Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eating Clean, start with spinach

One of the miracles that has happened to me in the last few years has been my health. If the way I feel, right now, is healthy, then I've realized that I've never been healthy in my life...until now. Not only does my body look fit, but I feel as if I have this "healthy" energy that people notice and comment about.

I feel heathly because I eat healthy. I eat healthy, because I can eat more! Healthy foods are lower in calories, it's just that simple.

I lost my weight by going back to basics. Basic heathly, live foods. And my goal was not to get healthy, it was to lose weight! And like my KB training, it has been a progression. The more good clean food I ate, the more I wanted to eat. The better and faster I got at cooking and preparing good clean food, the better and faster I got! Every one has to start somewhere, and I started with spinach!

But before I get into that, I want to expand upon what I mean by clean food. Clean food, to me, is live food. Live food isn't necessarily food that has been alive at one point, although that is a literal definition of live food, but also food that gives life. And, what I mean about that, is food that gives health, because a healthy life is the best life. Live food is obviously the least processed. Live food is real, not fake.

Now I'm not claiming that I never eat some processed and even fake foods, but it gets less and less every week. And my weakness is desserts! That's why I cave at bake sales, because I much prefer "home made, home baked" goodies, as opposed to store bought, made with hydrogenated fats and fake sugars. I chose ice cream with real sugar, not corn syrup, and I never eat foods or drinks w/splenda or equal. (there's another reason for that, also, that I will get into another time).

So, back to the spinach. I found spinach to be the easiest vegetable to incorporate into everyday foods because it's flavor is mild, therefore less "detectable", it cooks fast, and can be eaten raw. And with pre-washed, pre-packaged baby spinach so available, the most convenient, not to mention highly nutrtious, (oh yeah, that too, lol).

So in addition to opening up a package of baby spinach and making a salad, which can be as easy as adding a tomato and store bought dressing, to now, I clean and wash my own fresher (IMO) spinach, add home grown tomatoes, just picked green beans, and homemade dressings. And since my salads are always "main dish" salads, which means I add my protein source to it, you can buy a roasted chicken or use a can of tuna, or steak, whatever. I like to get a small bite of all the ingredients at once, so I measure out my protein, dice it, shred it or slice it and toss it with the other ingredients.

I've added spinach to pasta when making spaghetti, carbonara, tortellini, ravioli, what ever I was cooking for my family. If you add it into the pasta water (along with the pasta, of course)seconds before draining, it wilts instantly, or adding hot pasta to it, wilts it while leaving it slightly firmer, and then sauce. Just the sight of bright green, fresh, live spinach swirling amongst the pasta makes you feel healthier!

I've added it to lasagna, shredded it into tacos (instead of lettuce), made spianch pesto, and I even add it to my meatloaf. Of course, a simple saute w/olive oil and garlic (maybe a pinch of red pepper flakes) as a side dish is done in 30 seconds! There is nothing I cook that doesn't have an added veg to it, nothing.

So from spinach, (pre-packaged, to fresh), I went to swiss chard, and kale. Both are similar, but take longer to cook. At first I only used the leaves of these veggies, and then when I figured out that you can eat the stems, I cook those too! I don't waste anything, and I eat everything!

My point is to start somewhere. Start easy, and it will become easier to always add health.

Spinach Walnut pesto

in a food processor add;

1-2 cloves garlic
pinch red pepper flakes
2tbl. - 1/2 c. toasted walnuts
1 lb. spinach

with processor still running drizzle in;

2 tbl. - 1/2 cup olive oil

Taste, and season with salt and pepper (don't forget this final step).

Toss with hot pasta (adding some reserved pasta water to adjust consistency if needed). You can add parmesean, feta, goat cheese, cottage cheese, etc.

Since oil and nuts are high calorie foods, depending on how I'm using the pesto (as a spread, in a salad, or as a pasta sauce) I adjust the amount to fit my caloric needs. I would use the higher amounts when serving it to non-dieting family members ot guests!

Spinach Pasta Salad

In a large bowl add;

1lb spinach (store bought baby, or wash your own fresh)
thinly sliced red onion

Cook and drain (according to pkg.) 1 pkg. pasta (small like orzo, or long thin spaghetti)and add hot pasta to bowl. Stir quickly to wilt spinach and toss with store bought, or home made balsamic salad dressing ( I like Newman's). Add toasted pine nuts or walnuts, feta cheese and kalmata olives. Chill.

I use less dressing at first then add additional dressing after chilling, right before serving. If I were to make this for myself I would use 1/2 pkg of pasta, increasing the spinach to pasta ratio, half the nuts and cheese, and add chicken for at least 2-3 main dishes.

Spinach is good, life is good


Christine said...

Spinach pesto is even better with fresh basil leaves thrown in! But maybe that's just because I put basil in everything - when you have 8 'shrubs' of basil, you tend to want to use it!

I thought of you as I was baking a sugar cookie order yesterday (your favorite, right?) - after rolling out the alloted cookies for the order, I had quite a bit of dough left.. and I just THREW it away! I didn't need to be tempted into mindless eating!

Tracy Reifkind said...

Christine, I almost suggested throwing in some parsley.

I always add a handful of parsly leafs to my pesto, whether it's spinach or basil pesto, because it helps "brighten" up the flavor AND keeps it greener, especially if you freeze it.

I've never combined the 2, spinach and basil, I like one or the other! But that's what cooking is all about, using what you have and what you like!

You threw away cookie dough??? WOW! That takes discipline! I would of had to throw used coffee grounds on it, or swept up floor dirt on it, just to keep myself from picking it out of the garbage That's right, I admit it!

Unknown said...

I like spinach too. :) My friends think I'm weird though.

Happiness Within said...


I am excited to see more of your recipes added to this site. I have been intrigued by the unique approach to your favorites: prunes, PB, raisins, carrots, etc. LOL

Thanks for sharing!

Kettlebell Lady said...

Spinich rocks! I've always heard that the darker the leaf, the better (I call iceburg lettuce "crunchy water"). I've also tried to focus on "live" food, as you put it.
FYI - I tried double cleans for the first time! Yipee!

Skirt on a Bike said...

Hi Tracy!
I have a question for you regarding the caloric level you maintained during the weight loss phase of your plan. I noticed in the Vitalics article that you aimed at staying at approx. 1500 cals per day and planned on adding a few hundred to that per day when you met your goal weight. However, I have noticed that you seem to average 1600 per day over the course of a week now rather than a higher number. Do you feel that staying at around 1600 per day is difficult? I ask because I am in the process of losing weight and hit between 1300-1600 per day but am not sure that I would maintain my goal weight eating 1900 per day or higher. They say that the average woman eats 2000 calories per day but looking around me I think that the average woman at 2000 (especially if she is not that active) is over weight.
I am just curious as I am trying to develop good eating habits and wonder what maintenance will be like.
Thanks so much!

fawn said...

I totally agree about the parsley... it does add a little sparkle!

The other pesto I like, pistachio-cilantro (with a little parsley, of course)

Tracy Reifkind said...

Lisa, Your friends are probably unhealthy, too!

Tracy Reifkind said...


My next food post will include the "Tracy-bar"! I'm still finding the time to talk more about the most important part of health...the food we eat, (or don't eat!)

Tracy Reifkind said...

KBlsdy, Congrats on your doulble cleans! Next comes pressing them!

I always look for the darkest and most colorful veggies. I haven't eaten iceberg lettuce in, literally, years...I wouldn't waste my time!

Tracy Reifkind said...


I eat a large volume of food, mostly veggies, and I round off the calorie count to 100 (for the veggies). I probably eat more,(calorie wise), especially telling when I don't lose weight, or can't maintain weight, because when I cut my portions back I always lose.

I haven't averaged out my calories on a weekly basis, because I'm lazy! But I have days that are easily up there around 1800-1900. I haven't posted last weeks calories, but all week they were under 1600, for real, and I weighed 125.8 on Friday...the lowest I've been in weeks if not months.

Also remember my cheat day needs to be averaged also, and that day I consume easily more than 3000 calories :(.

I can fit more food into 1600 calories than anyone else I know! It's an art form I'm sure, lol. Some day soon I'll take a picture of my whole days food, I think many would be surprised!

I think maintainance relies more on the types of food you eat, it's just hard to overeat good healthy food.

As I've mentioned already, I want to write more about food, I'll try!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Yum! cilantro / pistachio, I always have those ingredients on hand, cool.

Frozen Molasses said...

YUM! Keep the recipes coming. I too, LOVE spinach and silverbeet (swiss chard) and kale but my absolute favourite is rapini! A little olive oil and garlic and OMG!

Tracy Reifkind said...

Best case,

Rapini rocks! I like to get it at the farmers market. It's fairly hearty, it's one that I toss with pasta and italian sausage, and a little parm of course!

Skirt on a Bike said...

Hi Tracy!
Thanks for responding! Today's post was also really timely. I think you are so right about finding nutritious foods that you can eat for life rather than maintaining a "diet" mentality. I read somewhere that while losing weight it is important to practice for maintenance so that is what I am trying to do. I bought a food scale and have relearned portion sizes as well as how filling and nutritious (and delicious!) my own salads can be. I love your use of spinach and am going to try that.
Thanks again!
Best wishes,

Tracy Reifkind said...


I don't know if you noticed in the "Tracybar" post, the measuring spoons in the background, but the counter that the picture was taken is where I make my salads. I keep a small container of "loose" measuring spoons to make dressings, and other things, most mostly for that reason.

Jim Ryan said...

Great post Tracy! Inspiring.

I like basil too...keep me away from cilantro though.

Say, do you find adding spinach to your cooking pasta keeps it firmer or from sticking or are you just getting your water to do double duty?

Unknown said...

Umm, why do you say "unhealthy too"? I'm the one that eats spinach. And here's my activities for yesterday: swings in the morning, ice skating over 3 hours in the afternoon and walking the dogs with my dad in the evening. So I should be healthy. Ok, I'll admit I didn't eat much yesterday. I just didn't feel like it b/c of PMS.

Tracy Reifkind said...


I meant that, in addition to making fun of you, they are also (probalbly) not as healthy as you!!!!!

Get it????

Not that YOU were unhealthy.

Unknown said...

Oh. I thought you were insinuating that I was unhealthy. My friends at ice skating frequent the vending machines and snack bars, so I doubt that they are very healthy. And I don't think that Doritos have spinach in them. LOL

Kori Bliffert, NASM-CPT said...

Tracy you are so right about spinach! I have it almost everyday. It was really hard for BJ and I when they had the spinach scare and stopped selling it. Especially since most of the e.coli breakouts happened here in Wisconsin. I was wondering, you might have blogged about this already, but how do you make chicken stock?

Tracy Reifkind said...


I will post my chicken stock recipe on your blog, under "comments".

I have posted it already...somewhere on my blog... maybe I'll do it again?

Happiness Within said...

Yes, Tracy! Create a post about your stock again!