We sleep for several hours before breakfast. Work forces us to be awake for lunch. Dinner? Yeah, we're usually tired.
Dinner works best if the meal is being cooked while you are at work, either with a slow cooker in motion all day or having a loving spouse or partner who has time to make dinner.
Sometimes, all we really want is to eat something, but society puts pressure on us to fix a "meal." Some days, we just want to snack our way out of dinner.
When we are tired, we tend to make poor eating decisions. Pick up something on the way home from work, call for a pizza and hope we are there when the pizza arrives, grab some leftover rice or pasta from the fridge and start chowing down.
Being tiredness lends itself to wanting more energy, which leads to wolfing down simple carbohydrates, which can deepen the problem and lose sight of the issue.
If you think of snacking as sitting on the sofa mindlessly eating whatever is in the bag in front of you, that isn't the kind of snacking in mind.
Smart snacking: taking the convenience of snacking with the nutrition of what dinner should be.
A handful of almonds, some dark chocolate, a modicum of carbohydrates (rice, pasta, cereal), cut up vegetables and fruit, and you can have a "meal" that feels more like a snack.
That bowl of (hopefully healthy) cereal and milk can work as part of the snacking meal. The cereal/milk duo with the cut up vegetables and fruit would definitely work.
We want quick, convenient, and hopefully healthy. Snacking … but for dinner.
Dawn Jackson Blatner is a registered dietitian and, for full disclosure, a friend of mine. Blatner has created "dinner boards" as a quick and healthy solution. Or as I like to think about the dinner boards: snacking meets Pinterest.
Dinner boards offer a 300-calorie combination of healthy food with a 100-calorie treat for a simple dinner solution with little planning and effort.
Here are Dawn's sample boards:
- ¾ cup in shell edamame
- 9 seaweed brown rice crackers
- 1 cup carrot sticks
- 2 tablespoons peanut sauce
- 1½ oz. mozzarella cheese
- 1 slice sprouted whole grain toast cubes w/garlic
- ¼ cup marinated artichokes
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 oz. (½ can) tuna in olive oil
- 1 cup cucumber slices
- 13 multi-seed crackers
- 5 large olives
- ½ cup black bean salsa
- 12 corn tortilla chips
- 1 cup pepper slices
- ¼ cup guacamole
- ¼ cup hummus w/1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 cup broccoli
- 1½ cups popcorn
- 3 tablespoons peanuts
Each 300-calorie Dinner Board also comes with a 100-calorie treat: 5 oz. wine or 2 dark chocolate squares or 16 oz. kombucha. If your dinner ends up being all 3, well that's 300 calories but not a very nutritious snack.
Carbohydrates, protein, good fat, and veggies sparkle on her Dinner Boards. Mediterranean is the only board that gets meat of any kind, and then only 2 oz. of tuna.
400 calories is 20% of what we typically need for the day. If you can handle only 400 calories between the midday meal and bedtime, chances are you don't need much help with your diet.
That being said, making the transition would take some time. And to Blatner's credit, she lays out how much 300 calories really is, making it easier to see if 300-400 calories is enough.
Her boards don't include too much Vitamin C, though the pepper slices in the Mexican version come close. While the cherry tomatoes (Italian) are technically fruit, that key dietary element is missing from the dinner boards.
A cup of strawberries is just under 50 calories, so a cup of strawberries with a dark chocolate square fits the definition of a 100-calorie treat. Strawberries have antioxidants, fiber, fruit sugar, and Vitamin C.
Carbohydrates are obviously very light on the dinner boards. 9 seaweed brown rice crackers (Asian) are not to satisfy the carbohydrate standards of the typical American. Even though 1½ cups of popcorn (American) sounds like a lot, eating that little size of popcorn goes pretty quickly.
The Pinterest element appeals to those who visualize. In the era of calorie counting, we rarely see what 300 calories of food actually looks like.
On the surface, Dinner Boards are aimed at women. There certainly isn't anything wrong with a man eating one of these Dinner Boards, but stereotypically, this might be more difficult for men to achieve.
The Dinner Boards help you organize for when you might otherwise have a bowl of cereal and milk. If 300 calories isn't enough for you, use the idea as a springboard (pun intended) toward an idea of your own.
You can mix and match from the boards: you might want corn tortilla chips instead of seaweed brown rice crackers, though your new combo might be fewer or greater than 300 calories. If you aren't anal, you'll be fine.
The boards are also designed to help you think about portion control, so even if you pick another food, keep the portion size in the general neighborhood of what is on the board.
You can guesstimate the calories in your cereal and milk and see whatever else you can add in terms of veggies and fruit.
Non-starchy vegetables are generally low in calories. If you double the portion of carrot sticks (Asian), cucumber slices (Mediterranean), pepper slices (Mexican), or broccoli (American), you aren't adding that many more calories.
Don't be pulled in by convention if a snack is all you need to sustain you at 6 pm. Having healthy food at a quick pinch is cheaper and better than other "easier" temptations. Healthy snacking can be done in the time it takes to pick up carryout or heat a frozen pizza in a microwave oven.
photo credit: Dawn Jackson Blatner