Day 4 of the SNAP Hunger Challenge!

Friday, September 23, 2011

by Chef Terri
I am out of exciting things to write about PB&J. Just know that I had it for breakfast, again, like I do every weekday even when I’m not on the challenge, and it was still kind of weird because of the high fructose corn syrup jelly. It’s tough to pass up the stuff I know I love in the door of the fridge every morning.

Lunch, on the other hand, was AWESOME! Even though it was just leftover beans and rice with some shredded cheddar on top, I can’t even explain the way I felt after getting to eat enough food that I felt like I didn’t want to eat more food. Americans tend to have a problem paying attention to their bodies and noticing when they feel satisfied vs when they feel stuffed to the gills. By ignoring those crucial signals, we tend to overeat. Here are a few tricks I’ve had to start using over the last few years in order to eat slowly and listen to what my stomach is telling my brain. (Hey, after 7 years in professional kitchens, you learn to eat whatever you can, whenever you can, as fast as you can!) These are also generally good tips to actually learn to enjoy the food you DO get to eat, as opposed to wolfing it down and still feeling dissatisfied.
1.) Turn. Off. The TV. By playing music, working on the internet, eating through your lunch break every day at the office, watching a movie, AND trying to check our cell phones, we take all of the focus off of the food itself. Remove distractions that are not related to other human beings actually sharing the meal with you.
2.) Eat off of a plate, at a table, with silverware. Even on nights when I order Chinese takeout, I pour it on to an actual plate and eat it with my own chopsticks, at my table. By pouring your food on to a flat surface, instead of eating it out of a carton, your eyes have a better ability to gauge portion. When your eyes say, “Wow, that’s a lot of food!” you’re already on the path to your belly signaling your brain to slow down or stop eating. Even snacks, like potato chips, need to be poured out in to a real dish, at least.
3.) Be hungry for a bit. Not starving, not terribly hungry, just enough. Note what your body feels like in that state. Then give it something very small, like a banana or an apple. Wait 20 minutes. Notice the difference. Eat something again, a piece of cheese or a little bit of chicken. Wait 20 minutes. See how you feel. Eating in small stages, and noting the differences in physical sensation in between each stage is a great way to get acquainted with the sensation of being satisfied.
4.) Go to the bathroom. In the middle of your meal, get up, go to the bathroom, and come back. Breaking up your meal even by a few minutes gives your stomach crucial time to get word to your brain that maybe an extra sandwich isn’t the best idea.
5.) This last trick might sound a little silly, but it’s worked for me. When eating food, even if it’s a grilled cheese sandwich I’ve made a million times, I try to think of a new word to describe it. By forcing my brain to think about something other than “Put the food in your mouth RIGHT NOW,” I have to play a game in between bites, really savoring each taste and texture so that I could describe it. My goal is to be able to describe what I’ve eaten in so many rich, colorful words that even someone that has no sense of taste can understand what I had.
Dinner was a fun experiment in how to make beans and rice a little bit more exciting. I still have a large part of my onion remaining (let’s hear it for supermarkets that price produce by piece, not by weight, because otherwise that onion would have cost me a pretty penny), and a mango, so I combined those, some beans, water, canned fire roasted tomatoes, and my last chicken breast in a pot and made a tasty stew. By ladling it over a bit of rice, I made it even more filling, and this actually meant that my partner and I BOTH managed to eat this for dinner and feel satisfied! Pretty sweet deal. I wish I had made the beans and rice earlier in the week, as I now have a bit of food I can nibble on that isn’t part of my plan.

I had forgotten until yesterday that I had two really awesome friends coming in to town this weekend. I panicked for a little bit, wondering how I was supposed to feed them and take care of them on this plan. Now, I think Im just out of luck with it comes to providing dinner for them on Saturday unless a miracle happens and the Food Fairy deposits something in my fridge, but I’ve got some creative plans for brunches for two days. Stay tuned and see if I can manage to create a total of 29 meals on a $35 budget!