The Usual, Please

Comice pears, so yummy! (Image source)

Comice pears, in season and so yummy!

I’ve come to believe that even more than the grand gestures and Big Decisions, it’s our habits that make or break us. Make something a habit, even if it’s a task you don’t relish, and it becomes part of who you are. Showing up for work on time, paying your bills, walking the dog, saying “thank you” may not in each instance seem to make that big of a difference, but cumulatively? Big difference in outcomes.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve “automated” my weekday breakfasts and lunches, and a couple of readers have asked what that means. It’s simple really, a) I plan them ahead and b) I have 2-3 menus for each that I stick with. In addition to keeping my food intake consistent, it’s also had an additional benefit: I don’t think about food much anymore. That isn’t to say I don’t get hungry between meals or enjoy trying new dishes or planning where we’ll eat on vacations or browsing recipes. It just means that most days, my mind is no longer preoccupied with figuring out what I’m going to have for lunch or trying to resist the pastries that a co-worker brought in. I vary up the fresh ingredients depending on what’s available and in season, and no, I don’t get bored. The best thing about planning and packing lunches and snacks, aside from weight management and saving money, is that it’s freed up a good chunk of mental energy.

I resisted doing this for a long time. Yes, it requires some effort to shop and prepare but really not that much, once you get your menu down and do some prep ahead of time. Habit, again.

Breakfast

Oatmeal

This is the BEST oatmeal!!  Cooks up in 10 minutes.

After one of our vacations where our included breakfasts featured lots of fresh fruit daily, I thought that would be a healthy and delicious habit to maintain back home. So every morning I cut whatever fresh fruit is in season and available. I also usually have a serving of oatmeal with a splash of half-and-half, or a soft boiled egg. Weekends I’ll sometimes cook up some chicken apple sausage which is available from a local grocer. Time saver: I’ll make a big batch of oatmeal every few days, and re-heat individual servings in the microwave. 

Lunch/Snacks

lunch

Here’s my lunch and snacks, all ready to go into the bag. Yes, I eat a LOT of fruit.

Getting into the brown bag habit took a bit more effort. The main course is usually a wrap sandwich (best wrap material is a low-carb, whole wheat tortilla) with either turkey or lean roast beef and lots of greens (arugula or baby kale usually, sometimes sprouts). I usually prepare the night before, along with le monsieur’s more traditional sliced bread sandwich. I have this down to about 10 minutes. Time savers: lay out all of the sandwich ingredients in the order you use them before you start, pre-wash your greens if necessary (love my salad spinner!).

For snacks/sides, I bring fresh fruit and veggies and either a hard boiled egg (boil up a few at a time) or a Mini Babybel cheese for protein. I keep a bar of 70% cacao dark chocolate (usually Valrhona from Trader Joe’s, but whatever’s available) at my desk and enjoy a square for dessert.

What about you? Do you have a routine for weekday meals? Do you shop/cook in advance or wing it daily? Have you found that certain habits have brought unforeseen benefits?

Stay in touch.

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29 Comments

  1. claire
    January 13, 2014 / 3:30 am

    Like you, rolled oats, yoghurt, apple and berries for breakfast every morning! Not so good on lunch, so inspired by your lunch suggestions and intend to copy.

  2. January 13, 2014 / 3:32 am

    It’s 6:00am on the east coast and right now I’m putting together the bento lunch I take to work everyday. I have a collection of 6 boxes that I alternate with depending on my mood; the fanciest is a handmade cedar magewappa box from Japan, one of my favorites is a sleek Monbento box form France and I also use simple Lock ‘n Lock containers from big box retailers. I like bento because it’s nice to have a artfully composed meal as a respite from my stressful job. Bento is also great for portion control. If you like to see some of the bentos I’ve made they are on a Pinterest board I belong to: http://www.pinterest.com/makiwi/we-love-bentos/

    • January 15, 2014 / 5:26 pm

      I love bentos, and have a little kid’s one that I use, but I am not as good at composing them as you probably are. Sometimes my lunch doesn’t fit in them so it has to be brown bagged.

  3. January 13, 2014 / 4:09 am

    I eat the same breakfast /lunch most days, and stick to a routine for dinner too, ( we don’t eat dinner together during the week, so, it’s just me) I’m not a foodie, I loathe cooking and have to watch my weight so it works for me.

  4. Susan
    January 13, 2014 / 4:35 am

    Since I am doing the WW plan also, I too eat a lot of fruit–fresh pineapple, organic strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, grapefruit. For breakfast, I often have chopped up pineapple with strawberries and a 1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese (2 pts). For lunch I have a green salad with a bit of chopped chicken breast, sliced mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, and a bit of low fat cheddar with vinegar and olive oil. (1 tsp of olive oil is 1 point on WW). For dinner I have the same, or cook one of the great recipes from my WW cookbook and count the points. OR, I make one of our favorite healthy recipes and count the points.

    Yes, I agree with you. Planning ahead is essential.

  5. January 13, 2014 / 5:23 am

    Working out has helped me to set an eating routine for the week. Since I work out at 5AM, I am hungrier in the mornings so I eat a little more then. This was very helpful…I hope I am on the way to not thinking about food as much!

  6. January 13, 2014 / 5:42 am

    I do a similar type of food planning and have found this to make my life easier. I do know what I’m going to eat before I’m hungary, this makes all the difference. Then I’m not tempted to eat poor choices. It’s all the energy around thinking about what to eat the drives me to eat a sweets!

    blue hue wonderland

  7. January 13, 2014 / 6:07 am

    Agree, a routine is easier to deal with. I take a small turkey, tomato, spinach wrap each day. Along with 2 baggies of grapes, 1strawberry, banana and a bowl of plain yogurt mixed with walnuts, blueberries and steel oatmeal uncooked. Hubby packs it in a soft tote that is a lunch bag in the center. He has a nice meal waiting when I get home.

  8. January 13, 2014 / 6:08 am

    Since I have been recording my food, I have 3 different breakfasts that I alternate. They are all less than 300 calories. Shopping is easy since I am just replacing the same foods each week. Lunches are salad, soup or open-faced sandwich (1 slice of whole-grain). I am good with routines so all of this is painless.

  9. January 13, 2014 / 6:25 am

    It’s very difficult for me to have anything consistent at the break of dawn, plus even if I force-stuff myself, I’ll be hungry within 1 jour: my stomach is not cooperative in the morning…
    My solution is then to break up my intake: I’ll have a healthy light cereal gruel (wheat&oat bran + brewer’s yeast&wheat germ) with a cup of tea before leaving for work; and in a little tupperware in my bag, yogurt mixed with home-made apple puree (no added sugar, only cinnamon!), with a generous spoon of grated almond of hazelnut and dried grape that I’ll have around 11am… and sometimes forget! (in that case, I’ll have it around 4-5pm as an afternoon snack to help me wait until dinner)(or the following morning!) 🙂

  10. January 13, 2014 / 7:27 am

    Breakfast is easy – usually muesli with a little yogurt and some fruit. Lunch is easy – leftovers. Dinner is where we stare into the fridge and argue about who’s going to cook!

    PS – I always do oatmeal in the microwave. It only takes about a minute for one bowl.

  11. January 13, 2014 / 7:34 am

    It’s all about the routine. My next step is putting together a fitness routine to replace my work commute walk. 80% planning 20% implementation:).

  12. gingerR
    January 13, 2014 / 7:52 am

    I’ve found that I want to eat something after I arrive at work, even if I’ve had a generous breakfast so I break my breakfast up into half portions -one for at home, the other for at work. A quarter of one of those whole-wheat wraps and an egg or egg white is enough to keep me away from the cafeteria and it’s double-portioned baked goods.

  13. January 13, 2014 / 8:10 am

    Excellent planning Une Femme!!! For breakfast I am a creature of habit – steel cut oats and coffee. Lunch? That’s where it gets interesting. I am a huge fan of grain and greens salads – farro with arugula, whole wheat Israeli couscous with spinach, etc., etc. I add in a piece of fruit and some sparkling water and I am a happy (and full) person! On cold days, nothing beats some leftover homemade vegetable based soup!

  14. Hostess
    January 13, 2014 / 8:10 am

    You’ve got this down to a fine art. I discovered planning ahead reduces the temptation to “cheat!” Having food that is WW friendly nearby makes meal times so much easier. If I get really hungry and need a snack I cut up veggies and dip them in light dressing or have an apple with a small serving of yogurt.
    Have you got silver Hills Little Big Bread in California? 2 pieces are 1 point! Lower than any of the wraps that I have found here

  15. Susan A
    January 13, 2014 / 9:17 am

    I love a food routine and totally agree, it keeps my mind off food and frees it for other things. Recently on vacation, I ate a variety of tropical fruit, including avocados right out of the skin for lunch. I never felt better. I will gladly invest a few hours of grocery shopping in exchange for simpler, healthier meals. There are plenty of occasions to explore and experiment, but not every day.

  16. Heidi // Frantic But Fabulous
    January 13, 2014 / 11:02 am

    My current breakfast routine is two tablespoons of granola, four of Fage 2% Greek yogurt and 1 of organic strawberry jam. So easy, so good. Even better, my husband makes the granola. (He’s a keeper!)

    For lunch I either have leftovers or Lean Cuisine (or similar). Not sure if that really counts as a routine!

  17. yumyummoany
    January 13, 2014 / 12:05 pm

    I have the same brekkie every morning in the winter. Half oats, half oat bran cooked with water. I then have 100grams of frozen berry mix with a dessertspoonful of local honey (checking out the theory that local honey protects against hay fever). I don’t like milk on porridge.

    I have just discovered a summer brekkie which I shall make in honey jars – intrigued? Here’s a link http://www.theyummylife.com/Refrigerator_Oatmeal It looks really lovely – and easy.

  18. Duchesse
    January 13, 2014 / 1:58 pm

    I have same breakfast weekdays and maybe 3 variations for weekend. Maybe OT but I have been reading the latest WW system (PointsPlus) with its zero ponts fruits is not working well for all women. (When a banana used to be two points, and now is zero, I did wonder.) Are you using the zero-fruit-point approach? What do you think about it?

    • une femme
      January 13, 2014 / 3:03 pm

      Duchesse, I’m using Points Plus which is 0 points for most fruits. I try to apply common sense though, and limit my intake of bananas and any really high sugar or starch fruit. Bananas or other tropical fruits are an occasional indulgence.

      • Kristin
        January 14, 2014 / 5:48 pm

        yes – also the first year of “0 points fruit” the lowest daily points target was 29. They figured out that was too much and reduced it in year 2. But the new fruit thing did change how I eat, and in a good way. If a highly processed, chemical laden granola bar was 2 points and a banana was also 2, I’d eat the bar. It’s how I’d gotten to be 40 pounds too much. But after the change, the banana was 0 and the granola bar was 4. Then I made a (good) choice.

        You just have to remember that a serving of fruit is 1/2 a cup except for berries. I still eat a 1 1/2 cups of fruit in the am, but I know it’s 3 servings. IMHO, the “new” WW doesn’t stress things like that enough. It’s much harder to know if you are “on plan” or off, because there is much more room to rationalize.

        As always, I love this blog.

  19. LauraH
    January 13, 2014 / 4:40 pm

    For years my breakfast every day has been fruit, no fat yoghurt, a TBS go muesli and a Ryvita cracker. These days the fruit is wild blueberries. When I worked lunch was always a salad, brought from home. Now that I’m retired and am often out and about over the lunch hour, it’s been challenging. Right now I’m trying to organize myself to bring some low fat cheese, croakers and fruit to eat on the go – doesn’t always happen. Automating meals works so well and I need to get back to that for dinner as well.

  20. martha
    January 13, 2014 / 4:56 pm

    This was interesting! I come here for the style inspiration, but have a simplified routine is part of a stylish life, isn’t it?

  21. Tiffany
    January 13, 2014 / 5:21 pm

    I can’t abide eating before mid-morning, so I often just have ‘brunch’ (usually last night’s leftovers or some eggs with spinach or asparagus) around 11am, then a snack (plain yoghurt, fruit, nuts, whatever) mid-afternoon. I cook dinner every night so it’s usually something healthy (tonight it will be a stir-fry with lots of veg, chicken & cashew nuts, with brown rice), although we are a bit less sensible on weekends (popcorn shrimp po’ boys, anyone?).

  22. nancy
    January 13, 2014 / 5:51 pm

    I love poached eggs on a plate of baby spinach, tomatoes, and avocado topped with oil and vinegar for breakfast. I used to have a square of that delicious Trader Joes’s Valrhona dark chocolate for dessert at night, but was horrified to read on the label that one square is 240 calories! So now I skip dessert altogether.

    • January 17, 2014 / 12:09 pm

      How is that possible? Are the squares enormous something or is it 240 for the whole bar? Hersheys Special Dark Choc is 80 calories for a square, in case that helps.

      • une femme
        January 17, 2014 / 12:37 pm

        By my calculations based on the nutritional information on the label, one small square (1/8 of a Valrhona 71% cacao bar) has 75 calories, 2 WW points.

  23. January 14, 2014 / 2:08 am

    I use a similar method so that breakfast and lunch “just happen”. We rotate homemade granola & juice, with smoothies & toast, on Sundays we enjoy a cooked breakfast. Lunches at this time of year (high summer) are salads or homemade grain bread with lots of salad, plus plenty of fruit. In winter lunches are homemade soup, leftovers or toasted sanwiches.

  24. January 21, 2014 / 8:39 pm

    I love your choices. I would have to have a friend keep the bar of chocolate though. I would not have enough restraint to not eat it during times of stress!! teeeheee!

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