Awhile back, I blogged about “cutting the cheese”. It was my most-read post and it was a very simple concept of being a little more snobby about the cheese when you indulge. Let’s face it, the cheese at McD’s is less than appetizing, we just eat it because it’s there and always has been. Like most quick drive-thru treats, we never question the way they are put together, we just pay at the window and move along. And for the record, I’ve never heard someone comment on the exceptional flavor of that rubbery, orange square of questionable dairy product.
So, I’m going to attribute our lack of standards to habit. We all have them, good, bad and otherwise. Habits can make us or break us. The orange cheese habit is definitely a breaker. Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain more energy, lower blood sugar, or all of the above, cutting the cheese is still a good habit to get into. Not entirely, of course, I think cheese is wonderful and should be enjoyed in moderation. But it needs to be respected.
I thought I would share a habits that I’ve gotten into that have helped me avoid the mediocre and enjoy the exceptional.
1. Anytime you are ordering fast food (not exceptional but sometimes necessary), skip the cheese. It’s typically the most expensive part of what you are ordering so fast food joints are always going for the cheapest option. So, not only are you getting a ton of calories, fat and preservatives, you’re also getting crappy taste. It’s not worth it. And while you may be immediately thinking of a hamburger vs. a cheeseburger (duh), I’m thinking more along the lines of a fast food breakfast sandwich. DD’s has flatbread wraps that are pretty good and they will leave the cheese off for you (in my experience). Eliminating the fat and keeping the protein from the eggs will help you digest smarter, make you feel better and save you from regret!
2. Switch the cheese out for something else. On mornings when I have time, I make myself a breakfast sandwich. It consists of an english muffin (Thomas’ plain, not low-fat or whole grain, I will not lower my english muffin standards under any circumstances), 2 pieces of Boca breakfast links, (before you turn your nose up and saw “ew, no way”, you have to try them. I’m not typically a veggie product fan. I don’t like the mushy texture of a lot of those products, but I hate the grizzle and mystery textures found in regular sausage links, not to mention the fat, cholesterol, calories, etc.) You have to cook the hell out of them (I microwave from frozen for 30 seconds and then pan fry them), but you get all of the flavor and none of the mystery or guilt, so just try them. And to be clear, I have a strong allegiance to bacon as well (NOT turkey bacon), so I won’t just switch out a breakfast meat arbitrarily. Back to my sandwich. English muffin, 2 Boca links, 1 fried egg, a little butter on the muffin and hot sauce. This kicks the egg mcmuffin’s rear end any day of the week. And what’s missing? The cheese! Try swapping out the cheese for hot sauce for 2 weeks. And if you don’t like spicy, there’s plenty of hot sauce that isn’t that hot. I typically use Frank’s Red Hot. It’s not expensive or fancy and brings a new flavor that is so much more impressive than melted cheese. And guess how many calories are in a teaspoon of FRH? Um, zero. Guess how much fat is in a teaspoon of FRH? Um, zero. I put hot sauce on almost everything and will probably start carrying in my purse soon.
3. I made this point in my previous post, but you really need to consider upping your standards when it comes to cheese. Just like chocolate, you get what you pay for. And there’s no reason to subject ourselves or our kids to the processed non-cheese cheese that we were all forced to eat as kids. I’m not talking about a full out transition to imported Manchego (even though it’s incredibly delicious with a glass of cheap Spanish wine), but maybe just a small jump from American to Muenster? My kids call it Monster cheese which is fun and at ages 5 and 8 they can recognize that Muenster actually has flavor, just like Gorgonzola and Gruyere. Am I creating cheese snob monsters? Maybe. But I’d rather start them early in learning how to appreciate food instead of just eating it, even if it does cost me a few extra bucks. Also, cheese with more flavor may be more expensive, but thanks to the flavor part, you can typically use less.
4. Whenever possible, make it at home, from scratch. The frozen meal packages in the grocery store are super-convenient just like the food in the window, but all too often, we have the time to do it ourselves. I will guarantee that even if you make the EXACT same thing in your kitchen, it will be better for you. Use a copycat recipe if you want to get it as close to the original but you will still be using real butter and real vegetables (I hope), and meat that hasn’t been preserved with weird chemical things. Unless you are heading out to a fine dining establishment that prides itself on farm to table and fresh ingredients, most quick service restaurants are going to use what is most cost-efficient. Ingredients that fill that list are not usually healthy (i.e., vegetable oil instead of olive oil or shortening instead of butter). I would also be willing to bet that you will enjoy it more. Not only because you made it, but because fresh stuff tastes better. It’s a fact. This will take more time and probably more planning but not as much as you think. I’m the worst when it comes to planning dinners for the week and somehow I manage.
I love to eat out, I love cheese and I don’t really like to cook all that much but the fact of the matter is that there always needs to be balance. If you take responsibility for what you are eating and make a change here and there, you will see changes without having to turn your life completely upside down. Live like a diabetic now so you don’t become one later!