Backstage diet: Joy's lunch makeovers

In her latest mission, TODAY’s nutritionist Joy Bauer tackles the eating habits of the show’s unsung heroes — the backstage crew. Some of the crew arrive as early as midnight to set up for the show and over time, those hours, coupled with hectic family lives, have left them packing on the pounds. To help get them back on track (and stop overdosing on fatty foods), Joy reworked their favorite lunch meals:

Mark’s “before” lunch: Two deep-fried hot dogs with buns plus a side of extra-crispy french fries; 1,340 calories

Mark’s “after” lunch: Two turkey sausage links on one toasted “light” hot dog bun topped with sautéed red peppers and onions (one whole onion and one whole pepper, sautéed in nonstick spray); served with crunchy baby carrots on the side; 590 calories

Mark loves to cook, so this “after” meal is a great one for him to whip up in the kitchen instead of making the trek to his favorite hot dog joint. Stores are beginning to carry lean turkey and chicken sausages in a variety of flavors — sun-dried tomato, spinach and mushroom, apple and onion, you name it! You can pick any flavor you like, but I personally prefer spicy Italian turkey sausages. I recommended a “light” hot dog bun (usually around 80 calories apiece) to save Mark a few additional calories. “Light” buns are readily available in major grocery stores nowadays. I love this meal because it’s loaded with guy-friendly vegetables (what man doesn’t love sautéed peppers and onions?), and super-voluminous. 

Total: 750 calories saved!

Walter’s “before” lunch:
Two breaded, fried chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes, four Chips Ahoy cookies and a 12-oz. glass of whole milk; 1,370 calories

Walter’s “after” lunch: Eight ounces grilled, unbreaded chicken with a medium baked potato topped with salsa, with steamed or sautéed mixed veggies, and one apple for dessert; 710 calories

Walter’s “after” is a simple meal that he can still order out at almost any restaurant. When topping his potato, I advised him to stick with lower-calorie condiments like salsa and ketchup in place of fatty alternatives like butter, full-fat sour cream and cheese, and crumbled bacon. Walter had to give up his cookies, but he can finish his lunch off with an apple if he needs something sweet to bring closure to the meal.

Total: 660 calories saved!

Eddie’s “before” lunch:
Quarter-pound bacon cheeseburger, large french fries topped with lots of gravy, and a large (32-ounce) cola; 1,660 calories

Eddie’s “after” lunch: Regular quarter-pound hamburger on half a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup/mustard; large unsweetened iced tea with lemon; steamed broccoli with gravy on side (use a few big spoonfuls — about a quarter cup); 565 calories

Rather than asking Eddie to give up his burger altogether, I swapped his indulgent bacon cheeseburger for a plain hamburger to save significant fat and calories. If your favorite restaurant has turkey burgers on the menu, go that route to shave off even more saturated fat. It’s no surprise that Eddie had to give up his soda — a 32-ounce fountain drink has 310 calories and 86 grams of sugar! Finally, since I know Eddie loves his gravy, I’m actually going to take advantage of this “food vice” to get him to eat more vegetables. I’m giving him permission to top his side of steamed veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, whatever he prefers) with gravy, but I urged him to ask for the gravy on the side so he can control the amount. Let’s face it — he’s probably just using the fries as a vehicle for gravy anyway!

Total: 1,095 calories saved!

Leslye’s “before” lunch:
Two medium soft homemade chocolate-chip cookies and a large corn muffin, toasted, with butter and raspberry jam, plus three cans of Diet Coke; 900 calories (and almost as much sat fat as the burger and fries!).

Leslye’s “after” lunch: fruit (one orange or banana), six ounces yogurt, and a snack bar, plus unlimited “sweet” raw veggies (red pepper strips, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes); 375 calories

Leslye is a food picker and loves sweets, so I found a meal that wouldn’t disrupt her normal eating style and taste preferences. This is a great meal for Leslye to pack in her purse before she leaves for work, and then enjoy throughout the morning. This way, she can break up the meal into parts and space it out as needed. I happen to know there are tons of cut veggies available all morning long in the TODAY show green room, so I picked out some of the sweetest ones to satisfy her cravings for sweet.

Total: 525 calories saved!

Carlos’ “before” lunch:
Two slices of plain cheese pizza (large New York-style slices) with water; 1,300 calories

Carlos’ “after lunch: “Lean Cuisine” four-cheese pizza plus large tossed salad with low-fat dressing; 525 calories

One slice of New York-style pizza can have up to 650 calories — ouch! Instead of his usual, I am giving Carlos a portion-controlled pizza option that he can pop into the microwave at work or home. This lean, personal pizza is made with low-fat cheese to keep calories and saturated fat down. Then, I added a huge tossed salad with light dressing to increase the volume of his meal. Carlos can either purchase the salad from a local deli or buy one of the bagged mixes at the grocery store (all the prep is done for him).

Total: 775 calories saved!

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