“It’s like we finish each other’s-” “Sandwiches?”

I must be on a toasted sandwich kick at the moment (that, and I wanted to use up last night’s leftover pumpkin and roasted capsicum) – behold, today’s lunch!

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It’s a toasted sandwich with:

  • Ham
  • Pumpkin
  • Capsicum
  • Spinach
  • Pickles
  • Light & Tasty cheese
  • A dash of dijonnaise and pepper

…on my favourite bread at the moment, Baker’s Delight Wholemeal Country Grain. I used to be totally against grainy bread but I think it was because I was trying to buy the healthiest, lowest-calorie bread I could find, and that stuff (the Bürgen range, for those of you playing at home) had a very weird taste. The Country Grain is beautifully soft, freezes well (I only go through a maximum of two slices a day, so a bread that tastes as good microwaved as it does fresh is quite important to me) and has a subtle grainy texture. Plus, being a wholegrain bread, it’s lower GI than wholemeal or white, meaning you get a steady stream of energy for the next few hours, rather than peaking and then crashing and needing to eat again an hour later.

I also had a carrot, 60g of cottage cheese and the obligatory cup of tea, bringing lunch to a total of 418 calories.

I also thought I’d take a picture of my sandwich mid-preparation to give you an idea of how much vegie content I like to cram in there (as mentioned yesterday in my quesadilla post):

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That looks like a lot of spinach, right? RIGHT! I must admit, I’m a bit of a spinach fanatic. I usually eat it with lunch and dinner. But when you find something that’s delicious raw or cooked, can be used straight out of the bag with no peeling or chopping required, and is filling yet low in calories… you stick with it.

You’ll notice that the sandwich is sitting on a set of kitchen scales. That’s because I measure out each ingredient I use, so that I can track my calories. Calorie counting has a bit of a reputation as something for the most dedicated or desperate of dieters, but it’s actually very quick and easy, thanks to the plethora of calorie-counting apps that are available at the moment. While I was losing weight, I used Calorie King, which is brilliant; it’s an Australian application that gives you a personalised daily calorie target based on your goal weight (amongst other things), then lets you track your calories and exercise easily to see whether you’re hitting that target. The great thing about Calorie King is that its database is based on Allan Borushek’s official calorie guides, which are pretty much the gold standard in Australia. I would still be using it if it weren’t for the fact that it doesn’t have an Android app! I now use My Fitness Pal, which does much the same thing, except that its database is partly user-created, which means it’s probably not quite as accurate as Calorie King.

I’ve found that counting calories has given me a lot of freedom when it comes to eating healthily. Now that I know certain foods (like most vegetables) are very, very low in calories, I know I can load up my plate (or sandwich!) with a whole stack of them and try to decrease the amount of other stuff I’m eating – there’s no need to be hungry, just eat less calorie-dense foods! And rather than saying, “Chocolate isn’t good for me, so I won’t have any,” I know that if I’ve cycled to and from uni that day (-96 calories), I can have four squares of Cadbury Fruit & Nut with my cup of tea (101 calories). Also, I know that if I run around the lake (-446 calories), I need to eat something decently-sized afterwards or I’ll be on a big ol’ calorie deficit (read: exhausted and grumpy).

When you’re counting calories, you also learn a lot about foods you may have thought were healthy… or healthier. Let’s take a standard-sized banana muffin, for example. Not a great choice for a snack, but not terrible, either, right? It’s not like it’s a triple choc fudge muffin. Well, one little banana muffin packs 554 calories. That’s more than most of my entire meals. And of course, muffins go so well with coffee… but it’s okay, because you buy the smaller size cup and ask for it with skim milk. That’s still 96 calories. Boom. And if you’re trying to lose weight, you might be on a daily plan of 1300-1400 calories or so… and you’ve just used up half your daily allowance on a SNACK that’s not even going to keep you full or give you much energy for your day.

The great thing about calorie counting, though, is that it’s all up to you. Maybe you love banana muffins with a passion. If that’s the case, you might have half of one as an afternoon snack after you’ve been for a run. But in the end, calorie counting sort of forces you to come up with healthy alternatives, because you know that if you’ve reached your allowance and you’re still hungry, you’re probably not eating the right kinds of foods. I love banana muffins, it’s true, but I know that for the same amount of calories, 10 almonds, 80g of yoghurt and an apple will make me fuller and more full of energy than 1/3 of a muffin.

Speaking of which, I’m off to yoga in an hour and a half so it’s time to get a snack in! Catch you on the flipside!

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