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As a medical student, I have no time to prepare food and often have to eat whatever I can carry in my pocket or face the cafeteria. Besides "sports-bars" and carrots, can you suggest nutrient-dense, calorie-light pocket food? If not, could you help me negotiate the cafeteria, where everything seems fried or covered in cheese. Thank you! — Kimberly, CA

Christine Palumbo



You can eat a balanced diet, but it will require prior planning to meet your daily dietary needs.  If you also want to lose weight, you need to be careful about the portion sizes of the snacks and meals you choose, especially dinner.  If you are rushed and hurried, you might be apt to overeat. So prior planning becomes key.

Today, there are many more "healthy" convenience foods available that can make meal planning easier.  Complete salads are premixed and ready to go, and complete dinners are available in the deli or frozen food sections of your grocery store.  I would suggest that you plan several dinner meals in advance when you have more time over the weekend.
You can precook items like pasta and sauces and have them readily available to microwave. You could also precut vegetables and store them in plastic bags until you are ready to microwave them.  With premixed salads all you need is a bowl and some low-fat salad dressing. Rice reheats nicely in the microwave too.  You can even precook chicken breasts or lean cuts of meat to reheat in the microwave. Of course, fresh fruit is always easy to grab! So do some planning and cooking at the front end of the week to assure that you will have fast dinners ready. 

You might even want to create your own complete meals that you just pop into the microwave. Some commercial frozen dinners can meet the recommended dietary goals and be low in calories, fat and even sodium, but finding ones that meet your needs will require a very close label review.

About Christine Palumbo

Christine Palumbo, MBA, RD has been a nutrition communications consultant since 1989, providing dietary counsel and analysis on various nutrition, health and weight management topics to corporate clients and news media outlets nationwide. An active member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the Illinois Dietetic Association, Chicago Dietetic Association for more than twenty years, she has served on a variety of boards and practice group committees within those organizations. In 1981 and 1982, Palumbo was honored by the Chicago Dietetic Association and the Illinois Dietetic Association, respectively, as the Recognized Young Dietician of the Year.

Palumbo has been featured as the expert speaker in numerous national health panels and has published many articles and pamphlets regarding nutrition and healthcare. She has been featured in national women's, health and business magazines, daily newspapers and local and national radio programs. Palumbo has also appeared on numerous local and national TV news programs, including a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997 on the health benefits of drinking water.

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