Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Geek's Guide to Dieting, Part 2: Diet-friendly Foods

In Part 1, I shared my diet plan. Here in Part 2, I'll share some of the foods I've found that make my reduced-calorie diet work.

Breakfast: Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt (80 cals), Coffee with Creamer (40 cals)

If I wasn't dieting, I'd be enjoying a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and crossant sandwich most mornings for breakfast. But I am dieting, so that's out. Breakfast is the most challenging meal of the day for me: I'm only allowing 120 calories for it, and there's a long stretch between it and lunchtime.

What works best is yogurt, but which one? The craze right now is Greek yogurt--which I really don't like. Fortunately, Dannon's Light & Fit Greek yogurt (80 calories) tastes great. In fact, they've done something remarkable with the huge variety of delicious flavors they offer. It comes in Banana Cream, Blackberry, Blueberry, Caramel Macchiato, Cherry, Cherry Chocolate, Citrus Blend, Key Lime, Peach, Pineapple, Pomegranate Berry, Raspberry, Raspberry Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana, Strawberry Cheesecake, Toasted Coconut Vanilla, and Vanilla. They're always experimenting with new flavors too, so it doesn't stop there. I've recently seen limited edition flavors as well such as Pumpkin Pie. I've tried about half of these so far, and nearly all of them are really delicious.

But it doesn't stop there. There's also Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt Mousse (also 80 calories), which tastes more like a dessert. These come in Cherry Cheesecake, Coconut Cream, French Vanilla, Lemon Meringue, Blueberry Tart, Raspberry & White Chocolate, and Salted Caramel flavors.

You can buy Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt in packs of 6 or individually.

With my yogurt I'll have a cup of Breakfast Blend coffee (2 calories) from my Keurig and some creamer (30-40 calories).

Snack: Pickles (0 calories)

Pickles have a special place in the world of dieting because most varieties have zero calories. Don't believe me? Check out the nutrition facts label on a jar of pickles and see for yourself. How can this be? Well, it turns out the energy it takes to digest pickles offsets the calories, coming out to a net of 0 calories. For me, pickles are a welcome snack in that long morning stretch between breakfast and lunch.

Pickles: 0 calories

Another good snack are cuties (tangerines), only about 40 calories each.

Cuties: 40 calories

Lunch: Lean Cuisine Microwave Meals

I work from home most days, so microwave meals are typically what I have for lunch. If dieting were not a concern, I'd favor meals from Stouffers and Marie Callenders. But I am dieting, so I need leaner choices. Lean Cuisine to the rescue! Lean Cuisine has a large offering of meals with low calories and many of them are quite good. I'm especially fond of their under-200 calorie meals such as Herb Roasted Chicken and Steak Portabella, because these leave me enough calories for a mid-afternoon follow-up meal. Also good from Lean Cuisine are their Chicken Parmesan (310 calories), Ranchero Braised Beef (250) and Fiesta Grilled Chicken (250). Another note in Lean Cuisine's favor is honest labeling. I can't tell you how many times I've bought a microwave meal from some other brand only to find out the calories on the front were misleading due to how they figure portion size. With Lean Cuisine, they're very clear with their calorie labeling.

Good meals under 200 cals from Lean Cuisine

Very good from Lean Cuisine in the 250-310 cal range

With one of these meals for lunch, I'm satisfied until my mid-afternoon meal.

Lunch Part 2: Mid-Afternoon Meal: Ready-Pac Bistro Bowl Salad

By 2:30 or 3:00pm I'm getting hungry again, but I have room for another meal because I kept my lunch to 200-300 calories. Ready-Pac Bistro Bowl Salads make a great follow up. They have a large variety in the 210-330 calorie range and most of them are quite good. There's a good variety and they are easy to prepare: just mix the toppings and dressing and stir.

Bistro Bowl Salads

My favorite is the Chef Salad (240 calories). If I need to stay on the lower side of calories, I'll go with the Caprese Salad with Balsamic Dressing or the Walnut Cranberry salad with Raspberry dressing (each 210 calories). The Santa Fe, Bacon Blue Wedge and Turkey & Bacon Cobb are also good, but I'll have those less often because they are 290 calories.

With my mid-afternoon salad, it's smooth coasting till dinner time.

Dinner: Home Cooking

My wife usually cooks for dinner, so it could be something different each time.  Fortunately, she's good at helping me figure out the calories. On my diet plan, I've kept 600 calories (half my daily allowance) reserved so I can have a satisfying dinner.

Dessert: Sugar-free Jello and Diet Snapple

In the evening, I may have a sugar-free Jello (10 calories) or a Diet Peach Snapple (10 calories).

Well, there's my default meal plan. Of course, I sometimes eat out or have to drive in to the office, which changes things. I'll share tips on staying on your diet plan while eating out in Part 3.

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