Tag Archives: health

Mastering the Salad

“Something I thought I’d never see in my refrigerator: a “salad bar”. I’m coming up on 1 year of changing my diet and working on my health. Also coming up on 60 lbs lost. I’m still struggling some days, and in some months change is slower than others. But I’ve learned that commitment doesn’t mean “easy” and commitment doesn’t mean “perfect,” either. It means showing up, making a plan, and learning from both success and failure. And it also means I master the “salad for lunch” that I’ve resisted my whole life.”  – HP, posted on Facebook May 15, 2018.

IMG_1297In my world, the “salad” portion of the meal was always an optional add-on, not the main event. My mother never made great salads. My aunt is an excellent salad maker, but it always seemed like every meal had to add a salad in order to provide an obligatory vegetable side.

But after a year of improving my diet with nary a salad in sight, I decided that that this summer’s “level up” would be to master the salad for lunch. I’ve been improving my lunches gradually over the last year (slowly reducing the carbs and upping the vegetable content). But I’ve now gotten to where it just makes more sense to go with a salad.

The Elements of Salad

I’ve never found salads very SATISFYING as a meal, though. I’ve had tasty salads, but they just weren’t something I understood on a dna level, ya know? So I decided to decode their dna, so to speak.

I spent about a month going through Pinterest recipes for salads and got a general idea of the elements of a “good salad”. As far as I could tell, they comprise the following:

  • leafy greens
  • at least one source of protein, 2-3 is even better if you can combine with the following . . .
  • a variety of chopped vegetables to fill in more fiber and more flavor
  • Nuts or seeds to provide crunch, texture, added nutrition
  • A dressing that balances either the sweet flavors or the tangy-flavors of what is in the salad.  (So vinaigrette if the flavors are predominately sweet, creamy dressing if the flavors have more spice or tang.)
  • Optional: chopped or sliced fruits, as desired.

Rather than choosing specific recipes to make a bunch of mason jar salads, I opted for the “salad bar” approach. This made it easier for me in that I wanted to stick to what was easily accessible in my supermarket and easily prepped. (Not all produce in every salad recipe is conveniently sourced.)

I got everything I needed for a beginner salad at Smart and Final:

Shopping list

  • I got 12 pint-sized wide mouth jars for glass storage (keeps things fresh longer than plastic).
  • 1 lg box of 1/2 and 1/2 mixed greens (half spring mix and half spinach).
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 can of chick peas and one can of black beans
  • 1 medium red onion. A bunch of green onions, chopped.
  • Shredded cheese of choice. I used Mexican blend because I use it for other dinners a lot.
  • Chicken breast. (Or you can get pre-cooked chicken tenders). I buy in bulk and freeze the others for dinners.
  • A dozen eggs
  • 1/2 pound cashews, bought in bulk.
  • 1 bottle Annie’s organize olive oil and red wine vinaigrette

All of this cost me about $63, which seems like a really expensive salad. But when you consider that the mason jars were about $13, the chicken breasts $10, the eggs $2, and the cheese was $5 – and all of these things will be used for more than just the salad, it kind of levels out. I did the math and for the amounts used just for salads, it is around $4.40 per salad. These amounts make about 6 lunch-sized salads and in the jars they last for about 10 days, which means my grocery bill the second week will go down a bit.

Like I said, it seems to all level out.


Meal prep and recipe

Anyway. Here’s what I put together on meal prep day:

  • 6 jars of mixed greens. I use the whole jar for a single salad.
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked, sliced or shredded.
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 jar of shredded cheese (2 cups)
  • 2 jars of chick peas and black beans, mixed (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 jars of chopped red and green onion
  • 1 jar of sliced and halved cucumber.
  • Nuts in the bag. I keep them with the salad stuff in the fridge so I don’t forget about them. They MAKE the salad!

Directions: Drop a jar of mixed greens into a bowl. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to add: 1 scoop of cheese, 1 scoop nuts, 1 scoop onions, 2 scoops of beans. Slice one egg in. Drop in approx 1-2 oz of chicken breast. A few cucumber. A little pepper. 2 tbsp of dressing. Toss. Done. (If you’re wondering, this is in the neighborhood of 450 calories. Back off of the chicken, beans, and dressing to bring it down to about 300).


I’ve found that I can probably lose the chicken if I want to go vegetarian on a few days. The nuts, egg and beans are plenty of protein and very satisfying. It is a plenty big salad that I find keeps me satisfied for a good 4 hours before I start feeling a little hungry again. And I’m not uncomfortably full after eating it.

And so, after just one week, because of the ease and general deliciousness for a weekday lunch, I am now a person who eats salad for lunch. And enjoying them. I’m also pooping like a boss.

I hardly recognize myself, anymore.




Check In and Lab Work – 10/18/17 + Facebook suggests recipe sites

Finally had my follow up labs done to see how the weight loss and “re-balance” of my diet has affected my health.

  • Weight: 240 lbs (down 37 lbs)
  • Blood Pressure: 120/70  (down from 135/90 in May)
  • Cholesterol – 235 (down to borderline range from high range)
  • LDL: 161 (down from 205 – significant improvement, but still borderline high)
  • HDL: 41 (up from 40 – good movement, still need more)
  • Triglycerides: 167 (up from 142 – probably due to my weight change that can have weird effects on triglycerides)
  • Ac1: 5.7% (down from 6.2 but still just in the pre-diabetic range).


My labs indicate a lot of good movement in the right direction, but not as much as my doctor was hoping for at my relatively young age. She suggested some statin drugs for the cholesterol, but I tend to err on the side of conservative treatment (do what I can without drugs or invasive procedures until absolutely necessary). I convinced her to give me another six – eight months working the diet and exercise plan to see what improvements can continue to be made. 

The next hurdle is probably the upcoming holidays and the need to step up a strength training regimen.


I’ve definitely hit the first weight loss slow down part of the journey. I’ve slowed from losing 1.5-2 lbs per week to about 1 lb a week on average. It was expected, but can be hard to keep motivated. The lab work definitely was a perk up, though.

I also have to admit that, on the whole, I generally feel better than I did last spring. So that’s something.


I’ve logged every single meal – as honestly as I possibly can – in MyFitnessPal every single day since I started. Even if I let myself slide on a few days or have a rougher week, I can at least say that I’m not lying to myself!


I did a shout out on Facebook to get some new recipe sites to look at. I need to expand my options! There were a lot of great suggestions of a wide variety of sites. Take a gander if you’re looking for resources:



Weekend 1 of Lose the Buddha Belly: Getting a handle on the new diet

remind myself that I'm still pretty day 1The following were my notes after my first three days of research and beginning to make changes to my eating.  I had always said that I probably wasn’t the type of person to tackle my weight issues until a health issue came up, and boy-howdy did it! I am *THIS CLOSE* to being diabetic and my other health indicators say that I’m at a severe risk for a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years or so.  That’s a wake up call.  So I did what I could to tackle it.

Day 1 May 21, 2017 Sunday


Weight 274

Blood Work:

BP 135/69
Cholesterol: 273
LDL 205
HDL 40
Triglycerides 142
FPG glucose 123 (borderline diabetic)
Ac1 6.2% pre-diabetic

Dietary Goals:


Carbs  -45-60g per meal or less than 200 per day. This is still a lot of carbs, but far less than I typically eat.

Sugars – max 24g per day of added sugars (not counting sugar in fruits, veg or where naturally occurring).

Cholesterol – 300 mg per day

Saturated fat – 16g per day


1800 calories per day cap. (minimum 1200 calories)


Things from Trader Joes I know I can have:

  • Avocados
  • Brown Rice
  • Hummus
  • Chicken Breast
  • Steel Cut Oats – Regular for crock pot overnight
  • Handful of Almonds baggies
  • Pita Chips
  • Apples – lots – half an apple every day
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Sour cream (2 tbs)
  • Mayo (small amounts)
  • Mustards
  • Red onions
  • Yams
  • Spinach
  • Vegetables of all varieties
  • Mineral Water
  • Lean Meats
  • 82% cocoa dark chocolate

Smart and Final

  • Hummus
  • Pita Bread
  • Steel Cut Oats


As a pre-diabetic, Nothing is strictly verboten, but desserts, sugars, loads of carbs are for occasions only. I should also consider doing more walking the next day when I have them.


Did Breakfast at Irene’s without potatoes. Substituted sliced tomato and avocado. With wheat toast and butter.  The butter put my saturated fat pretty high. As did the egg and sausage. May have to choose one or the other in the future or do an egg-white scramble.


Spent most of the afternoon hungry. But noticed I’d only taken in 2 grams of sugar at that point in the day. Ate handful of almonds. Helped with the hunger and irritability.


Discovered I like black coffee as long as it is lukewarm or cold. Too hot makes it too sharp for me. So I can drink it without milk or sugar as long as it has a splash of water or an icecube in it.

A few notes from reading and advice from my friend Laurilyn (who has been down this road) as I’m still trying to get myself together in terms of planning meals and making adjustments.

  • Walk Daily – get a step counter and build up to 10,000 steps a day.
  • Cut Milk and potatoes first. Both are high in carb/sugars. (Can still cook with milk, just cut drinking it as a beverage).
  • Consider talking to a nutritionist.
  • Substitute pasta with whole grains, but it will still have lots of carbs.
  • Consider substituting brown rice or quinoa for pasta when I can.
  • Avoid packaged foods as much as possible.
  • Use hummus and flatbread to advantage
  • Try using smaller sized whole wheat bread – just put more inside the sandwich
  • Feeling sluggish – walk around the block to work out some of the extra glucose in the system.
  • If you’re compelled to sleep right after a meal, there’s probably something in it messing with your sugar levels.

General Meal Ideas:


  • Steel-Cut Oats and apples
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese (with berries or fruit?)
  • Hard-boiled Egg with hummos, leftover chicken, brown rice.



  • Hard boiled egg with hummos, leftover chicken, brown rice in a bowl
  • Chicken Salad in pita with hummos and spinach
  • Leftovers
  • Farmer’sSandwich on whole wheat or multigrain
  • Avocado, brown rice, hummos
  • Apple


  • Stovetop chili with ground turkey
  • Chicken, rice, and broccoli
  • Bean Soup
  • Burgers on Whole Wheat
  • Steak and Veg
  • Fish and Veg with quinoa or brown rice
  • Tacos with lean meat, chicken, seasoned beans


Prep on Weekends?

  • Steel Cut Oats – crock pot
  • Brown Rice – 3 cups for meals throughout the week
  • Any vegetable chopping
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Apple cuts
  • Chicken or chicken salad


Photo: Me in a dress after taking my “before” pics, which I won’t be showing for some time.