Every now and then, something happens that makes you stop in your tracks and reevaluate everything that you’re doing and everything you are.
Sometimes, it’s the life-altering bolt of grief that comes with sickness, death, or heartbreak.
Other times, it’s as seemingly inconsequential as a last minute trip to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few little bites for a Labor Day Garden Party.
In the last year and a half (say it with me now, a YEAR and a HALF) since Little Word Bites first flung open its digital doors, I have learned how all of these experiences transform even the most mundane, insignificant moments. A beet, for example. It’s been months since my grandmother passed away, but every time I eat a beet all I taste is her borscht. I can feel the too-cold soup on my tongue, the celery fibers caught between my molars – even a passing glimpse of the color makes me taste subtle notes of dill.
When I saw a small package of Mini Toasts at Trader Joe’s this morning, tucked neatly between the horseradish aioli and ginger cat cookies, I was paralyzed. It was a mirage, a hallucination, I was sure. I had hunted for Mini Toasts at Trader Joe’s from Boston to New Mexico searching for my favorite miniature snack – the inspiration behind the LWB name.
And after all this time, there it was, coyly smiling at me from above the frozen chicken thighs.
Naturally, I bought a package, and immediately set to work assembling my snack of tiny toasts. And all the while, considered how much had changed since my first mini-toast experiment. I was almost nervous to have a bite.
Behold, Mini Toasts 2.0:
This got me thinking about what Little Word Bites is all about. It’s about connecting people with dietary restrictions, be they vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free – YOU NAME IT – with foods that are still healthy, light, and always delicious.
Sometimes, when our lives get all crazy and topsy turvy, it’s hard to take a second to remember who we are and what we’re all about.
This Little Bite is about getting back to basics. Simplifying our diets, and simplifying our lives. Taking in what we want, and things that are good for us. I could make a corny metaphor here about how our lives are like mini toasts, simple, naked vehicles waiting for us to add the delicious, healthy, appropriate toppings we love most. But I’ll resist.
If you’re running a hundred miles a minute, too, and looking for a way to simplify your life, start by simplifying your diet. It’s the one thing we have control over – what we put in our mouths. (I hope, anyway).
These easy solutions for eating cleaner are mini-toast inspired, and guaranteed to help you clean up your act, trim down your intake of fat, calories, and other not so nice stuff.
Tip #1: Take Your Top Off (your sandwich, that is!)
It might seem counterintuitive. A sandwich, after all, is stuff sandwiched between two pieces of bread. But get inspired by the mini-toast, and cut out that top slice of bread. I promise, you won’t notice a difference, other than you’ll be THAT MUCH CLOSER to the actual delicious parts of a sandwich, and you’ll get rid of the 100 calories or so standing between you and your favorite fillings. Go ahead, try the tartine (that’s French for open-faced deliciousness). You’ll feel lighter, and maybe even a little more Parisienne.
TIp #2: Plan Ahead
Take a few minutes before grocery shopping to think about how you can get the most out of your ingredients. If you happened to buy a surplus of heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market, try to come up with a few recipes you can use throughout the week that will utilize your extra bounty. Make sure to grab plenty of spinach, a crumbled fat-free cheese like feta or goat cheese, and other complementary ingredients, as well as a bag of lentils or a spaghetti squash to accompany your meals, which will carry you through the week. This way, you’ll only have to do the prep work once, and you won’t waste any time staring blankly into the fridge, wondering now what?
Also, remember Brian Wansink’s tip to stick to the supermarket perimeter. Your basket will be full of fresh, raw foods and you’ll literally de-clutter your pantry, avoiding the purchase of snacks and packaged goods you don’t really need.
Tip #3: Get Creative With Vegetable Replacements
Need a french-fry? Roast some rutabaga fries with garlic, or crisp up some kale chips with reduced-fat grated parmesan. You’ll satisfy the body’s craving for something crunchy and salty, without packing in loads of saturated fats.
Love coating your bread in a thick layer of mayonnaise? Puree a quarter cup of cauliflower florets with 3 cloves of garlic, and a tablespoon of nonfat greek yogurt. Spread this on (your one slice) of bread instead.
The bottom line is, you can rid your diet of processed, unhealthy foods without depriving yourself of the things you love. There are endless, innovative ways to replace the bad with something just a little bit better. And that doesn’t mean the only thing you’re allowed to snack on is celery sticks – although those are pretty good, too.
Tip #4: Back to School Basics
I love this tip, which I found reading an article by Meg Khan-Karen. It’s a reminder to refresh your memory, from all those days spent in elementary school memorizing the food pyramid. Maybe it’s shaped a little differently now, but the concept remains the same. The “My Plate” campaign is a great visual reminder to fill your plate with healthy, satisfying foods – mainly fruits and vegetables – with enough protein and whole grains on the side to give you vital energy and nutrients. Dairy? That’s good too. What you won’t see on the new My Plate infographic is a trace of the proverbial brownie, ice cream sunday, or chocolate chip cookie.
But you probably could have guessed that wouldn’t make it onto a tip sheet for cleaning up your diet.
Tip #5: Mini-Size It
Not really, but almost. While it would be beyond crazy to mini-size everything we eat, the mini toast is a little slice of inspiration. More often than not, we serve ourselves more than we can eat. We pile our plates with a little of everything, nibble at this, snack on that. Simplify your diet by committing to two or three items from a table – the salad, the protein, the grilled vegetables – and serving yourself a little less than you think you want.
The food will still be there when you’re done, but it will force you to eat slower, and give your body time to determine how much room you really have.
This is just a bite of the huge number of ways we can all simplify our eating. At the end of the day, choosing to eat fresh, natural foods with as little cooking as possible (sans oil, if you please), avoiding unnecessary calories and fat (do you really need a whole milk latte every morning?) and decluttering the method behind all that madness (store your foods in clear containers so you remember what’s there, and make a smart shopping list and stick to it) and you’re well on your way to living a little bit simpler.
With that, hopefully your meals will be stress free, light, and something you can count on to always look forward to. No matter what else changes around you.
Until next time,