Monday, July 19, 2010

Micro meals: A “frugal fuel” experiment

Last week I wrote about the weirdness of learning to accept my frugal fuel needs even while living in a super-sized society -- realizing that my body type, underneath all that padding I’d accumulated before losing 60 pounds in six months, is actually much closer to an economy car than an SUV.

Well, in an attempt to make the most of a day’s worth of fuel, I decided to try an experiment: Taking in my 23 allotted Weight Watchers points one at a time over the course of the day.

For those of you not familiar with the points system, use this for reference: A McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese and medium order of french fries equals 20 points. So it’s rather easy, eating the typical American diet, to blow through your allotted points in a single meal if you aren’t careful.

But you can also take the opposite perspective, and marvel at some of the delightful things you can eat for only a single point: A cup of grapes or blueberries or strawberries, for instance. Half a cup of fat free refried beans with salsa, using carrots instead of chips for dipping.

By eating only one point at a time, I’d essentially be eating 23 snacks and mini-meals all day long. Hard to feel deprived doing that. And I didn’t. For the record, here’s what I ate the day of the experiment:

1. 1/2 thin whole-wheat bagel
2. 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (eaten from the measuring spoon)
3. 1/2 cup skim milk
4. 1/2 thin whole-wheat bagel
5. 1/2 slice American cheese, melted over mushrooms in the microwave
6. 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (see above)
7. 1/2 thin whole wheat bagel
8. Fiber One 90-calorie bar
9. 1 cup blueberries
10. 1 plum (at only 35 calories, this item is only half a point)
11. 1/2 cup fat free refried beans, eaten from the measuring cup with a spoon
12. 1/2 cup baby carrots dipped in two tablespoons of salsa con queso
13. 1/2 banana
14. the second half of the banana
15. 1/4 cup rice and beans
16. Fiber One 90-calorie bar
17. 1/2 slice bread with 1/2 tablespoon jam
18. 1/3 cup bran flakes with 1/4 cup milk
19. 1/2 cup fat free ice cream
20. 4 tortilla chips with 1 tablespoon chili conqueso
21. 1/3 ounce swiss cheese
22. 1 sugar free popsicle (at only 15 calories, this item has zero points)
23. 1/4 cup rice and beans

Total snacks and micro meals: 23
Total calories for the day: 1,370
Total Weight Watchers points for the day: 21.5

As you can see, that’s quite a lengthy list of food. No single thing took very long to eat, but because one of the rules I made up was that I had to consume each “point” separately, as its own meal or snack, I felt like I was constantly eating. And I was: If you average 23 snacks or “fuel stops” out over the approximately 18 hours I was conscious last Thursday, then it was meal time every 47 minutes. Yet I never did use up all the points I was allotted, coming in 1.5 points under my limit.

The most amusing part of this experiment were the “micro meals” I came up with: that three-bite serving of cereal, for instance, or the tiny plate of nachos.

And then there were those tasty 1-point items I completely forgot about: A 12-ounce bottle of Miller Genuine Draft lite beer (only 64 calories), a three-egg white omelette with veggies and salsa or ketchup, a 3-ounce baked potato with salsa or ketchup.

Oh well, maybe next time.

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