Monday, April 27, 2009

Day 16 to 18: Starting to get the hang of the fruits and veggies thing...

So, one important part of the Nutrisystem diet I've been neglecting thus far has been the addition of fruits and vegetables, which is a crucial part of the diet. The pre-packaged foods have the right amount of "good carbs", but the addition of fruits and vegetables are an important way to balance out the meal with vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. In a way, Nutrisystem is doing what our Moms used to do when we were kids--provide right-sized portions of meats, fruits, grains, and vegetables...something they once called a "balanced diet". (In the 21st century, balanced diet seems to mean do we get the large sized Coke so we can finish off the large sized fries).

Day 16
On Day 16 (4/25), I reverted to a bad habit--I skipped breakfast. It wasn't on purpose, I just had a busy morning. Not something I want to keep doing if I want to train my metabolism to get a little higher.

For lunch, I had a chicken enchilada from the frozen box. I have yet to taste anything from the NutriSystem Select plan that isn't doggone delicious. The best way to describe the shape was that of a McDonald's Apple Pie with chicken inside. The filling was a very tasty blend of chunks of chicken, cheese, chopped peppers, and a savory, ever so slightly spicy filling. Unlike traditional enchiladas, it wasn't greasy or overly filling or fatty. This one was a 10/10.

chicken enchilada
That afternoon was a beautiful, beautiful day, so I decided to go biking (again, biking on a beautiful day in New York beats any Wii game there is). I went about 8 miles, and on the way back I stopped at the local H-Mart supermarket (which has among the best produce I've ever seen in a supermarket). This is where I stocked up on veggies and fruit. I bought a big package of grapes, a big bag of spinach, and a veggie tray containing beets, carrots, asparagus tips, and grape tomatoes. It's always tricky buying produce as a single guy, because you have to time it so you can buy enough so it'll last without having to go back to the supermarket, but not so much that it'll go bad.

I got home and treated myself to another ice cream sandwich. It felt like I was cheating, but it was nice to know I wasn't.

That night, I tried one of the things I've wanted to try since I got the shelf-stable box: the "Thick Crust Pizza". This was one of those dinners that was fun to put together. For some reason it reminded me of the Easy Bake Oven I got my niece :) I unwrapped the "deep dish crust" (which was actually more like a round matzo or a giant Pepperidge Farm water cracker), slathered on some tomato sauce, and topped with with their bag of cheese. It wasn't exactly a Chicago Deep Dish pizza, but it tasted pretty good. The tomato sauce was thick, rich, and slightly sweet and tangy. The cheese didn't quite melt as lavishly as the picture on the box, but it was still pretty good. 9/10.

nutrisystem thick crust pizza kit
nutrisystem thick crust pizza
nutrisystem thick crust pizza with spinach
I also cooked the first of my vegetables. I decided to cook the "sauteed spinach" in this great cookbooks I'm going to keep plugging, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The recipe was a simple one: melt butter in a pan (I reduced the amount of butter), throw freshly sliced garlic into it, and then sautee the spinach until it's wilted. I'm not sure if it's because the recipe is so good or if it's just that almost anything tossed in butter and garlic is going to taste good, but this came out great.

So overall, a very satisfying dinner. For dessert that night was a "strawberry shortcake bar" from the shelf-stable box. I have to admit this was pretty good too (8/10). It was a really, really chewy cookie middle (not quite shortcake), topped with a thin layer of strawberry jam, all inside a frosted coating.

nutrisystem strawberry shortcake bar
Day 17
For breakfast on Day 17 (4/26), I enjoyed the "lowfat granola cereal" packet in the shelf-stable box. The instructions say to use fat-free milk, but I just can't get myself to get completely fat-free milk (it's like drinking whiteout mixed with water). So I bought 1% milk instead. The cereal was sweet, crunchy, some of the freshest granola I've ever eaten, as good as anything you'll find in a supermarket. 9/10

For lunch, I enjoyed a nice soup and added a handful of baby carrots and beets from the vegetable tray. The soup was very good, comparable to the best Campbell has to offer. By now, I've figured out that the soup needs 60 seconds at 50%, and then 10 seconds at full to really get hot.

nutrisystem soup with carrots and tomatoes
At night, I went off the Nutrisystem diet for one night so I could go out for dinner with someone special. :)

Day 18

Day 18 (4/27) started out with Nutrisystem bran flakes. What I love most about these is that they come in their own plastic bowl, old-school style. I poured my 1% milk into the bowl, and ate it up. It was odd having the bran without the raisins (which, as I thought about it, I could have added as part of the "fruit" portion of the meal), but the flakes were tasty nonetheless. Again, I'd say for some reason they seemed a bit "fresher" than what I usually get in the supermarket. (8/10)

For lunch, I microwaved the vegetable and beef soup. Another 8/10. It had a great flavor and was chock full of veggies like green beans, beans, carrots, potatoes, and corn.

The snack that day was a "Chocolatey Nougat Bar". I have the feeling the mad scientists at Nutrisystem were going after a Snickers bar, but they fell a little flat. The chocolate and caramel were good, but the "nougat" (which I suspect may have contained a little soy) was dry and a little odd tasting. 4/10.

nutrisystem snickers bar close up
Dinner that night made up for it. I chose the "Cheese & Spinach Ravioli with Meat Sauce" from the shelf-stable box. The taste was excellent. There were two giant raviolis with thick pasta skin, and inside was a tasty filling of what I think was ricotta cheese and little pieces of spinach. It was in a tomato sauce with ground beef, mushroom and herbs. I sauteed another batch of spinach in butter and garlic, and added a handful of carrots and radishes to the meal. This is one I would do again (10/10)

nutrisystem ravioli and spinach
For snack that night were the soy pretzels. Still think they're great, but admittedly, I'm starting to OD on soy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Days 13 to 15: Fasta Fagoli, Chicken Pasta Primavera, and Roast Turkey Medallions

Day 13 (April 22) started out with Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal. Just like the Maple Walnut Oatmeal from a few days ago, this one was pretty good--creamier and richer than standard Instant Oatmeal you get in the supermarket.

For the morning snack, I helped myself to another container of yogurt. I'm finding that this is the best option for my "dairy". I love the taste, I can buy a ton of it at my local BJ's, and I can store it in the fridge for a long time.

Lunch that day was Chicken and Barley Stew. This was one of those lunch meals from the shelf-stable box, coming in the plastic cup with the metal pull-off tab. I found that for all of these meals, the microwave instructions are way off. They do have a disclaimer saying that microwaves may vary, but I wish they'd give a few more instructions on how to tell if the meal is done. Anyway I did enjoy the taste of the stew. It had thick chunks of chicken and a great taste. It put me in the mind of Campbell's Chunky Soup. 7/10.

For my snack that day, I had an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. It was soft and chewy and tasted the way it was supposed to. 6/10.

For dinner that night, I went into the non-frozen box of shelf-stable meals again. I chose the box of pasta fagioli. Now, all my life I've heard of pasta fagioli, but I never had it. But I think this tasted pretty much the way it was supposed to taste. It had a rich tomato sauce, chunky tomatoes, beans, and a few carrots. Oh yeah, it also had something called "vegetarian sausage". As unpleasant as that sounds, they did a pretty good job with it--I'm pretty sure soy was involved here too. The texture was chewy like sausage, and the flavor was infused with the taste of the sauce, which was pretty good. Another 7/10, although I think my review is helped a little by the fact that I was pretty hungry by the time I ate it.

For dessert that night, I had a Blueberry Lemon Bar. This was a treat. It was like a lemony cookie bar with blueberry jam on it, and all covered with a white frosted coating. The taste and texture were excellent. 8/10.

On April 23, I was running late for the office again. Like I said, it's real convenient to grab food out of the box on the way out.

nutrisystem lunch grab For breakfast, I grabbed a granola bar, but silly me, I forgot to eat it. But it turned out for the best, as one of my co-workers brought in food (which was really good). So I took a little detour that morning.

By lunch, I was back. I had a plastic can of beef stew. Same deal with the other plastic cans--I had to put it in the microwave a little longer than the instructions said. I had a piping hot little bowl of beef stew that tasted surprisingly good. It had chewy beef, lots of potatoes and peas. 8/10.

For my snack, I had a peanut butter cookie. I gave this a 5/10, which probably would have been a 7/10 if I liked peanut butter cookies. Not that I hate them, but if I had chosen my own meals instead of having the "favorites" delivered to me, I probably would have chosen more salty snacks than cookies.

Dinner that night was from the non-frozen, shelf stable box again. It was Chicken Pasta Parmesan, with tomato sauce, white chicken meat, and curly pasta. Decent tasting. 7/10.

For a snack that night, I decided to have the oh-so-good Nacho crisps.

nutrisystem nacho crisps I gotta say, I wish I had some more bags of these.

On Day 15 (April 24), the day started with a "cranberry orange pastry".

orange cranberry pastry I had these with a cup of lemon herbal tea from my Keurig. It was soft and fresh, with an orange taste and real dried cranberries. I'd call it a 6/10, it'd probably be a 7/10 but I generally don't like orange pastries.

For lunch and my afternoon snack, it was another case of me running out the door. I grabbed a plastic can of pasta with beef and a chocolate chip cookie. The pasta with beef was, again, a lot like what you'd find in a can of Chef Boyardee. It had a decent taste (7/10). The cookie was good and chewy (8/10).

For dinner, I treated myself to one of the frozen meals that I'd been eyeing since the first day. Roast Turkey Medallions:

nutrisystem roast turkey medallionsThe vegetables were uncannily fresh, another success for the Nutrisystem/Schawns partnership. The carrots were crispy, the cauliflower tender, and the broccoli fresh. And the turkey was perfect--juicy with a great texture and the perfect consistency of turkey and gravy. (10/10).

To wrap up the day, I helped myself to another dessert from the frozen box. It's the "fudge swirl sundae". There's delicious vanilla ice cream (fat free, but it's impossible to tell), with real, rich fudge drizzled within it. It was extremely satisfying at the end of the day (10/10)

nutrisystem ice cream sundae

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Days 10 to 12: Getting used to Nutrisystem

I have to say, my body is getting used to the Nutrisystem. There are times when I do get a little hungry, but then again I think a lot of that is because I don't supplement the meals with fruits and vegetables these days (I haven't had a chance to go to the market).

Day 10
So, on to the food. For breakfast on Day 10 (April 19), I had a breakfast scone from the shelf-stable box. It was dry, but I think scones are supposed to be dry. I decided to do the classy English thing, and brewed up some English Breakfast Tea to go with it using my Keurig coffee and tea maker. The combination of the tea and the scone made for a quick and really good meal. I finished the meal off with a yogurt and felt satisfied all morning. (7/10)

For lunch, I decided to go with something from the frozen box. The "Frozen Toasted Ham and Cheese". This was the first Nutrisystem meal that didn't have microwaving as an option, so I cooked it in the oven. I took it out of its individually wrapped package and found what looked a lot like a Pop Tart in shape and size. I popped it into the oven and out came this:

An oh-so-yummy ham and cheese pop tart I have to say, this was oh-so-yummy. The outer crust was made of wheat and grains and had a really interesting texture. Inside, there was melted American cheese and ham. It tasted like a really good ham and cheese sandwich. (8/10)

Something I noticed I'm doing lately is chewing my food better. I used to be a lot like my old dog Happy, who had the uncanny ability to inhale food before even chewing it. But because the portion sizes are smaller, I'm savoring each bite of the meal, knowing that if I wolf down the meal in 10 seconds, there's less for me to enjoy. I'm not sure if it's an official part of the Nutrisystem plan to train dieters in proper mastication, but it worked for me.

For my afternoon snack, I had honey mustard pretzed sticks from the shelf-stable box. As with all their snacks, it looks like these pretzels are soy based. This made them lighter than regular pretzels, and I ate them happily (6/10).

For dinner that night, I had the "Oriental Steak with Green Peppers and Noodles" from the shelf-stable box. beef noodles There's something I'm noticing about these shelf-stable meals, and that's that they all have sort of the same theme. They're not the greatest things to look at out of the box, but once you heat them up, they're generally not bad to eat. They all sort of have a "canned food" feel to them, so if you like Chunky Soup or Spaghettios, you'll appreciate these meals more.

These oriental noodles, like a lot of these meals, had a thick sauce. The meat was surprisingly tender with a very satisfying texture. The noodles were a little disappointing...I like my Asian noodles stringy and chewy, but these were more like little strips of noodle. Still, it wasn't bad. (6/10)

Day 11
On Day 11, I decided to be brave and get something called "Scrambled Eggs" out of the shelf-stable box. This was less a meal and more an amazing magic trick.

The "eggs" was nothing more than a yellow powder. The instructions said to add water and stir, and then stick it in a microwave for 30 seconds. I did this, and 30 seconds later instead of powder, the cup had a thick, yellow goo. Per the instructions, I stirred again and put it in the microsave. 30 seconds later, presto-chango--it looked like a giant clump of scrambled egg!

yellow powder, nothing up my sleeves the magical eggs

I was amazed. I broke up the scrambled eggs and added it to a dollop of smoked salmon (yes, still trying to finish it).

the final scrambled eggs and smoked salmonSome salt and pepper, and it was a great meal, and totally unexpected (6/10).

Day 11 was a Monday, so I had to grab stuff out of the box to bring to work. I admit, being someone who's always in a rush, this is a feature of Nutrisystem that I love. As I'm running out the door, I just grab something marked "lunch" and something marked "snack", and I'm off. No brown paper bags or putting together of sandwiches or reheating leftovers.

For lunch, I had the canned cheese tortellini, and I bought a salad at our company's cafe, The tortellini (and most of their soups for lunch) comes in a plastic can that had a peel-off metal top. You microwave it for 60 seconds, and you're done.

The tortellini tasted okay. Nothing to write home about (5/10).

For dinner that night, I had Meatloaf & Tomato Sauce with Mashed Potatoes from the shelf-stable box. Now, being somewhat of a meatloaf snob (I cook a very mean meatloaf in real life), I had great expectations for this one.

meatloaf and mashed potatoes
The presentation was interesting. I heated it and plopped it out of the plastic tray, and the mashed potatoes were on top of the meatloaf, in a tomato sauce.

This one was a little disappointing. The meatloaf and the tomato sauce really didn't have much flavor. The mashed potatoes were pretty good. I'm giving it a 4/10, but again, 1-2 points may be because I'm a meatloaf afficianado.

So, after a day of mediocre-to-fair meals from the shelf-stable box, I decided to treat myself to something I had eyed since opening the frozen box.

Nutrisystem lets you creamsicles?Yes, that is a real orange creamsicle. You can tell it's fancy because instead of the word 'cream', it uses the word "creme" with an accent grave.

It looked like an orange creamsicle, and it tasted like an orange creamsicle. I didn't expect it to be so creamy. I have no idea how this could be fat-free, but I won't question it. (10/10)

an actual orange creamsicle from Nutrisystem Select
Day 12
On April 21, I decided to go with the frozen box for breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast was Nutrisystem Select pancakes. These were two pancakes that came frozen. Stick it in the microwave for one minute, add a tiny bit of maple syrup, and voila!

Nutrisystem Select Pancakes They were delicious, fluffy pancakes (9/10). I had some orange juice to go with it. This is a good example of how Nutrisystem helps with portion control. Before I started this diet, if I were to make pancakes, I'd mix up a huge amount of batter, and I'd stack them up five, six, seven, ten high. But now I realize I can be satisfied after two little pancakes. And yes, I'm still chewing the food more to savor it, which my digestive system is no doubt appreciative of.

For lunch, I went back to the frozen box and had the "vegetable pizza". The box came with its own crisping tray, so I microwaved it. It tasted really good (9/10). The portion size was a bit smaller than I would have liked, but again, the point is to supplement it with fresh vegetables.

The afternoon dessert was a "double chocolate chocolate cookie" from the shelf-stable box. Not bad taste, but the texture was a little chalky (5/10).

For dinner that night, I went to a ball game in Philadelphia. And of course, when you go to a ball game in Philadelphia, you need to treat yourself to a Philly cheesesteak. So I did, following my practice of allowing myself to go off the diet food in special circumstances. Normally, I would have also gotten the fries, but I can see the good habits are forming, because if my mind, a cheesesteak was enough to keep me happy. And it was a great cheesesteak (and a great game).

For dessert that night, I had the soy pretzels. Same thoughts as before: interesting, and not bad to eat.

On the Wii front, I have somewhat fallen off the exercise bandwagon lately, but I did get a new game, Shawn White Snowboarding, which I'll review soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Days 7 to 9 - Back on the Saddle

I'm still feeling my way around how to go about posting this blog. I figure I'll just post every few days with reports of what I ate, how it tasted, and what exercise I got.

Day 7
On Day 7 (April 16), I took a day off work and went to Opening Day at the New Yankee Stadium. I also took a day off the diet. Since this is a diet and exercise blog, I won't go into the game, but I will go into the food. It is amazing. They have Carl's cheesesteaks, garlic fries, Carvel ice cream, Boar's Head deli sandwiches, Famiglia pizzas, sushi and noodles, and of course, hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and cracker jack.

And one more new food vendor which I found very, very interesting. Lobel's calls themselves the "butcher to the stars", and they have a stand with hand-cut steak sandwiches.

My friend and I stood on line for about 40 minutes as they were carving the meat off of the bones for the sandwich. They were even handing out the bones to people on the line to gnaw on.

lobels steak sandwiches lobel steak sandwiches at yankee stadium

So, why am I posting this on my diet and exercise blog? Well, because my philosophy about diet and exercise is not that your life has to end when you go on a diet. Sure, you can treat yourself, and if you do, just exercise a little bit more the next day. If you plan on being sedentary, then don't treat yourself.

Anyway, after the steak sandwich (which indeed was one of the best sandwiches I've eaten in my life), it was back on the Nutrisystem diet.

That night I had the frozen Chicken Alfredo entree. Once again, it was outstanding, better than any TV dinner I've had. The chicken was tender, the carrots and broccoli crunchy, and the pasta

nutrisystem chicken alfredo
Overall, I'd rate the meal a 9 out of 10.

For dessert that night, I enjoyed a bag of Nacho Crisps from the non-frozen package of food. These were surprisingly good. They were crunchier than any regular potato chip or crisp I usually had. I'd compare the texture to a pork rind, but instead of deep fried fat, this was deep fried soy protein, tapioca, and cheese. As unappetizing as that might sound, it was very good. 10 out of 10.

At night, I exercised for 30 minutes with Gold's Gym Cardio.

Day 8
For Day 8, I went completely back on the Nutrisystem food, going all non-frozen. The nice thing about the non-frozen food is that it's very convenient to bring to the office. For breakfast, I grabbed a cranberry granola bar. A bit dry, but it tasted pretty good when washed down with a bottle of Fiji Water (6/10).

For lunch, I tried the "pasta parmesian with broccoli". This was an interesting one. It comes in a cup, the same kind that you find ramen noodles in. It worked the same way--just add hot water, let it sit for a few minutes, and stir. I have to say the smell was quite unpleasant, and the noodles didn't cook all the way. But it was edible, and it tasted okay (5/10).

For dinner, I tried the lasagna. Of all the non-frozen entrees I've had so far, this tasted the best so far. It tasted, well, like lasagna. You had the pasta, the ground beef, the ricotta cheese all piping hot and tasting pretty good (8/10).

nutrisystem lasagna
For dessert that night, I reached into the box and pulled out a bag of "pretzels". They tasted more like saltines in a pretzel shape, but I have to admit they were quite tasty (7/10). Reading the ingredients, I saw they were made of soy, which seems to be a trend. Ah, those magical beans.

Day 9
For day 9, it was a beautiful day, so I decided to take the bike out and ride. I like using the Wii to exercise when I'm too tired to get out of the house on a weekday or when the weather outside isn't great (which happens a lot here on the East Coast during the winter and summer months). But on those handfuls of days in the years when it's absolutely gorgeous, I definitely try to get out.

Breakfast on Day 9 was from the frozen kit. A vegetable frittata strata. Now, I've cooked up frittatas in the past, but usually they required about 20 eggs. This frittata came in a cute little tin. It was definitely delicious. It had a slightly crispy top, and inside was a blend of puffed egg, herbs, and a balanced taste of spinach, peppers, zucchini, and of course parmesan cheese. A cup of yogurt and grapes completed breakfast. (9/10)

For lunch I had another frozen entree--the steak and cheese melt. Think "healthier version of a Hot Pocket". This is anothe example of "it tastes better than it looks"--like all the other frozen entrees, it tasted really good (9/10).

nutrisystem frittata
Afternoon dessert was a white chocolate chunk cookie (7/10), and for dinner was chicken with dumplings from the non-frozen box, which reminded me of Chunky soup, but the dumplings were especially chunky, the way I like them (7/10). For dessert, I helped myself to another ice cream sandwich :)

I admit, there are times when I feel hungry. I think one of the problems is that I don't supplement the meals with vegetables the way I'm supposed to. But I'll be making a trip to H-Mart next week, and to BJ's after that, so I should be stocked up after that. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 4 to 6 - Not so successfully balancing the Nutrisystem diet with everyday dining

On Monday, I started the remainder week of trying to figure out how to balance Nutrisystem with my regular life. For breakfast, I started out with Maple Walnut Oatmeal for breakfast. It worked the same way as the instant oatmeal you'd find in the supermarket (just add hot water), but the oats did seem a different texture than the instant oatmeal. It also wasn't as sweet, which actually made it taste better.

For lunch, I took my two wonderful co-workers out to lunch. One ordered ribs, while the other ordered a steak. I ordered a veggie burger. It was a delicious veggie burger though :) But after lunch, I took them to McDonalds for some ice cream, and of course, I had to have some myself. too.

For dinner that night were Tacos. This was also from the "just add water" school. I was a little taken aback when I was told to open a package of dust and to add water.

But this is another case of having to throw your doubts to the wind. After thoroughly mixing up the mixture, I microwaved it and put it on the small taco shells Nutrisystem provided.

Believe it or not, it didn't taste bad. Again, it wasn't Wolfgang Puck's, but it was definitely not unpleasant to eat. The beef and the contents of the taco were all dehydrated, and adding water brought it all back. The beef was surprisingly still pretty beefy.

For dessert that night I had BBQ Soy Chips and water.

The next day is when I really fell off the wagon. I flew to Tampa for a day trip, and my hosts treated me to a LOT of food. I'm talking a Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny's, an all-you-can-eat buffet, and McDonalds for dinner. Pretty much the exact opposite of the Nutrisystem diet.

The next morning and afternoon, I flew back to New York, and I reverted to bad habits. I didn't eat breakfast, and for lunch I had about the worst thing you could have: a bag of chips, a granola bar and a soda.

Not surprisingly, when I weighed in today, I had put back on 1.1 pounds. I'm actually amazed it wasn't more. As disappointing as this setback was, one good thing is that it felt...weird to be reverting to bad habits. I recognized that I was eating larger-than-normal portions, I realized that I was not eating regular meals, and I recognized when my food (like the chips and soda) were chock-full of BAD carbs. As I continue the diet (the way it's supposed to be done), I'm sure these things will be more and more foreign to me.

I jumped back on the wagon for dinner. I had a Nutrisystem BBQ Sauce Over Beef, Beans, and Rice (another regular, non-frozen entree). I see a trend among these non-frozen Nutrisystem dinners--they're all not the most appetizing things to look at (especially out of the package), but they are surprisingly good tasting as long as you go in with no expectations. In this case, the barbeque sauce was tangy and pretty good tasting, the beef was tender, and the rice had soaked in another of the sauce to be really quite tasty.

I'm down to my last orange and grapes in the fridge, so I am due for a run to the market to get more vegetables and fruit. As for taking off that 1.1 pounds, I will be spending extra time on the Wii tonight.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day 3 - Balancing the Nutrisystem diet with everyday dining

This week is going to be an interesting one, as I'll be travelling out at lot (I've been working ridiculous hours at my day job, so I'm taking off a few days to unwind).

On Sunday, I started the morning with a Nutrisystem Apple Granola Bar and water, which was surprisingly good (I'm saying "surprisingly good" a lot). It was chewy and full of apple flavor, but not sickeningly sweet like those "snack bars" you buy in the supermarket.

I spent the day in the wonderful New York Botanical Gardens with a wonderful person :). We did a lot of walking around the Gardens but the time flew by, so I didn't even realize I was getting exercise (exercise which, admittedly, at the end of the day still turns out to be much better than running alone through a virtual cartoon world). I've decided that I'm going to stick to the diet 90% of the time, which means that 10% of the time I can still eat regular food with friends from time to time.

But interestingly, I think Nutrisystem's brilliant way of positive brainwashing is working wonders. When it came time to choose the food to eat, while I normally would have chosen a bag of chips or a high-sugar soda, I instinctively went with an egg salad sandwich on whole-grain bread, a bowl of soup and a Coke Zero. Read: low-glycemic choices. I think this is the secret to making the Nutrisystem diet stick--it's not Nutrisystem giving you fish, but it's teaching you to fish. When you learn instinctively to make the right food and portion choices, that's when you really benefit.

Oh yes, the sandwich and soup were out of this world.

I didn't "snack properly", which I will definitely do on more "routine" days, but for dinner I had (from the non-frozen food choices) the Cajun Style Chicken and Sausace with Rice, along with the leftover, leftover broccoli from two days ago and 15 grapes :) Okay, the picture doesn't do it justice, but surprisingly the food tasted pretty good. It was very, very much like New Orleans Jamabalaya in the taste and consistency. I admit, there's a part of me that's still getting used to the fact that I'm cooking vacuum-packed food, but then again, if it's good enough for NASA and the US Army, by gum it's good enough for me.

For dessert, I had a rich, delicious chocolate brownie, again from the non-frozen food. I'm not sure how they keep it so moist and fresh in the package, but it certainly tasted like a brownie. I washed it down with some refreshing Fiji water.

So far so good. As for the rest of the week, I think Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday I'll be on the normal routine, but on Tuesday I'm flying to Tampa to see a friend (who owes me a Cuban sandwich after I bet him the Phillies would win the World Series last year) and I'll be in Yankee Stadium for the home opener on Tuesday. So while I won't be breaking the diet, I will perhaps be bending it a little. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 2 - First taste of the Frozen Food

So, today I decided to try the Nutrisystem frozen option for the first time. It was admittedly difficult to choose where to start first, but I decided to go with the Garden Vegetable Omelette for breakfast. Again, I had to raid the fridge to find something to meet the categories of "fruit" and "protein", so I decided to have 15 grapes (yes, you have to count them out), and a little bit of smoked salmon.

The omelette could be prepared in one of two ways: by steaming it in the package in a pot of boiling water, or by microwaving. Being on the lazy side, I went the nuclear option.

I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was an omlette that tasted, felt, smelled, and looked like a real omelette. Inside was a delicious mix of cheese, vegetables. For someone who hasn't eaten breakfast before, this was certainly a treat inded.

For lunch, I decided to have the margherita pizza. I happen to have a pizza stone in the oven, so I preheated the oven to 425, and 10 minutes later, I had this.

It tasted like pizza, and it crunched like pizza. Had I had gotten a pizza from Ginos on the corner, I probably would have had two slices, and then a third, and then a fourth, and maybe a fifth. But in this case, the portion size was just fine, knowing that I had a snack waiting for me down the road.

Speaking of dessert, I decided to go for the peach crisp.

Okay, it doesn't look all that appetizing. The peach slices are supposed to be covered in the batter, but somewhere down the road it seems to have gotten disassembled. But I have to say that it all still tasted pretty good. The peach slices were sweet, and the crumble part was crunchy and pretty good.

For dinner, I chose the Asian-style beef. You have the option of cooking it in the over or the microwave, and I chose the microwave again.

I was pretty shocked at how fresh things were. It was not like your typical TV dinner. The beef was tender, and the broccoli, red peppers, and water chestnuts were surprisingly crisp and fresh, something I hadn't expected in a frozen dinner. It was all in a delicious sauce that was slightly sweet and tangy. For my serving of fruit, I had a glass of orange juice (although I should note they recommend fruit rather than fruit juice for the daily servings of fruit). I added some of the leftover broccoli from yesterday for my vegetable. Overall, this meal was an A.

Dessert tonight was an A+.

Yes, that's a real ice cream sandwich that tastes just as good as anything you enjoyed in grade school.

For my exercise today, I spent about 30 minutes on Gold's Cardio Workout again. While it's fun, I have to say, so far I'm not too impressed with the workout level of this program. I'm hoping as I "unlock" new levels, I get access to much more rigorous workouts, but for now I feel I'm getting the same workout as I would if I was playing Guitar Hero. To try to salvage some workout, I did some hula hooping and running and step exercises with Wii Fit.

Anyway, the good news is, I'm back to 203.7 pounds now, so at least I'm heading back in the right direction!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 1 - Potato Wedges and Sliced Beef Steak for Dinner

I fell off the wagon already, sort of. I went to see a movie this afternoon and ate what you usually eat in movie theaters for lunch, which is certainly not one of the menu options. Still, I'm not going to feel guilty about it...I figure if I stick to Nutrisystem 90% of the time and eat regular food when I go out with friends, that'll still be progress.

Here's the dinner update.

Like I said, today, I'm going for the "regular" (not frozen) Nutrisystem food. I chose the "Wedged Potato with Sliced Beef Steak" as the first meal.

This is what the picture on the box looked like. Pretty good, huh?

This is what it looks like out of the box. Not so good, huh? At first I was a little thrown off that this was a plastic tray that didn't need to be frozen or refrigerated, but as I looked carefully at the package, it's sealed very, very tightly so the food inside is vacuum sealed and kept fresh naturally like canned food. It's actually more like a military MRE (meal ready to eat) than a TV dinner.

So how did it taste? Actually, you might be surprised to hear that once it was heated up, it was not bad at all, although admittedly I made sure not to go in with super-high expectations. There were potato slices, real chunks of beef, corn, and gravy. It tasted just like beef stew.
I cooked up some broccoli too (since fresh vegetables is an important part of this diet, I'd strongly recommend a cookbook my sister gave me called Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone). There's a recipe for broccoli tossed with red pepper flakes and a little parmesan cheese which is out of this world. According to the back of the book, I'm allowed to eat two portions of 1/2 cup each, so I dished myself up a cup of broccoli.

I still have a fruit to eat (it'll be an orange) and a snack, but overall I'd say I was very, very satisfied with today's meal. Tomorrow will be frozen food, and I am looking forward to it!

Day 1 of the Nutrisystem Diet - Breakfast. So far so good.

I probably won't give you detailed account of every single thing I eat every single day for the next month, unless I'm going after the World's Most Boring Blog award. But since this is the first day, I thought I'd expound a little on the experience.

I'm normally someone who skips breakfast. Over the years, I just stopped eating it, and my body eventually got used to it. But this is bad for several reasons. First, when you starve yourself, you tend to eat bigger portions later on in the day. Second, the main purpose of eating is to give your body fuel for the day, and if the tank is empty you're going to have a hard time getting going. Third, they say that lots of small meals is much better for your body's metabolism than one or two gigantic meals. And I am the king of low metabolism, so I need all the help I can get. I have friends who lose weight when they sneeze, when I can go days without food and gain weight :P

Anyway, today's breakfast consisted of Nutrisystem Blueberry Muffins. Now, just to set expectations, they were hardly bakery fresh. I'd say they were more like a very, very thick and soft cookie, the kind you'd find in the cookie aisle. Still, it tasted okay. It was soft, and pretty satisfying.

Nutrisystem book tells you to add a "dairy or protein" and a "fruit", so I referenced the back of the book for acceptable ones. I ended up adding a hard-boiled egg and a banana, which I happened to have. They also say to add a "carbohydrate", but I didn't have any of that handy.

Since on Iron Chef, presentation is a big chunk of the score, I figured I'd be a little creative with what the meal looked like:

I admit, I feel like a bit of a glutton, because I normally don't eat this much in the beginning of the day. But in a way, I think Nutrisystem is teaching me good eating habits.

I'll post later in the day to talk about lunch and dinner and all these snacks I'm supposed to be eating.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Starting the Nutrisystem Diet

If you look at the graph on the home page of, you'll see that on February 24, I was a whopping 219.8 pounds. With no changes to my diet but exercise on the Wii, I was able to drop that to 202.6 pounds. That seems to be where I settled for about a week.

Add a week of poor eating habits (think: unlimited chocolate, free bagels in the office, not to mention clearing out all the junk in the fridge plus one last visit to McDs for dinner), and it looks like I crept back up to 205.5 pounds. That's going the wrong direction to 175.

So I'm starting the Nutrisystem Diet tomorrow. As you see from my post the other day, I have all the food, so it's just a matter of filling out the little book and deciding what to eat every day for the next two months. I decided to start slow and fill it out just for the next two days.

I gotta admit it's fun to choose from the huge assortment of food I got from Nutrisystem. I get to choose between Pizza and Chicken Alfredo and Lasagna and dozens of other tasty entrees.

What makes it a little complicated is that in order for it to work its best, you need to supplement it with fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein and "good carbs". So for those who dream that Nutrisystem means they never have to go grocery shopping again, you're out of luck. My plan is to go to BJs once every few weeks to stock up, although that probably means I'll be eating the same fruits and vegetables for days.

So, I planned out Friday 4/9/09 and Saturday 4/10/09. I decided to make Friday a day to try out the standard food, and Saturday a day to try out the frozen food. I'll post as much as I can on daily basis to let you know my progress.

On the exercise front, I worked out using Gold Gym Cardio for about 30 minutes, and then the Aerobic exercises on the Wii Fit for another 15 minutes today.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout for Wii Review

In case you're wondering, I haven't started the Nutrisystem diet yet. The food is still sitting in the freezer and in the box. What I've been doing all week is clearing out the fridge of all the food that was in there, and once the fridge is clear I'll start the diet. Ironically, this means I've been eating a bit more than usual these days. But happily, my weight seems to have stayed somewhat stable.

I did get in the mail the other day a copy of Gold's Gym Cardio Workout for the Wii. I'll post a short review in the Best Exercise Games for the Wii section of this site, but I figured I'd post a full review here.

Overall, I'd say it's a decent workout game, nothing spectacular, but a nice game to have in your arsenal of Wii workout games. There are really two major parts of the game: one where you do boxing with your Wii-mote, and the other where you do traditional cardio workouts using the Wii Balance Board.

The boxing part is pretty comprehensive. The on-screen instructor teaches you all about how to properly throw different kinds of punches: jabs, hooks, upper cuts, cross, as well as defensive techniques like weaving, and dodging.

You go through training for each kind of punch, and you can even take a series of exams to see how well you do. As you pass each test, you unlock new exercises and you earn "Gold" (in some shameless product placement) in order to buy new on-screen clothes and accessories for your character (which is not your Mii, unfortunately). While you can use a Wii and a Nunchuck, two Wii-motes are highly recommended to get the precise movement down.

The cardio part is good. It doesn't introduce any exercises you can't already do on your own without the game, but having the game with its music and its graphical on-screen tracking of your progress is good motivation. It uses the Wii balance board, but it doesn't use it as part of the actual exercise as much as just as a "spotter" for counting the number of reps you do dor things like squats and situps. It'll measure shifts in your weight to determine if you're doing the exercise correctly. For example, when doing squats, a voice will tell you to "squat down" and "rise up", and you have only a short time to do the rep for it to count in your total.

Both these kinds of exercises come together in the "Workout session". You can follow a prepared regimen, or you can choose exercises a la carte. When you select a prepared workout, like the other Ubisoft title "My Fitness Coach", you get a virtual trainer who'll talk you through the exercises. You can choose an environment (forest, seaside, gym), and work out amid the scenery and the appropriate sound effects. They also introduced a music selection, but the only really recognizable song is Survivor's Eye of the Tiger, which they must have paid a lot of licensing costs to use, because they use it over and over. Still, if it worked for Rocky, why not you?

Here are some other observations:
  1. Sometimes the movements are not picked up easily. Your best bet is to use highly exagerrated moves when this happens. For example, when throwing a left hook, position your hand all the way to the right and the quickly sweep it as far and as fast as you can to the left. Sometimes it helps to point the tip of the Wiimote toward the sensor bar, even if it makes you slightly lose form.
  2. The opposite is true too. Punches may not be detected precisely, so when you're asked to do a right upper cut and you do a right cross, it'll accept it. In these cases you're on the "honor system" for throwing the right kind of punch.
  3. The sound is a little unsynchronized at times. Sometimes it's spot-on, while other times you'll throw a punch and you'll hear it register a half second later, which takes getting used to.
  4. In order to get the "cardio" part in, they tell you to weave back and forth all the time you're boxing. Again, you're on the "honor system" to do that.
Whatever the flaws of the game, it's the right price and it's probably the best upper body workout I've found so far. DDR and Outdoor Challenge tend to be good for the lower body, Wii Fit is good for overall wellness, but this game really gets your arms and torso in shape. It's a good choice when you've mastered Wii Sports Boxing enough to the point where you can beat all opponents without a sweat, and want to try something on the Wii that simulates real boxing a little better.

Like Wii Fit and Outdoor Challenge and DDR, you get to "stamp" a calendar every time you do a workout. I wish Nintendo would come up with a way to consolidate all these different calendars into one view,but I guess that would mean working with all different vendors who are producing competing products.

My rating is a 4 out of 5. Workout intensity is a 4 out of 5, while Fun is a 4 out of 5 too.