I love food. Eating is one of my favorite things to do. I also love having consistent energy, not worrying about my weight, performing well in the gym, and feeling good overall. So I choose to eat foods that support my body and lifestyle. But sometimes at the end of a long day the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen preparing a meal. While I enjoy the farmer’s market and grocery store, and I like to cook, I need to make choices with my shopping and my time to set myself up to be able to eat the way that makes me feel best. So here’s some meal prep ideas for busy people I have adopted with good results.
Most importantly, prepare ahead. Every Sunday night I cook a big pot of slow cooked chicken. It takes a couple hours, but it is delicious and makes really good leftovers. On the nights I get home late it is such a relief to know I have a home cooked meal that can be ready in 10 minutes. I also usually keep at least one baked sweet or white potato in the refrigerator ready for a quick reheat post training. Find what foods work for you. You can cook a bunch of chicken breasts to have ready for during the week. Or you can wash and chop vegetables to have on hand for a quick stir fry. Schedule grocery shopping into the week to ensure that it gets done and the kitchen doesn’t end up bare.
Keep quick prep protein on hand. Pre-cooked chicken sausage can be thrown in a pan and heated up in just a couple minutes. Check ingredient lists to make sure they aren’t full of weird things. My general rule is that if I don’t know what it looks like, or I can’t pronounce it, I probably shouldn’t eat it. Ground meat- beef, turkey, bison- is also fast and easy. I love eggs and never run out. They are a quick, satiating breakfast. A scramble can serve as a lunch or dinner as well. I love sardines and anchovies, so I keep those around for quick lunches. They are very nutritionally dense, and are an amazing vehicle for mustard or hot sauce. But I understand that isn’t everyones favorite food, so If you prefer more mild fish, stock your pantry with a couple cans of tuna or salmon. It could save you from ordering that pizza!
Vegetables are a very important part of your nutrition. They are packed with micro nutrients, give you fiber, and help add low caloric substance to your meal. The difficulty with vegetables is that they are perishable. Look for ones with a longer shelf life, such as brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celery, and fennel, so that it is easier to eat them before they spoil. Spinach, kale, and cabbage last much longer than lettuce if you like making salads, and if they start to wilt they can be cooked before they go bad. Supplement your fresh produce with bags of frozen vegetables. Those you don’t even have to spend time chopping! Winter squash has come into season, and those last forever. Like potatoes, they can be pre-baked and kept in the refrigerator.
While the focus of our nutrition is on eating three balanced meals a day, there are times when snacks come into play. Maybe you had lunch early and are going to train at 7pm and are running low on fuel. Or you are in meetings all morning and have to make it through to a late lunch. If you go into a meal starving you are more likely to overeat. High protein snacks like jerky or meat bars/sticks are great. They are relatively satiating and won’t give you the high and crash of a sweet snack. If you are looking for something salty and crunchy but on the lighter side, Sea Snax, which are packets of roasted seaweed, are a great option. They come plain, or flavored with chipotle or wasabi if you like your snacks spicy! Sauerkraut is one of my favorites. Fermented foods are so good for you. People run to yogurt for their probiotics, but it is often loaded with sugar, and dairy can be problematic for many. I am completely obsessed with Farmhouse Cultures which I get from Whole Foods. It comes in a bunch of different flavors and is raw, organic, and so yummy. Adding a slice of avocado makes it a more substantial snack. One last option that I mention with a little bit of hesitation is nuts and nut butters. Something I struggle with is portion control. I find this especially difficult when it comes to nuts and nut butters. Nuts are extremely calorically dense. If you can eat a small handful of almonds and not a whole bag of trail mix, then keep nuts on hand. I don’t have the willpower to moderate my portion size with nuts, so I only eat them occasionally. Nut butters are even more challenging. The jar of sunflower butter only needs to be opened four times before it is gone in my house, so I don’t buy it anymore. Sometimes I will get individual packets to put on apple slices which keeps my portion in check. Snack food should never replaced balanced meals, but there can be a place for them in your day.
Food should enhance your life. It provides energy and nourishment, fuel for you to make your life awesome. Meals bring people together. Own your mindful choices so as to eliminate stress over what and when to eat. Prepare, so that healthy choices are easy. Keep foods that make you feel good and energized in your home. Eat balanced meals with protein a few times a day. Share your favorite meals and healthy snacks during the #F5Challenge on the Function 5 Fitness Facebook Page to give ideas and inspiration to our community and I will do the same! Happy eating 🙂