Remind me how to eat
September 25, 2010 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I've been skipping meals. Help me knock it off and be healthy.

I've been incredibly busy the last few months. (Two little kids and a career with relentless deadlines.) Something had to go. Unfortunately, the thing that went was eating.

I've been routinely sitting at my computer in my home office in the mornings to do a few things while I figure out what to have for breakfast. I want something fast, but healthy. Something that isn't the product of ten thousand hours of fine American food engineering. Something not too crazy carb-heavy; diabetes runs in my family, and I'm concerned for my future. Something like, like... hmm. I won't think of anything, so I'll keep working.

A couple of hours later, I'll wander into the kitchen thinking, "OK, now it's REALLY time I have GOT to eat something." I'll make a cup of coffee, stare at my cupboards, fail to find anything I want to eat, and then go work some more while I try to figure it out.

Sometimes at around 3 I'll get my act together before I have to pick up my daughter from school, and I'll have something really awful -- some Oreos or crackers, or a bowl of ramen noodles, or maybe I'll nuke a hot dog out of desperation. Exactly the kind of food I was trying to come up with an alternative to eating in the first place.

There is probably an insidious little subconscious process going on. I kinda want to drop some weight anyway, and it's possible that deep down, this seems like an easy way to do it. But I know this isn't the right way.

So: Help me, MetaFilter! How can I not do this anymore? What can I stock my fridge with that will make it easy for me to just grab something healthy quickly? I'm pretty sure I used to eat stuff during the day, I just can't remember what any of it *was*.

Complications: No peanuts or tree nuts in the house. Preferably no meat. Little to no prep time.
posted by Andrhia to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hardboiled eggs? Do you have time on Sunday or another evening to cut up celery, carrots, and have those with a dip? Avocado sliced on top of toast, but that may be too carby. Cheese cubes are good. Edamame can be cooked quickly in the microwave, or roasted at night, cooled, and then stored for the next day. Hummus on vegetables or crackers might work as well. Are you working from home, or do you need office stuff, too?
posted by kellyblah at 7:12 AM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: Two solutions:

- buy prepackaged healthy foods (TJs FTW!)
- go out and get something at Starbucks or Jamba Juice - smoothie and oatmeal
posted by k8t at 7:14 AM on September 25, 2010

Milk, fruit, and whey protein in a blender. Peanut butter and oats are good additions as well. Tasty, nutritious, easy to prepare, easy to consume. I'm drinking it right now.
posted by JohnMarston at 7:15 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yoghurt. If you buy the little containers you can carry them back to your computer, and if you have a decent grocery store it's easy to find ones that aren't full of gunk.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:19 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're carb averse and allergic to peanuts, then fruit smoothies and peanut butter are not going to be great options.

Oatmeal for breakfast! You can throw in frozen berries from the fridge or honey and nuke it; it's fast and berries are the lowest carb fruit. Avocados are relatively un-carby, actually, and a half avocado with some tuna or bagged salad is nice. Hardboiled eggs are a good option if you can get organised but I never can. Sliced tomato and mozerella takes about 2 minutes to prepare and dress with olive oil. Hummus with veggies and some olives on the side is a nice lunch. Tabbouleh, taramasalata, stuffed grape leaves are all pre-prepared but not chemical fests.

Oh, what about microwaveable burritos! You can get those at TJ's and a tortilla has around 35 carbs - unless you're actually doing a low carb eating plan, that's nothing.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Grab a ton of those Chobani Greek yogurt cups. They come in lots of flavors and they're good for you compared to Yoplait type yogurt. Quick, filling, and some variety.

Another option for breakfast: steel-cut oatmeal. I have a rice cooker. I put the oats and water in the night before, set the timer, and when I wake up I have yummy oatmeal waiting. It can then be made sweet (mm brown sugar and cream) or savory (mm salt, pepper, and an egg cracked on it and mixed in) depending on my mood. A few minutes' thought in the evening to put the ingredients together makes for a yummy no-thought meal when I wake up.
posted by olinerd at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Isn't this what breakfast cereal is for? And yoghurt?

If you want something hot: buy multigrain english muffins and american cheese. Toast a muffin and slap a slice of American cheese in there as soon as it pops up. Possible a few dashes of Tabasco, if you like that sort of thing. Squush together and wait a few seconds for the cheese to melt. (You can even nuke it for about 4 seconds -- melts the cheese but keeps the muffin crispy.)

Yes, American cheese is processed. But it's low fat, high calcium, the combo with the muffin is a good whack of protein, and it melts nicely. Plus you don't even have to get a knife dirty.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:37 AM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: 2nding hard boiled eggs. Keep an extra cartoon, write "HB" in bright marker all over it, and store your hard boiled eggs in it so nobody gets confused. They'll keep for some time in the fridge, you can cook a weeks' worth at a time, easy. Fill your pot in one layer with eggs, cover with water, bring to a rolling boil for a few minutes and then turn off the heat. Keep the lid on and let it sit on the burner, for about half an hour. The residual heat will cook your eggs perfectly every time, and you can go accomplish things and not worry about overcooking them.

I like pickles for breakfast. Don't knock it till you've tried it. Also don't forget that there are loads of different pickled things out there for you to try. Pickled beets, carrots, cabbage, or peppers are all great and can lend much-needed variety to a routine. They keep for ages in the fridge and don't require any prep beyond opening a jar. Eat them with toast or crackers or hashbrowns and the aforementioned egg and you've got yourself a well-rounded breakfast in my house.

Frozen berries are good, straight out of the bag, with yogurt or on cereal but also alone. Don't even bother making a smoothie out of them. Just be sure to have a napkin handy. I find blueberries and raspberries the best for this. Also, peas.

Oatmeal is great, but there are lots of other grains out there that are just as easy to prepare. Have you tried grits? If you don't want sweet for breakfast, you can do grits (or polenta, whatever) with a little cheese or veggie, but they are equally good with honey. Lots of other hot cereals can be found at your local froo-froo organic grocery store, usually for fabulously cheap, and they all taste a little different but yummy and filling.
posted by Mizu at 7:40 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a very busy work environment where even just running to the frig in the break room is impossible. I need quick and no prep so I keep Luna and Mojo bars nearby. I also always have a can of Amy's soup available if I do happen to have 15 minutes to eat.
posted by little miss s at 7:41 AM on September 25, 2010

Response by poster: Some grrreat suggestions so far, thank you so much. Keep 'em coming!

To clarify: This is home-only, I don't have another office to go to. Actually, most days I've been winding up at the kitchen table with my laptop all day because I never come up with something to eat to move to my desk.

Also, I'm not a super-low-carber so much as I'm nervous about relying on ex. toast and raisin bran every morning, given family history and all. I guess it's more of a glycemic index thing than a carb thing.

I would love to hear more about these TJ prepackaged foods. What do you suggest?

And: Hey, can you keep steel-cut oatmeal in the fridge for a few days? Does it get mushy or slimy or anything? If not, making a bunch and then reheating it might help a lot.
posted by Andrhia at 7:43 AM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: Go to TJs and wander in the cheese area. There are a ton of ready made meals.
posted by k8t at 7:46 AM on September 25, 2010

Hm, I dunno if you can keep it in the fridge or not. I haven't tried it. I think it would really dry out, though, actually, and it can get pretty gross (not dangerously gross, just gross-gross) when it does. And you can't really rehydrate it, because the oats themselves have already absorbed all the water they're going to by the time you cook them.
posted by olinerd at 7:53 AM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: Cooked oatmeal freezes really well, Andrhia. Just freeze it in single serving bags or something, and zap it in the morning.

Trader Joe's - if you wander the freezer section you will be astounded with the variety. It seems though that the most successfully yummy things have a texmex bent to them. Taquitos, bean burritos, microwaveable tamales, they all come out pretty good. TJ's is also the primo source for things like packages of washed, trimmed green & yellow beans in a microwaveable bag, an epic timesaver for dinner. They also have, depending on the store, a large selection of stuff like dried dates, currants, banana chips, and mangoes. Though your nuts thing might be tricky - they're usually packaged in facilities with nuts, so I don't know how allergic your household is.
posted by Mizu at 7:56 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I no longer live in the US so I am bereft of Trader Joe's but I'm a fan. I found it spendy for my budget except for buying specific things - they make, for example, single serves of steel cut oatmeal but they're expensive. Freezing and nuking your own is a much better bet. One of the things that was reasonable and well worth buying was the previously mentioned burritos. They're kind of famous because they're really good.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:07 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would add that you should also be worrying about exercise if you're constantly busy. A half hour a day, if you can fit it in, works miracles.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:10 AM on September 25, 2010

Response by poster: You can FREEZE OATMEAL? You just blew my mind, Mizu.

It looks like a trip to my local TJ to look very hard at the offerings is in order. (Though ours is very small -- I think our Starbucks is bigger, actually.) Promise it's better for you than Lean Cuisines and Luna bars?

outlandishmarxist, I do in fact exercise, though not always 100% consistently. It's a part of my creative process; some days I have to go to the gym and sweat the crazy out before I can concentrate.
posted by Andrhia at 8:16 AM on September 25, 2010

You could go the Scandinavian route and have cold cuts and sliced cheese, with or without bread, along with some fruit and yogurt. The protein and fat will keep you feeling sated a lot longer than breafast cereal or toast.

You could make huevos rancheros from time to time: make up the salsa ahead of time in a large batch, or buy bottled salsa, so all you'd have to do is prepare the tortillas and then cook the eggs.

Trader Joe's has good stuff but keep an eye on sodium levels, which tend to be quite high in prepackaged foods.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:18 AM on September 25, 2010

Reihus- the skipping is not the only problem for the OP. The bigger issue is that when she does finally eat, it's not very nutritious. Regular fasting is dangerous from a nutritional standpoint because you need to be extra careful to pack more nutrients in when you do eat and not gorge on empty calories post-fast. Most people like the OP are not going to be super successful at that at first. It's better to focus on the content of the food, not the calories or when you eat it.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:08 AM on September 25, 2010

Cut a whole-wheat pita* in half, open it up, then stick it in a toaster, just enough to warm it. Fill with "natural" peanut butter (peanuts and salt, no sugar or chemicals). It's been my breakfast of choice for coming on two decades (along with an extremely cold, almost crystalline diet coke, but that's another story).

*I actually prefer coaster-sized "mini-pitas" (Father Sam's brand is my favorite) but they may not be available everywhere. English muffins are almost as good. Bagels are usually too highly caloric.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 9:27 AM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: Maybe I'm just gross, but I make oatmeal at the start of the week and keep it unfrozen in a big glass tupperware-type-thing with a lid in the fridge. I scoop out a portion and microwave it for breakfast. I haven't noticed any deterioration after four days or so.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:31 AM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: Seconding TJ's "indian fare". I often have them as a (relatively) low-carb lunch when I'm busy.

I like to make low-carb quesadilla - put lc tortilla in a hot skillet, put some grated cheese and chicken pieces or ham on it, put other lc tortilla on top, turn the whole thing around and it's done after 2 minutes. I cut the "pie" in quarters and often eat it by my desk. It's great because you can put leftover vegetables/meats in there to create different varieties. I think "mission" lc tortillas are great, the ones TJ sells should be avoided at all costs.

I also have scrambled eggs quite often - even less work and you can throw in different stuff, like red onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, cheese, chicken pieces...just use leftovers or buy pre-cut stuff to save time.

Also: All kinds of vegetable soups (you could make them yourself and freeze them). Pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato... I crumble a handful of feta on top and it's a full meal.

(Oatmeal is very high in carbs, and may not be a good idea if you have blood sugar worries. I know it isn't for me, it sends my blood sugar way up and I crash 2-3 hours later. I know some people don't have problems with carbs when they stick with whole grains, but for me it makes absolutely no difference whether I eat a big piece of cake or a bowl of oatmeal, blood-sugar-wise. YMMV.)
posted by The Toad at 11:19 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm severely peanut and tree nut allergic, and I can have almonds. Those make a wonderful snack in moderation, and almond butter is delicious. I buy the Barney Butter brand, because it's the only one I've found that's not processed with peanuts.

Frozen whole-wheat bagels are also good. I like Bagels Forever but there are probably other good and inexpensive brands in your area. Since diabetes seems to be more linked to refined carbs (and not burning them off with exercise), and that you can have some in the morning without much worry anyways, I think whole-wheat stuff should be fine.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:23 AM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: The Toad: "(Oatmeal is very high in carbs, and may not be a good idea if you have blood sugar worries. I know it isn't for me, it sends my blood sugar way up and I crash 2-3 hours later. I know some people don't have problems with carbs when they stick with whole grains, but for me it makes absolutely no difference whether I eat a big piece of cake or a bowl of oatmeal, blood-sugar-wise. YMMV.)"

A half cup of boring Quaker Old Fashioned Oats has 23 net carbs. That's the same as two whole wheat low carb tortiallas, isn't it? Oatmeal also has a really low GI so I'm surprised you're having sugar crashes with one and not the other.

Anyway the OP said she wanted to avoid "crazy carb heavy" food, so while nobody is going to be suggesting bagels with cream cheese, we're probably splitting hairs with this level of carb scrutiny.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2010

DarlingBri, yeah, 1/2 cup would definitely not be a problem, not even for me! It's big portions that are a problem, like the cereal bowl full of oatmeal that a lot of people typically have for breakfast (who eats just 1/2 cup?). AFAIK, there's a lot of variability in GI measurements and also, different people's organisms react differently to stuff - that's what I keep reading on the (moderate) LC boards I frequent and it's also my own experience. But yes, the OP might be completely OK with stuff like oatmeal or whole wheat bagels, she can just try how her body reacts.
posted by The Toad at 1:33 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: It seems that many people didn't read your question very well; whenever somebody suggests PEANUT BUTTER, you should sub sunflower seed butter. You can get it at Trader Joes for cheap and spread it on celery, bananas, or apples for a quick snack. I also vote that you start making GIANT pots of soup and freezing it for quick defrost. Trader Joe's indian packets are good, and they are 2 serving sizes. Cutting up broccoli and steaming it with a little salt is always delicious. If you have peppers, celery, and carrots, you can just dip them into hummus. Make a bean salad with pre-crumbled feta, garbanzo beans, another kind of beans, corn, onions, salt/pepper, and a bit of vinegar and olive oil. Bean salads are soooooo gooooood.
posted by 200burritos at 1:53 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: Silk (soft) tofu with ginger simple syrup (light on the sugar, heavy on the ginger). It's even better if you can find tofu that's made fresh locally, and the simple syrup keeps in the fridge for a few weeks.
posted by asphericalcow at 2:10 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: I have very similar difficulties, and these are my go-to quick and healthy foods.

- Dates are full of fiber and, as such, are very filling for their size. They also help the digestive system.
- Edamame. You can buy it already shelled and salted at Whole Foods and it is full of protein and fairly easy on the stomach.
- Coconut kefir. It's like a liquid yogurt, chock full of probiotics that are excellent for your GI tract. They sell it at Whole Foods in Original, Vanilla, and Strawberry flavor. It's pretty much a thick liquid, so it's super-easy to grab and drink, even while you're working, and is super-filling. It's also like a health superfood*.
- Flax-seed crackers. Also a superfood. These can be bought at many/most health-food stores and are amazing for you. They are full of EFAs and other wonderful things. You can put jelly on them, cheese, salsa, hummus, anything else you want, or just eat them plain. They last for a really long time without going bad as well.
- Tortillas and hummus. Not too many carbs, and full of protein and healthy fat to keep you well-oiled and keep your stomach satisfied. And/or veggies dipped in hummus. You can vary the beans in the hummus to literally spice things up - white bean hummus, black bean hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, garlic hummus, veggie hummus...
- Guacamole is extremely healthy, very filling, and doesn't take too long to make (or can be purchased) - or to eat. It should last several days to a week in the fridge. Eat it on tortillas, organic corn chips, or whatever you want.

To expound upon those last two recommendations: You can make a really yummy and nice little spread if you heat some tortillas and get some corn chips and veggies, and have hummus, tomato salsa, and guacamole in little bowls (or on little portions of the same plate) as "dipping stations". If you have those things on hand, it can be arranged in five minutes or less.

If these suggestions seem a little overly-healthy, it's only because when I'm having a hard time eating much, I want to eat the most nutrient-dense foods possible to make sure that when I do eat, I'm getting the most bang for my buck, so to speak, and not irritating my stomach into further issues. But yeah, please don't use this as a weightloss method. I know it seems like an easy way to lose weight ("Hey! My body doesn't even seem to care that I'm not eating! I don't even notice! This isn't so terrible! Why didn't I think of this all along?"), but it's a very bad road to get started down and if you were unfortunate enough to develop serious eating issues this way, you would look back at this moment as defining and regret it deeply. You seem to already realize this, but I just wanted to reiterate for emphasis and in agreement.

Good luck!

* Read more here:
posted by jitterbug perfume at 7:18 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Someone sent me over to this post to help you. I even paid the 5 bucks.

OK, so you're not gluten senstive, and you're not diabetic, but worried that you could be in the future.

First, a big reason for the diabetes explosion is processed foods - and pop. Our bodies are not meant to run on chemicals. My friend was able to get off her insulin when she steered clear of processed foods, and added more fresh fruits and vegetables to her diet. She has lost enough weight so far that she can shop in a regular store, instead of the 'big girl' stores.

The real reason she finally switched was not for her own health. Her adopted child had developed pretty bad behavior problems. So much so that she was even willing to try my advice and feed her healthy. And of course, unless you want to make 2 meals, she had to eat healthier too.

It solved the behavior problems too.

Now the part where people get all crazy is what food you have to eat. You just have to eat a normal plain old balanced diet of fresh real foods.

Some of my favorite breakfasts are -
Toast, yogurt, banana, orange juice, vitamins, and coffee.
Spanish omlet, toast, orange juice, vitamins, coffee.

Those will hold you a long time. It only takes a few minutes to whip up eggs. I would suggest organic on the eggs as the healthiest choice. Eat the yolks. Thats where all the nutrition is.

Have a big salad for lunch. The possibilties are endless.

I'm a single mom. I run websites from home, and I work outside the home. I find that taking the time to eat healthy cuts down on sick days, and makes us more productive. It saves money and time in the long run. Take the time to make yourself something to eat and you'll feel tons better, be more productive, think better, have more energy, and lose weight.

I hope my rambling helped some.

posted by Clean Freak at 7:59 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: I would love to hear more about these TJ prepackaged foods. What do you suggest?

TJ's just came out with two Indian food pouches are quite tasty: spiced soybeans, and cumin & chili chickpeas. When I am out of ideas or food and have no time, I snip the pouch open, squish it so it stands upright, put it in the microwave for 90 seconds and then eat it out of the pouch. Cheap, easy, tasty and filling. I've even had them for breakfast. They are not very hot spicy and I don't need to have rice or other starches along with them.
posted by girlhacker at 8:54 PM on September 25, 2010

I need to eat something in the morning before I can take my medications, but I feel like such shit when I first wake up that I don't have the energy or appetite to deal with actual food. Now I keep a mini-fridge of SlimFast shakes next to the bed and drinking one first thing in the morning has helped tremendously.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:51 PM on September 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, you guys are the best! I feel like I have a handle on the problem now. I swear I used to eat food during the day all the time. I have no idea why I can't remember what that stuff was.

Anyway, I've stocked up on Greek yogurt for breakfast, and I have plans to batch-cook hard boiled eggs and steel-cut oats in some kind of rotation.

I also made a scouting expedition to TJ and found a bunch of frozen Mexican stuff, but nothing that matches the description of Indian fare in pouches. (I did see some Indian food in the frozen section, but none of the specific dishes that any of you described.) Is my TJ too small, or was I looking in the wrong spot?
posted by Andrhia at 2:51 PM on September 26, 2010

I've got a pouch out right now (yes, breakfast). As I mentioned, it's new, so maybe not in your area yet and we're on the west coast, but hopefully it will make it over to you too. Right now they are in our "what's new" section and are shelved with all the shelf-stable prepared foods. They are not refrigerated, not frozen. "Trader Joe's spiced soybeans" SKU# 93433 if you want to ask at the captain's desk.
posted by girlhacker at 9:43 AM on September 27, 2010

Showing up a little late, but I didn't see anyone mention what is my go-to breakfast food (and I am very much not a breakfast eater, mostly because I like to wake up AS LATE AS POSSIBLE before leaving for work, so I usually have about five minutes): big tub of plain yogurt + big bag of granola + sometimes dried fruit. Pour some granola into a bowl, spoon some yogurt on top, sprinkle on some dried fruit. Mix up and eat. I don't really like plain yogurt on its own, and granola is a little too dry for me, but mixed together they are absolute perfection! It's quite filling, too.
posted by you zombitch at 5:14 PM on September 28, 2010

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