Saturday, February 25, 2012

See Jane avoid doing math: Notes on extreme meal planning

I like to joke with Alex that he finds a new way to make me want to punch him in the face every day. It’s going to be one of our wedding vows—if we can find a way to make it sound less like we’re advocating for a lifelong commitment to domestic violence. Last week, Alex provoked hair pulling by announcing that, as part of his new workout regimen, he was planning to start a macrobolic diet where in he would be eating five small meals a day, each totaling 402 calories and made up of 45 grams of carbohydrates, 35 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fat. It’s the 45-35-15 diet. And it is my nightmare.

Our first summer after college, he embarked on a similar meal plan that had alternating “phase one” and “phase two” days and itemized each meal ingredient in ounces, with a tablespoon of “low-fat Italian dressing” here or there. On that plan, Alex spent about $200 a week on food, and bought Styrofoam, plastic-wrapped slab upon Styrofoam, plastic-wrapped slab of grocery store chicken. It was everything our current food values fight against.
So, when my darling asked for my help (and thus gave me control of the project), I thought of all the money I didn’t want to spend, moral compromises I didn’t want to make, and math I didn’t want to do.

I decided to tackle The Math first. Alex emailed me his macrobolic diet guide (filled with pictures of overly muscled and under-clothed male specimens, who I can only assume are on 45-35-15 steroid diet) and I embarked on a google campaign to find an already constructed meal breakdown. I couldn’t find one. But I did find a list of common foods and their relevant nutritional values. Using that as a starting point, I made my own macrobolic meal plan generator in Excel. To protect our mindful shopping and eating habits, I narrowed down the list to mostly “whole” food items that I know we can source locally and seasonally, removing all the processed goods (whipped topping didn’t make the cut). Once the edited list was formatted into cells in a spreadsheet, I created sum functions to calculate the carbs, protein, fat, and calories for each meal combination we came up with. Then all we had to do to create meals was copy and paste items until the meal’s numbers hit our goals. (I’m miming the ease of using a computer by pretending to type using one finger from each hand and making what I consider to be machine noises: “Bee bop bo boop boop beep!”)
At this point, I bet I’m starting to sound a little crazy. Yes, I made an Excel spreadsheet to plan my boyfriend’s weekday meals. But I really didn’t want to have to do all that math. Laziness is the strangest motivation for extra work.

Crazy or not, the spreadsheet works. Alex agreed to be flexible for dinner, so we only needed to figure out his breakfast, pre-workout lunch, post-workout lunch, and an afternoon snack. This morning we turned the meals into a shopping list and took our project to the streets. The next crazy thing I’m going to say is that we made five stops this morning. We went to one bakery, one farmers’ market, one deli, one small grocer, and one regular grocery store to buy all the food he’ll need for the week.  Oh, and we stopped at Target for a food scale.
However! Six stops later, we’ve completed our shopping and the tally—for his food anyway (I got a little wild buying local raw honey in a jar that looks like the bear version of Cee-lo Green)—is $67! That’s less than $14 per day to feed Alex every meal except dinner.

Here’s what he’ll be eating this week: 
  • Breakfast: Egg/egg white scramble with grated-apple oatmeal.
  • Pre-workout lunch: Chicken and brown rice.
  • Post-workout lunch: Lox, provolone, and sprouts on a bagel.
  • Afternoon snack: Cottage cheese, and raisins (not pictured) and almonds.
It averages out to a 44-30-13, with an average calorie count per meal of 414. Not too shabby! While I tried to make the individual meals as tasty and appropriate as possible, the options were obviously limited because of his restrictions. It’s safe to say he’s not going to be swinging any cheeseburgers and fries on this plan.

Remind me to make a cheesecake.


  1. This is fascinating. Where does the cheesecake fit in?

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