Which weighs more: a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks? We all know the answer to that, right? No matter what it is made up of, a pound is a pound. So why do we tell ourselves that muscle weighs more than fat? Whatever the number on the scale, it is what you weigh, whether you are total muscle or not. The better way to think about it is in terms of volume. A pound of feathers will take up a lot more space than a pound of bricks. The same holds true for fat and muscle. Fat is less dense than muscle and will occupy more space on your body, pound for pound. So use the scale as a guideline, but use your clothes as a better indicator of your size. If the scale is not changing, but your clothes are getting looser, it isn’t because muscle weighs more than fat. It is because your body is becoming more fit and therefore, more compact.
Talking about volume, what about the quantity of food we eat? As I have said before, in order to eat healthy you need to be a mindful eater. Ever go out for dinner and order a salad in order to eat “light”? The next thing you know, you have eaten all the dinner rolls (with butter!) on the table and taken a few bites off the plate of the person you are eating with. Then the server offers dessert and you order the chocolate cake because you only had a salad! The other food conveniently gets forgotten because you just ate it without being totally aware of what you were doing. Add it up, though, and you will find you consumed an extra 300-500 calories in addition to the salad. (Really! A piece of bread or a roll can be as much as 100-150 calories. Then add the butter. Yikes!). And if the salad is topped with a creamy dressing, cheese and croutons? Hello 1000 calorie dinner! But you only had a salad!
If it sounds like the above scenario is a true story, it’s because it is! I have played that role way too many times! My favorite is to order a salad and a side of french fries. The salad is healthy enough to offset the fries, right? Another suggestion I have made before is to use a food journal. You must be honest with yourself in order for it to work, but it can be a real eye opener to how much you are really eating. There are great apps that work as well, such as My Fitness Pal.
Mindless munching will get anyone in trouble, no matter how much you work out. To take control, familiarize yourself with portion sizes (a dinner plate full of pasta is not a good portion size!) and be aware of the “extras” that sneak their way in. If you want to eat more volume to feel more full, munch on raw veggies (has anyone tried the mini sweet peppers that are everywhere now? Delish!) to your hearts content. No dip! If you must have something to go with them, portion out 2 tablespoons of hummus, nut butter or another light dip or dressing. Before dinner, or for dinner, have soup. A broth-based, vegetable soup is fabulous for filling you up with lots of volume and not a lot of calories. I came across the following recipe in the paper last week and made it this weekend. I bought the tomatoes at the Public Market on Saturday, along with the basil, onions and garlic. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of heavy cream. I found there was already so much flavor in the soup from the roasted vegetables that it was unnecessary. I drizzled on a half teaspoon of smoked olive oil before eating it with a side salad. I was in heaven!
Roasted Tomato Soup
adapted from recipe by Tracy Schuhmacher in Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, washed, cored and halved
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 quart vegetable broth (I used Imagine Organic No-Chicken Broth available at Wegmans)
2 fresh bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread tomatoes, onions and garlic on baking sheet (I used two), drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast 20 to 30 minutes, until vegetables are caramelized. (I had to remove the garlic before the tomatoes and onions were done. The rest took 35 minutes. Keep an eye on everything).
Remove vegetables from oven and transfer to a large soup pot. Add the stock, bay leaves and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third. Fish out bay leaves and discard.
Add basil to the pot and use an immersion blender to puree soup until smooth. If you do not have one, transfer soup to a blender or food processor, in batches, and process. Warning: DO NOT totally fill a blender or processor with hot liquid. It will blow the top off and you will end up with a mess and possible burns!
Taste the soup and season with salt, pepper and, possibly, a little sugar. That depends on the tomatoes.