With summer coming to an end and colder weather (maybe?) on the horizon, I’ve been trying to get as much grilling in as possible during the last few weeks. Not only is grilling the easiest and most efficient way to mass-produce whatever protein source(s) you’re cooking for meal prep, but it’s also one of the tastiest. This week’s recipe uses a rather underrated lean meat that packs an impressive 3 grams of fat and 22 grams of protein per 3 ounce portion; the pork chop.
I eat tons of chicken. Grilled Garlic Ranch and Honey BBQ are two of my menu staples. Delicious, yes — but as with any other food, it’s pretty easy to get tired of the same meals when you eat them 2-4 times each week. So, during my grocery shopping last Sunday, I decided to opt for more ground turkey and other meats instead of getting an ungodly amount of chicken to throw on the grill. I was in a pinch for time — my weekend was jam-packed with the arrival of my brand new niece and a 3-day bachelorette party for one of my best friends. I knew I wanted to stick to the grilling theme for the efficiency, but I wanted to experiment a little bit. :o) This turned out being one of the best pork chops I’ve ever eaten, and it was the easiest thing I cooked during meal prep.
Spice-Rubbed Mustard Pork Chop
Nutritional Information (per 6oz chop)
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 2 thick-cut, boneless pork chops: 6oz each
- 1.5 tsp seasoning salt
- 1.5 tsp ground pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp parsley
- 3 tbsp dijon or stone ground mustard
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Combine all spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, parsley) in a small bowl
- Combine mustard, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl
- Spread the mustard mixture over each chop, coating thoroughly
- Rub the spice mixture onto the mustard-coated chops, pressing into the meat to make sure all edges are well-coated
- Move chops to the fridge and allow to sit for 15 minutes
- While your seasoning sets, preheat grill to medium (or, if you don’t have a grill, heat a skillet to 6-7 and coat with 1 tsp olive oil)
- Cook chops for 6-7 minutes on each side, or until center is no longer pink
Balanced Intake, Flexible Dieting, Counting Macros: What Does It All Mean?
If you’re into the fitness following on Instagram or have ever seen a picture of someone eating a Pop Tart with the hashtag “#IIFYM,” you’ve been exposed to a new-edge way of “dieting” that is anything but your typical “diet.” IIFYM, or If It Fits Your Macros, is a form of flexible dieting. Essentially, you focus on how many grams of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber you consume in a given day instead of focusing on cut-and-dry calories or what’s “good” or “bad” for you. I’ll unashamedly admit that on occasion, especially when I’m strapped for time, I opt for a boxed carbohydrate side to accompany my main dish. In the case of my pork chop dinner, I cooked up a box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese (found at HEB) and served 2/3c of it along with my pork chop and a heaping serving of broccoli. My whole meal turned out to be 430 calories, 9 grams of fat, 38 grams of carbohydrates, and 44 grams of protein. Perfect for a weeknight, post-workout dinner.
This is one major benefit of flexible dieting, or counting macros. Just because something comes from a box doesn’t mean it’s completely “unfit” to eat. I change my portion sizes to meet whatever macros I have left for a given day, and I don’t feel bad about having macaroni and cheese from a box along with my meat and veggies (or even snacking on a couple of Oreos before bed). It all fits within my macronutrient allowance for the day. I log my food, see where I have room to fit different things in, and go from there. This week, I fit a pumpkin-filled doughnut into my macros, and it. was. delicious. No shame, no guilt, and I definitely didn’t whine about how many burpees I’d have to do to “work it off.” Instead, I licked the leftover icing off of the plate and went on with my day, then modified my afternoon snack and dinner to fit everything in.
Last weekend, despite the crazy schedule I had, I still logged my food. I definitely didn’t hit my macros (not enough protein and too much fat on Saturday), but I still put the conscious effort into keeping MyFitnessPal up-to-date because it keeps me accountable. I enjoyed some vodka with my girlfriends during the bachelorette party, and we ordered pizza when I met my niece for the first time after she came into this world through an unplanned at-home delivery. Instead of having a bunch of sugary shots or 3 pieces of pizza, I figured everything into my macros and based how much I ate from there. I kept my sanity, practiced moderation, and not a pound was gained. Side note: isn’t little Piper adorable? I snapped this before digging into a giant slice of Papa John’s.
Track, Then Treat
Flexible dieting works for me because I’m used to tracking anything I eat in MyFitnessPal and weighing out everything that I cook down to the gram. Also, more than a year of retraining my taste buds has paid off, meaning I crave “healthy” foods more frequently than I want chips, candy, or sodas. When I consider eating any food, I analyze how well it will fit into my daily intake based on if it’s carb-heavy, high-protein, or high-fat and what else I plan to eat in a given day. When you diligently (and accurately) track what you eat, you can find ways to fit the “treats” into your diet. If you don’t track anything, it’s much easier to lose sight of what “moderation” is. One handful of chips or a doughnut can easily send you down a slippery slope lined with extra queso.
If you’re comfortable with your level of self control, confident that you can accurately track your food, and looking for a more relaxed stance on “dieting,” this approach might work for you, too. Check out this bodybuilding.com article to help you determine if counting macros is the way to go. I honestly don’t think I could have taken this route when I first started trying to lose weight because I hadn’t gotten used to portion control, but now, it definitely works. It all depends on where you’re at in your mindset.
I do opt for boxed foods that have higher protein and more all-natural ingredients because personally, I’ve found that eating highly-processed foods — even if they do have the same calories/protein/carbs/fat as a “cleaner” variant — makes me feel like crap. I can feel a lack of energy (ESPECIALLY during my workouts), I see it in my complexion, and I notice a difference in my digestive behavior when I eat super-processed items. This is also why I still completely believe in the relaxed definition of “clean eating” — not the 5-6 meals, restricted intake, “good”/”bad” foods, zero processed foods definition, but the kind of clean eating that focuses on consuming more whole, single-ingredient foods instead of the crap that comes in a package with a bunch of ingredients that I can’t pronounce. Plus, I come from a farming family, so I take pride in eating things that are in their original form.
Whether or not you track your food, count your macros, eat “clean,” stick to Paleo, or don’t ascribe to any specific school of dieting, what matters is finding something that you can stick with for the long haul while being the healthiest version of you. For some people, logging a half teaspoon of olive oil seems like a sick obsession and a huge waste of time. For others (like me), it’s second nature. Find what works with your mental state, goals, and lifestyle, and stick to it!