Monday, August 7, 2017

Eating Well

August 6, 2017: My new meatball recipe doesn't have a name yet.

Today marks the one-month point of making dietary changes to improve my health. From July 7 to August 7, I've worked hard to stay on top of meal planning with a focus on better nutrition, including in particular the control of my carbohydrate intake. I'm not always as organized as I'd like to be, but my only cheat all month was a pile of fried-potatoes-and-onion with dinner eight days ago. (Potatoes are high-carb.)

Ten years ago, I could count on losing 16-17 lbs the first month of starting a low-carb diet, but the old metabolism isn't exactly what it used to be. Nonetheless, I'm pleased with my progress and happy to report that I've lost 13.2 lbs during this first month!

Not only that, but other areas are improving as well. On the day I started the diet, my blood pressure was a stroke-worthy 148/100 and my fasting blood sugar was 168. Not good. However, both have come down steadily starting the very first week. Today my b.p. was 126/82 and my glucose was 111. In fact, during the last three weeks I've had blood glucose readings of 102, 104, and 109, and the four highest readings fell between just 120 and 122. That's a notable improvement from a loss of only thirteen pounds. I know from experience that the more weight I lose, the more my blood sugar will fall toward and back into the normal range.

For those who are concerned, no, I am not diabetic. I saw my doctor two weeks ago for my annual checkup and he did the usual lab work. My A1C (average blood glucose over a three-month period) is 6.0, and you must have two A1C readings of 6.5 or higher in order to be diagnosed as diabetic. 

It's true that my doctor warned me I was on the brink of pre-diabetes when I had an A1C of 5.6 in December 2011. (Pre-diabetes is diagnosed with an A1C falling between 5.7 and 6.4.) Obviously, I've allowed myself to slip into the pre-diabetic range over the past few years, but there's still time to turn it around.

I'm also losing inches! I've lost three inches off my waist, where I need it most (and the waistbands of my pants are much more comfy). I've also lost two inches off my hips, one inch off my bust, 1.5 inches off my thighs, and one inch off my upper arms. There is a lot more to be lost, of course, but it's a solid start.

This was the sauce before I added the meatballs. Recipe below...

To maintain long-term success, we all know it's important to not only eat right, but to also eat well. There must be variety and there must be foods that satisfy. While Mark and I were shopping last week, we bought some bratwurst, which he and the kids love. Most sausages are fine for low-carb diets, but I don't really care for brats, so I was trying to figure out something I could enjoy on the night Mark ate his bratwurst. Suddenly, for some reason, the idea of meatballs seemed very appealing.

I don't make meatballs myself, never have, so I started looking through Walmart's freezer section for frozen meatballs, something not packed full of extra carb fillers. I'd about given up when Mark brought me a 28-oz bag from the deep freezers where he gets his corn dogs and frozen burritos. Farm Rich beef-and-pork meatballs with a little soy flour and spices. Six meatballs for only two carbs. Bingo! 

Again, I don't make meatballs, and I can't have spaghetti (no noodles allowed), so what could I do with them? I usually google some recipes in these instances, but this time I simply mulled it over for a few days until an idea formed. This is what I came up with.

I finally pulled off the big bell pepper in the garden to use in the sauce.

Mix in the saucepan over medium heat until bubbling:

Two 24 oz jars of pasta sauce (I used Rao's Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce)
One small bell pepper, finely diced (from my garden!)
10 oz bag of riced cauliflower (I used Birds Eye)
5 oz shaved Parmesan cheese (shredded will work fine, too)

Then add the bag of meatballs, still frozen (or you could make your own), and mix well to coat in the sauce. Lower heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes. Serve on a plate and ladle some sauce over the meatballs. Optional: Grate 8 oz mozzarella cheese and sprinkle some over the meatballs and sauce to melt.

Oh. My. Gosh. It was delicious and we ate twice as much as we should have last night. The pot was scraped clean of all sauce. Even so, I'd lost another half-pound when I weighed myself this morning.

Note: If you're low-carbing to lose weight, be careful of the pasta sauce you choose. Tomatoes are healthy but moderately high in natural sugars. A half-cup serving of most types can contain up to fifteen carbs or more. I was shocked that the Rao's sauce I chose claimed to have only 2 carbs per half-cup (how is that even possible?), but if you take the time to look, you can find many with only five or six net carbs. (That's total carbs minus fiber grams.)

The riced cauliflower was a huge bonus. Rice is off the low-carb menu, but I miss the texture in soups and sauces. I only recently discovered the joy of riced cauliflower, which can be bought pre-riced and frozen. The texture is very similar (kind of like slightly under-cooked rice, firm but not crunchy) but doesn't taste like cauliflower. Instead, it absorbs the flavor of the sauce. It really added to this recipe.

I figure that this recipe, divided among six diners (with a nice side salad), would come in at only 10.5 carbs per serving. That would include about nine small meatballs (4.7 oz total protein). [The carb total would rise slightly with a higher-carb pasta sauce, of course.]

The next two peppers are growing side-by-side on a second plant.

Another component of eating well is, of course, plenty of fresh vegetables. I hope my little garden will become a great source of nutrient-dense, lower-carb vegetables for my new dietary lifestyle.

Now that my sole ripe bell pepper has been harvested, the wait is on for new peppers to ripen. I do have two that are definitely growing on a second plant, though they're still much too small to eat. Growing fast, though! A third plant has a few buds that seem to be developing into tiny peppers, so I still hope for a decent crop by season's end. I'm not sure about the first plant, the one that grew the first bell pepper of the season. Either it was overcome by its mystery attackers or it gave its all birthing that initial pepper. Its growth is stunted and I haven't seen any blossoms on it for a long time.

The third pepper plant is also showing promise with several tiny newbies.

The attacks on my pepper plants' buds had slowed to almost nothing after the last time I applied diatomaceous earth. Unfortunately, when Sarah and I went out to the garden last night, we found two leaves and two buds that had recently been sawn off. So I powdered my peppers and tomatoes up with diatomaceous earth once more (hence, the white powder in these pictures). Now we'll hope for the best.

Dozens of young green beans are forming all over my pole beans.

I'm also excited to be finding dozens of little green beans appearing all over my beanstalks. I can't wait to harvest them. They freeze well for later, and they are so much more tasty than the canned variety.

Alongside the beans are plenty of new blossoms, promise of a good harvest.

The last good rain we had was three or four days ago, so I've had to resume watering the garden by hand. Now that the plants are so much larger and producing, I notice they need twice as much water. At least. So I go out to water twice a day and I let them drink a bit longer than before. I've begun sitting in the shade on my purple kneeler/bench sometimes, just soaking in the quiet and the breeze and the simple joy of seeing what I brought to life. I'm even getting a little tan. Just a little.

Even the zucchini plants are blooming, about a dozen blooms so far.

I'm not too sure what the prospects for cucumbers will be this summer. The plants appear to be growing fairly well, but I notice rabbits are nibbling the outer leaves again. Not as badly, though, and the plants seem large enough to handle it now. Certainly, they're too large to put back under the cloches. And they are starting to bloom, which should mean cucumbers are in our future.

A couple of the plants are even starting to climb the trellis. When my second husband grew cucumbers, he just let them sprawl across the ground. They grew well, but sometimes the cucumbers lying in the mud were nasty, so I thought I'd give this a try. I had no idea that cucumber plants sent out feelers to grasp hold of things, the same way the bean vines do. They are adorable!

A couple of the zucchini plants are starting to climb their trellis.

No comments: