Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eat Less with Activity Foods

About a month ago I was encouraging a client to add more fruit to her diet. Pushing fruit in February is like selling pork in an Orthodox neighborhood. It isn’t easy.  At the time I was loving Cara Cara oranges and suggested them to my client. “Oranges are too much work,” she said.  “What do you mean an orange is work?” I asked. “The peel, the juice, the mess, I don’t have the time.” I let it go and I think we settled on apples (less work).  It got me thinking though, this “work” my client referred to is a good thing when it comes to food. “Activity Foods” as I call them are foods that take time to eat. This slows us down and may just lead to eating less. Convenience isn't always a good thing when it comes to food. Here are my favorite activity foods:

My first memory of eating nuts was in my Grandparents den. There was always a bowl of nuts on the table. The nuts were whole and a silver nutcracker rested next to them. As a child I remember many failed attempts at nut cracking. I probably consumed 1 nut per day back then. I don’t even know that my kids would know nutcrackers are used for eating nuts.  I vote for a nutcracker revival.

Edamame are a great source of protein and the ultimate activity food. Buy edamame in the shell, non-GMO. Enjoy them as a snack with some sea salt and a little cayenne.

Attending college in New Orleans, some of my favorite memories are chowing down on crawfish or peel and eat shrimp. You really work for your food when eating these. Other shellfish options are mussels and lobster.

One of my favorite spring vegetables is artichokes. Artichokes take a little work to prepare and time to eat. Watch what you “dip” into. Artichokes are low calorie and high fiber, creamy sauces aren’t.

As much as I love a dirty martini, I love olives on their own too. Olives are high in fat (good fat) but fairly low in calories. Make sure to buy olives with their pits. Again, the pitting (and spitting) takes time.

Whole Fish
People are scared of whole fish (or grossed out) and I think that’s a mistake. Cooking fish whole renders a delicious end product and is a very healthy method of preparation. Furthermore, find me someone who can race through eating whole fish, you can’t.

If you’re not up for nutcracking, try pistachios. Pistachios are great as they lower LDL cholesterol and also because you can eat more (for same calories) than other nuts. Removing the shells is sort of fun…unless you had a manicure recently.

If you’re a speedy eater, activity foods will slow you down leaving time to savor the food that you’re eating and realize when you’re full (or tired of “working”).
Do you like activity foods? Any good ones I left off this list? Do you think oranges are a lot of work?


  1. I think that it is so funny that someone out there finds an orange inconvenient! HAHAHAHA! That's just really funny to me. I too enjoy "activity foods" and my faves are grapefruits (similar to oranges). I find that the act of peeling, eating, cleaning is relaxing. Plus the room smells amazing post!

  2. I LOVE food that you have to work for! I feel like I've earned that food by putting in the effort. (Perhaps that's why I like cooking, too.) Shellfish, whole fish, artichokes, pineapple, mollusks, edamame, citrus -- all favorites. Maybe it was the quality time in NOLA, but few meals are as viscerally satisfying to me as a crawfish boil. Now I want to plan a party around foods you have to earn through work!

  3. This is a topic that is not usually mentioned, but is so something to consider! From a student perspective, I am particularly cognisant of theses sorts of foods from snacking and seeing/hearing others snack during 3 hour classes… I love cherries, but learned quickly that the work required to de-stem and spit out seeds is not the best choice in the classroom. With that said, they are a good snack to eat while studying because they last a while!

  4. I love the idea of "activity foods." I will admit I tend to be a fast eater so I could benefit from anything that would help slow me down. While it is hard to eat these foods on the go, they are perfect for when watching TV or working at the computer when mindless eating tends to take place. Thanks for the ideas!

  5. Great post Lauren! My parents brought back the nutcracker over Christmas, and I remember having the same thought - it totally slows you down! I agree that oranges are a bit of work, but in my opinion it's worth it. Apples are easier, but I usually cut my apples (I think they taste better cut - I can pop the pieces in my mouth like chips). Whenever we get a pre-cooked roast chicken my husband takes all the meat off the leg before eating it. I do the opposite because taking the time to get the meat off slows me down, and I'm less likely to go in for seconds. Good suggestions for other activity foods!

  6. Such an excellent topic! I love your blog :) I always encourage people to eat slowly and savor their foods and this is such an important point! I think we need to bring back nutcrackers too! My grandma ALWAYS had walnuts we needed to crack. I dont think I ever got them cracked though lol.
    I think shelled sunflower seeds are a good one too!My husband loves chewing on them but when shelled he can only eat so many!

  7. oranges are not a lot of work =) hehe not to me, but I can understand how some people may be annoyed with them. I'm the nut that shreds my own cheeses as I need them. bonkers.

    good call on the cayenne and edamame! =)

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  8. I love this post...I think it was the "French Women Don't Get Fat" author who said that American's are too lazy to even peel an orange. I know that I can be sometimes but I've gotten better over the years.

    I draw the line at the whole fish though! I just can't handle bones. :)

  9. an orange is worth it if it tastes good when you're done! there's nothing worse than peeling it and having it be a dry flavorless dud. and sorry, but i don't think i'll be doing a whole fish or artichoke soon, lauren. too much work. :-)

  10. Ooh I'm feeling the need to do a whole fish tutorial on here!

  11. I love this post! And I love what that client said. So funny!
    I bought pistachios this last shopping trip. I love that it slows me down versus eating another nut like almonds. Although my coworkers laugh at me cause I manage to make a mess with the shells. :)

  12. hehe...eating an orange is much work? Maybe she could try a cantaloupe or a pomegranate. Just kidding. My husband belongs to this if I want him to eat a kiwi or a pear, I will have to have it peeled, and cut into the bite-sized pieces.

  13. It's funny that the lady above thinks that oranges aren't convenient. I always talk about oranges as a convenience food! Some oranges don't peel well, but the ones with the thick skin (Cara Cara and Navel especially) peel so easily! I am really into orange lately.

    Olives remind me of my grandma's house, kind of like nuts remind you of yours. She always had a jar waiting for me when I got there :) I love olives!

  14. really interesting idea. It is true though. Ive heard other people talk about oranges being too much work. personally I think they are worth the time and I really dont think its too much effort. Thats what napkins are for=) I feel that sometimes putting a little effort into your food makes you think about it more and appreciate it a little bit better. Instead of going through a drive through and wolfing down whatever is fast and cheap...Take the time to savor and appreciate. Thats what I say! Besides just for fun, I might ask the person to time herself eating an orange and see how much time it really honestly takes. probably not as much as they thought!

    have a lovely day!

  15. Yes please on the fish tutorial.

    I am embarrassed to admit, I have been one of those orange people. For me, I have always hated having my hands sticky for any amount of time. And the peel under my fingernails? Yuck! I will brave the stickiness for a Cara Cara orange though :)

    We always had a bowl of nuts with a nutcracker when I was growing up. We definitely need to bring that back!

  16. Well, you know my love for cara cara sad :-( your client wouldn't try one. We also eat a lot of tangerines in our house which tends to require "less" activity than oranges, as the peel usually comes off quite easily. I was also going to suggest sunflower seeds, as The Healthy Apron did, as a good activity food. I love all your activity foods, but confess I have never prepared a whole fish before...

  17. I HEART New Orleans. :)

    Interesting concept of food activities. I like it. Fun. And will slow down the eating process. ;)

  18. These are great activity foods! I buy olives and incorporate them with most of my meals!