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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tip: Stick to the Fresh Food Section in the Supermarket

Today is a hungry day for me. Who knows why we have days when we are hungrier than other days? Still, those hungry days are difficult when I’m working so hard to reach a healthier weight. Here’s what I’ve eaten so far today: For breakfast I had about three heaping spoonfuls of vanilla-flavored yogurt with some shredded wheat and Kashi Go-Lean cereal topped with strawberries and blueberries. That’s a big breakfast for me, but a few hours later, Mr. Hungry knocked on my door, long before lunchtime. I drank about four ounces of V-8 juice to stave off my hunger until lunchtime.

For lunch I did not feel like eating a salad, which is my usual lunch, and the pork steak I was thawing was still frozen, so I looked in the cabinet for something to eat. All sorts of things begged for attention: potato pancakes, pasta, couscous, all filled with dreaded starches. Instead I chose a can of Progresso hearty beef soup. The soup spoke to me today. Hmm. The label said it held two servings per can. Ha! I pay attention to that information, though, because the calorie and fat count is based on the serving size the manufacturer arbitrarily sets. Progresso soups do not call for added water, so I knew I’d eat the entire contents of the can, which doubled the 225 calories per serving listed on the label. Okay, so my lunch would be about 450 calories. I’ll talk more about calories some other time, but for now, know that I don’t actually count them, but I do keep them in mind. For example, I know that for me to lose weight I must eat fewer than 2,000 calories a day. Dare I eat a 450-calorie meal when fewer than 2,000 calories a day is my target? Of course. I had fewer than 350 calories for breakfast and 25 calories in my mid-morning V-8 juice. I still have 1,175 calories left before I push the 2,000-calorie limit. I plan to have a few ounces of pork and a large serving of sautéed squash for dinner, so okay, here goes! Open soup, pour in bowl, insert bowl in microwave, heat, and savor.

Here’s the concern, though. Whenever I eat prepared foods, such as a can of soup, I’m likely eating much more salt than I should, so I’ll make sure not to use much salt if any at dinnertime. I also paid more for that can of soup than I would have paid for the ingredients for a fresh salad, if I’d made myself a salad for lunch. I try hard not to eat prepared foods, but I’m human. It makes me think, though, of all the prepared products that are on the shelves that allegedly help people diet and lose weight. Atkin’s, Special K, South Beach, and many other types of diets are represented on the supermarket shelves, all at high prices and all manufactured at some remote, possibly rat-infested facility. Ugh. Look at my photo of the many products available at Publix. Almost a whole aisle of the stuff.

Diet foods abound, it’s true. Big companies love to charge big bucks for products manufactured in their facilities for people who prefer not to prepare their own food, but my food plan makes food preparation so simple and inexpensive I usually have no excuse to shop anywhere but in the produce and meat section of the store.

For the price of six servings of bland, processed, manufactured diet food, I can buy a package of three fresh Romaine lettuces that provide the foundation for fifteen or twenty meals. When I am being the very best food planner (although I’m not always ideal), I shop primarily in the produce section, meat section, and dairy section, all around the outside edges of my supermarket. I even buy my salad dressings in the refrigerated cases on the side wall. I then go down the aisles in the middle only to get paper towels, toilet paper, or dog food. Oh, I do get whole grain cereals, too, which are in the middle of the store.

I keep in mind, though, that almost everything in the middle aisles of the supermarket is not only more expensive than what I can make for myself, but also loaded with salt and those dreaded starches, the very thing my food plan moderates. On those inner aisles I find bread, pasta, crackers, cereals, nuts, popcorn, potato chips, soft drinks, pancake mix, sugar, and more. On the outer, refrigerated walls, I find yogurt, eggs, meat, seafood, and an entire cornucopia of fruit and vegetables. Guess which choices are better for me.

When I buy 99% of my food items on the outside edges of the store, my total price tab is lower than expected, and certainly lower than if I buy frozen dinners or packaged food. In addition, I have fresh, delicious food to eat.

I’m not saying I don’t buy frozen fish, but it’s not packaged as a meal. I buy large packages of frozen, individually wrapped tilapia, for example. The price is great, and I can pull out one portion, let it thaw for a few minutes, sprinkle it with garlic powder and onion powder, and sauté it with slices of squash or florets of broccoli and cauliflower. In a matter of minutes I have a low-cost, sensible, healthful, tasty, meal.

Still, I am human; I slip and slide and backslide, and I still have food in the house that I purchased before I decided to return to my sensible food plan, so those things may get consumed over the next months, but I’ll be mindful of what I eat. What I refuse to do, though, is fall prey to those prepackaged manufactured pieces of diet-food crap sold at the supermarket. Period.

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