I know this isn't the most fascinating of post series to read, but at least it isn't going to upset anyone. I guess.
So, a few days ago I mentioned that I'm about to make a six-week push to get back on maintenance habits, and started out by making a list of meals -- first dinners, then breakfasts. I really never do the whole-month-at-a-time meal planning, so this is kind of a first for me. Especially in the middle of all the preplanning I have to do for school, which starts right after the six weeks is up.
But... moving right along, in my six weeks of summer lunches I can expect
- 17 ordinary weekdays at home with the kids
- 10 lunches out with the kids on our way to or from somewhere
- 8 times I can expect to come home hungry at lunchtime and will need something quick
- 6 times I might host other families for lunch
- 5 times I will come home from the grocery store and need to have lunch ready soon.
I categorized the lunches at home with kids according to the kind of thing I typically have ready for the kids to eat. I'm afraid they are going to have to go without macaroni and cheese for a few weeks, though, except maybe on date night.
- When the kids have sandwiches, I'll have the same: 3 oz ham/0.5 oz cheese or 2 oz turkey/2 oz roast beef on whole wheat with mustard, lettuce, and tomato. Fruit on the side.
- When the kids have quesadillas, I'll have a roasted veggie wrap with 1 oz goat cheese and fresh fruit. (The roasted veggies are the kind of thing that you do ahead of time and freeze in portions. Eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onions. I have made this before, it is really easy to do about 6 portions at once.)
- When the kids have tuna salad, I will too, made with white beans and parsley and sun-dried tomatoes, packed in a whole wheat pita with fruit and baby carrots.
- When the kids have hot dogs on homemade wheat buns with corn, I will cook a frozen white fish fillet and have that on a bun with lettuce and pickles.
- When the kids have frozen pizza and fruit, so will I, but I'll choose a thin-crust vegetable pizza like Amy's roasted vegetable or Amy's pesto or DiGiorno thin and crispy.
- When the kids have spaghetti, so will I, with red bell peppers and a lean smoked sausage to flavor the sauce.
- A random emergency lunch is an entire bag of frozen vegetables with whatever protein is handy and a slice of bread.
Hosting another family calls for kid-friendly meals that scale up to a crowd. My ideas are:
- Mini bagels with turkey and cheese, lettuce and tomato, fresh snap peas and apples.
- Spaghetti and red sauce -- it stays warm in the crockpot -- with sliced smoked sausage and red bell peppers. Plenty of breadsticks and cheap grated Parmesan for the kids, but not for me.
- Poached chicken, brown rice, steamed broccoli, and pineapple chunks with assorted sauces. For me, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.
Expecting to arrive home hungry calls for some planned ready-to-eat meals. My ideas are:
- Half a cup of hummus, half a pita, and some red bell peppers, carrot, and celery.
- Veggie burger patty on a bun with lettuce and tomato and a scoop of avocado or guacamole.
- One of the Amy's vegetarian Indian food entrées with some Greek yogurt and cucumber.
- Half a package of a Birds-Eye Steamfresh Protein Blend.
- As a last resort, any ~400-calorie frozen entrée will do, or a combination like a frozen sandwich and a can of vegetable soup.
Coming home hungry right after grocery shopping is a bit less grim, since I can bring something nice from the store. The kids often opt for bagels and cream cheese or a rotisserie chicken. For me, how about
- A premium bag salad topped with a pouch of tuna or salmon, or maybe some of that rotisserie chicken, plus bread.
- A bowl of fresh berries and a hot container of some hearty take-out soup.
Lunches out with the kids -- there always seem to be a lot of these in the summer as we go back and forth to day camps and the like -- are a pretty important part of rebooting my habits, I have found, because they offer excellent opportunities to practice portion control.
- The Chinese buffet -- a pretty good deal since they charge less for younger kids, and one of my kids' favorite places -- can be dealt with by measuring 1 8-ounce bowl of hot-and-sour soup and 1 equally-sized bowl of all other choices put together, as long as enough of the latter is vegetables.
- There are several workable choices at a Bruegger's Bagels: an egg/cheese or spinach-cheddar omelette bagel, any eight-ounce soup plus the "bagel bites" that come with it, any café salad, a "skinny" veggie bagel sandwich.
- Noodles and Company has some new bowls where they have swapped out the noodles for a pile of spinach. Highly recommended. Similarly, salads at Chipotle with no rice work well.
- At least one kids' meal choice at most fast food restaurants is within limits, e.g., hamburger Happy Meal with apple slices, fries, and a water bottle. Other places make it pretty easy to put together something under 400 calories -- Subway is a decent example, thanks to good menu labeling and a custom-order culture.
- It is even possible to navigate newfangled burger places such as Smashburger if I am willing to split the burger with someone, or have a small one with lettuce wrap instead of bun.