MSer: Plan snacks

Waiting for my neighbor to deliver a plate of Thanksgiving day food, I pictured myself as a hungry baby bird, waiting with my mouth open and crying piteously.
 
Unfortunately, she was, at the same time, experiencing utter oven failure. With a house full of guests, doing their annual Thanksgiving day potluck, her oven had crapped out, and calling to tell me she would be late was, understandably, the last thing on her mind.
 
As I waited for her, I spiraled emotionally down, finally landing at full-on self-pity. I felt helpless, useless, needy, and ashamed.
 
When she finally arrived, flustered and apologetic, I muttered my abbreviated sob-story, burst into tears, and greedily ate the food she brought.
 
The moral of this story is that letting hunger overcome you is one recipe for the blues: you get weak, which leads to frustration, anger, and tears.
 
De-brief
 
What I should’ve done, for her and for me, is have a regular eating schedule, which includes well-planned snacks! 
 
I don’t know if this is relevant to all MSers, but I tend to not think about food until I am hangry. Those around me can tell when I’m overdue for food.
 
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has some great articles on eating (as well as on wheelchair exercise, and mental health, among others).
 
Helpful tips
 
This is what I gleaned this time:
 
  1. Eat every four hours, even at this holiday season, and snacks should always include one protein and one carbohydrate to keep up your energy.
  2. Watch portions. Snacks are smaller than meal portions. They shouldn’t “fill you up” but rather help you to be “not hungry.”
  3. Choose your snacks to contribute to your calorie and nutrient needs, rather than considering them as “extras.
  4. Limit yourself to a 100 calorie snack if your meal is in one hour or so (one hour = one hundred calories); two hours, have a 200-calorie snack.
  5. Don’t mix snacking with other activities. Snacking absentmindedly while multi-tasking can lead to overeating.
  6. Keep snacks on-hand at all times. Carry two tasty, nutritious, ready-to-eat snacks in your bag so you don’t run out. Always be prepared!
I could’ve just had some Cheerios with Almond milk in a bowl and sated myself. Sigh.
 
Some other quick, two-food snacks include peanut butter or cheese with apple slices, raw veggies and cottage cheese, or 10-12 baked tortilla chips and salsa.
 
I know this already, but still I hadn’t planned ahead. Once I hit famished, I could think of nothing helpful.
 
Lesson re-learned. 🙂
Like you need to be urged to eat snacks!
 
Other things I’ve learned this week
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Ideas from the mini-kitchen

It’s almost summer! Here’s what I’m eating.
 
Frozen Green Peas
 
I try to eat fresh produce first thing in the morning for no other reason than I felt better doing it as I tried (and failed) the Wahl’s Protocol Diet.
 
This has you start the day with a fresh kale smoothie (after the overnight “fast” you get from sleeping) to “feed your mitochondria.”  This is my compromise.
 
Right now on Mondays I make a big bowl with a bag of frozen peas, a cup of nuts or mom’s “trail mix” (has nuts, raisins and chocolate!), and whatever leftover salad dressing (I’m using honey-mustard at the moment).
 
I keep it in the fridge with a spoon and just eat a few spoonfuls first thing in the morning while I’m heating up water for tea or oatmeal. It usually lasts me the week.
 
Whole Wheat Tortillas
 
I find tortillas are an easy carb to keep instead of bread for sandwiches. They seem to  last longer in the fridge, I get some whole grains in my diet, and they are easy to handle while working at the computer.
 
I really became a fan when I started eating salad greens wrapped in them. I justify it as an alternative to croutons. See my post about it here:  My salad wraps.
 
Recently I’ve had them with a filling of plain cream cheese, a pinch of crystallized lemon (which i already have) and raisins.
 
Another time I had some leftover bacon that I stirred into peanut butter and spread into a warm tortilla. Yum!
 
Ramen Noodles
 
Finally, this week I had an a-ha moment. It never occurred to me to buy the cheap packages of Top Ramen I so relied upon in college and NOT use the flavor pack! Or to just mix them up into soup. They are so flavorful and salty I viewed them as a bit of a guilty pleasure.
 
Then I was reading this old blog entry when I got to the part about making stir fry and using ramen noodles. I realized this would solve a problem for me: a shelf stable way to have a quick rice alternative! (Exploding head emoji)
 
I always think of rice as a quick and easy base for a meal. But it is messy to fix in a microwave and I don’t have space for yet another electric device like a rice cooker. So I asked a caregiver to pick me up some ramen packages this week.
 
My first meal with them was noodles, frozen broccoli, frozen meatballs, and just a pinch of flavor pack. Genius!
 
Others
 
I’m still enjoying microwaved frozen spinach with peanut sauce (but I haven’t yet found a bottled favorite; suggestions welcome!) and microwaved sweet potatoes, skin and all, with peanut butter and cinnamon-sugar.
 
And my current refreshing favorite is yogurt with added-right-before-eating frozen blueberries. Stay cool, MSers!
 
Links used above
  • True Lemon – “True Citrus products are the easiest way to add real, fresh squeezed taste to your water and recipes without piling on the sugar and salt.”
  • A Slob Comes Clean – “Realistic home management strategies and a message of hope for the hopelessly messy.”
  • The Wahl’s Protocol – “A guide about how to treat autoimmune conditions using functional medicine and nutrient-rich foods, from a doctor, researcher, and sufferer of progressive multiple sclerosis.”
  • My salad wraps – My post about eating salad greens in a tortilla.
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More feed yourself

I feel like I just got comfortable with having salad for lunch every day in a wrap. But it’s so cold now! (Ha, OK: February in San Francisco!)
 
Because I still don’t think of vegetables first when hungry, stuff like this is pleasantly surprising. Like I’ve said (and I shouldn’t be so surprised) I have found eating vegetables every day makes a big difference in my energy.
 
So I decided to switch for awhile from lettuce to spinach that I can eat warm. Thus I can still cross ‘eat leafy greens daily’ off my to-do list.
 
Leafy Greens
 
Now in my mini kitchen (think small fridge with smaller freezer compartment, electric kettle, and a microwave), I keep a bag of frozen spinach.  In the simplest feat, I heat it up and pour bottled peanut sauce on it. Delicious, quick and easy. 
 
Another quick way to use frozen spinach is to toss it into canned soup. Again, no prep. 
 
I imagine you can buy other dark greens like Brussels sprouts, chard, or bok choy already prepped in the freezer section as well. In fact, I have a friend who gets her kale that way which avoids prep for those with limited hand dexterity or a limited kitchen!
 
Sweet Potatoes
 
My other healthy quick go-to lately is sweet potatoes. I wipe them clean with a wet paper towel, prick several times with a fork, then pop in the microwave for two minutes or more. When done I retrieve and just start eating, skin and all. 
 
“Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods known,” according to some health and wellness gurus. “The skins of sweet potatoes contain a number of additional nutrients, so it is beneficial to eat your sweet potato with the skin.”
 
It’s a great hand warmer too.
 
Whole Grains 
 
I also have oatmeal every morning with walnuts and dried cranberries.
 
“Although oatmeal is nutritious, adding other toppings to your oatmeal will balance out your breakfast,” say gurus again. “Stirring dried cranberries and chopped walnuts into your daily oatmeal will add fruit and lean protein — the walnuts — to your breakfast.”
 
Instead of buying those little packets, I just get the regular canisters of oatmeal, then use an old plastic pudding cup container (light weight, plus portion control) to parcel out the morning’s amount, and add a handful each of walnuts and dried cranberries. 
 
I sprinkle on some coconut sugar (lower glycemic impact), heat water to boiling in my electric kettle, add it and cover the bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. Serving of nuts crossed off the list.
 
Eating like this crosses things off my daily to-do list: veggies, nuts and whole grains. Check!

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Feed yourself, cont’d

I’ve started to collect recipes and other hacks for food ideas that can be easily and quickly prepared at your desk, in your dorm room, upstairs from your kitchen… Just sayin’  

image from lorna.typepad.com

Notes from my upstairs "office". See my first post here.  😃
 
I've started to collect recipes and other hacks for food ideas that can be easily and quickly prepared at your desk, in your dorm room, upstairs from your kitchen… Just sayin'  I'm considering mug-meals, dorm-room hacks, and the newly discovered Our Favorite 3-Ingredient Recipes section of the Epicurious website.
 
Quesdilla-ish
 
This week I have discovered that tortillas work better than bread for me and my mini-fridge. Additional packages freeze easier in my tiny freezer compartment. Plus, as a colleague once pointed out to me, kids will eat anything wrapped in a tortilla. I'm hoping that will happen with me, too (maybe even with vegetables or leftovers)!
 
I've also discovered ultra-thin cheese slices, which I suppose you could do by hand, but I can't anymore. Certainly, this is a safer as well as a more convenient option for me. And it's the taste of real cheese in my tortilla.
 
I plop a tortilla on a paper plate, add a slice of the ultra-thin cheese, than sprinkle it liberally with some baby spinach and nuke it in the microwave for 1 minute to melt the cheese and wilt the spinach. When done, I roll it up and eat. Easy-peasey and yum!
 
Caramel Sauce
 
The other thing I discovered this week is 3-Ingredient Microwave Caramel Sauce, a quick recipe that gives you caramel sauce anytime you want it. At work or in the dorm even, in a mug melt 1 T. butter (or several pats from the cafeteria), then add 2 T. brown sugar (or 3-4 packets natural sugar), 1 T. heavy cream (or 3 mini creamer cups) and a pinch of salt. 
 
Check out this video on Epicurious:
 
Easier still is just to unwrap and microwave a few handfuls of soft caramels with a tiny splash of milk (or 1 mini creamer cup) and microwave on medium power for a few minutes, stirring at 30 second intervals until smooth.
 
I made some to eat with apple slices. Delicious!
 
Oatmeal
 
I've been trying to eat oatmeal every morning, buying those little packs of microwave oatmeal.  Now that I have a microwave upstairs, and in order to cut costs, I have decided to switch to the regular container of quick-cooking oats. And after some experimentation, I can report that this version works just as well when simply adding boiling water, stirring, covering and letting it sit.  I didn't need the microwave to encourage me to switch.  
 
In the article on DIY oatmeal packets, on the MOMables website, the author suggests you cut the regular-sized oatmeal, with some other you have ground to powder in a blender or food-processor, and also add some powdered milk (provides protein), and cinnamon and sugar to taste.  From 10 cups oatmeal and 1 cup powdered milk, you can make 20-24 snack-size baggies.  
 
Related links
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I am (apparently) a picky eater

I’m not a vegetable lover but I will choke them down in the interest of my health.

When I was single and lived alone and was able to prepare meals for myself, I never considered myself a picky eater: I fixed what I liked and what I knew I should be eating. I made small portions and ate very few leftovers.

Now that my M.S. has progressed to full-on disability, and I’m married and living with someone who cooks for me [bless his heart], I’m told, and I concede, that I am a picky eater: I only like things prepared in certain ways.

I prefer my tomatoes and carrots raw, my broccoli and mushrooms and spinach cooked [but not too cooked, more like steamed or parboiled]

I don’t like zucchini, but will eat it in zucchini bread or if it is cooked, cut up into tiny slivers AND mixed with other things.

I have learned to like brussel sprouts, baked or sauteed [thank you, J.!].

All of which leads me to believe that if I can find the right recipe, and if OH will prepare it for me in exactly the right way, I could eat something I don’t like.

Because basically, I’m not a vegetable lover but I will choke them down in the interest of my health.

I have an affinity for the Sally character, played by Meg Ryan, in the movie When Harry met Sally:

Sally: But I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it's real; if it's out of the can then nothing.

Waitress: Not even the pie?

Sally: No, I want the pie, but then not heated.  

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