Low-fat or Bust!: 4 Weeks of Healthy(ish) Living

In less than two weeks I'll be heading to Wyoming for a one month writing residency at Jentel Artist Residency Program. One of the main things about my upcoming travels is that I will be secluded in Wyoming away from the rowdy life of NYC and in turn will be away from all those wonderful restaurants and bakeries that I frequent and love. The main point of this residency is being spirited away from all the distractions of the city and having time and space to write. Part of that is also looking after yourself.

While some residencies have chefs on-hand to cook for residents many don't. One of my main responsibilities besides writing will be to cook meals for myself of which I will be supplied a weekly stipend.

Now, cooking (as you may have noticed) is not something I'm a stranger to. But, being far away from stores and such in a whole new environment for a longer duration of time is something to get accustomed to. Wyoming is not another country, but I don't know how much they have in terms of options for those wanting to pursue healthy living or those who may be lactose intolerant or vegans. New York City has an array of options, restaurants, night life, 24 hour delis and so on. I highly doubt Banner, WY will have as many options as I am spoiled by here. And since I'll be without a car for the most part I'll be relying on the kindness of strangers to take me into the town of Sheridan (population 28, 662 as per the 2008 U.S. Census).

The goal while in Wyoming is to make and eat items that make me feel good and more productive. I've done my part to make meals "healthier": use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, use olive oil and not any other oils or butter when frying, using the low-fat/reduced sodium version of whatever I could find instead of the full fat. And sometimes it's hit and miss with these things.

I've also purchased or obtained cookbooks with supposedly "good recipes that are good for you." One of which was Devin Alexander's Biggest Loser Family Cookbooks. Of the several recipes I made I only liked one, and then upon reheating didn't like it. This was the low-fat meatballs (made with quick oats instead of bread crumbs) and cutting corners on a lot of other less healthy items. All of these dishes were very low in fat, but the taste just didn't keep. In fact the taste was barely there if non-existent. I've also tried a few recipes from the Cooking Light 2009 recipe copulation cookbook that didn't pan out. A risotto that wasn't too tasty and pumpkin biscuits that tasted more like dough than biscuits.

So, let's consider this my next project for 2011. Going a month on a low-fat, health conscious cooking spree! A couple of books I have on-hand to help are the Cooking Light 2009 (yes I'll give it another try since there are hundreds of recipes available) and also My Italian Kitchen by Janet Zappala which includes healthier versions of classic favorites like baked ziti and key lime pie.

I'll also have in my arsenal many Food Network recipes, particular ones from favorites like Giada DeLaurentiis and even Jamie Oliver. I'll try to stay away from Paula Deen recipes (as good as they are) which are just loaded with needs for dairy (in particular butter). I'm doing my research and checking out food blogs I like to see their progress and welcome any suggestions.

So what will I be holding myself to while away? The following are just a few items I can think of off-hand:

-Very little red meat. At most 1-2 meals containing it for the 4 weeks I'm away.

-Very little if any baked goods. (I know, I know. Why not just shoot myself? But it must be done.) At most 1-3 desserts for the duration of my stay. And by that I mean 1-3 servings, not pan of brownies = 1 dessert.

-Eat at least 3 servings of fruit and veggies a day. I tend to meet this during the week at work, not so much on weekends at home though. Hopefully I'll be able to go above this while in Wyoming.

-Bake rather than fry items. Again, something else I do while at home, but when I travel my healthy eating tendencies tend to go AWOL.

-1 takeout meal a week or every other week. By this I mean pizza or Chinese or whatever may be available for me to pick up during our weekly outings.

-Snacks should be 100 cals or lower per serving. So basically try to stay away from high calorie/high cholesterol snacks. Meaning more organic, natural things and less fried, processed items.

-Eat more fiber! (Oatmeal! And not oatmeal cookies!)

-Incorporate seafood as much as possible. I tend to eat shrimp a lot, but should eat more fish and find the best types to eat that offer good vitamins and such to promote a healthier lifestyle. And preferably, make sure these items aren't fried. (Sigh, no fried calamari.)

-Exercise at least 40 minutes a day. (Since I won't have to go to work for the most part this shouldn't be an issue. I should be able to make time to write and exercise pretty much everyday and perhaps even go over this amount if not double it per day.)

I'll more than likely add to this list as time goes on. But for the most part I know this is doable because I already do it or won't have the distractions to keep me from being more proactive and healthy. I look forward to Wyoming and some fresh air and some healthy habits. Heck, they may even stick when I return!