On losing weight (Part 6 – Meals to pack for work)

I do not consider myself to be “dieting”. I have changed the way that I eat. Now that I have hit my target weight, I don’t intend to revert to my previous eating habits. I consider these behaviors to be a permanent change, though I still experiment and modify.

Most of the changes to my diet come about as a result of repeated experimentation and modification, and I don’t consider myself to be “done” making adjustments. Each dietary change has the following goals in mind:

  • Change should be for the better, with each modification focused toward healthier eating. Not every change must be “healthy”, in and of itself. Some enable me to make healthy decisions at another time. But all change is made with the goal of an overall healthy diet.
  • Changes should be sustainable because they are convenient. If a food is difficult or time consuming to prepare, then I am unlikely to consistently use that food in my diet.
  • Changes should be sustainable because they are enjoyable. I consider each change that I make to be permanent. If I can’t see myself eating this way for the rest of my life, then I don’t make the change. If I change something but later realize that I don’t enjoy my new diet, I revert that change. If I have to “force” myself to eat healthily, then I know it won’t stick, and I’m not interested in temporary results.

Criteria for meals at work

During the week, I eat breakfast and lunch at work. My requirements for food to take to work with me are:

  • Portable – I pack a cooler to bring to the office and I don’t want food that will spill all over.
  • Easy to prepare – I am not willing to take much time in the mornings to prepare my meals. If I find that I’m spending too much time packing a food, even if I really like it, I will discard it and replace it with something easier.
  • Relatively non-perishable – I don’t put my food in a refrigerator at work, so I need to be pretty confident that each item will last in a cooler until I’m ready to eat it.
  • Mess free – I tend to eat both breakfast and lunch at my desk. I won’t eat something if it’s too much hassle, or if it’s likely to get my work area (or computers) messy.
  • Healthy – I try to put some effort into hitting the major food groups with my meals at work.
  • Low calorie density – As I mentioned in the calorie counting article, I have the most control over foods that I eat at breakfast and lunch on the weekdays. These meals are my opportunity to “do it right.” That means I need to work extra hard to find foods that will fill me up but not pack on the calories.
  • Taste good – I know myself. I won’t stick with it if I don’t like what I’m eating. If the eating is a chore, then I will eventually give in to the temptation to eat the “wrong” foods. If, on the other hand, I really enjoy the foods that I’m eating, then the habit will likely stick.

I have worked pretty hard, and experimented quite a bit, to find foods that meet the above goals, and I’m still occasionally refining my menu. Here’s what it looks like today.

Breakfast at work

Breakfast is the easiest. My budget is 200-400 calories for this meal. I have settled on Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt as my breakfast of choice. Cherry is my favorite flavor, but blueberry is a very close second. They are delicious, and only 80 calories per cup (0.5 cal/g). I tend to eat two every morning, although I occasionally eat only one, and sometimes will eat up to four cups for breakfast. I frequently supplement the yogurt with some fresh fruit, usually bananas, with the occasional apple, orange, or grapefruit.

I also like to drink an energy drink before work. Rockstar is my brand of choice. My favorite flavors are: lemonade (yellow can), orange drink (orange can), and their zero-carb soda (blue can). They are all low-calorie, and taste good.

Lunch at work

My lunch budget is 400-600 calories. I mix it up a bit for lunch, but I always try to have some fruit, vegetables, grain, and protein. Here are some of the options that I pick from:

  • Grape tomatoes – Wegmans sells a 1 quart box of these, and each box has about 160 calories (0.2 cal/g).
  • Celery sticks – These are pre-cut and washed. A 12 oz. package has only 35 calories in it (0.1 cal/g).
  • Baby carrots – These are my least favorite vegetable, though I still enjoy them. A 16 oz. bag has about 190 calories in it (0.4 cal/g).
  • Grapes – I tend to get red seedless and pack about 1 – 2 lbs each day. A 1 lb. bag has about 300 calories in it (0.7 cal/g).
  • Cherries – I absolutely adore cherries. They are not always available, but when they are, I eat a lot of them! A 1 lb. bag has about 240 calories in it (0.5 cal/g).
  • Apple – My favorites are Empire and Fuji apples. Two small apples have about 200 calories in them (0.8 cal/g).
  • Wegmans whole wheat mini pitas – These things are awesome. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found them. They have only about 50 calories each (2.3 cal/g).
  • Packaged tuna fish – Another cool find. By far my favorite is the sweet and spicy flavored tuna. Each pouch is only 90 calories (1.2 cal/g).
  • Boiled egg whites – The whites from 5 eggs have about 85 calories in them (0.5 cal/g).
  • Water with lemon juice – I pack a quart of water in my cooler every day. I like to pour a bit of lemon juice (about 2 tablespoons) into it to give it a bit of flavor.

So, on a typical day, my lunch might look like:

1 qt tomatoes (160 cal), celery (35 cal), 2 apples (200 cal), 2 pitas (100 cal), 5 egg whites (85 cal), 1 quart water – grand total: 580 calories. That’s a huge amount of food (about 4 lbs, not including the water) with a very minimal overall calorie density of about 0.4 cal/g.

– danBhentschel

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