Food Philosophies

No Sandwiches?? No!!

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Free Range on Food live chat agenda included the topic of workday lunches. (I think this whole “lunch” as a meal thing is going to stick. Don’t you?)

One participant shared this bit of wisdom:

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This person could be a Box Lunch Lifestyle insider! Some of us are already using this sneaky tactic to level up the food part of lunch: eating wheat at only one meal per day.

Why wheat just once a day? Not because wheat is the enemy, but because it can help limit (NOT eliminate) refined foods that are so often made of wheat. Eating a sandwich at lunch just means you might choose non-wheat foods (e.g., not spaghetti or pizza) for dinner. If you eat an English muffin for breakfast, don't have a hamburger for lunch. Overall, you’ll eat fewer foods that tend to be less nutritious, and replace them with…say…vegetables.

A Box Lunch Lifestyle means there’s no saying “no” to sandwiches—or any other food for that matter. And you don’t have to eat a bowl of quinoa if you don’t like it. Love sandwiches as much as I do? Then have a sandwich. But use your lunch to notice how often you eat wheat-containing packaged foods on a typical day. And if you want to be a person who eats “better,” use this as a not-so-painful first step.

Don't say "Meal Plan"

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“Meal planning.” If you love meal planning, you can probably skip this post. For the rest of us, the words alone make us groan. Meal planning is boring. (Even this picture is boring.) Its a chore, and maybe one we think can avoid. But our food doesn’t magically appear. And we gotta eat. And we want to feel good.

So let’s call it something else: food finding.

When I say “I need to find some food for me this week,” that feels different than “I need a meal plan.”  Everyone has to find something to eat. But rebranding this activity as “food finding,” to me, implies curiosity. What do I want to eat? What are my options? Finding food, unlike “planning,” is flexible. I can be successful at “finding” no matter what funny bounce the day takes. It’s more personal and less monotonous. And it leaves the door open to have a little fun. I can make the hunt for lunch a little adventurous. But even if I don’t, I’m “finding” something, which is always intentional.

Instead being discouraged by other people’s meal planning prowess, think about it differently. We are all responsible for choosing our food, but it’s also a great opportunity—and the freedom—to win on our own terms.


Wheat Foods 101

I don’t bake my own bread. I’m my opinion, grilled cheese couldn’t taste any better than it does on Dave’s Killer Bread.

I don’t bake my own bread. I’m my opinion, grilled cheese couldn’t taste any better than it does on Dave’s Killer Bread.

A lot of people talk about gluten, but the Box Lunch Lifestyle leveling-up of having a wheat-based food only once each day isn’t about gluten sensitivity. It’s simply a sneaky way to avoid eating high-processed, less nutritious foods at every meal.

It might be easy to find a list of gluten-free foods to add to your shopping list, but it’s a heck of a lot harder to find one of the usually-wheat-based foods that are perfectly wonderful to eat every day. The catch? If you eat them at lunch, make them yourself.

These are some wheat foods you can’t help but trip over in American dining culture:

  • most pastas, like spaghetti, macaroni, ravioli, and lasagna

  • most breads, including sandwich buns, dinner rolls, bagels, and biscuits


Here are some others:

  • bran cereals

  • muffins

  • pancakes

  • crackers

  • stuffing

  • cookies

  • pretzels

  • egg noodles

  • couscous

  • pizza crust

  • cake

  • waffles

  • bran cereal

  • flour tortillas

  • donuts

  • pie crust


There are also sauces and toppings and fried items (e.g., onion rings or anything breaded) made with wheat, but don’t get bogged down in the smaller stuff. A Box Lunch Lifestyle means there’s no reason to deny yourself high-quality delicious bread. But you can do a little better for your body nutritionally than eating toast for breakfast, PB&J for lunch, and pizza for dinner. So mix it up, but enjoy what you eat.

Who cooks for you?

Yesterday, I learned from a rabbinical scholar (more on this guy tomorrow) this ancient Jewish tenet:

Any person who prepares food imbues it with her or his spiritual energy.
When another person consumes that food, the energy of the cook is also consumed and essentially becomes part of that person’s self.


Is that why my grandmother’s egg noodles never taste as good when I make them? Maybe that’s why the cookies you make with your young niece are delightful even though you know she’s licked the spoon more than once.

That also means that when someone you’ve never met prepares your food, the kind of energy you’re consuming is a crapshoot—whether that someone is working at a local fast casual spot or in a factory in Little Chute, WI. What kind of day are these strangers having? How do they feel about their work? How do they feel about YOU?

The alternative is to imbue tomorrow’s lunch with love from yourself for yourself. Imagine how good that will taste.

BLL and Mindful Eating

I love the name “mindful” eating, and I love even more “intuitive” eating. Doesn’t it sound intellectual and urbane?

Mindful eating theory suggests that if we really pay attention to when we’re hungry, and what we’re hungry for, our food choices will be obvious. Some people think it’s the secret to losing weight.

But just like other approaches to eating, this one isn’t THE answer—to losing weight or anything else. The way the human brain dances with food is complicated. So, to me, mindful eating is simply this: more information for you to consider and decide for yourself what works for you.

Here’s one way that mindful eating might (or might not) fit into your personal Box Lunch Lifestyle strategy:

  • Paying attention to when you’re hungry is smart. If you’re hungry an hour after lunch, you might need more—or different—lunch food.

  • Be skeptical of craving non-homemade food. An hour after lunch, are you hungry for a chicken leg or for Peeps? (Which you do think is the obvious “better” food choice?)

Your Box Lunch Lifestyle will help you practice self-awareness and food savvy. If you’re curious about mindful eating, lunch is the perfect place to test things out. You’re learning to trust yourself, but not kid yourself.

If you’d like more tips on mindful eating and BLL, or have ones you want to share, let me know and I’ll post more thoughts on this down the road.