Saturday, June 16, 2007

Blocked by Take-Out

"All signs point to 2,000 calories . . . " or so says the Magic 8-Ball which is considerably cheaper and a more nostalgic way to flat-out guess caloric intake than calling the psychic hotline. All that conjuring and cyphering in an attempt to get meaningless numbers to put in a meal tracker so I will get off your back. And what's with my "so how's your nutrition . . . .?" question as if this is going to be a breezy conversation about weather and work. I know me, and frankly I'm a pain in the ass with that.

Chris is a client whose daily grind is fun and games while exercise grinds him down. He works for a gaming company and is just trying to enjoy a slice of life and maybe an occasional slice of pie without a whole lotta lip from me but, already on meds for his blood sugar, it's not a subject I'm going to drop unless his insulin level does. So, Chris, how's your nutrition?

He's made a commitment before but he's stymied by Styrofoam - yep, it's take-out that takes him out. The lure of 'it's possible' to balance take out meals clouds the fact that 'it's improbable' that it will be done successfully. Serving size and unknown additives makes caloric consumption anybody's guess. Any earnest attempt by Chris is still horoscope fodder fueled by wishful thinking.

If Chris could cook, he wouldn't eat out so much but it's not something thirty-somethings just start doing - where do you jump in? For starters, might I suggest the shallow end of the pool? Easy, familiar food. If this transition felt like a lifestyle and not a life sentence, this wouldn't be such a heartbreaking change. I suggested making his favorite take-out meals at home so that we could get a more trustworthy answer when it comes to caloric consumption and serving size. I'll find solutions to his favorite foods and he'll prepare them and give me feedback. Oh, and you too. Now you get to ask him the dreaded question. All together now, "So, Chris . . . . "

As I'm sure you gathered from his name, Chris is Korean. His first choice for a recipe revamp is Korean Barbecue Beef. This is a bit misleading because there's very little revamping necessary other than Chris' commute home which no longer routes through the parking lot of his favorite Korean restaurant. The recipes follow, as well as some tips:

Zone Primer
Balance your macronutrients. Really, do I have to say more? Don't let me get rolling on this. We could be here until Chris starves to death.

To determine serving size, it's best if you have a digital scale. Put a bowl on the scale, zero it out, place the entire recipe in the bowl, determine the weight, divide by the serving size, and then weigh out your portion on your plate. You can do this with multiple side-dishes, just zero out your plate on the scale each time before you add your next item.

Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef)

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, sugar, salt, black pepper, and MSG. Place beef, carrots, and onions in the bag; seal, and shake to coat the vegetables and beef with the sauce. Refrigerate for at least 2 1/2 hours. I prefer to marinate mine overnight.
Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Remove meat and vegetables from marinade, and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil; seal. Discard marinade.
Place on grill, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or to desired doneness.

What I would do: Buy the best quality meat - lean and grass fed - and marinade it longer. Lean meat will be a bit tougher but the vinegar will break down the muscle fiber if you give it a little time. Also, I would replace the sugar with Agave Nectar and 1/2 the amount - though, frankly, a teaspoon of sugar may be too meager to worry about. Also, I'd use Tamari instead of soy sauce - same taste, less sodium. This isn't a lot of marinade, so I would increase the garlic and rub the meat with the garlic and onion, salt and pepper the meat directly and let it sit a bit before I put it in the bag with the other ingredients.

Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 243
Total Fat: 15g
Cholesterol: 61mg
Sodium: 1058mg
Total Carbs: 6.3g (Count this as a Block and you'll see why later)
Dietary Fiber: 1.3g
Protein: 20.2g (That's Roughly 3 Blocks if you're zoning)

Korean Cucumber Salad

1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 green onion, sliced
1/2 carrot, julienned

In a medium bowl, stir together vinegar, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in sesame seeds, and reduce heat to medium. Cook until seeds are brown, about 5 minutes. Remove seeds with a slotted spoon, and stir into vinegar mixture. Mix in cucumber, green onions, and carrot. Cover, and refrigerate at least 5 minutes

Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 96
Total Fat: 7g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 9mg
Total Carbs: 7.3g (Count this as one block)
Dietary Fiber: 2.7g
Protein: 2.6g

What I would do: Don't toast the sesame seeds in oil - ESPECIALLY in vegetable oil. Carve a few grams of fat out of the salad since the BBQ is already a bit high if your following zone proportions, and save yourself from potential rancidity. If you really want toasted sesame seeds, toast them dry on a cookie sheet under the broiler but watch them closely.

Korean Squash

5 medium zucchini, sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine the zucchini, green onions, vinegar, soy sauce, water, sugar and sesame oil. Season with black pepper. Mix to blend, then cover and cook over medium heat until zucchini is tender, about 20 minutes.

What I would do: Cut the sesame oil in half. As I mentioned before, you're already running hot on fats with the BBQ. Same goes for the sugar. Substitute with Agave or honey.

Servings Per Recipe: 6
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 103
Total Fat: 4.9g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 1230mg
Total Carbs: 13.5g (Count this as one block - the other carbs were shy of the 9 grams, this is heavy so it will even out a bit)
Dietary Fiber: 3.1g
Protein: 3.7g

This turns out to be a 3 block meal. That's pretty tiny for a male, but the fat content is a bit high and I wouldn't want to up the serving size of beef for that reason. I'm going to ignore the fat blocks for now because our goal is to improve his habits first. Plus, I'm convinced that this is a vast improvement on what he's been eating.

I would consider having some fat-free yogurt for desert after the meal. It's a 1-1 protein/carb block and it will make up the difference in the meal without adding more fat.