Virtue in a hurry

While it’s probably not always evident here at “The F Word,” healthy eating is a priority of mine. I tend to keep in shape by working out 5 or 6 times a week to compensate for any chocolate, burgers, or beer that I may or may not eat that week. I refuse to diet. At the same time, though, I make a (sometimes futile) attempt at eating healthy. I try to eat things with low sodium. I try to eat whole grains. I try to eat a fruit and/or a vegetable with every meal. I try to eat vegetables other than corn and avocado (which I don’t think really counts as a vegetable.) I try to not to go out to eat too often. I try to plan ahead for my meals to avoid snacking on whatever’s closest to my hand (that package of crackers, chocolate chips, your finger).

But it’s really easy to completely derail and have that all go to hell. For Christmas, I went home to Michigan and came back, and then left for Denver four days later for a work conference, where I stood at a booth for a good 10 hours a day. All of that travel and a busy schedule make it impossible to plan ahead or make my own food, and as a result, some poor eating choices. That means my pants become too tight to be cute, migraines, and a hangover.

As soon as I got back, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on fruits and vegetables and ingredients for healthy dinners, like chicken teriyaki and the white bean soup I’ve written about before. The problem is, my work life has turned me into a bit of an insane person, where I’m so scattered I often use the wrong words in sentences or forget the names of people I know well. So, while I bought all of these groceries with the best of intentions, it turns out that I don’t really have the energy to make any of them, even if they are relatively pain-free.

One night last week, I came home late from the gym and was tempted to eat myself into a cereal coma, with a cookie chaser from the gluten-free cookies my roommate had made. But I knew I had a lonely chicken breast ready and thawed in the fridge, and I had to eat it before it went bad. In the battle between guilt and laziness, guilt wins every time. I got out the chicken and the spinach to make a salad.

I decided to poach the chicken, which is something my boyfriend Charlie is good at doing, so I never really bothered doing it. I have a slight fear of undercooking the meat, and even if it looks done, I’m afraid that I’ll somehow still do it wrong. But I had a chicken breast guilting me into submission. I got out a pan, covered the chicken breast with water, and turned the stove on. It takes about 20 minutes for poached chicken to be done, so I let myself have a little bowl of granola to tide me over and keep my impulses in check. It’s only when I’m really hungry and desperate that I start eating like I’m ninth-grade me going through a breakup.

I added a little salt and pepper to the water to give it some flavor. Poached chicken is as low maintenance as your third wife. You wait until it starts boiling, then turn it down to a simmer, tilt the lid, and let it cook for 10 minutes. After that, turn off the burner, and let the chicken continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. I managed to keep myself from obsessively checking the chicken every 2 minutes, and it turned out perfectly edible. With poached chicken, you end up with tender, moist chicken without any oil. I tore it into pieces, and added it to a salad of spinach, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese, with fat-free Italian dressing (soon, you’ll see a blog on which fat-free things are worth eating and which aren’t worth anything). Next time, I think I’ll keep the cooked chicken in the fridge, and put it in a salad the next day with dried cranberries, walnuts, and goat cheese.

After I ate it, I was glad I did. I didn’t feel like I needed to go to bed right afterward, like I would have after several bowls of cereal. Healthy food is worth waiting for.

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2 Responses to “Virtue in a hurry”
  1. Kate says:

    My third wife better be low maintenance, as promised above. I’ve never poached chicken before, but I do have some in my freezer. You’ve inspired me to try something new this week!

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