My first lunchbox was a metal Cracker Jack lunchbox with a matching thermos. I don’t remember taking my lunch very often– I usually ate what the cafeteria had to offer, but it was always exciting when I did get to use my lunchbox. There is something so cozy and organized about a neatly packed lunch. Everything you need is in a nice little package.
If you are like me, you have a morning routine that prepares you for the world each day. Mine used to involve getting dressed, grabbing a Dr. Pepper and maybe a pop-tart and then running out the door. As for lunch, well, that was something I would figure out when the time came. As a teacher, I’d often eat in the cafeteria. Working in a city, there are plenty of restaurants close to the office. There was always food around– be it in a vending machine, a fast food venue or some other dining establishment– so I never worried about it much. Obviously, that approach was not working very well.
When I decided to give this weight loss thing a serious shot, I knew that I had to stop living meal to meal and that I needed to ditch my foraging habit. At first, it took quite a bit of time for me to make my lunch every morning. Over time, this has improved as my familiarity with points has increased, my measuring techniques (using the scale instead of a million measuring spoons) have gotten quicker, and I have learned what sorts of foods need to live in my refrigerator so that I always have good options. I also keep a little cheat sheet of favorite foods and their points values on the fridge in case my morning brain malfunctions.
To help me spread my points out over the course of the day and avoid breaking the points bank at breakfast, I think of my day in several small chunks of points instead of one big number. I get 22 points a day. I try to have around 5 for breakfast, between 5 and 7 for lunch and between 6 and 8 for dinner. This is just a rough guide, but it makes it easier to throw a lunch in the bag without fear that the bag contains all of my points for an entire day. I am usually capable of counting to at least 6 before I’ve had my coffee. The rest of the points are used for snacks during the day and a dessert at night. I have to have dessert!
I often read about people who’ve planned out their meals for an entire week. I know myself well enough to know that I am not the type of person who is capable of doing that. On Sunday, I have no clue what I’m going to want to have for dinner the following Wednesday. Trying to figure that out would only frustrate me! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I like to make a big batch of something on Sunday to have for lunch during the week. That’s about as far as my planning goes. This “big batch” food is usually something very filling that involves vegetables (probably soup or a salad like the one I’m having this week) and probably only “costs” me 1 or 2 points. That ensures that I have something good to use as the centerpiece of my lunch each day, but it allows me to play around with the things that go with it. This is what went into the bag today:
I had a serving of the Black Bean and Corn Salad that I made yesterday (1 point), a sandwich made on an Arnold’s sandwich thin with some grilled vegetable tapenade out of a jar, roasted turkey and arugula (2.5 points), an ounce of Cabot 75% reduced fat sharp cheddar (1 point… this stuff is awesome if you can find it!!), and 1/2 cup of 1% lowfat cottage cheese with 1/2 a tablespoon of dalmatia orange and fig jam (2 points). I think that is quite a bit of food for 6.5 points!
So, what about the snacks? Well, I threw a container of yogurt, some blueberries and an orange in my bag this morning too. At some point today, I decided that I wasn’t in the mood to eat the orange, and I wanted something else instead. That’s where my office stash comes in handy. I have a drawer in my desk where I keep microwave popcorn, reduced fat peanut butter, soups, oatmeal, wasa crackers, dried fruit, nutrition bars, Fiber One cereal, almonds, and other snacky type things. I keep a fruit bowl on my desk too. I’m also lucky to have access to a refrigerator and a microwave. I keep light laughing cow cheese, light string cheese, yogurt, dates, applesauce and that sort of thing in the fridge, and I usually have vitamuffins, lean pockets and the occasional box of veggie corndogs in the freezer. Whew. I could probably eat for days just on the food I keep at work. Am I stockpiling in case there is a sudden blizzard or robot uprising? Nope. I just need a lot of variety, and having lots of choices around gives me some options so that I’m not stuck eating something I don’t want or foraging in a land full of less than healthy options.
I have one other stash in my office, and this shouldn’t surprise you:
If you think you don’t have time to pack your lunch each day, maybe you could start off slowly by trying to pack a few healthy snacks. See how that goes. It might be easier than you think. If you are in the habit of packing a lunch each day, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite eats. Whatever your strategy, I hope you don’t have to resort to foraging, and that you have a day filled with lots of tasty and healthy choices, including dessert!