Salmon + veg quinoa bowl with creamy tahini dressing

Walking downtown the other night, I saw this couple coming out of a burger joint, presumably after having indulged in a meal which may have included fries, onion rings, and maybe a milkshake. Sometimes you just crave a good hamburger with all the fixin’s and the greasy sides that go along with it. They probably really enjoyed their meal, I know I would have! Just then, they walk right into the heavenly smell of freshly made waffle cones coming out of the Marble Slab next door. Can you guess what happened? The guy is already sold, and asks the girl if she wants to go in to get dessert, or at least just look – the most deceiving words of all time; you go in, you’re not coming out empty handed. She replies with a stern “no”, while half laughing. Oh c’mon, pleads the guys, as the girl keeps walking towards the car as if distance from the ice cream parlour will make it easier for her to stick to her guns.

I didn’t park myself on the side of the street to watch how their exchange ended, but I thought it comical, definitely having been in this situation before with a significant other or friend, especially when the person you’re with doesn’t share your goals. The struggle is real.

It’s easy to give in and overindulge; you just ate a greasy burger, why not finish the night off strong with some ice cream? Sometimes we feel guilty for eating foods we know aren’t good for us, and tell ourselves that the damage is already done so why not make a day of it and start again tomorrow. You could use this strategy, or you could learn how to treat yourself in moderation, with no guilt attached. 

Even when you’re making a conscious effort to make healthy choices, whatever your source of motivation, it’s still important to treat yourself! Really, it is. Deprivation is your worst enemy when you’re trying to fight cravings and break old habits. Depending on your goals, treating yourself a little every day, or in a bigger way once a week or once a month can help you stay on track in the long run. Treating yourself doesn’t always have to be with foods that you choose not to indulge in on a regular basis. You could treat yourself with a massage, a manicure, new clothes, whatever brings you a little bit of happiness! But here, today, it’s all about how to have those indulgent meals and not fall completely off the wagon.

1. Have a snack.

You’ve been looking forward to it all week – plans to catch up with some friends over sushi. You’ve made lots of healthy food choices this week, been consistent, and your workouts have been feeling fab! Prime time to treat yourself, right? Go into the situation with confidence that you can enjoy yourself without overdoing it and you’ll come out on top.

Some people think that they can save up their day’s calories by restricting intake in order to accommodate for indulgences later on. What ends up happening is they arrive far too hungry to make good choices, and they end up way overdoing it. Have a snack about two hours before you know you will be entering any situation where there will be many indulgent food choices, and you may be tempted to engage in social or emotional eating, even the happy, celebratory kind. If you have a few bites of something nourishing beforehand (preferably something with some protein) you will reinforce your healthy habits, and be less likely to overdo it with the treats because your hunger is in check and you don’t feel deprived.

2. Use the hunger check.

So many of us struggle with this – modern day life has made it difficult to stay in tune with our bodies’ cues. We are all exposed to so much external stimulation that we have a hard time dialling in on the physiological signals our own bodies are designed to send us in order to preserve our health and well-being. Cravings for sugar and junk food are often mistaken for hunger, when really our bodies are just reacting to stress or to being deprived of much needed nutrients.

Do you know what real hunger feels like? Do you know what it feels like to eat until you are 80% full, and not past the point of no return which leaves you groaning in discomfort? Next time you’re sitting in front of the TV after a long day’s work and you feel the munchies coming on, try this: ask yourself if you would eat something healthy, like an apple, or maybe leftovers from dinner – if the answer is no, you’re probably not actually hungry.

Maybe you’re bored (we all know there’s nothing good on TV these days anyways). Maybe you’re actually dehydrated. Maybe you’re stressed, still mulling over the day’s trials and tribulations and looking for a feel-good distraction. Once you start to check in with yourself and learn to listen to your body, you’ll be able to more easily establish what it is your body is actually calling out for, and deliver it. Chances are it’s not chips.

3. Let go of perfection.

The best place to start when trying to overhaul your diet is sustainability. I don’t mean sustainability in the sense of plant-based proteins and sustainably caught fish, although those things are important too. No, I mean can you sustain whatever eating pattern and rules you’ve vowed to follow for the long haul? Can you see yourself eating this way for the rest of your life? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track!

We have a tendency to put food into categories in order to establish guidelines for ourselves so that we know when we are perfectly following the plan without breaking the rules, and when we slip up. The reality is that if you tell yourself cookies are off limits, you’re likely going to crave them more, and treating yourself with one cookie quickly turns into 10, followed by a wave of self-destructive guilt.

There’s real power in taking 1 or 2 bites of a treat and being able to stop, satisfied. There’s power in not feeling like you want to devour the ‘forbidden’ food in front of you for fear of missing out. Don’t set unsustainably strict rules for yourself. Don’t try to be perfect. Take small steps to making better choices in every challenging situation you find yourself in.

So go out for a lavish brunch – mimosas, pastries, the whole bit – and really, truly enjoy every bite. Savour the flavours, the textures, the smells. Appreciate these things as once-in-a-while indulgences, not because you’ll be depriving yourself of these foods for weeks to come, but because you know you can indulge without overdoing it.  Then come home and make this wholesome, healthful quinoa bowl for supper as a reminder that you can treat yourself and make healthy choices that honour and respect your body’s needs, not exclusively one or the other.

Quinoa Bowl

Creamy Tahini Quinoa Bowl

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 each red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, de-stemmed and cut into thirds
  • 4 salmon steaks
  • 1 package quinoa (225g)
  • 4 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp. tahini
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350C.
  2. Cook quinoa according to package instructions, set aside.
  3. While the quinoa is cooking, toast sesame seeds in a dry sauce pan on medium heat. Watch them closely, and keep them moving so they don’t burn. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the creamy tahini dressing by whisking together tahini, soy sauce, lemon juice, honey, ginger, and S&P. Set aside.
  5. Prep asparagus. Pro-tip: De-stemming asparagus helps remove the tough bits at the end of the stalks. To de-stem, snap off the ends with your fingers, the stems will break off at the point where they are tender!
  6. Prep peppers and onions.
  7. Place salmon steaks on a parchment lined baking sheet, and cover with tinfoil. Bake for 10 mins covered, then remove the foil and finish cooking in the oven for another 10 mins, or until the fish is easily flaked with a fork, and opaque all the way through. They don’t need any seasoning at this point as the tahini dressing will provide all the flavour we need at the end, but some olive oil/S&P/lemon juice wouldn’t hurt if you’re really big into punchy flavour!
  8. While the salmon is baking, in a medium skillet on medium heat, place 1 tbsp. olive oil and the chopped peppers and onions. Saute until firm but softened and just starting to pick up some colour, stirring occasionally. This should take about 10-15 mins.
  9. In  a 2nd medium skillet on medium heat, place 1 tbsp. olive oil and the chopped asparagus. Toss in oil, then cover with a lid to steam for about 8 mins, checking them at the half way point to toss again. If you’re confident multi-tasking in the kitchen, you can start cooking the asparagus while your peppers are on the go to speed things up. You could also mix all the veggies together in one larger skillet, but it will be more crowded and they won’t pick up as much lovely colour as they are sautéing/steaming. Either way, they will taste great, so do what you can!
  10. At this point you should have all the bits and pieces of this wonderful meal ready to assemble! Simply prepare a bed of quinoa and pile your sautéed veggies and salmon steaks on top. Drizzle with creamy tahini sauce, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds to serve.

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