Recipe for Getting Rid of that January Jelly Belly

It’s no secret that I love food, but I’m usually able to show enough restraint that I don’t fear stepping on the scale.

Except for right now.

Was it the cookies, champagne, dinners out, lunches with friends or all of the above that have me feeling like I have a jelly belly?

For all of us fearing our skinny jeans, I talked to Christy Coughlin, founder of Real Running, for some advice. Coughlin coaches runners who are interested in training for a race or setting a new personal best, but she also helps beginners who want to get in shape and lose weight.

I wanted a simple strategy that would help me feel in control of my eating. She had a great tip: eat “one bread.” And by this she means having just one starch at each meal—bread, pasta or potatoes.

But only one.

It sounded too simple to work, so I put it to the test. Eating one serving of bread means that I’ve been eating less, but I’m not feeling deprived. Coughlin isn’t advocating no starchy foods (remember Oprah’s protein shake phase?) just limit the number of breads.

“I had lunch at The Noodle,” says Coughlin, giving an example of putting her philosophy in action. “I love their garlic bread, so I had a piece, but then I ordered my entrée with a veggie side not a pasta side.”

Some other great examples: If you have crackers and cheese as an appetizer, then skip the potatoes at dinner. Of if you want a sandwich, make it a half and have a cup of soup or a salad with it. For breakfast, if you have a bowl of cereal (hopefully whole grain) then your mid-morning snack should be a piece of fruit, not a granola bar.

Give “one bread” a try and report back with your comments. If enough of us succeed at making this change, we’ll ask Coughlin for another small but meaningful step that will get us feeling healthy and energetic in 2009.

Here’s the first recipe I thought of after talking with Coughlin—Chicken in Lettuce Cups. It’s easy: kids like it, and you don’t need to serve it with rice. If you do, that’s your “one bread” for that meal.

Chicken in Lettuce Cups

2 tbsp. canola oil
1-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into almost a mince
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 bunch of scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 8-oz can sliced water chestnuts
1/4 cup roasted cashews
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1-1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 head Bibb lettuce


1. Heat oil in large, heavy skillet. (This is the only pan you have to get dirty!) Sauté the chicken until it begins to brown.  Then add garlic, ginger and scallions and cook for a minute or two. Add the water chestnuts, hoisin, soy and vinegar and cook until the chicken is cooked through.

2. Sprinkle with cashews and serve with the lettuce leaves for wrapping around the chicken.

Serves 4.