Lunching Revelations While With Your Nutritionist
A client of Laura’s opted to go to lunch with Laura one day. Here are her notes on the experience:
A belated happy “Take your Nutritionist to Work Day”! Okay, so it’s not a real holiday…yet (give politicians or Hallmark a hot minute), but I celebrated it a few weeks ago.
See, I have this love-hate relationship with my office cafeteria. My midtown office “caf” is just like most office cafeterias. It’s run by one of the big companies that do these sorts of things, and they offer a lot of selections—hot foods, ethnic food days, taco stations, salad bars, soups and sandwiches. I’ve been eating at the caf off and on through five jobs and for a total of 17 years now. And the experience still stresses me out! So I decided to seek professional help and get nationally recognized nutrition expert and general fun person Laura Cipullo to help me out.
I’ve been working with Laura for a couple of years now. I’ve participated in her meal group (“Supper Club” we called it, even though it wasn’t at all like a Supper Club…starting with the “no alcohol” part) and seen her individually as a private client. While growing up, my parents always expected me to clean my plate. Now, I’m trying to get accustomed to “Mindful Eating.” But I’m getting better at it…and I have fewer food rules. I learned a great deal during our lunch together—both about how to navigate a caf lunch (as well as lunch generally) and my eating habits.
“Walk around,” Laura says, whispering like we are in a movie theater… without the popcorn smell or the movie! I tell her she doesn’t have to whisper; we can talk like grown-ups. She explains that at lunch, we want to get the most nutritional bang for our caloric buck. “Keep it basic,” she says. She tells me to skip the hot food—that it’s better to spend those calories on food when there’s a nice environment and I can really enjoy it. I like my desk, but she’s right. Even when I grab a minute and sit down to eat at a table (ideally with someone), it’s not the swankiest setting. “I want to savor my cornmeal crusted calamari at a fancy restaurant,” Laura says with a smile…and I agree. She’s right about these things!
Still in the cafeteria, I bump into some good friends and introduce Laura. By now, she is using a normal inside voice. She reminds me that there is no “perfect”— and that this is a choice, not a rule. Good thing, because I’m starting to feel a little stressed. She asks me about breakfast and dinner plans. We talk about what I have brought with me for a snack…or what I could pick up.
I end up with one of my regular go-to meals—a salad from the taco station made out of lettuce, black beans (a little soupy), mango, corn and jicama, mixed with a chipotle dressing. I get some guacamole added on the top plus about eight corn chips. She gets a salad from the salad bar with chicken and cheese as her protein. She notes the salmon and the steamed green beans that are the chef’s special along with wasabi mashed potatoes. Laura says that would be a good option if I passed on the mashed spuds. She also okays my go-to veggie burger (no fries). I do know that the buffalo chicken wings (available every Friday)—even if I put them on top of a nice bunch of arugula—are a “Sometimes” food, so I don’t bother to ask about them.
Laura and I then head over to the salad dressing station to talk about the hidden dangers lurking thereon. Later, she texts me that the little plastic dressing cup which looks so cute and innocent actually holds four tablespoons— TABLEspoons! The salad dressing station is like a little island of deceit! Laura recommended to stick with the oil & vinegar and limit the reduced fat dressings – they’re often higher in sodium and added sugars. Laura’s all about the olive oils!
We check out (I’m a privacy lawyer, so I’m using my anonymous credit card that’s not tied to anything that knows I’m me), and I can tell that Laura’s scanning the next aisle to start on a discussion about snacks. I’m glad; I need all the help I can get.
I long ago realized that my biggest issue was letting myself get way too hungry—generally for dinner. But by then, I’m not able to think rationally about portions…or listen to how hungry I am…or even to figure out what foods go together. While knowing the problem is always the first step to solving it, there are still times when I look up from my computer and realize that I have skipped having a snack. And then I’m beyond hungry and don’t have any snack with me!
Laura suggests that I eat half of my salad, take the other half back to my office, and then check in with her in an hour and a half to two hours. We chat about travel plans and what’s going on generally. (Uh, did she tell you that she authored a Rodale cookbook? Ahem!)
We spend 35 to 40 minutes eating—far longer than I usually put into lunchtime chewing if I’m on my own and eating at my desk. I confess that I’m satiated for now with the half-salad, but I wonder (out loud, she flits over my shoulder even when she’s not really here, for goodness sakes) how much of that is because I ate it so slowly…relatively slowly!
And back to the snack dilemma: Laura picked out a Kashi bar (yum) and a yogurt for snack options. I went with the Kashi bar and expanded my horizons (yogurt is my usual snack).
So to summarize:
- Those little plastic salad dressing containers are not to be trusted unless you have measuring spoons.
- Eating at my desk makes me eat faster and more.
- I overthink lunch…and pretty much everything else too! “More healthy and less fancy,” Laura said.
- Salad dressings are not to be trusted! Stick to the vinegar and oil.
- As in so many things, keeping it simple is best!
- And there’s still no “perfect”!
For more tips and tricks on navigating food choices in the office environment, take a peek at Laura’s blog on her sister blog Mom Dishes It Out by clicking here.