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Network : Fresh Tastes
: June 2000
Workday Meals, Part 2 of 2
Just as IC changes our lives, so must we change to adapt. If we have
very food-sensitive bladders, our comfort level and quality of life
will probably depend on how well we stick to our diet. Yet every day
we are on the receiving end of multimillion-dollar ad campaigns aimed
at enticing us to buy food that's bad for us. No wonder we sometimes
feel that we're engaged in a battle with our own emotions! But we
aren't alone. Millions of people who are diabetics, or are very overweight,
who have eating disorders or severe food allergies, deal with the
same daily emotional conflict over diet. Perhaps we can apply some
things they've learned to our situation.
Met the Enemy, and He is Us
A good first
step to taking control of our diet-triggered bladder pain is to
know ourselves. Each of us should take an honest inventory of our
emotional resources. When do we tend to cheat on our diet? When
we're bored? When we're frustrated or trying to meet a deadline?
When others are eating? What foods do we cheat with often?
If we can identify
the foods and situations that tempt us, we can develop a plan to
help us avoid the temptation. For instance, if I grab something
chocolate out of the vending machine when I'm nervous, is there
some other behavior I can train myself to do? A walk around the
office perhaps, or a couple minutes of stretching exercises? Is
there a bladder-safe gum to chew?
are great temptations to cheat on our diets. Someone heats up scrumptious
smelling ravioli in the lunch room microwave and invites us to share...
friends ask us to join them at that great little Thai food place...
the boss schedules a lunch time meeting and buys pizza and soft
drinks for everyone. However you choose to deal with each situation,
it will be better if you have taken a few minutes to think through
some possible scenarios and planned a few possible responses ahead
One idea that
works well is to always have bladder-safe alternatives handy. Keep
a little stash of emergency lunch money in a drawer, perhaps clipped
to the phone number of a local deli or restaurant where you can
have a bladder safe meal made and delivered. Or keep your car's
gas tank at least 1/4 full so you always have the option of quickly
running out to pick up something you can eat.Keep
a stash of bladder safe snacks in a desk drawer too ( I always liked
Comb the grocery
store for items that you can keep at work strictly for dietary emergencies--
individual cans of tuna and pears (some brands even have pull-tab
tops so you don't need a can opener), packages of saltines, vanilla
or butterscotch pudding (don't forget a few plastic spoons or forks!).
Be sure to also keep your drawer well stocked with Prelief, Tums,
or baking soda in capsules (ask if your pharmacist has them).
is of course the most bladder-safe workday lunch. One downside is
that it requires some effort. Forget trying to assemble anything
complex for lunch in the morning... who has time? But doing a lot
of the work ahead of time, on a Saturday morning or Sunday evening
say, can give you the basic ingredients of several days' lunches
and speed up morning assembly times.
some bladder-friendly lunch ideas. Some
take less than 5 minutes to put together in the morning because
much of the work is done for you or is done ahead of time on the
What is a sandwich really but meat, cheese, veggies (usually lettuce)
and bread? Instead of putting the ingredients together with mayonnaise,
catsup or mustard, how about eating them separately, sans bladder
A meat slicer
is a good investment if packaged lunch meats bother you (approach
meats with nitrates carefully). You can turn Sunday's leftover roast
into deli-sliced meat for two or three lunches the following week.
on the bread instead of mayonnaise (Nucoa brand margarine in stick
form has less artificial ingredients than many other brands). Flavor
it with a tiny pinch of garlic powder or even herbs.
Oregano or basil
are good with tuna. Dill is good with crumbled hard-boiled egg.
And take a little container of basil-flavored olive oil to sprinkle
on a bowl of lettuce and chopped black olives. (Buy small containers
or re-use tiny liquor bottles they give out on airplanes). Or try
alfalfa sprouts with a bit of IMO (imitation sour cream) flavored
with your favorite dried herbs. (IMO is high in saturated fat though,
so a little goes a long way).
such as basil, oregano or marjoram sprinkled on moist lettuce give
it a flavor boost. Although cheddar is frequently a problem, some
people can eat slices of American cheese or even the canned "squirt
cheese" if it's the American cheese variety. Mozzarella is a relatively
bladder-safe cheese for sandwiches.
Lunch: On Sunday night cut up a large amount of bell pepper
strips, celery sticks and zucchini strips and seal each type of
vegetable in a plastic bag. Buy 3 or 4 small cartons of cottage
cheese. This will give you 3 or 4 lunches for the following week.
In the morning,
gather some veggie strips and take along a carton of cottage cheese
and perhaps add a handful of original-style Triscuit crackers to
round out the meal. Pre-cut veggies can be purchased at many grocery
stores. Canned black olives or crisp radishes make good lunch fare
eggs, canned chunk tuna in spring water, or canned cooked chicken
are good protein sources. (Be sure the canned meat doesn't contain
any "soy protein isolate" or "hydrolyzed vegetable protein"). The
individual serving cans are great to keep on hand at work. (Note:
carrot sticks are good, but because of their high sugar content
you may want to go easy on them if you are trying to lose weight.)
I've found that soft pretzels also make good lunch fare when paired
with celery sticks and Campbell's Healthy Request Chicken Noodle
In cold weather nothing beats homemade soups or stews. First, make
a very large pot of soup or stew for a weekend dinner (my cookbook
features a variety of soups and stews). Using plastic containers,
freeze a few portions for your lunches the following week. In the
morning you can heat the portion up in the microwave then carry
it to work in a thermos. If you're rushed, you can put the frozen
containers inside plastic bags and take them to work with you. They
will partially defrost while you work in the morning. Then at lunch,
empty them into a soup bowl and heat in the lunch room microwave.
you can get up early and make a big batch of soup in a large electric
crock pot. Set it on "low" to cook for eight hours while you are
at work. You'll have dinner for that night and lunch for the following
day or two.
Goodies: Natural-style crisp pretzels are good for snacks or
lunch, just check labels for any additives that bother you. Some
pretzel brands to try are Hain's or Newman's Own. Dry-roasted cashews
or almonds are tasty snacks or additions to a lunch if these nuts
are bladder-safe for you.
Try cut-up chunks
of honeydew melon, Fuji apples (lower acid than most apples), or
blueberries (if these are safe for you. They may not be tolerated
by those with vulvodynia). A container of homemade granola with
some carob chips mixed in makes a great lunchtime "dessert".
of desserts: Homemade cookies are a wonderful treat and kids
will love them in their lunches too. They might enjoy making some
for you! Crisp red pears make a great apple substitute and some
people can eat bananas.
Have you tried
crunchy raw potatoes with a bit of salt? To keep cut fruits or potatoes
from turning brown before lunch, pack them in a watertight container
so they are submerged in water (they only turn brown when exposed
My friend Sue
likes carob covered malt balls to snack on. Dried blueberries or
dates may work for you. Sometimes you can find dried pear slices
without sulfites. Also,
some people can tolerate brown raisins, whereas grapes bother their
bladder. (Watch out for golden raisins though. They are usually
treated with sulfites). Japanese rice crackers wrapped with a bit
of seaweed may be worth trying.
You can find
various flavors of crisp rice cakes at natural foods markets and
many we can eat because they are preservative-free. Lena writes
that she likes string cheese (its not aged) and rice cakes for lunch.
What to do if
you have a job in sales, say, and are on the road most of the day?
Sometimes you just have to risk the fare in fast food places. So
what's safe? Well, everyone's different so you have to experiment.
But chances are you'll eventually find some items you can safely
eat. Just watch out for unannounced recipe changes. In the ultra-competitive
world of fast food, recipes and menus are constantly changing.
One of the
worst and sneakiest offenders is hydrolyzed soy protein, or soy
protein isolate. It's not announced in glowing letters on the menu
so unless you specifically ask to see an ingredient list, you may
not realize its there. It's often used as an extender to add to
meat or fish. Hamburger patties very often have it. It may play
havoc with your IBS or migraines as well as your bladder. Personally,
I've had bad luck with McDonalds but better luck with Burger King
For many years
I wasn't able to drink any soft drinks and even sparkling water
bothered my bladder. But thanks to a medication combination I'm
now taking, I can at least drink one carbonated beverage occasionally:
the Barq's root beer served at some restaurants. My bladder is especially
happy if I follow it with some baking soda or a Tums. My bladder
still won't tolerate canned Barq's though. Perhaps the restaurants
use more water or perhaps their version lacks some preservative
that the canned drinks have. Who knows?...it's a mystery. I'm just
grateful that after years of abstention from anything carbonated
I can now have an occasional treat.
Here are some
comments and suggestions gathered from several IC patients on the
subject of restaurant food:
fries are about the only thing I can tolerate."
is sauces.... I've never had a problem getting them to leave the
Prelief with me. I can eat just about anything then."
eat lunch at a restaurant with my friends from work I usually take
a Tums or two with my food and then its okay. They think I take
it for the calcium...."
court at the mall is my favorite. there's so many foods and no one
cares if you take a lunch bag either. i can take a sandwich and
my bottled water with me. maybe get something to go with it."
eat pineapple, but pineapple smoothies seem to be okay."
it. It's not worth it. Prelief or Tums or baking soda does me no
good. I don't eat anything unless I made it at home. If the people
I work with want my company, they'll have to stay here and eat with
chicken on a bun with just a little butter and lettuce works. I
tell people I have food allergies. They understand that."
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