Sunday, January 6, 2013

The healthy alternative

Tis the time of year when pledges to eat smarter and move more are renewed, and women find themselves eyeing that non-fat, no-sugar, whole wheat, vegan, raw recipe to make for dinner. With great gusto, they prepare low-calorie meals aimed at helping them reach their goals.

But there are grumbles.

Grumbles from the kids. Grumbles from the husbands. Soon, the fight to eat healthy gets lost in the fight to get people to just eat. And shut up.

It is in that spirit that I asked Mark to write a guest post about what it's been like for him to eat with me as I went from obese to healthy and the many culinary side roads we've taken along the journey.

Take it away Mark ...

When of my fondest (read: scariest) memories of my dearly departed grandfather was when my sister and I would sit around the table with our whole family. We never did the whole “say grace” thing, but before we dug in, my grandfather would grit his (false) teeth and mutter, “Eat what you take, take what you eat.”

I get that now. It took me until my early (OK, mid now) 30s to grasp this and embrace his hardened-by-the-Great Depression outlook on eating. He was only trying to help us. Well, lo and behold, I marry a woman that embraces not that exact ethos, but Kim doesn't waste food. She doesn't mess around with alternate meals, and we don't let Miles eat “snacks” (read: chock full o' processed sugar cereal bars) before or during dinner. Kim makes a meal and if we don't like it, we're sort of on our own.

 And so I provide you with this meandering anecdote for a very good reason. Kim approached me about doing a guest spot on her blog about what it's like to be a skinny, not-so-eager-to diet kind of guy who is often offered healthier alternatives to his generally craptacular diet. I'm 1XX pounds soaking wet, so I don't exactly have to eat anything she makes for Miles and me. But gosh darn it, I'm here to report that what she makes .. .I can live with. Well, most of the time.

Case in point: Kimberly recently prepared my favorite dish, spaghetti and meatballs, with (gasp!) whole wheat pasta and turkey meatballs. I noticed both right away and immediately I weighed internal dialogue that I often have with myself. (I'm not crazy, seriously).

The following is an excerpt from any terribly cliched episode of “The Biggest Loser”:
Trainer Bob: “Look what's on the counter! Oh, wow! It's potato chips. Oh, wait. No, it's not. It's Ore Ida's imitation kettle chips. With half the saturated fat and a third of the calories, they'll help you snack your way right to the top of our scales with a big smile on your face!!!” (Insert cheesy, So-Cal whitened teeth flashing at the camera) 
OK, so even if I'm not Trainer Bob, there are some foods that even a ridiculously semi-fit, metabolically ludicrous guy can live with. Kim is generally never quite so blatant with her substitutions as she was when she rolled the dice with her spaghetti and meatballs concoction. She is quite the subtle one when it comes to substitutions.

Turkey sausage is one of Kim's favorites. With a slightly sweet flavor and texture that resembles pork sausage, the turkey variety is used with much gusto around here. Such favorites include turkey sausage and peppers, turkey burgers, and turkey goulash with a smidge of that darned Greek yogurt just to yank my chain. Turkey burgers are a perennial favorite in our house, and I always crack Kim up when she asks me for my suggestions for the upcoming week's menu.
Kim: So, what would you like for dinner this week? Any ideas?
Mark: Umm, I don't know. How about turkey burgers and fries?
Kim: We just had that two weeks ago. Wait, we have some in the deep freeze. OK. 
Another substitution that I think I tolerate just to appease her is wheat flour in her always tasty pancakes. Miles doesn't seem to mind the difference, and it's socially acceptable for him to just spit out what he doesn't like.

Oh, don't get me wrong, Kim makes a wicked wheat flour pancake. But doesn't it defeat the purpose when your humble author smothers wheat flour pancakes with butter and blueberry syrup from Cracker Barrel? I guess that's akin to ordering a Diet Coke with a #2 at McDonald's and deluding yourself that Diet Coke makes the choice better.

I'm really quite proud of the eater that I've become. Kim has transformed me into a guy that actually eats vegetables, Greek yogurt (well-masked) and yes, turkey meatballs. So, sometimes I ask myself why I choose to eat healthier alternatives, if I don't actually have to. I think it's because of two reasons: 1) However cliched it may sound, if it ain't broke, why fix it? The healthier alternative tastes good. Why change your technique when you've just qualified for the Boston Marathon? If it feels right, just do it. 2) I feel like I need to set a good example for my son. What will I say when someday Miles asks me, "Daddy, why do I have to eat this wheat pasta when you're eating regular?"

Now, if she can just get me to dive into that salad bar at Pizza Hut, Kim would be in business.


  1. Thanks sharing your viewpoint Mark. I find myself in a similar situation as Kim. I often make healthier items to eat, and have a wife and two kids that would fight tooth and nail to eat what I make, more often than not. I've tried my best to not push my food on them. Typically, I'll make my own food, while my wife makes theirs. It works well most of the time, although the wife could really stand to quit eating so much junk. The kids are pretty good at eating healthy, at least compared to the average kid. One of my proudest accomplishments is that we all typically drink water. It makes me happy every time we are ordering and the kids holler for water. :)

    1. So interesting - you so often think of the woman trying to encourage healthy food and not vice versa. Setting an example is all you can do. Good about the water, though!

  2. Loved this post. My husband is very similar to Mark...could eat whatever he wanted and not really ever gain weight. However, he also sees the benefit in eating the healthier alternatives I serve. He feels the same way about whole wheat flour and turkey sausages. We also use Turkey franks for the kids and they can't tell at all. The funniest part was that I tried the same trick with the turkey meatballs and lets just say that wont ever happen again. Those things were just nasty. Maybe I should have tried them homemade and not the bag kind, but that was one substitution that I couldn't even swallow.

    1. Yeah, the bag turkey meatballs (which is what we had) leave a lot to be desired. And I still have some :/ Homemade are much better - especially if you use half ground turkey, half Italian turkey sausage!