They say that when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. This is exactly what I decided to do this past week when I saw myself stranded in New York with a bad back and a husband facing knee surgery. I had ten days, mostly indoors, to kill before getting the OK from our doctors to fly back to Paris and resume our sabbatical year.
After four months in Paris, I saw the needle on my scale drop ten pounds, but like every woman I know, I still had those last ten ones to get rid of. I decided to make a conscious effort to use those days to tighten my diet and get rid of that middle age accumulation.
Strategy number one: keep meals at a max of 350 calories and find delicious low calorie ways to satisfy your hunger. Stock the freezer with some good frozen choices such as “Amy’s Light and Lean,” with less than 300 calories and “Blake’s Sheppard Pie” - an all-time favorite of mine. These will come in handy when you are in a hurry.
Real cooking did not really take place; I merely prepared little things here and there. It took no time and it is something anyone can do.
Number one: find fast food that is healthy and low calorie. Three places came to mind - Panera Bread, Chipotle, and Salad Works or Chopped.
At Panera Bread I always go for the Thai Bowl. It is delicious, it fills you up and the 290 calories feel like 1,000 in taste! Check their menu before going in. Look carefully at the calories and always remember to ask for the dressing on the side and an apple instead of chips or bread. Save the apple for your morning protein shake. Don’t even look at the $0.99 pastries, they will end up costing you a new pair of pants - they are so fattening!
My top choices at Panera:
Thai Garden Chicken Wonton Bowl: 290 calories
Power Almond Quinoa: 300 calories
Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup: 140 (perfect for midday when you get hunger pangs)
Low fat Veggie Garden Soup with Pesto: 120 (another great midday snack)
Chipotle can be a little tricky. Although everything is considered healthy, a burrito can pack 1,500 calories! Go into their site and learn the calories. Make your calculations before you walk in the door and try not to follow the choices of the hunky teenager ahead of you who is going to play hoops all afternoon.
These are some numbers that should help you plan your bowl. Tortillas are a no-no!
Serving of chicken: 180 calories
Barbacoa: 165 calories
Brown rice: 210 calories
Black Beans: 120 calories
Pinto Beans: 115 calories
Fajita Vegetables: 20 calories
Tomato Salsa: 25 calories
Guacamole: 230 calories! You can always ask for a ½ portion.
Stay away from the cheeses and sour cream and always say NO to an offer of chips unless you don’t mind carrying it around your hips all year round.
SaladWorks and Chopped are also good choices for a skinny meal but you should always check the ingredients and say no to that little cup that contains 2 tablespoons of dressing at 240 calories! Avoid the cheeses, lots of nuts, and anything that has mayo or any relative of it in it. Again, check their sites and plan your salad ahead of time.
At home, I bought a few containers of already cut vegetables, frozen salmon, parmesan cheese, broth, avocado, bananas, and my latest discovery: goat cheese ricotta. With these ingredients I can make low calorie meals and stay within my 1,200-1,400 calorie goal for the day. Check out my recipes for more ideas.