Trying to be creative with a limited list of food you can eat is difficult. There’s only so many days in a row that you can eat bland chicken, broccoli and sweet potato before you start to lose your mind. I’ve even gotten so sick of eating the same bland food that I’ve thrown away meals that I packed for lunch in protest. It was in the very hangry moments of starving for half the day rather than eat more chicken, I decided that I need to be more prepared for a tasty week of food instead of bland and boring.
Preparation is key when it comes to meal planning. Prep cooking for a few days or a week makes life much easier, especially when you have hectic weeks with long hours. The last thing you want to do at night is cook more food when you’re exhausted. Another trick is to portion out food the night before or the morning of. When waiting to plan each day of what exactly to eat, you are able to give yourself food that is appealing at the time rather than force yourself to eat what has been planned and you might not feel like eating any longer.
Prep cooking for a few days or even a week saves a ton of time throughout the work week. But, not all food keeps well. Vegetables tend to get pretty slimy and gross after a day or two in the refrigerator when they have been steamed or sautéed. Because of this, I get steam in a bag veggies or purchase veggies, like green beans, that can be eaten raw. It’s much easier to throw the frozen bag into the microwave for a few minutes at night rather than pull out a pan and steam or sauté them each night. Another useful tip is to rinse the fruit you plan to eat before you are about to eat it and NOT when you put them away in the refrigerator. Fruit will spoil quicker when rinsed and then sit in the refrigerator.
Meats tend to last very well when prepped for a few days or even the entire work week in advance. Extra lean ground turkey tends to be eaten the most in my diet and I prep it a few different ways to have some variety. First, I make some turkey burgers. Chop up about half an onion, dice about four cloves of garlic and make sure to have parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper handy. I combine all of the spices, onions and garlic with about one pound of extra lean ground turkey in a bowl and mix thoroughly. On a baking sheet or oven safe baking pan, spray no stick cooking spray and lay out small palm full and flattened amounts of turkey – flattened into a burger shape about three quarters of an inch thick. Make sure the oven has been preheated to three-hundred-fifty degrees and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until there is no longer pink in the middle of the burgers.
The other way I like to prepare extra lean ground turkey is in a sauce pan with the same spices. First, heat the sauce pan on the stove at a medium high heat, spray it with no stick cooking spray and add the onions and garlic. Once the onions are slightly see though and the garlic is lightly browned, add about a pound of raw extra lean ground turkey and all of the other spices. With the cooking spoon or utensil that you are using, make sure the turkey is well mixed with the spices, onion, garlic and chopped up as if it was taco meat. You can tell the meat is cooked when all the pink is gone.
Boneless skinless chicken has been a tricky meat for me to spice, it’s a love/hate relationship I have. I’ve tried many different combinations, but I must say my long-standing favorite has been Mrs. Dash seasoning. Preheat the oven to three-hundred-fifty degrees and cook the chicken breasts on a baking sheet covered in seasoning for about thirty-three minutes. Another clever and easy way to prep boneless skinless chicken breast is in a slow cooker. Before you are about to go to bed, spray the inside of a slow cooker with no stick cooking spray. I take about four to six boneless skinless chicken breasts frozen from the freezer and place directly into the slow cooker. Then, I pour an entire large jar of medium salsa on the chicken making sure that they are all covered with salsa. Turn the slow cooker on low with the lid on and the chicken will be cooked by morning – comes out like pulled chicken!
Bison I prepare the same exact ways as extra lean ground turkey with the same cooking times. Fish does not keep well for days at a time and the only fish that I prepare the night before or the morning of would be canned white tuna fish in water.
Brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat pasta all get prepared with the same seasonings, but each get cooked according to the directions on the box or bag. I’m not a fan of spending my entire Sunday in the kitchen and buy instant brown rice, quick cooking quinoa and pasta cooks in ten minutes or less. While the meat is in the oven, the carbs get cooked on the stove. After they are cooked, each gets a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil that gets mixed in thoroughly to keep from clumping or sticking together while being stored. To season, mix in salt, pepper, oregano, basil, parsley and dried onion flakes. I tend to go heavy on all the seasonings, but its more to your own taste as to how much you’d like to put in.
I use the cheating microwave version of a baked sweet potato – I do not have to the patience after all the other cooking to wait another 45 minutes for them to cook in the oven! Rinse the sweet potato, then chop off the ends and stab the potato a few times around it. Place in the microwave on one side for four to five minutes depending on the size and then rotate to the other side and cook for another four to five minutes. Immediately place in tin foil and let it sit for a few minutes. My favorite way to eat sweet potato is covered in cinnamon, but a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of salt and cayenne pepper is pretty tasty as well.
Some of my favorite meals:
• Ground Bison mixed with chopped asparagus and quinoa topped with slices of avocado and a tablespoon of salsa
• Chopped chicken breast with steamed broccoli and whole wheat pasta
• Ground turkey with brown rice and steamed spinach topped with a tablespoon or two of salsa
• Turkey burger on toasted Ezekiel bread topped with a slice of tomato, lettuce, mustard and a sliced apple on the side
Get creative! Mix and match all the different prepped foods that you have made and seasoned. Try not to repeat meals too often and enjoy eating healthy!!
Written by: Samantha Meinrod