Rice and beans, and A for effort.

Murdo and I joined a gym. This is nothing huge -- we've belonged to gyms before, although lately I've been working out at home, jumping and squatting and lunging along with Shaun T., with whom I have a love/hate relationship but who keeps me sweating the most I ever have in my life and who actually has made me want to cry from exercising. But it's nice to know that I also have access to treadmills and ellipticals and weights 24/7, just five minutes from my house, for when I feel the sudden urge to run in place for half an hour at three in the morning. (OK, I never have an urge to run. Anywhere. At any time.)

As part of our new membership, our "trainer" met with us to discuss our goals, our current exercise routines and our eating habits. "On an A through F scale," he asked, "How would you rate the way you eat?"

"B-?" Murdo replied, shrugging at me.

I was thinking more of a solid C, fully aware of the unhealthy amount of fries I eat on a weekly basis, and the family size bag of Cheetos that Murdo came home with one day, and the two packages of bacon in our fridge. 

But then we got to talking about our actual meals. For me, on the weekdays, it's a yogurt for breakfast (I was never into the whole yogurt thing until I forced myself to start eating it daily a couple of months ago because it's healthy and filling and simple and I need more of that in my life and now I love the stuff), some kind of light bean dish or soup for lunch (this week, it's been this, with a side of roasted beets), and a home-cooked meal for dinner (lately, there have been burgers on the grill, tacos -- beef for him, black bean for me -- breakfast, Sriracha chicken, BLTs). Then there are snacks, which I have between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, dinner and bed. Crackers, chips, edamame, cheese, popscicles, kimchi, berries, tomatoes, granola. The occasional frozen custard after dinner.

And you know what? I think I deserve a B. So I may have eaten half of a deep-fried chicken sandwich last Wednesday (in my defense, the menu called it a "crispy buffalo chicken sandwich," which in my book, does not mean the whole thing gets dipped into the fryer), and two (or maybe three?) chocolate peanut butter thingies yesterday, and half a donut this morning. But for the most part, I try to eat pretty healthy. The trouble can be eating healthy without completely depriving myself of foods I've loved my whole life. Yes, tomatoes and beets and blueberries make me happy -- but so do ramen noodles. And Lay's Sour Cream and Onion chips. And chocolate chip cookies. And pork rinds. And greasy Chinese food. And brownies! And and and … Well. All in moderation, I know. But when it comes to junk food, I kind of suck at self control.

The key, I've found, is planning ahead. Every Sunday, I figure out what Murdo and I want for dinner for the week. Then, I shop according to those meals. I try to stay away from the chip, cookie and frozen food aisle. I buy (somewhat) light, healthy, low-calorie snacks. I also prepare my lunch for the week on Sunday -- something light that I won't get sick of eating every day for five days straight, and that's easy to eat either at my office desk or at the park near my building. By knowing exactly what I'm eating every day, I can avoid excessive eating out or just excessive eating, period.  

Ten years ago, I didn't think I'd become one of those people who bought low-fat yogurt and wrote down what she ate every day. But I just feel so much better about myself when I'm aware of what I'm putting into my body. It's a struggle sometimes, but I like to think I'm getting better. A for effort, right?

Skillet Rice and Beans with Corn and Fresh Tomatoes 
(from "The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook")

This rice and bean dish recently made its way into my lunch rotation. It's light but filling, flavorful but easy to make, and most of the ingredients are usually already on hand. If you don't have fresh corn, you can use 1 1/2 cups of frozen corn, thawed and patted dry, or a can of corn, drained.

4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 cup brown rice, rinsed and drained
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 1/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 (15-ounce)cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper
2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rice, garlic, cumin and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the beans and cover. Continue to simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil with the tomatoes, green onions, cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the tomato mixture over the rice and beans and serve.

Makes 6 servings.


  1. I'm amazed at the wide scope of things that can be done with rice and beans --this looks lovely. And three cheers for eating what you love and what makes you feel good!

    1. I love rice and beans. You're right -- so many ways to prepare it, yet still such a simple, comforting, satisfying meal.

  2. Definitely an A for effort. Full disclosure: I'm a fellow food blogger and a dietitian. And I enjoy making (and eating!) homemade butter. It truly is all about balance. (Perfection isn't healthy either.) And eating beans on a regular basis is probably one of the best things you can do for your body. So it balances out the half donuts and chocolate peanut butter thingies.

    1. I'm so glad you said that about beans because I eat them all the time! Thanks so much for your encouraging words. :)


Post a Comment