Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making the Most of It When Your Meals Are Out of Your Control

I spent last week in Indianapolis as one of the lucky few who were chosen to participate in this year's AFSCME Women's Leadership Academy. It was actually the reason that I started this low carb diet when I did, because I knew it was coming up, and really needed to feel good and have energy for this adventure. The experience was great, but it can be hard to adjust to living in a hotel for a week. The biggest challenge was the fact that I had little control over what I was served for meals, so I had to work with what I had in front of me and make the best decisions I could, given the limited options. Luckily, the most important meal of the day, breakfast, always had easy low carb options. The hotel I was at, Embassy Suites downtown Indianapolis, had a great hot breakfast buffet, and even had staff on hand for customized omelettes. My typical breakfast each morning was scrambled eggs, sausage, and a little bit of fruit, with an iced coffee. It was so tasty, it was actually easy to bypass all the pancakes, french toast and danishes!
Breakfast of champions!
I managed to stay in ketosis for the first two days, but quickly realized that reaching keto levels of low carb was going to be hard, and I just needed to do the best I could, and not beat myself up over a few carbs. With limited options and not enough time to leave the building to find other choices, I had to make the best of my situation. (Plus the meals provided were free.) Luckily, all of our meals had more than one main dish, and most of them had something that would work for me. There were a couple that were tough though, like the baked potato bar, and the pasta bar days. Every meal did have a large iceberg, cucumber and tomato salad, and a huge bowl of mixed fruit salad, so I tried to eat some that with every meal. I didn't feel bad about consuming the sugar found naturally in fruit, because come on. That's a pretty virtuous splurge in the grand scheme of things. Here are some highlights of my meal choices last week:

Iceberg salad with ranch, green beans with pepperoni, sliced pork, piece of chicken

I was so excited to see a spinach salad with strawberries and feta- that was the first thing that reminded me of home! I made it a meal by adding chicken.

Steamed broccoli and beef in gravy.

On deli wrap day, I tried to avoid eating most of my tortilla, but filled up on salad.

On build your own sandwich day, I cut up deli meats and cheese to turn my side salad into a main dish chef's salad.
We did have a little time to ourselves, and I was able to eat some great salads out at restaurants then. Again, probably not as keto as when I can make them myself and control the salad dressing ingredients, but still pretty darn good carb wise, and definitely delicious! 
I had the Farmer's Market Steak Salad at the Colts Grille next to the hotel for lunch as soon as I arrived. 

I was really looking forward to going to California Pizza Kitchen on my free night. I always long for their salads, and I wasn't disappointed. I ordered two half size salads, because I couldn't decide on one. This is the caramelized peach salad with craisins, goat cheese, and red onion. I added grilled shrimp to mine. 

My other CPK half salad was a California Fields salad, which had strawberries, watermelon, basil, feta cheese and pistachios. I added grilled chicken too. It was AMAZING. (This was the culinary highlight of my week!) I can't wait to recreate this one at home!
One lesson I learned the hard way, unfortunately, is that I am sensitive to a preservative commonly used on hotel salads. I got sick on the last day of my trip, and luckily was able to made it through the day and get home, but I still felt bad all weekend. I did some research on my unique symptoms (I will spare you the details) and learned about the hotel salad thing. Great! I was trying my best to be healthy and avoid carbs, and it kind of backfired on me. So, my advice to you is that, given the limited options, try your best to choose low carb foods that are cooked, and don't rely on salad as the main part of every meal. In the worst case scenario, just do what you can to minimize your carb intake, like peeling the breading off of your chicken, or eating the contents of a sandwich without the bread. Because you can always go right back to eating how you prefer when it is on your own terms again. I was worried that slipping up on a few carbs was going to bring my sugar cravings back with a vengeance, but I actually found myself craving my keto foods that I had grown accustomed to, not only because they taste great, but also because they make me feel so good! I am so glad to be home, and enjoying being back in the swing of things. I have another week long trip coming up next month, and now I will be better prepared to eat well without getting sick! 

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