Red Lentil Spaghetti {with Sauteed Vegetables in Tomato Basil Sauce}

Feed A Cold, Fuel Your Body

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I started to feel under the weather. I started taking cold medication, hoping to ward off any germs but apparently I was too late. On Monday, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection – my first in nearly four years – and given a prescription for antibiotic.

I did nothing on Monday but sleep, hence the reason for the missing blog post. Apparently my body was exhausted, and the only way to slow me down was to knock me off my feet with this “crud”, as I call it. It’s Thursday, and I’m still not feeling well. (Although I am feeling better!)

I had planned to blog about another topic today, but this sickness has really be interesting to me from a food perspective. I thought I would delay the other post and share with you my cravings, and my take on them.

When 21 months pass between sinus infections, you would think that I wouldn’t remember the details. Oh, but I do! I am quite certain I picked up something on the plane to Haiti and, while I spent the week in the third-world country,  it developed into the worst double ear infection and sinus infection of my life. I knew I was sick, but I had no idea how sick until the day I flew home. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t have flown home. I was THAT sick. It took a month of strong antibiotics and lots of rest to recover. I will spare you any other details. In the next year, I developed other health problems and eventually learned of my food allergies. After learning that I had to give up dairy forever, I was told by my physician that I would likely see a decrease in sinus infections… and I did. I was actually surprised at this one. But she did say “decrease” and not “an end.”

When I learned of my food allergies, I obviously adopted a new way of eating… but it wasn’t entirely due to the elimination of gluten, casein, and whey. I started to eat more whole foods. I try sticking to the simple, natural ingredients when I can. I figure the less stuff, the less chance of worrying with food allergies. I avoid genetically modified foods and shop organic and local when I can. I now eat farm fresh eggs “right out of the chicken”, honey that is harvested and bottled by a coworker, and produce grown by farmers that I’ve built relationships with and know now on a first-name basis. I didn’t view it as a fad diet, like some who eat this way on occasion to drop a few pounds. It was my new way of life. I did see immediate changes: weight loss, more energy, and better skin, to name a few. But two years later, I am still seeing changes.

I remember when I returned from Haiti, sick and pouty, all I wanted was comfort food. My brother had picked me up from the airport, and I begged him to stop and buy me french fries & a sweet tea on our drive home. When I got home, I recall waking up from naps on the couch and eating things like grilled cheese with mayonnaise, mac & cheese, or Doritos. I was out of work for nearly a week following my return because all I wanted to do was sleep. Granted, I was more sick than I am now, but I suffered from fatigue in addition to the infections.

Jump ahead to this week. It dawned on me last night that I have only reached for comfort food once during this sickness, and it was at the very beginning on Sunday morning. And it was eggs, gf/df toast and milk gravy. One meal. One proportioned meal of decent ingredients. Comfort food doesn’t have to equate to junk food! The rest of the time, I haven’t really been able to taste anything. (My nose is so stuffy that it has affected my smell and taste.) However, I have noticed that I still crave certain things: fruits and vegetables! The only things I wanted to eat after that comfort food meal were oranges and bananas, so I listened to my body and ate those. The following day, I continued to crave the same thing but also ate small portions of rice. I couldn’t taste anything, but my tummy wanted it. By Tuesday, I had an insane craving for a giant salad. I filled it with veggies, tossed in some hard boiled eggs for protein, and topped it off with banana peppers and jalapenos, hoping their kick would offer up some flavor. Despite not being able to taste it either, I enjoyed the crunch of the fresh veggies that I wasn’t getting with the fruit. I only missed one day of work, and have had more overall energy than I expected with this sickness. I can’t help but to think that the fuel that I’ve been feeding my body this time around has played a key role in recovery. Because of that, I am planning to blog more about whole food and the benefit of food as fuel for our bodies in upcoming posts.

This morning, I woke up with one thing in mind… spaghetti with sautéed veggies! I know I must be feeling better to actually want to prepare a meal. 🙂 Luckily, this is an extremely easy meal to prepare.

I love sautéed fresh vegetables as a base for almost every meal.

Red lentil pasta has two ingredients: lentil flour and brown rice flour. It is low in carbs, sodium, and sugar, and high in protein.

Doesn’t this look delicious? I save leftovers to make homemade pizza! (I use a store-brand sauce from my local grocery store.)

2 oz of red lentil spaghetti
1 medium-sized zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
coconut oil
tomato and basil spaghetti sauce

Boil 1 qt of water in a medium saucepan
Add pasta and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally

While waiting on water to boil, prepare vegetables
Heat frying pan and add 1 T of coconut oil
Sauté vegetables in coconut oil
Reduce to low and add in spaghetti sauce
Simmer until warmed thoroughly

When pasta is cooked to desired consistency, empty saucepan into strainer. Allow water to drain from pasta thoroughly, then place pasta back into saucepan. (Optional step: add butter or vegan substitute to pasta to help spaghetti to not stick together.)

*Some people prefer to combine the pasta with the sauce and mix. I plate mine separately so that I can use leftover sauce!

Serve as is or with a simple side salad. Quick, easy, allergy-friendly, and nutritious!

The Skinny on Wellness

On Monday, I blogged about confidence and body image comparisons. I spent the better part of my childhood and early adulthood battling negative self-esteem. Life doesn’t always help; society promotes a certain look, peers can be cruel, and fashion is full of lies.

Of all of my flaws uniquenesses – from frizzy, curly hair and glasses to being nearly 6-feet tall – the one thing that I have allowed to give me the most grief is being overweight. I weighed 9.5 pounds when I was born. It’s like I was destined to be, well, big. But as a child and young adult, I viewed that negatively. My earliest memory of my weight was when I started wearing hand-me-down jeans from my brother. They were labeled “Husky” size and I recall that bothering me more than the fact that I was wearing boys jeans.

I was a relatively active child/young adult. I played a lot outside, rode my bike, swam, and even dabbled in community and school sports. However, I never considered myself athletic. I was too busy comparing myself to my oldest brother and sister, who didn’t require a special size of jeans, or to classmates who were shaped completely different than me.

I have more negative memories from middle school. In Physical Ed class, we were required to wear uniforms. I remember my teacher digging through a pile of “oversized” uniforms searching for one that fit me. I stood behind her office door as she tossed above-average sizes my way as I tried them on, praying the next one would fit. I also remember a similar incident when I made the basketball team. Everyone else had jersey with low numbers, but my number was 54 because I required the largest uniform.

Let me stop here for a second and say that I was not morbidly obese. I was only about 10-pounds overweight at the time, but I was also freakishly tall for my age. Again, I was a just… big.

In addition to my weight, I also started to realize how my body didn’t perform the same as my classmates. I remember during my freshman year, we had to perform agility and strength tests… and I could not do a chin up. Not. One. By my senior year, I had stopped all sports. I had gained around 15 more pounds, and was one of, if not the tallest girl in my class. My giant-ness consumed me. I was awkward, uncomfortable, and officially self-conscious in so many ways.

I went on to have equally awkward experiences in college. I went to the beach with friends and was horrified to wear a swimsuit; something that never bothered me during my childhood “husky” phase. I continued to gain weight, so I started crash diets and taking supplements. I ended up completely wrecking my metabolism, so much so that later in life, it completely wrecked me.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my later 20s. At my heaviest, I weighed 70-pounds more than I did in high school, and could barely fit into a size 20. I would refer to my high school weight as “when I thought I was fat” and the only desire I had was to “be so skinny that I looked sick.” The way I viewed myself (and health in general) had become painfully distorted.

As my 30th birthday approached, I knew that I had to make lifestyle changes. Nothing else was working and I refused to allow myself to move into another pant size. I joined a weight loss program through work, that began to teach me about nutrition and portion sizes. The next decade of my life was spent undergoing more than just a positive physical change of losing 50-pounds. My thirties also brought about positive emotional and mental changes as well.

I still have to watch my weight — I always will, thanks to an under active thyroid, an aging body, a dislike of formal exercise, and an occasional mean sweet tooth! — but I no longer seem to struggle with it. I think I have finally learned to accept me for me. I have found confidence in my own skin, and have the wisdom to know that health isn’t, and never has been, about a body image.

Recently I had a conversation with my doctor. We both decided that, although there is room for improvement, things could be a lot worse. I’m only 11.5-pounds away from my goal weight, and I’m running 5Ks regularly. I drink 100-ounces of water a day, and I eat well-balanced whole-food meals, appropriately measured for portion control. I also keep a check on things like my blood pressure and stress levels. I’m making progress in truly becoming healthy. But it was my statement to her that she believes shows my biggest progress… “I’ll never be skinny, but I am going to do what I can to not gain weight.” In my quest to focus on not gaining, I actually started to lose weight.

Maybe that is how we should all approach life? Think about it; instead of pointing out someone’s flaws, we recognize their strengths; instead of dwelling on the bad days, we start counting our blessings; instead of verbalizing hate, we speak love; instead of  thinking the worst, we pursue the best. It could change attitudes and produce more positive outcome!

Being healthy is so much more than a weight, or a dress size, or how many jumping jacks that you can do. Total wellness includes intellectual health, emotional health, and even financial health. What is your current battle? Do you allow negative thoughts to distort your perspective? What will you choose to focus on today?