The Saturday Skinny: How to make smart lunch choices

By: Don Chaddock, Gold Country News Service
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For years, I did the fast-food drive through for lunch, justifying that choice by telling myself I was too busy for a real sit-down meal. In the newspaper business, we are known for sitting through long meetings of local governmental bodies and then sitting some more while we write those stories. This was my life for more than 20 years -- sitting. When I arrived home from work, I sat some more, usually in front of the television, while drinking a beer, glass of wine or a cocktail. A hardy meal of meat and potatoes, followed by dessert, usually rounded out my day. I sometimes included a salad, with ranch dressing. Where was my exercise? Through all of that, I allowed myself (through my own choices) to balloon up to 303 pounds. So I decided it was time to do something about it, as I wrote in a column earlier this year. Today, I weigh in at 205 pounds, just two pounds shy of my 100-pound weight loss goal. How did I get here? By making smarter choices regarding my meals. At first, I continued to do the fast-food route, but eliminated all French fries and sodas, sticking with just a burger (usually turkey). Eventually, I weaned myself off fast food entirely and started packing my own lunches. This way I can control exactly what I?m putting in my body. It took a few years for me to figure all this out, so be easy on yourself if you find it difficult to go cold turkey all in one day. A typical day for me includes eating six times, limiting lean meat to 4-6 ounces in a meal (usually lunch and/or dinner). I eat a sensible breakfast with a piece of fresh fruit, a snack two to three hours later, lunch three hours after that, another snack (usually fresh fruit or a cup of non-fat yogurt) two to three hours later, dinner in the early evening and a late evening snack of frozen grapes (usually one cup). I also squeeze in some walks throughout the day so I?m not sitting the entire time. Some tricks I use are to park at the far end of the parking lot when I?m shopping, walk an extra lap around the grocery store, walk down the street during a quick 10-minute break and turn everyday chores into exercise (as I?ve written about in a previous column). Probably the biggest change for me has been weekday lunches and my evening routine. Rather than sitting in front of the TV, I might stand and hold my 17-month-old daughter, swaying from side to side, bending my legs as I do. It gets me moving and exercises my legs. Even my wife, who returned home two weeks ago much healthier and happier, noticed the muscles in my legs. Hey, a bonus! Now, let?s look at lunches. I have a decent, soft insulated lunch box. It holds my snacks in a top zipper compartment and either my compartmentalized lunch plate or my sealable salad bowl, as well as a freezer pack. It makes it easy for me to pack my lunch. If you have a success story, I?d like to hear it. E-mail me at Recipe of the week A salad is great in the hot summer months and this is a staple for me. It has protein and lots of veggies. Measure out as much as you feel comfortable eating, but don?t overeat. My salad bowl comfortably holds 44 ounces (of liquid), so it?s a decent size. Use whatever you have available. If it?s small, make sure you really pack it in and bring something extra to eat. The key is to nourish your body with plenty of food to keep that furnace burning, without depriving it of much-needed calories (especially if you?re active). Black bean and kale salad Cut up some kale (washed) and splash with lemon juice. Line the bottom of the bowl. Layer in pre-cooked brown rice (about 1/4 cup) or quinoa Cut up a few handfuls of romaine lettuce Optional: Two tablespoons feta cheese Handful of shredded carrot Handful of chopped bell pepper Handful of broccoli slaw (basically, broccoli shavings, don?t actually make the ?slaw?) Add 1/2 cup black beans (I use canned, rinsed well under cold water) Optional: 2-3 ounces of grilled chicken, cut into strips Dressing: Use low-fat dressing such as Bolthouse Farms brand (I prefer Caesar Parmigiano, 45 calories per 2 tbsp, 25 from calories from fat) or Newman?s Own (I use Light Balsamic, 45 calories per 2 tbsp, 40 calories from fat).