By Marni Sumbal
It's not about the noodles. When it comes to lasagna, there's something about the combination of flavors that come in layers as you take each bite. I realize that my lasagna doesn't compare to Carraba's Italian Grill Lasagna but maybe that's because a serving of lasagna in the restaurant can give your body ~750 calories, 45g of fat and 2500+ mg sodium. My creation fuels an active body.
When it comes to my diet, I don't have off-limit foods. I have a way of eating that allows me to fuel my active lifestyle. When I make my creations, I like to taste each ingredient and get lost in flavor. There's nothing worse than eating a meal and having the mind rolling with thoughts as to all the reasons why you shouldn't be eating it. It's no fun eating when you have an unhealthy relationship with food and your body. It's not the food that you need to evaluate — consider your mind.
I encourage everyone to eat in a way that makes them feel good. I don't want to give up food and the opportunity to eat foods that make me feel good, just because someone tells me they are bad. Certainly, gaining weight doesn't happen overnight or from one meal, and I will not dismiss the fact that we should all emphasize foods that will keep the human body in optimal health. Perhaps eating when you aren't hungry, eating for emotional reasons, eating because you are sleep-deprived, eating because of poorly timed eating habits, overeating because you "deserved it" and any other "reason" you can come up with may better explain the gradually changes in body composition, and not the lasagna noodles that I used in my creation and the carbs that some may consider to be bad.
When was the last time you had a snack after you ate dinner? Why doesn't your dinner meal leave you satisfied? I'm not talking about a small piece of dark chocolate which is my favorite way to finish any meal, but instead, why are you finishing a meal and immediately thinking to yourself... what's next? or justifying the late evening snack?
I feel snacking serves three purposes: complement meals so that your daily diet is balanced and to fill in nutritional gaps, control the appetite before the next meal or to prevent drops in blood sugar. There's nothing wrong with a snack after dinner and I encourage eating every few hours during the day but depending on your reason for snacking, this can help you decide what you really need for a snack. Do you need three almonds to prevent a drop in blood sugar, or do you need cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit because your next meal is 5 hours away? It's not that you can't eat the granola bar but instead, would an apple serve a better purpose of snacking if you answered the questions above?
When it comes to meals, I believe many people need to rethink the composition of meals so that they leave you satisfied. With a balanced daily diet, your dinner meal should leave you complete so that you not only enjoy the fruits of your labor with meal prep but you are not snacking your way through the evening and postponing a good night of rest.
On that note, I hope you enjoy my veggie-packed lasagna. Feel free to choose your own protein, veggies and lasagna noodles, based on your liking.
Lasagna noodles — 4-5 cooked to al dente (you will likely use less)
Boca veggie meat (1-1.5 cups)
Firm tofu (1/2 container)
1 large sweet bell pepper (sliced)
1/2 cup chopped onion
Herbs/spices — rosemary, basil, oregano, pepper, chili pepper
Garlic — 1-2 cloves chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Gently rub glass casserole dish with a little olive oil (I used a small loaf-like casserole dish. For more servings, I recommend a rectangle dish).
2. Spoon a little marinara on bottom of the dish.
3. Place noodles on bottom of dish, not overlapping (I used about 3/4th noodle, sliced with a knife to allow for even layer).
4. Sprinkle a little veggie meat (thawed a little or microwave for 15 seconds), tofu, onions and sliced peppers on noodle. Sprinkle with herbs of your choice and a little sliced garlic.
5. Top with spinach to cover and then sprinkle with shredded cheese (small handful — it does not need to be covered)
6. Place another noodle (sliced as needed to prevent overlapping) on the spinach and top with meat, tofu, pepper, onion, garlic and then marinara spoonfuls. Top with more spinach and then a sprinkle of cheese.
7. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes.
I recommend serving with a large salad that has fruit and nuts (ex. spinach, pear and walnuts).
Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. She is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Ironman finisher and an Oakley Women ambassador, and she has contributed articles to a number of triathlon organizations, such as Lava Magazine, Triathlete Magazine, IronGirl.com and Beginnertriathlete.com. To contact Marni, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit trimarni.blogspot.com or become a fan of TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition on Facebook.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.