You can still kill it at work and eat healthy throughout the day. Food will give you energy and calmness to deal with all the stress. All you need is a framework designed for #busyAF #fitprofessional women.
What’s the skinny?
- This article will give you a crazy schedule-proof meal plan plus shopping list by meal.
- You will then be given “combo options,” but with these fundamentals, you will be able to make your own, including on the fly.
- Repetition and variety cycling, i.e., having a limited bandwidth of options, will help you avoid decision fatigue and the unnecessary rabbit hole of endless recipes you don’t have time to make.
- If you do have the time and you want great recipe options, I have recommendations at the end.
Reliable repetition is key
The easiest way to have a consistent meal plan is repetition. Back to the previous post about decision fatigue, having the same “mini-menus” for each meal each day will make it vastly more easier and more convenient.
Variety cycling is the spice of life
Notice I didn’t say the exact same meal everyday. Eating a regular cycle of meals eliminates decision fatigue. There are plenty of ways to mix and match, which is why I call it “variety cycling.”
Below is a recommended shopping list by meal, and the possible “combos” at the end.
The business of breakfast
- Pre-hardboiled eggs: You can find these in any egg section, usually in quantities of 6. Or if you want to hardboil your own eggs, get one of these instant egg cookers. You don’t have time to watch water boil, do you?
- Think Thin instant protein oatmeal: This oatmeal has both protein and a good amount of fiber. It comes in great flavors like Madagascar Vanilla and banana bread, AND in one-time use bowls.
- Ezekiel 4:9 sesame bread : perhaps one of my greatest discoveries, it is the tastiest and most filling bread made of sprouted grains, with only 80 calories per slice.
- Easy to serve fruit, like berries or bananas
- Sunflower seed butter, or any other nut butter, like cashew or almond. Nut butter is a great source of monounsaturated fat. Be sure to buy a tablespoon measuring spoon, so you don’t overdo the portion.
- Almonds – most raw nuts are good for you, but almonds have the least calories and fat. Make each serving between 7-14 nuts.
- Nut milk – macadamia, cashew, or almond are usually best. I tend to avoid drinking a lot of cow’s milk because of the sugar content. The best nut milk I can recommend is Silk or Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla, which is only 30 calories for a whole cup and zero sugars! You can find these at any major grocery store or even CVS/Walgreens.
- Raw Honey (I recommend Nature nate’s or Blue Ridge Apiaries). Raw honey is superior because it does not process out all of the nutrients. Read here for the benefits of raw honey, which include antioxidants great for the skin, immunity, and digestive health. Again, use the tablespoon measure with this so you don’t OD on sugar.
- Flax or chia seeds – these give you that extra “F” (fiber oomph) that helps digest and keep you full.
3 basic meal options:
No prep required
- 2 hardboiled eggs, handful of berries and almonds – no prep required
5 minutes or less
- Think thin oatmeal, flax seeds banana and berries – add almond milk, drizzle of honey optional
- Ezekiel sunflower seed butter sandwich drizzled with honey
- Omelet in a bowl – microwave egg with eggwhite mix, choice of dairy free or dairy cheese, turkey slices for 1 minute covered. Then take out and add salsa. Nom! Filling and low call, too.
Ladies who eat men for lunch
- Greens: Organic girl’s Super or protein pre-washed greens (or other varieties, available here and all available at most grocery stores)
- Cherry tomato
- Frozen or pre-cooked quinoa
- Olives of choice (I like green pimento, you can get huge supplies from costco)
- Bragg’s Apple Cider vinaigrette(only 15 calories for 2 tbsp!)
- To make your salad extra exotic, add one or a combo of the Cava dips and sauces in lemon herb tahini, spicy lime tahini, yogurt dill and green harissa. You can find most of these at Whole Foods (my favorite is the Spicy Lime Tahini, you can put it on everything!)
- Chicken breasts, pre-cooked
- Organic turkey slices
- Wild caught Tuna: My preferred brands include Safe Catch wild tuna pouches, Starkist tuna pouches). These come in pouches, which are much easier to deal with than cans.
- Canned chickpea, black beans, or bean of choice
- Mixed raw nuts
- Crackers (look for whole grain, or seed based and low sugar); see some recommendations here.
- Pre-made soups (opt for low sodium, some of the best brands are here)
No prep required
- Turkey , olives, nut and crackers
- Tuna, crackers, and babybel light cheese
5 minutes of prep or less
- Instant soups: It’s not just Campbell’s anymore. Amy’s has a lot of healthy varieties, like a veggie one for 130 calories that is filling and you can just add protein. If you want one with the protein already baked in, try her Golden Lentil (for some Indian flavor). For a Thai feel, you can pick up her Tom Kha soup, which is healthier and less calories than the one you would order in. For more on ordering in tips, read the DAO of ordering in like a boss.
- “Quick” protein salad : All you need is canned tuna or precooked chicken, greens and some olives, and you are good to go! Super Greens (or any type of greens) into glass container with with tomato, olive and protein (tuna, chicken and/or beans). Drizzle Apple cider vinaigrette and/or Spicy lime tahini. Shake it up to soak in the flavor right before you eat it. This is a great “salad to go” container, if you don’t still eat lunch at home (someday, that will be our life again). It’s also a great idea to mix up soup and salad, especially by eating the soup first. Studies have shown this makes you eat LESS.
- Cauliflower and quinoa “mac and cheese”: Leave frozen cauliflower at room temp 1/2 an hour before eating, or defrost in microwave. Add Laughing cow, Mini Babybel, or for vegan options, Daiya smoked gouda or cheddar cheese (or a combo for “quatro formaggi”). Option to add chicken, legumes, or turkey for additional protein. You can even buy pre-cooked lean chicken or turkey sausage to get that comfort food feel (try Applegate products).
If you want to learn more about pimping your salads in a time and caloric efficient manner, read my post on the DAO of pimping your salad!
The lowdown on dinner
Dinner is probably the biggest challenge for most of us. I can’t tell you how much I used to stress over it. Most of my friends and co-workers stress over it. No more!
This is the one meal where it is a good idea to cook a gigantic pot of food in bulk. I will do that in one pot, then leave the pot in the fridge for the next couple of days and “serve out” the portions each night. Usually something you can eat in the same size bowl, so you know how much to serve.
I would highly recommend having an Instant pot for this purpose. It’s like a speed Pressure Cooker for dummies. Easy to use and fast. Plus there a jillion sites dedicated to Instant pot recipes if you get bored.
- Frozen vegetables – broccoli or broccoli rice, cauliflower or cauliflower rice
- Vegetable broth
- Prechopped red and green peppers and onions
- Canned watercress, bamboo shoots, beets, roasted tomatoes (for sauces)
- Spices – dried oregano, basil, saffron, chili powder, mushroom umami, garlic powder, onion salt. For chicken and fish: smoked paprika, Trader joes’ Chili lime seasoning, salmon rub
- Prewashed kale and spinach, or Supergreens
- Low-cal sauces – Marinara sauce, Saffron Road simmer sauce packets, Coconut Aminos, (which is a healthier version of soy sauce), Harissa (a middle eastern spicy sauce), Miso paste, tomato paste, and Mango dressing. Try this Mango dressing from Saucey Lips, at only 5 calories a tablespoon!
- Protein: Salmon, Frozen shrimp, Chicken, Beans, Jackfruit cakes, Turkey or veggie burgers, ground turkey or chicken.
Meal Combos that you can make in bulk
All of these can be made in bulk for 2-3 nights of meals.
- Cauliflower “risotto” – Steam cauliflower, option to add quinoa, in Instant pot (which is a great item for wedding registry). Stir in marinara sauce, basil, see salt. While the cauliflower is steaming, cook protein in oven. I usually make enough for 3 nights (the maximum safe time to store protein or fish).
- Turkey Chili – simply throw in ground turkey or chicken, beans, tomato paste, prechopped peppers and onions, chili powder, and beans. Stir meat and onions until meat is no longer raw. Throw in the rest and simmer. You can also throw in a lot of other stuff like cauliflower rice and beans
- Thai red, green or coconut curry: Throw whatever variety of frozen veggies and greens you wish into the Instant pot along with watercress and bamboo shoots, steam; use the same method for protein. If adding beans rinse first to eliminate extra salt. Empty steamed vegetables into Instant pot after rinsing excess water. Add Saffron simmer sauce of choice and stir in.
- Asian “noodles” stir fry steam zucchini noodles. Option to stir in shirataki noodles. Add miso paste, coconut aminos, and 1 tbsp. avocado oil. Serve with shrimp, salmon or tofu.
When cooking the protein, make sure you only do this for one night. So if you are cooking salmon, for example, defrost and throw in all of the ones in the packet in the oven so you have salmon for the rest of the week. Same applies to chicken.
In case you didn’t discover this secret yet, Trader Joe’s Jackfruit cakes are the ultimate easy vegan protein. You can basically make these in the microwave or just defrost and stick in the oven for 20 minutes. They taste crispy and delicious, but ONLY RUN AT 300 CALORIES for a packet of 4!
You can cook AND unwind
All this can be done while you take off your makeup, wrap up a little work, or give your boo a kiss.
You can also make these meals very tasty with the right spices – which we will cover in our condiments post.
For minimum cleanup after dinner, cook proteins on an oven-friendly tray with parchment paper, to absorb oil. Once the meal is over, you can just throw the paper away. To save time, rinse out instant pot and coat with Dawn “power wash”; rinse again and toss in dishwasher with other dishes. Le Fin!
Snacks and desserts
The key to snacks is knowing the ones where you can eat a lot of them but they don’t have a lot of calories. So snacks like carrots, cucumbers, and fruit can keep you hydrated and satisfied. To jazz it up, you can lightly salt your fruit, or dip your carrots / celery in salsa, also low in calories.
Cucumbers sliced and covered with salt is actually a Persian snack we serve before dinner. It helps you get fuller faster and stay hydrated.
- Apples, cantaloupe, berries, oranges and pears
- Baby carrots
- Kale chips (Brad’s brand is the most flavor with the least added fat)
- Lilly’s chocolate – this is chocolate made with Stevia, which is much lower in calories and sugar. No relation to this Lili! In seriousness, the site has all the types of chocolate you can think of, including chocolate baking chips and chocolate covered almonds.
- Smart sweets – these are gummies, including gummy bears and Swedish fish, made with less sugar, only 3 grams per packet and 100 calories. You can order them online or buy them at GNC or Whole Foods.
- Mixed nuts (brazil nuts, almonds, cashews)
- Dried fruit: Dates, apricots, figs
- Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower
- Greek yogurt (365 Greek yogurt brand is my fave, it is not so “tarty.”). I am also a fan of Chobani less sugar Madagascar Vanilla)
- Pre-washed, pre-chopped berries
- Raw honey
Buy measuring ladles for 1/2 and 1/4 cup size for the nuts and seeds.
Basic combination options:
- “Trail mix”– In large mason jar, combine nuts (you can usually buy raw premixed nuts of that variety), dried fruit and seeds into a “trail mix”. This “trail mix” can last for about a month. Use 1/4 ladle to measure out a serving size.
- Greek yogurt and berries – using 1/2 cup ladle to measure portion size, scoop in small bowl. Option to add nuts and/or seeds, or drizzle with honey.
- Chocolate or smart sweets – no prep required. Smart sweets are already pre-portioned by the bag if you get the variety pack, and Lilly’s is 1/3 a bar (it’s a lot! ) Watch out with eating chocolate at night, as this may prevent a good night’s sleep because of its caffeine content.
- “Instant” fridge snacks– like carrots, pickles, and berries are important to have in the fridge for the days when you randomly open it and you don’t know why. At least you will have something quick and low-calorie (and yum) to munch.
It is important with these snacks to put them in the front of the refrigerator or pantry, where you can see them. That way when you have the “open and fridge and stare” moment your instant snacks will be right there.
Best “instant” recipe blogs
If not all of the above is within your palette, then head over to one of these “easy” recipe sites I recommend:
- Sweet peas and saffron instant lunch box recipes:
- Hungrygirl.com– One of the best sites I have seen for quick, low-calorie recipes that satisfy your sweet and salty tooth without too big of a calorie price, like 3-ingredient pineapple cake in a mug, mushroom swiss turkey burger bowl, naked eggplant parm in a mug, or deep dish cauliflower pizza in a bowl. Hey, anything in a mug or bowl that’s easy to make and clean- sign me up.
- forksoverknives.com – has a lot of great “instant” whole food vegan recipes, including one with what to do with too many ripe bananas.
Now, to eating on the go like a boss!
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris