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