Like a handful of his Democratic colleagues before him, Montgomery County congressman Chris Van Hollen spent last week eating only what the equivalent of food stamps would buy him.

Inspired by Jewish Community Center’s “Food Stamps Challenge,” Van Hollen subsisted on one trip to the grocery store that set him back $21.

“It hits you in the stomach,” he said. “When you go to the grocery store with a $21 budget … one of the first things that goes is a lot of fresh food. I got three tomatoes and an onion.”

On the Van Hollen menu: instant oatmeal for breakfast every day, a turkey sandwich for lunch (the large package of processed turkey being his biggest single expenditure), a banana for a snack, and dinner of lentils, noodles, split-pea soup and a piece of toast.

Meanwhile, he had to watch his family go on with dinner as usual. “Everyone at work tried to tempt me with cupcakes and such, but I resisted,” he said.

There was a silver lining, however. “I don’t recommend this approach to dieting, but I lost six pounds,” he said.

Perhaps Van Hollen’s D.C.-area colleague Jim Moran, D-Va., with all his well-publicized dieting exploits, should try it next.