Did You Get Your Protein Today?

Hello and welcome back to your regularly scheduled food content (sort of)! As I mentioned a couple weeks back, I’m embarking on a new food journey this year.

As 2022 starts, my body is feeling really heavy, slow to react, and my back is starting to hurt again (from a lightly herniated disc). My closet of clothes has also shrunk, and I don’t want to expend the effort to replace items I already really like and miss.

So. A rejigger is necessary.

When looking back at all the diets I’ve tried and the food protocols I’ve followed, I think the ones that have worked the best for my particular body were paleo and keto with macro tracking. The common denominator being ensuring that I hit my protein macro first.

Keto

Pros: My body felt great in ketosis and I could really see the principle behind food as fuel.

Cons: Getting into ketosis – my body haaaaaaates it and I tend to get fairly terrible keto flu. Anxiety – when I didn’t have access to the foods I needed, I’d tailspin. Fat – this one is a pro and a con. On the one hand, I feel that wrapping my brain around fat not being the root of all evil was good for me – on the other, just eating fat was still yicky to me and that feeling just got worse as time went on.

Paleo

Pros: This was my body and brain’s favorite way of eating and I did great with it for years. I didn’t really mind the restrictions (for the most part), macros and a framework gave my brain a good amount of the control it craves, and making sure I hit that protein number first (which was really hard in the beginning, coming from grain bowl life) was an eye-opening way to conceptualize meal building.

I also loved getting to a place with food that I was able to reframe the narrative from “good” vs “bad” foods to simply making a conscious choice to eat the more nutritionally dense option. This really helped my brain refocus away from some of the more negative self-talk around weight and body shape toward attempting to be kind to my body. It also helped that at the height of my #paleolife, I was consistently working out and working toward the goal of being able to do obstacle course races, rucking and road races.

While I was eating paleo, my home meals consisted of a bulk veg (usually broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts) + a protein (usually from a big meat) + an extra for more flavor or crunch. This approach worked really well back then. It was a simple formula I could dress up a million different ways.

My snacks were things like precooked chicken breasts, meat sticks and hard boiled eggs – plus almonds if I was still hungry at the end of the day.

Cons: But, I missed sushi, and I missed the flexibility of being able to have some of my other favorite foods – dumplings and ramen. Asian noodley dishes are my jam.

Aaaaaaaaand, the two things that have really kept me from getting back on the paleo train:

1: My body can’t handle brassicas any more and I’m still salty about it. There goes like half my mealtime game plan and a chunk of my favorite foods.

2: I’ve also had a really big aversion to cooking meat in this apartment. My range hood is underpowered to say the least, and cooking meat on the stovetop leads to either days of chasing the smell of cooking oils or dealing with a smoked out mess. I’ve been into rotisserie chicken and spicy tuna when I do want meat – or have been making tray bakes – but those two things only go so far.

This meat aversion coupled with the GI issues I’ve been attempting to get a handle on (while also trying to be gentle with myself and my attitudes toward food) have worked to reframe my meal concept toward carbs (often empty), comfort, the veggies I *can* eat without difficulty, and fake meats. This isn’t necessarily the worst thing ever, but it has certainly contributed to how I’m feeling right now. And I’m ready to change how my body feels.

Cool, what’s the plan then?

My plan for this new year is to focus on hitting my protein macro for this new weight first (I’ve found that carbs, fat & calories tend to work themselves out if I’m doing what I need to do here). My old macro was 70g a day; this new macro is 80. I think I can do it while keeping the parts of my current diet that are working for me (light breakfasts namely) if I eat decent portions of something protein rich for lunch and dinner & plan ahead with meaty snacks.

Since my focus will be on protein first, there goes a lot of the empty carbs, processed foods and just plain junk that have crept into my diet.

I don’t want to strictly limit things like rice, the not-paleo-friendly foods my system can handle (like soy, peanuts and chickpeas), and I don’t want to let myself get stuck into the ‘this food is the devil’ mentality.

I also don’t have the energy to go back to full blown My Fitness Pal macro counting. It was super effective, was a great tool for eventually stopping to freak out about calories, and was something I genuinely loved doing. I just don’t have the energy any more. Maybe I’ll get back to that place, but for now I need as few barriers to entry as possible.

Also on the ‘less barriers to entry’ front, DH gifted me an Air Fryer this Christmas, so there’s the ‘cooking meat in the house’ problem solved. Score!

We are loving playing ‘will it air fry’ so far, and it’s given us both that little nudge to eat foods that are better for us. (Mostly – of course we had to try frozen fries & appetizers first!)

Week 1

The goal: 80g of protein a day; explore this brave new air fryer world.

This is my meal planner – I’m using a combination of Evernote for rough drafts, a Google spreadsheet for protein quick reference, and paper notebook for more detailed recipe writing

Breakfast

M-F: Almond yogurt, peanut butter, pepitas – when I ran out of pepitas, I used a little jelly and collagen peptides to bulk the protein

Saturday: Eggs, bacon, turkey slices, sundried tomatoes

Sunday: Eggs, bacon, leftover potatoes, sundried tomatoes

Lunch

Monday: 100g tempeh & a package of Tom Yum flavored Miracle Noodles

Tuesday: Leftovers from Monday’s dinner

Wednesday: A leftover hamburger patty, leftover broccolini

Thursday: Leftover “cheesesteak”

Friday: DH stayed home, so we ordered out – had a large portion of mixed grill (shish Atwood, lamb kofta & chicken kofta), a small bit of the tomato bread it came with, 5 fries, and a couple Tablespoons hummus

Saturday: Salmon roll with Krab salad.

Sunday: Mixed meat & veggies in tomato sauce, half portion

Dinner

Monday: Chicken breast, green beans, tomato chutney (aka bougie ketchup), onion, carrots

Tuesday: Bulgogi-Style Chicken Bowl

Wednesday: Steak strips, vegan cheddar, bell peppers, onion, portobellos, Sweet potato rounds, miso mayo

Thursday: An actual steak, crisped potatoes

Friday: Leftover veggies, cucumber, kimchi & miso mayo

Saturday: Mini kibbeh with tomato chutney

Sunday: Mini kibbeh with tomato chutney

Snacks

Leftover Thai-style beef meatballs (roughly an ounce each)

This dinner was dead simple to put together and really hit the spot. Go me for planning ahead and having some meatballs ready to go!
Such a nice bulgogi-style bowl, I didn’t even miss the rice.
The dinner “steak and cheese” turned out really well. I marinated the meat in a simple mix of Worcestershire, garlic powder & onion for a couple hours; delicious.
This wasn’t the best dinner steak I’ve ever made, but it was far from inedible. More work needs to be done to figure this one out.
I’m counting lunch as a win. DH stayed home with a cold and wanted delivery – I ordered a mixed grill, only had a couple pieces of the bread and 5 fries. Normally, I’d make little sandwiches out of the meat & the side of hummus I ordered – and I’d definitely eat all the fries.
Another delivery win. This was a perfect amount of food for lunch, and while I didn’t hit my protein macro for the day, at least I tried. This week has been all about progress over perfection and today was a lesson in giving myself a little grace.
A third delivery day, but I did well and stopped with half of my plate because I wasn’t still starving. I also saved the bread for later – I’ve got plans for a nice chicken wrap.

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