Cooking in the Zone!

When I began the Zone Diet I became extremely frustrated. I have always loved to cook. I actually wanted to go to culinary school out of high school, and for a year I worked as a sous chef at Old Heidelberg, a German bistro. Once Jeff and I decided to make the transition to the Zone wholeheartedly, I realized the difficult road ahead of me. I knew that I had to change my diet, and after reading Dr. Sears’ book I believed the Zone was the best way. However, my favorite cook books were seemingly useless. I had to find a solution, and I did. Read on to find out more.

Weighing and measuring were fine for breakfast, and even lunch. It is not difficult to count your eggs and turkey sausage and omit your toast for some fruit. Lunch is much the same. Replace the bologna on white bread for turkey on an oat pita. Where I struggled was cooking dinner. After a few attempts of weighing and measuring everything that went into my favorite casserole, I was finally able to make it Zone friendly. However, once everything was cooked together it was almost impossible to measure out correct protein/carb/fat portions. This is where being married to an engineer became difficult. One night I had spent almost two hours preparing a chicken primavera casserole dish. It looked delicious and I was extremely proud that I had made something I love into a Zone friendly meal…but wait. As Jeff sat in front of his meal he began to quiz me.

“How many blocks of protein are in this?”

I replied,  “7 blocks total– 4 for you and 3 for me.”

He then asked, “No I mean how many blocks do I have on my plate right now?”

“Ah, about 4 blocks.” I said…but I was not really sure.

Then to make matters worse he proceeded to ask the amount of carb blocks and fat blocks that were on his plate. I could not answer the questions with certainty and we both knew that my casserole lacked the precision and accuracy the zone requires.
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This was very difficult for a wife who loves to cook to not be able to produce healthy meals for her family. I had second thoughts about whether the Zone Diet could be a lifelong change, or if it would be something you do off and on throughout your lifetime. I was leaning towards the latter. Thankfully, I realized that there is a different way to cook when zoning. I can no longer cook casseroles, or mix everything into a baking dish for dinner. Cooking everything separately is the key to success. I will use Chicken Primavera as an example. Cook your chicken, fresh vegetables (squash, broccoli, cauliflower), and spaghetti sauce separately. On your plate measure out your steamed veggies (which is the replacement for spaghetti) and your weighed chicken and cheese. Apply the correct amount of sauce and add cut Greek olives on the top. Now you have a modified chicken primavera on your plate. It is delicious and you can ensure the measurements are correct and zone balanced!

This also is great for leftovers. You can store everything individually so you can use the leftover chicken the next day with salsa and black beans to make a totally different meal, or you could weigh and measure the leftovers into rubber containers and save yourself some time preparing your next meal. Overall, once you get accustomed to cooking all items individually you will realize that you really don’t need to throw everything into a baking dish and add butter to make something your family will love. You can still make your favorite dishes! You just cannot cook them all together. If you do weigh and measure before you cook, ensure you can serve the right ratios to everyone. For example, I often bake chicken and carrots in the same dish because they are very simple to measure separately after cooking.

This change is not easy, and at first it was not fun. But now after doing this for almost a year I have found my love for cooking again and I believe I have made some pretty awesome Zone friendly meals… although you might want to ask Jeff since I am a little biased 🙂

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