here–something I have to figure out. (My brilliant idea: Treadmill installed in the kitchen. That’d win me an Ig Noble Prize!)

I feel alright about Goal #2, the cooking inspiration. I have one meal component in the fridge (roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips) and a few things I want to cook. So, yay!

Goal #3 is hard to tell, since it’s about a long-term routine than what I do in the course of a few days. But I think I’m back on track.

DASH Diet Goals

Now to the DASH diet radar graph.

DASH Diet Graph 2/10/18-2/13/18
Oops! This is probably the worst period!

The train wreck of the sweets/sugar category owes it to chubby hubby. Not my own, but the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I just discovered that the sucker has almost double the amount of sugar, compared to many other ice cream. I thought it tasted a lot sweeter than Breyer’s, which is why I looked at the nutrition facts panel. And oh, horror! At 26 grams in a half-cup serving, it’s more than 3 day’s worth of sugar! Ugh. I think this brand will be off my grocery list from now on!

26 Grams of Sugar in Chubby Hubby!!!!
I discovered that there’s 26 grams of sugar in Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream. Noooooooo! Sadly, this ice cream is really a DASH diet no-go. 🙁

Even our go-to ice cream, the Breyer’s, I realized, contains about 2 day’s worth of sugar in half a cup (14 grams). Apparently I’ve been counting ice cream way too low on the sugar scale. (Then again, I’m getting confused: Sorbet, NIH’s DASH dessert of choice, seems to have generally higher sugar content than ice cream, with some of them in the Ben & Jerry’s range and others way higher, at over 30 grams. A half cup of that is considered one serving of sugar/sweets, while a straight-up sugar is one serving at 12 grams. What gives? I need to research this a bit.)

Next Few Days

Anyway, the takeaway here is that I’m still too high when it comes to my sugar intake. I’m doing better overall compared to a year ago, but I still have ways to go. I also want to figure out a way to incorporate what we did on Tuesday into our weekday routine: Walking more, preferably in different neighborhoods, and coming home for a more or less heat-and-eat dinner. I might be able to do that on Thursday or Friday with the pan of roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips, if I prepare a protein to go with them on Wednesday.

And this is more like the next few weeks/months: We need to get serious on eating through our pantry and freezer. We’ did it toward the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, but it’s built itself back up somewhat. Now that we know we’ll be moving out in a not so distant future, cleaning out our food cache is another necessary dimension of our healthy, tasty eating!

 

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