Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to survive without bread and pizza

This package of Syrian bread has been in my freezer since the second half of 2010.
I find whole-wheat pasta to be a great substitute for bread with my morning eggs.
With beautiful wild and farmed fish like this, who needs meat or poultry?
For lunch, Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers with kimchi and red-pepper paste.
A two-cheese, egg-white omelet with brown rice is the closest I get to eating pizza.

I've struggled with my weight since I was a rotund 13-year-old, but only found the key to taking off the pounds in 2010, when I started going to the gym five days a week.

Between May 2008 and the end of 2009, my weight increased to 228 from 205, bringing a warning from my doctor to "love food less."

After I stopped eating meat and poultry in February 2010, I was able to shave off 3 pounds. I  weighed 225 and had a 42-inch waist.

Then, at the gym, I started training with Nick Manzo (his last name is the Italian word for beef). 

Goodbye to bread

We talked about my diet, and all the bread I ate, as well as having pizza every couple of weeks. He suggested cutting out those two favorite foods.

The pounds started coming off, and in about a year, I was down to 200. 

In September 2011, I had open-heart surgery to replace a valve, and after the operation, lost another 10 pounds.

Gym aided recovery

The year I spent at the gym before the operation, plus my weight loss, allowed me to leave the hospital in 4 days, instead of the usual 6 or 7.

I've continued to lose weight, though much more slowly, and now weigh about 187. My old pants, with 38-inch waists, fit me loosely.

Do I miss bread and pizza? Of course.  

Bread lover

I always had Syrian pocket bread in my freezer, and I'd make small snack sandwiches of sliced cheese and smoked salmon.

Now, I eat them out of hand.

I ate Fattal's pocket bread with hummus or dipped it into extra-virgin olive oil. I even stuffed salad and hummus into Syrian bread. 

For many years, before I switched to sliced bread, I ate one of those enormous New Jersey pumpernickel-rye bagels for breakfast every day, usually with homemade yogurt cheese.

I also bought bread nearly every week at Balthazar Bakery in Englewood, favoring its crusty baguette for sandwiches and its dinner rolls, and I'd eat bread with all of my meals.

So, I've come up with a few strategies to make the no-bread diet more palatable.

Between the bread

Before my diet, I had a sandwich for breakfast every day. 

For example, I'd layer smoked salmon, cheese, tomato and organic spring mix between toasted slices of 100% whole-grain bread, which would be spread with pesto, and eat kimchi on the side.

Now, I deconstruct the sandwich, eliminating the bread and adding a lot more spring mix as the foundation for the meal. 

Leftovers for breakfast

I blur the boundary between meals, eating leftover whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and sweet potatoes for breakfast with eggs or omelets -- as bread substitutes.

I find my body processes whole-grain products better than conventional rice and pasta, and baked sweet potatoes are far better for me than white potatoes.

No dessert

When I was younger, I might have had a slice of sweet potato pie or rice pudding now and then, but I eliminated all sweets from my diet many years ago, and avoid butter  and heavy cream like the plague.

The perfect end to a meal is the pairing of fruit and cheese, such as a Grana Padano from Italy. 

Spanish fig-and-nut cake, figs or dates also end a meal on a sweet note. 

Perfect snacks are raw, unsalted almonds or walnut halves I roast at home. 

Other kinds of fat

To fill in for the fat in meat and poultry, I've added whole- and reduced fat cheeses to my diet, along with the part-skim-milk cheeses I always ate.

And I use heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil liberally -- whether cooking eggs, dressing salads or drizzling on plated whole-wheat pasta. 

A dinner of wild sockeye salmon (frozen) with a baked sweet potato.

A breakfast cheese omelet with sweet potato.

I try to eat only two meals a day -- breakfast and dinner -- and carry nut-and-fruit, and Soyjoy bars to still hunger pangs.

If I meet a friend for lunch, I'll usually have a bowl of soup and a cup of black coffee, as I did today at the Coach House Restaurant in Hackensack.

I eat lots of healthy wild-caught seafood, whole fish and fillets with heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, and don't miss meat or poultry, especially because it is such a challenge to find naturally raised products.

A perfect meal: Sea bass, brown rice, salad and a glass of wine.

I drink only water, seltzer, coffee, tea or wine with meals. I eat a salad or steamed vegetables every day, and some days, I have both.

A salad a day keeps the doctor away.
Whole sea bass with sweet peppers, onions and inexpensive sake.

Kimbap is a Korean roll with white rice, vegetables, imitation crab and egg.


  1. "With beautiful, wild-caught fish like this, who needs meat or poultry?"

    The branzino is farm-raised. Says so on the sign.

  2. Hey, buddy, some of those fish are farm raised just so you know. Peace.

  3. Thanks.

    Actually, Whole Foods Market is the only retailer I know that certifies its farmed fish was raised without antibiotics, preservatives and other harmful additives.


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