Ever wonder what your doctor eats for lunch? As a physician and a working mom, I find others want to know what I’m eating and how I manage my weight.
What I eat for lunch, or feed my family for lunch, depends entirely on what I had for breakfast and how I’ve eaten over the past week. Maintaining weight is a series of trades offs that happen all day long. Have I exercised? Did I have fruit for breakfast? Was breakfast hearty or just an apple on the go? Did I treat my kids to some pancakes on a Saturday morning and do I need to make up for that indulgence? I never eat a meal without thinking through my dietary checkbook. It has to balance at the end of the day and it will, as long as I pay attention. If I log in a healthy breakfast, it won’t be necessary to compensate for anything at lunchtime. Please note, however, that a healthy breakfast doesn’t mean one should splurge at lunch! I strive to make 90 – 95% of my intake healthy so that last 5 – 10% of the time, I can treat myself to something tasty and perhaps not so low calorie.
Keeping a food journal has been proven to improve adherence to a weight loss program. So, if you are thinking about lunch and haven’t written down your breakfast yet, get on it! Write down everything you eat, everything you drink and any exercise you get during the day. Even just a handful of nuts or a half can of diet soda needs to be documented in your food diary. Armed with information and an honest record, you’ll make better choices to manage your health and your weight.
Back to lunch! In general, I recommend making half your plate vegetables and/or fruit for lunch. If you think you’ll lose weight with a big sandwich as the centerpiece of your meal, I think you’re wrong. For me, lunch might be half a plate or a big bowl of salad, spinach usually, with some veggies on top and a little balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Not too much dressing, just enough to barely cover the leaves. Don’t put too much cheese on your salad. You don’t need much to get your protein and it adds unnecessary calories. Just pile the salad up with veggies, edamame, nuts, avocado and seeds. You’ll get enough protein and healthy fats, giving you a greater feeling of satiety. If you must eat some meat, just add a little lean turkey, not much, to decorate your salad. Think of meat as a garnish, not the main course.
What else? Well, hopefully a salad loaded with veggies is enough, but its OK to have something else too. In my diet checkbook, you can never eat too many raw fruits or veggies. If I’m not full after a loaded salad, I’ll have an orange or an apple for “dessert.” Any fruit will do to round out the meal. I know many of you are itching for bread, but I avoid it or consider it a special treat to be had occasionally, but never daily. So skip the sandwich, but if you must have one, never (I repeat never!) top it with a second piece of bread. If you’re serious about managing your weight, plan on eating open faced whole grain sandwiches for the rest of your life. Worried your sandwich will fall apart or be messy without that top piece of bread? Use a big lettuce leaf as the topper and pick it up just as you would if it were a second piece of bread.
While most of us stick to the same routine and don’t vary our meals much, it will be necessary to have some variety or you’ll get bored. How about this for another lunch option? Try half of a toasted whole wheat english muffin (remember, always make open faced sandwiches!) topped with a couple spoonfuls of black beans, a chopped up avocado, a spoonful of corn, half a tomato, cilantro, a soft boiled egg and some tomatillo sauce on top? That makes for an amazingly tasty and filling lunch. Or maybe a small bowl of hummus and some baby carrots, celery and red peppers followed by a piece of fruit? Sometimes, on a busy day, I’ll just eat a quick bowl of GrapeNuts with blueberries and a banana while working at my computer. Not a glamorous lunch, but in a pinch it will do.
Going out for lunch? OK, but for goodness sake, eat an apple before you leave work in order to help you avoid over-ordering and over-eating. While I don’t want to encourage wastefulness, keep in mind that you do yourself a favor if you throw away (or bring home) some of your purchased lunch. Portion sizes these days are enormous. Don’t be fooled into devouring a meal meant to satisfy a linebacker unless you want to weigh in like a linebacker. When you open up your lunch, divide it and only eat the portion that is right for your size and exercise level. If you’re tempted to eat the rest, wait, drink a glass of water, and reassess 5 minutes later. You may find that you’re full after all.
Regarding drinks…drink water with lunch, never soda, not even diet soda. It has been well documented that soda, including zero calorie diet soda, goes hand in hand with being overweight or obese. Why spend the money on something that has absolutely no nutritional value and will make you pack on the pounds? I can’t fathom why we do it. Just make a rule for yourself and your family: No Soda. Period. Drink water, water, water. I promise you, you’ll get used to it.
Now I’ll grant you that planning a healthy lunch is harder when its a busy weekday, but its worth taking a few minutes to plan and bring your lunch, or think through your options to buy lunch before you leave for work. You can throw together a healthy lunch in 5 minutes if you keep the right foods on hand in your fridge. I’d like to say I always take the time to make a healthy lunch and bring it to the office, but I don’t. On the days that I’m too busy to put something together before racing out the door, I resort to a baggie of nuts (I keep many little snack bags of nuts in my car and office) and a piece of fruit. I can’t say its exciting, but it will fill me up and make me vow to put in a little planning effort the next day.
On other days when I’m bringing lunch, don’t have time for preparations and find myself in a bind, I’ll resort to grabbing a Lean Cuisine and an apple. I’m never a fan of processed food, but hey, you have to do what you have to do when you’re a busy working mom. In that case, let go of any guilt for eating processed food and just be proud of yourself for limiting your portion size. This is how I look at my Lean Cuisine days. If I’m not satisfied, I can eat unlimited fruit or veggies (plain/raw) in the afternoon to keep me going until dinner.
Thanks for listening and I wish you the best of health!
Please follow me on Twitter: @LisaOldson
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