Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Reality strikes on the Jersey Turnpike

Week 3 of the “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating” found our testers unhappy with the food choices at a Jersey Turnpike rest stop and stealing a friend’s calamari.

Helen Hoart

Looking for (good) food in all the wrong places. That might as well have been my husband’s refrain when he stopped at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike for lunch. My husband and I are trying to do Harvard’s 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating together. According to the plan, week three is “Healthy up your lunch” week. But the fast food restaurants at the turnpike rest stop didn’t offer much in the way of healthy food. His choices were pizza, burgers, fried chicken, or fried fish. He chose the fish but even as he ate it he knew it didn’t fit the plan’s definition of a meal with high fiber, low-salt, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. In hindsight he says he should have brought food with him instead of relying on the New Jersey Turnpike dining options. I suggested he could have gone into the little travel store and bought some nuts and yogurt instead of the fried fish sandwich. After giving me a withering look, he reminded me that real men don’t eat yogurt and nuts for lunch. Next time he’s going to be packing—packing lunch that is.

I found a great list of lunch options on page 22 of the 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating and many of those choices would be easy to make and take along in the car. It’s all a matter of planning ahead.

Stocking the pantry at the office. For me, the first step toward healthier lunches was to spend time the night before thinking about what I would have for lunch the next day. I stocked the fridge and pantry at the office with healthy options. This helped me end up not only with more nutritious meals but with more delicious meals. In the past I tended to eat either cereal or lettuce topped with grilled chicken almost every day. Boring!

The easiest thing to prepare ahead was a big salad. I’d load it with lettuce (Red Leaf is my favorite), yellow and red peppers, yellow squash, carrots, cucumbers, and sometimes apples or pears (sneaking fruit in where I can). The salad did double duty. We had it with dinner, and I’d bring the remainder to work with me. If we’d had some fish or chicken with dinner, I brought any leftovers for lunch as well. On the days I didn’t plan ahead, I lunched on hummus and baby carrots with whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita bread. The key was to keep in mind what a serving of hummus was (1/4 cup) not the entire container. During the weekend I tried the tuna salad with the curry and apples recipe on page 41 of the 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating Plan. I loved it.

And finally there’s that big bugaboo—getting more exercise. I wasn’t as successful there last week. As I said in my first blog post I get a lot of aerobic exercise but I still need to add more strength training and core exercise to my schedule. This past week I managed to get to one strength training class. Next week I’ll get to two.

Tonya Phillips

Lunch week was much easier than I expected. My co-worker, who is also my lunch buddy, was supportive of my efforts and didn’t tempt me with her cheesy quesadillas from our favorite Mexican spot or pizza from Remo’s.

Lunchtime strategies. The 6-Week Plan suggests healthy sandwiches (without cured and processed meats) and nutritious yet tasty salads. I decided to keep it simple and stick with salads. On Monday and Tuesday I brought ingredients from home: mixed baby lettuce, tomato, dried cranberries, walnuts, and crumbled blue cheese (just a little!). Wednesday and Thursday I bought a pre-packaged Caesar salad from a local store. I keep my favorite light raspberry walnut vinaigrette dressing in the fridge at work; this helped me stay away from the high calorie dressing that came with the salad.

I had neglected my lunch buddy all week, so on Friday I decided we’d go to the Italian restaurant across the street. I resisted ordering my usual “Margherita” pizza and had the house special salad instead. Without much effort, I convinced my friend to order the fried calamari with the intention of just enjoying my fried favorite with my eyes. She walked away from the table and when she returned her plate was a little lighter and I had a big smile on my face.

Staying on track. Week 3 was a success, minus the stolen fried calamari. I’m walking the stairs every day and drinking more water than ever before. Eating salad everyday was actually not so bad. You can always add a little of your favorite not so healthy treats as long you have plenty of greens and a low calorie dressing. Next week we focus on dinner. I think I’ll try one of the recipes from the plan; maybe the turkey meatloaf. I wonder if you can put fried calamari on top. Maybe not. Wish me luck!

Tonya Phillips (left) is the Product Marketing Manager at StayWell Consumer Health Publishing. Helen Hoart (right) is President of StayWell Consumer Health Publishing. StayWell is the publishing management agent for Harvard Health Publishing.

Join the fun and learn to eat healthfully with the Harvard Medical School Six-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.


  1. Heather Smith

    Thank for posting this topic. Being healthy by eating food is important. Before you can execute a good and healthy life, you must need discipline. Eating proper meals on time and proper choice of food.

  2. Liana Krakowski

    I discovered more something totally new on this weight-loss issue. Just one issue is that good nutrition is vital if dieting. A tremendous reduction in junk food, sugary foods, fried foods, sweet foods, beef, and bright flour products may be necessary. Retaining wastes bloodsuckers, and contaminants may prevent targets for shedding fat.

    While specified drugs temporarily solve the condition, the horrible side effects usually are not worth it, and in addition they never provide more than a temporary solution. This is a known fact that 95% of fad diets fail. Thank you for sharing your opinions on this weblog.

  3. sbo

    You rightly point out the almost impossibility of eating healthily on the turnpike. There is such a lack of imagination at turnpike services.

  4. Lindy

    What I found to help me get healthy and more vitality was to start juicing. I felt heaps better and I found I wasnt eating junk food anymore as I was more aware of what I was putting in my mouth

  5. Mike

    A big problem we face as a society is we tend to eat out of convenience instead of eating for what is healthy for us.

  6. preet

    I like this post very much !!

  7. Ellie Bou

    I like the strategies here. Great way for me to plan my baby.

  8. Jeremia

    Great post I bookmarked it!

  9. Anonymous

    Healthy eating is so important in maintaining a healthy mind! People underestimate it so much!

  10. Marc Azada

    I think the best way to be healthy and to loose weight is to eat vegetables and fruits that contain fiber. By doing so, people can get rid of the harmful toxins in the body.

  11. Lewis J

    I think one of the best ways to eat healthily and to enjoy life is smoothies. I honestly do. You can pack so much into a smoothie: Fruit. Vegetables. Salads. Yogurt. And they taste great.

    There’s not an awful lot in the world that tastes fabulous and that is healthy for you and Smoothies are 100% one of these. I really do love them.

    I think it should be less about munching grass and eat a salad leaf for lunch and more focus on smoothies.

    Lewis J
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  12. Alan Williamson

    Food from all over the world is good for you! spice of life! Try a little of everything.

  13. Rose

    Any new updates . So excited to hear your latest. So funny when your being tempted to eat Calamari.lol
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  14. greek yogurt gal

    Excellent post. I always love reading about committed programs for either healthy eating or weight loss; they usually even give me ideas about things I can do or add to my own life. I never used to eat salads before in my life, but started to literally drop the pounds month-after-month after I started replacing my normal lunch with a chicken salad and my breakfasts with greek yogurt with honey (or plain, strawberry, blueberry) and granola.

  15. kevin

    Nice post, it is very true that healthy food is must to maintain health. Some mistakes we often do are, unhygienic lunch in office and very common is habit of fast-food. All these required improvement. We take food items from stalls in boxes, it is quite unhealthy.

  16. alex d

    Healthy eating means maintaining a nutritious diet. I believe it to be important to every one. I stress a healthy life to my family and friends and I try to show them the benefits to it. I think the greatest benefit most of all is that it makes you feel and look great. If your not eating healthy, then you are not helping your body. You are filling it with what it does not want, instead, help your body out and eat healthy. The turn out is awesome. I have been eating healthy for years and I have never felt better in my life.

  17. Anonymous

    Great post bookmarked!

  18. Amy

    Getting a healthy meal is key to anyone’s performance, whether it is with a [URL removed by moderator] Core Workout or whether it is just performing mentally in your day to day routine. Nutrition is the ultimate key! Kudos!

  19. vitamins group

    this is great information and awesome challenge to commit to for 6 weeks to get into better shape, and have a better life in general

  20. Nancy Stone

    Wonderfull articles here, that you for sharing this valuable information. We have made note of your blog.

    Nancy S Stone OB/Gyn
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  21. Fred

    I’m really excited with this post

  22. Phoenix Pilates

    Isn’t it interesting to note that the common factor in both of these cases the two common denominators are the need to plan ahead for healthy eating and consciously thinking about the food that would be the healthier choices to consume. First of all, well done. But beyond that, in a society of convenience and rush…planning ahead and actually thinking about what food is healthiest to eat prior to ordering it/or eating it is something we all have to make an effort to put time and energy into.

  23. Jenny Martin

    I think thats a great regime and should you also be a smoker try kicking the habit and youll feel much better. I did and its has been an amazing turning point in my life.

    Thanks for the info and looking forward to a reply.

  24. parmila

    great ideas i love your lunch strategies idea

    it is also good to know what we eating is eat healthy like
    balance diet

    we can make very simple affordable balance diet healthy foods @ home, working lunch and dinner.

    anyway i just love sharing my ideas on this blog

  25. Jayne Parton

    Yum, your lunches sound scrummy! Its just too easy to go for the unhealthy options. Bet you are saving quite a bit by bringing from home too.

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  26. Cathy Ochs

    You rightly point out the almost impossibility of eating healthily on the turnpike. There is such a lack of imagination at turnpike services. I really think it hits their bottom line. I am simply not convinced that with imaginative cooking there would not be a big market for the sorts of foods in the Harvard’s 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.
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  27. Einkorn.com

    Make that an einkorn wheat pita and you’ll double the nutritional value

  28. stacey cook

    You are going to “hooked” on eating right! Because boy will your body let you know when you don’t! Planning to eat was a way of life for everyone just one generation back. Learning how to do this in our fast paced lives takes some practice and you two are doing a wonderful job! This is our 2nd visit to your blog and really find it inspiring….very real. Helen tell your husband that real men do eat yogurt and nuts!! :-)… and Tonya we applaud you copping to stealing the calamari! Made us smile too!

    • Helen Hoart

      We’re both moving along the healthy eating continuum. In fact we had Greek yogurt and fruit for dessert the other night and we both loved it. He agrees with you and says he is getting “hooked” on a healthier diet. Thanks for the support.

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