A lot of guys I know will go on a contest diet and deny themselves every taste they might enjoy on a regular diet, just to stay on the straight and narrow. The sentiment among bodybuilders for years has been that eating things that taste good isn’t good for the longevity of a diet.
I have counseled many bodybuilders about this practice – not that most of you listen – to help people understand how much of a set up that is. Still, most of you go on a bland diet of boiled chicken, broccoli and no seasoning on fish or other meats. It’s an odd practice and one that I am totally puzzled by.
Now, it is true that before you go on a diet, your body is accustomed to eating anything and everything. You have spices; you have sugar, flour, caffeine, unnatural and natural ingredients and a host of tastes that you are used to having. It’s understandable that cutting out flour and sugar ought to be first, and all encompassing, throughout your diet. But, cutting out all spices and other items that might make food taste good, is futile.
So how can you spice up a diet that you’ve chosen to be bland? Plenty of ways. Spice is everything in terms of taste and cutting out all spices is ludicrous. But which ones can you use? What is not going to jeopardize your conditioning? Quite a few will let you feel normal, but do nothing to ruin condition. But then again, more than just spice, learning how to cook something in a way that makes it more palatable, is really important to actually embracing the diet experience.
First off, learning how to cook meats in a way that is palatable is the best place to start. Braising is a great choice, as is bbq’ing, as many of you know. The latter is probably my favorite – whether on a diet or not – but it isn’t always practical. So when you’re home on a Sunday, buy a cut of meat at the store that is very lean, very tough and is not particularly palatable to put in to a non-stick pan and just fry up without oil. A lot of times these cuts, because they have no fat, can be some of the toughest and least palatable.
Skirt steak, mock tenderloins and certain roasts are really hard to eat if you cook them incorrectly. Start by opening a bottle of wine – a $6 or $7 red one – like a Merlot or Cabernet. Fill a stockpot with the liquid, and also chicken or beef stock – 2 cans or so. Then add pepper, shallots or other onions and garlic you’ve chopped finely. Before you put the beef, veal or lean pork into the sauce, heat it up to boiling. In the meantime, seal your meat by searing it in a scorching hot pan, on all sides. Then put it into the liquid, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer and let it sit for 4 hours on the stove. The liquid will reduce, so add water to cover it completely if need be.
Within that time, the meat will break down and you’ll wonder how it got so tender. A Crock-pot may also do this, but I prefer the stovetop method. Short ribs are great for this. They may look fatty, but all the fat comes off in the liquid, for the most part. They are like $1.90 a pound and very affordable. You can cook up a dozen of them for meals over 2 days. You can throw in celery and carrots in the wine mix to add flavor too.
You can do an Asian one with chicken stock, low sodium soy sauce, Chinese 5 spice, water, garlic, onion, some Splenda brown sugar, and 2 inches of freshly cut ginger. Simmer all ingredients after you’ve boiled it, and then reduce the heat and simmer liquid and meat for 4 hours. Remove the meat and put on a plate and reduce the liquid down further over about 45 minutes to an hour. It makes a sauce that is sugar free, tastes great and is over beef to boot! Steam root vegetables, which have a little starch to them but not as much as potatoes or rice, and you have a meal fit for a stage champ!
Other ways to make things palatable:
- Simmer fish or chicken in juice like guava or mango, and discard the juice after. It’s called poaching and it’s a great way to make meats tender and take on the flavors of the liquid.
- Cook meats in liquid soups
- Buy Indian and Thai spices and cook. If you are on a low carb, but higher fat diet, make a sauce out of curry powder and canned coconut milk and simmer the chicken, shrimp or beef in the sauce. You’ll think you died and went to heaven!
- Buy different kinds of peppercorns to grind over meats- they all taste different.
- Buy a cast iron Dutch oven at a camp store, follow instructions for seasoning it, and then cook a pile of meat or poultry in the Dutch oven (a big cast iron pot with a lid) for hours while you do other things.
Add vegetables the last hour or so and you have a GREAT meal that tastes better than what you normally do. And you never had to do anything but stick it all in a pot and watch TV.
- Use lemons, limes, oranges and tarragon and dill for fish like salmon, halibut and orange roughy.
- Cook chicken in red wine with basil and other Italian spices, onions, garlic, etc. Use low fat ricotta cheese to slather on top and use just plain tomato sauce out of a can – it has almost nothing in it.
There are so many ways to spruce up a diet; there is no excuse to eat bland.