Since you are just starting out let me pass on a little advice about being able to "stay on course" - that is "the Zone course" :
The time periods in which I ran into the most difficulty in eating "balanced meals or snacks” were in the first couple of months - where you are now.
The difficulty wasn't that I didn't have a basic grasp of what you were supposed to do and/or understand it as much as you can at that point - it was when it came to APPLYING it in real life.
Very quickly I came to realize that the nutritional choices that presented themselves in the course of the travels of the average day were typically barren of viable "zone options" or skimpy at best.
Like you I quickly started doing exactly what you are - planning ahead and often bringing my own food with me.
Now right away this takes at least a minimal amount of backbone as it may not be mean spirited but when you do this there will invariably be comments about "what's the matter with the food - how come you have to bring your own?”
My point is you are now in what I call the "danger zone of the Zone" - you've tried it, you like it, it makes sense, but you ARE new to it and in regards to ANY "new" routine - especially one that you will be APPLYING throughout EVERY day - making it work for you at this point, with little or no encouragement from those around you, to me is clearly the point where someone will, if they are going to, “throw in the Zone towel”.
Once the Zone habit has become “second hand” – you’re “home free”.
Fortunately for both you and me there has been some improvement in the overall situation as far as healthy food choices go at both restaurants and supermarkets since I ran into the Zone about 10 years ago.
Here’s a link to an article I found just the other day. It's a rating of the most health conscious menus at major chains that just came out in Health Magazine: http://eating.health.com/2008/04/23...o-eat-out/
When I first embarked on the Zone the only "markets" where there was an assortment, and albeit often quite limited, of fresh nutritional organic produce and other grocery items were small "health food" stores and the nearest one was over 10 miles away.
Fortunately a few years later something called a Wild Harvest supermarket chain in Boston put one about 20 miles from me.
Being a Zoner and walking into one of them was like waking up in heaven !
It was the size of one of the "major food chain" locations - in fact - the store WAS in the former location of one.
Unfortunaly to a fair degree I - "WE", who are/were attracted to this concept, were the "victims of its considerable success" :
A large major chain BOUGHT THEM OUT !
On the surface it sounded all grandiose and wonderful :
The major chain that bought them soon closed all the original stores and announced - quite proudly - I might add, that this [ closing them ] was "progress" as they were going to "... bring all the wholesome choices of Wild Harvest to ALL of their locations ..."
HMMMMMMMM ... "sounded good" all right but to make a long story short instead of a HUGE supermarket chock full of everything and anything you could nutritionally want you now had, often/typically, a LITTLE Wild Harvest SECTION - as in maybe 20 - 30 sq ft - in each of their stores !
What they did was in one fell swoop ELIMINATE some serious competition by getting rid of the "stand alone" Wild Harvest locations, and also, make it very hard if not impossible for the still existing "small traditional health food stores" to exist.
Why? Because in those "little Wild Harvest" SECTIONS were most of the "low sales volume" items formerly only found in the little health food stores - discounted so the little health food store down the street couldn't compete.
*** From the point of view of a "ruthless capitalist" - from a "business" aspect - it WAS a coup.
True - I could now buy a LIMITED number of items somewhat cheaper - but all the other nice things like a huge selection of fresh herbs and spices, a fish deli that offered a huge variety of the best fresh fish in every form imaginable, a fresh Sushi counter, a meat counter with only the best cuts of lean meat not to mention fresh ground turkey, chicken, and soy burgers etc., etc., - were all gone.
However - although it has been a bumpy road - there HAS been progress.
Interestingly - just recently someone opened a couple of markets similar [ apparently ] to the original Wild Harvests in Boston again ! Quite amusingly it has now come "full circle" and I am back to where I was about 5 years ago - waiting for them to put one "out in the suburbs" !
Perhaps the BEST feature of “nutritional progress” that has come along - are THESE FORUMS !
Just the fact they exist and thrive let’s you know that you might be “shoveling against the nutritional tide” – but you are not shoveling alone and help and support can be just “a click away”