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Eating with a purpose: Couscous and broccoli stir fry

Posted Mar 11 2013 5:04pm
When I work with individuals on nutrition, I believe that it can be really hard to changes things if you don't have a "why" to your "how's". In other words, if you don't know why you want to change something, then how will you go about making the change and stick with it? The most common response I receive to my nutrition questionnaire when I work with athletes and fitness enthusiasts, when I ask about "what are you least looking forward to in this nutrition journey" is the response of "giving up my favorite foods".

I can be completely, 100% honest with you in that Karel and I never feel guilty or restricted in our diet. We have absolutely no rules, I do not lecture Karel about food, Karel does not tell me what I shouldn't eat and meal time is a happy time. We eat our favorite foods because they have a purpose in our diet. Whether it is cookies that Karel brings home from the local bakery or kale....it all has a purpose in our house and everything is consumed with enjoyment and satisfaction. I can't recall a time in many years that either of us have said we feel uncomfortable or awful after eating.

Right now I am working with a young swimmer (11 year old) who is learning to appreciate new foods in the diet. As any parent may agree, it can be hard to try new things when we don't know why we need to change. I believe this is true for adults as well for how many times have you be reluctant to change a habit even thought you know it would be healthy (or good for you) to change. So I guess, it isn't always about the "why's" of needing to change but also having the knowledge and motivation to change. When I work with kids I don't believe in being sneaky about foods. I feel that sometimes we do need to be open to trying new foods and sometimes that means accidental eating in that a person may have eaten something that they didn't like but then liking it after the fact without knowing what was in the item that they ate (Ex. adding veggies to marinara sauce instead of "sneaking" them in).

My approach to eating is to talk about the why's - not in an educational way but rather purposeful way. Seeing that my 11 year old athlete is a competitive swimmer who often gets sick, my "why's" to her eating are more than just eating fruits and veggies because they are healthy. She has made remarkable changes in a month and the first thing she says to me is "I feel better" and that is the "why" I am looking for. Now she is more open to the "how's" of trying new foods. I have 1 rule with her in that she isn't allowed to say "I hate that food" but instead "I haven't yet learned to appreciate it yet." She now appreciates whole grain waffles but hasn't appreciated plums. But still - we are moving in the right direction and I am so proud of her changes.

When it comes to having a purpose to making a change we are more likely to make the change and likely, enjoy the change. Don't believe me - ask anyone who is a runner now but claims to have hated running when they began. Or, ask a new veggie lover who once hated the taste or thought of veggies. Or perhaps the new cook or planner who once thought they would never have time to plan ahead but now makes the time and wouldn't imagine any other way of living. Have a purpose for making a change and you will likely start a new way of living life.

Far too often we think about food for calories or what is bad about it rather than the good or why we are eating it. I find it amazing that kids can tell you what foods are "bad" (ex. candy, sugars, sweets) and what is "good"  (ex.fruits and veggies) but not necessarily what is so good about fruits and veggies but they can tell you lots of things about why certain foods are bad. Often I hear from kids that they hear a food is bad from their parents - and that is great but also concerning. Rather than pointing out bad food, perhaps we can place more emphasis on food that we should be consuming more often (whole grains, low fat dairy, healthy fats, fruits and veggies) and what it is about those foods that can be protective to overall health. Certainly, eating a  piece of cheescake or bowl of frosted flakes for dinner once a month is not un-healthy. But slacking on fruit and veggies on a daily basis can minimize your chance of having a healthy body.

We are constantly being told why we should eat or shouldn't eat food and I think this has taken people away from eating for pleasure or for a purpose. I know as an athlete (and living with an athlete), food will always be fuel and thus, eating with a purpose means providing my body with quality nutrients and timing my nutrition to avoid GI distress, to ensure ample energy during workouts and to recovery quickly. But sadly, the purpose of eating for so many is beyond nutritional value, enjoyment or performance but rather for calories - too much, can't eat that, regretting eating something, etc.

The other night I made a delicious couscous dinner. There is not a lot of fiber per serving of couscous (2g) but a decent amount of protein (6g). You can read more about it HERE  but basically it is made from semolina flour but without making it into a dough it is becomes a tiny grains as flour combines with water. It is light in texture and flavor which makes for an easy to digest food, especially before or after a workout. I made this meal knowing that the next day we had a tough morning workout and I didn't want anything too heavy in the belly. Seeing that we do not do off-limit in our house (nor to I encourage, advocate or endorse any type of restrictive diet unless medically needed), I enjoy the opportunity to eat with a purpose as much as possible, knowing that my "why's" will be answered as I enjoy a delicious creation and have an awesome workout the next day.

Enjoy!

                                      

Couscous and broccoli stir fry
Veggies: mushrooms, broccoli, onions, yellow bell pepper
Couscous
Nuts: soy nuts, pumpkin seeds
Lentils
Protein of your choice (I used tempeh) - prepare ahead of time for quicker meal prep. I cooked tempeh in a little olive oil until golden brown on medium heat.
Seasonings of your choice - ex. garlic, onion, oregano, tumeric
Olive oil

1. Saute veggies in skillet, tossed in a little olive oil on medium heat for 8-10 minutes (or until brown). Season after 5-6 minutes and mix with spatula.
2. Cook couscous according to package/box (allow ~20 minutes)
3. Prepare lentils according to package (allow ~10-15 minutes).
4. In shallow dish, place veggies and top with 1 serving couscous. Toss and top with nuts.
(optional: top with marinara sauce, salsa, greek yogurt or tahini paste and stir into the creation)
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