July 18, 2010
I probably should change the title for fear of offending someone. “Tips for the Busy Dieter” or “Tips for the Dieter Who is Short on Time” (aren't we all?) would probably have worked just as well. But, to me, the phrase “lazy dieter” had a ring to it.
I once got an e-mail from a friend who said that she admired the fact that I found time to write and diet. Time to diet? That phrase made me think. I realized that she was right. It does take time to diet or, I should say, to strive to live a healthier lifestyle. I didn't take off the weight I've lost so far by just dieting. It's been a combination of eating healthier (as well as less calories), exercising, and getting nutrition and health counseling.
There is certainly an investment of time required. You have to stock your pantry with the foods and tools that will allow you to make healthy meals for yourself. You have to plan meals and keep healthy snacks within reach. You have to learn which foods give you the most bang for your buck. In my mind, that means the foods that will give me the most health benefits and satisfy my cravings and appetite for the least amount of WeightWatchers points or calories.
When my job offered a WeightWatchers at work program, I made time to attend the meeting once a week for an hour. Now that the program has ended, I make time to keep track of my weight and my food intake with WeightWatchers online. I try to work out for at least half an hour four to five days a week and, on the weekends, I go food shopping and cook dinners to last me throughout the week. That way, when I come home late in the evening during the week, I don't have to worry about cooking. I just warm up one of the meals in the microwave and go about my business.
With the time-crunched and chaotic lifestyle that most of us lead today, making that sort of time commitment may seem daunting to some and impossible to others. But I look at it this way: I'm making an investment in me. I can't take care of anyone else (not my family or my employer or my clients) if I don't take care of myself.
Our bodies are like machines. If we wear them down into the ground without fueling and lubricating and maintaining them properly, they will wear out a lot faster than their useful lives. Moreover, they will break down on us more often. Since we only get one, it's probably a good idea to do a bit of preventative maintenance.
With that being said, there are some shortcuts we can take advantage of for getting healthy food onto the table fast during the week. I like to get a little help from the grocery store wherever I can. For example, I like to buy pre-packaged and pre-washed baby carrots from the store that I can throw into my lunchbox during the week. I buy a big bag and then divide them into single servings in individual snack bags that I can pair with hummus ( I usually have 12 baby carrots with 2 tbsp. of hummus).
I sometimes buy a whole roasted chicken from the deli section. That way, I can have the chicken legs one night for dinner with vegetables and another side. I can take the skin off the chicken breast, dice it up and make chicken salad I can take to work for lunch. I can freeze whatever I don't use one week, then defrost and use it the next to make soup, add protein to a salad or whatever.
I like to buy prepackaged salad greens and baby spinach to use in salads and wraps. One of my go-to lunches is a wrap made with deli turkey, a sliced plum tomato, a cup of baby spinach or 50/50 lettuce mix, a whole grain wrap, and Dijon mustard with a can of Progresso Light Vegetable Soup on the side.
I also like to buy the prepackaged stir fry vegetables you can find in the fruit and veggie section of the supermarket. With a hot wok, minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped onion, a little peanut or canola oil, defrosted frozen shrimp (or diced chicken), and soy, chili and teriyaki sauces, I can have a fresh, delicious and nutritious stir fry on the table in minutes. You can serve that with instant brown rice you can make in the microwave while the stir-fry is cooking and go about your business in less time than it takes to call and wait for takeout. You could even buy the garlic and ginger pre-minced in jars and use an onion chopper to chop the onions or use defrosted frozen pre-chopped onions. By the way, all of this defrosting takes place in your refrigerator overnight.
You could take advantage of the vast amount of pre-cooked and prepackaged frozen foods available in your local supermarket – just watch the sodium levels. When I wanted to make a quick pre-movie meal and cocktails for me and my friends to have after work on a Friday night, I discovered pre-cooked and seasoned frozen shrimp and whole-grain coated chicken tenders in the frozen section of my supermarket. The shrimp, which took all of five minutes to prepare, was low in calories and sodium and absolutely delicious. The chicken tenders were also a big hit. I popped them in the oven and served them with barbecue sauce. I whipped up a salad and a pitcher of cocktails and we were all happy campers.
These are just a few ideas you could use to get healthy and balanced meals into your family throughout the week. Over the next few months, I'll try to keep you informed of quick and healthy meal ideas. Hopefully, you'll share some of yours as well.