Yesterday I went to lunch at the food court in our student union. We were short on time, the line was long for salads, and I didn’t really want one anyway; it was cold and I’m sick of salads. I had lots of options – pizza, Mexican, soups, Cranberry farms, pre-made stuff, hot sandwiches – and Panda Express. I haven’t had Chinese in a long time and I love it, even though PE is more of “fast food” Chinese than what I really like. But hey, it was there and I wanted it.
So I got in line and got a Panda Bowl with white rice, mixed vegetables, mandarin chicken, and spring rolls. the rolls were totally not necessary and I thought I was just getting one, anyway, but somehow when I got to my table, there were two on the tray. That meant I had to eat them, right? I did. They put way too much rice in the bowl and I left about 3/4 of it behind after eating the bit that I wanted. What a waste of food. It was tasty, though.
The fun came when I was back at my desk, trying to fill in my e-tools points tracker for what I’d eaten. Based on the options available, I estimated the points and tried to go on the high side of an estimate, coming up with 22 points. I was appalled that I could eat that many over one little bowl of stuff.
Last night, just for fun, I found the Panda Express website and used their nutritional information to really figure out the points values. Much to my surprise, they were a lot lower than I’d estimated and instead of 22 points, I’d really only had 12.5 – even with the two spring rolls.
Which brings me to the challenge of figuring out the points for what we eat. My step one is to write down everything I eat in a journal and being honest. If I ate a big chunk of chocolate cake, I can’t say that I only had a Pria bar just so it looks better. Eating 1/2 a pizza is not the same as one slice of a big one. Portion size matters but that really only kicks in for me after I’m honest about what I actually DO eat.
WW has lots of materials for figuring out the points, from the free Week One food guide to the ones they sell you: the big points guide, dining out guide, etc. etc. Except I never have those handy so they’re not much help to me. I’ve been using the WW e-tools points tracker since January and love it because it has points values ready when you select a food and how much of it you ate.
But not everything is in e-tools or the WW food guides. This is where the web comes in. The web is your friend. If I take the time to look for the website of a restaurant or Google a product to find a web page for it, I can often see nutritional values spread on a page or see a PDF version of the nutrition label. What more could I want?
The last step is figuring out the points based on that information. Sometimes the number is less than you dreaded; often it’s a lot higher, since we like to underestimate points so we can eat more of what we want.
I’ve found that actually looking up points values in advance of eating out or eating a specific thing reins what I choose to eat. Had I looked up the Panda Express stuff before going over (which wasn’t practical yesterday but often would be), I would have seen that the mandarin chicken had way more salt than the other entrees, and more other things too. I should have gotten Green Bean Chicken or a number of other options that would have yielded fewer points and would have been just as tasty.
Whether I’ve looked things up in advance or not, writing down what I actually DID eat as soon as possible after doing so – and looking up points – brings a major reality check. Yesterday I saw my preliminary guess of 22 points for lunch and immediately adjusted my dinner plans since I was almost out of my day’s total by then. Before I would have just eaten whatever looked good or was easy; now I’m paying attention and adjusting on the fly.
I’m always careful to have Boca burgers, salad fixings, yogurt, and a few others on hand so I have fast, easy options. Not eating dinner out of penance for a large lunch isn’t the right solution because the next morning I wake up and everything not nailed down.
Because I looked up my points yesterday and didn’t just make up some number because it would let me eat more later, I actually ended the day having only used 1 of my flex points. This is the last day of my first week trying to stick to 5 flex/day and was able to keep to that on all but one day. So no matter what the scale says tomorrow, I’ve learned that I can do it – and be honest at the same time.