Happy Friday to you all! It’s been a relatively quiet Friday over in my world. In fact, it’s darn right been a lazy Friday. All three of us, Corrine, Joelle and myself are still in pajamas and it’s 2:15 in the afternoon. I don’t know if it’s a sign that I need to get out or if it’s a much needed day to relax.
Again, I fought the nap time battle with both girls. Corrine goes down with a small fight. After a few moments of all out crying when I leave the room, she’s usually asleep for a predictable 2 hours. Joelle on the other hand can’t get her schedule straight. And it figures that yesterday, when my mom was here, she slept soundly all afternoon and into late evening. Today, when I’m by myself, she’s wide-eyed and ready to party. Sleep child sleep… mama’s got stuff to do, mainly write this post and get a workout in. But I’ve got 2 hours of Corrine sleeping to do it in. So it would help if Joelle would get on board!
So, I basically wrote this post in my head while I paced around the bathroom, rocking Joelle to sleep to the sounds of the exhaust fan (by the way, the exhaust fan is excellent white noise to calm a newbie baby).
On to the topic at hand. In my last post, I talked about letting someone else do the cooking for you when you don’t have a meal planned. I want to expand on how to let go of some control and still eat sensibly. So there are 3 levels in which you loose control and each level you progressively loose more control.
Level One: you resort to convenience meals from the grocery store. These are generally found in either the frozen food aisle or the pre-packaged food items in the center of the store. I’m talking about the single portion meals as well as multi-portioned ready to cook meals. In order to still eat sensibly and eat these types of items, you have to get to know the food label.
Here’s a quick crash course. The label to the left is a representative label for macaroni and cheese. You always start at the serving size and it may be smaller than you think. I once bought some muffins that I were relatively low in calories and fat, or so I thought. It wasn’t until after we had ate all four muffins that I realized a serving was half a muffin! Who eats half a muffin!
Next check the calories. If you’re making a meal out of this item, a good range of calories may be from 300 – 600 calories. Third, the nutrients highlighted in yellow, fat, cholesterol and sodium, should be minimized.
Fourth, the nutrients in blue are things you want to get enough of. Likely, in a processed food item, these nutrients may be lacking, unfortunately. Fifth, the footnote will tell you basic guidelines for a diet of 2000 and 2500 calories. This is just a very basic guideline and honestly, doesn’t tell you much information specific to your needs because everyone is different. And finally, the %DV (daily value) again, is based on the average person’s need for each nutrient. The take home message is that less than %5 is a low amount and 20% or more is a high amount of that nutrient. In this example, 20% of your daily intake of sodium is not necessarily a good thing.
If you choose these types of food items you still have some amount of control to modify or improve their nutritional prowess. For example, you can easily improve a chicken skillet frozen meal containing diced chicken and veggies. Add more fresh veggies like spinach, broccoli or peppers and serve it over whole grain pasta or rice. In minutes, you’ll have whipped up a wholesome meal! The best advice is first determine if it’s a quality convenience meal and then figure out how you can improve it!
Level Two: you’re short on time and you need a meal, now! Fast food it is then. You can use your nutrition label knowledge to determine the best option out there. Any established chain fast food restaurant will have their nutrition information on their website. So, do your research and have your go-to sensible meal options at your favorite fast food places. My go-to’s are Chipotle (steak tacos with lots of veggies), Subway (turkey on honey oat with lots of veggies), and Chick-fil-A (grilled chicken sandwich with a side salad). Jason’s Deli has a great salad bar too if you’re looking for fast casual. Or St. Louis Bread Co. (Panera) has a great half salad half sandwich combo I love!
Or think of an unconventional fast food place: the grocery store! Most higher end shops like Dierbergs or Schnucks (in the St. Louis area) or Whole Foods have a fresh food section in their produce/deli department. They usually have a fresh salad bar with ready cooked meats and sides behind the deli counter. You can create a wholesome meal consisting of a large salad topped with flavorful accents like nuts or dried fruit with a small portion of a starch like mashed potatoes or corn as well a main dish of protein (just stay clear of the fried chicken 🙂 ) or pasta.
Level Three: You’ve lost all control over the cooking when you decide to eat out at a sit down restaurant. Again, you can use your nutrition label knowledge to pick out the best place/meal for your situation. However, the information you may find on a restaurant’s website may not always accurately represent what is actually on your plate. This is especially true for the smaller, family owned restaurants. So this is my advice on eating out and doing so sensibly: be mindful of portions and eat mindfully. Be aware that portions are usually enough for two at most restaurants. So try ordering a side salad and split an entree with your spouse or child. Eat mindfully: listen to your hunger signals and stop when you’re full. If you’d rather have left overs, ask for a to-go container as the meal is served to you. Box up half the meal (so you’re not tempted to clean your entire plate) and enjoy!
What are your tips to letting someone else do the cooking for you?