Monday, September 17, 2012

Packing 3 Meals a Day!

While there might be a few more days of summer left before the official start of fall, going back to school, seeing apples at the Farmers Market, and an overnight low of 48* is enough for me to declare summer over. Fall means squash and root veggies to ground us and prime our bodies for winter (not to mention fall foliage!) and for many of us, it also means a much busier schedule. Having a jam-packed routine doesn't allow me to compromise on my priorities. Following the age-old mantra, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," I started off the fall semester with 3! evening classes after work and with a bullet-proof plan. So far, it's working! 
In the tiffin: Salad with grilled veggies & fresh tomato for lunch; rice, bean tofu, onion, cilantro, lime juice for dinner 
Being busy doesn't have to mean compromising on your health goals! Leaving the house prepared for the day ahead might mean packing more than one meal the night before. The half of the frittata in the picture above is a great example. That was my breakfast for 4 days last week. Made from farm-fresh eggs, just-picked zucchini, aged cheese and fresh herbs, it filled me up and made me happy. Making one veggie-filled frittata on Sunday that feeds you all week is just one example of how you can simplify your packed meals. (Leave a comment if you'd like me to post a frittata recipe)

Here's a sneak peak at my fall schedule:
Believe it or not, this makes me happy.    :-)
Before I started grad school, I worked out 5-6 days/week and prepared 80% of my food. Then I started  compromising on exercise by not working out on class days and on my food choices by eating too much food prepared by people who don't share my nutritional goals (Ex: The vegetarian soups I find at work and on campus are FULL of sodium and often, cream and flour). My body wasn't happy. I struggled to maintain my feel-great weight and my favorite clothes didn't flatter. My back ached and I became addicted to caffeine. I composted too many fresh veggies that I bought or grew but never had time to prepare. And, was a cranky-pants. Not this semester!

This fall, I opted to take an additional class and instead of freaking out, I'm owning it and trying to make the most out of this jam-packed schedule. My amazing gym offers great classes that work with any schedule. James has BTDT with his own work+class schedule and he bends over backwards to help out more at home when I'm spread too thin. My favorite Farmer's Market is on Saturday mornings, making it easy to get there. All of these factors make this lifestyle enjoyable.

In order to eat well this fall, I'll be packing more of my meals and eating at the times that are right for my body, even if that means that I'm that girl in class chowing down on an irresistible homemade burrito bowl or an arugula salad with roasted beets, goat cheese, pine nuts, and homemade creamy balsamic (sorry guys!). I won't eat a big meal after class because I hate the way I feel in the morning after going to bed on a full stomach. I won't buy salt-laden to-go soups because they always disappoint. Instead, I'll pack enough healthy food to get me through the day. I'll keep my food drawer at work stocked with nut butters and brown rice cakes, herbal teas, nuts, granola, and whole grain chips. I'll pack fresh fruits and veggies and will keep hummus and Greek yogurt in the fridge at work. I'll simply prepare enough "modular" food (beans, grains, veggies, and greens) on weekends and nights off to get me through the week with creative mixing and matching.

Here are some ideas for you to make packing healthy meals easier on your schedule:

  • Keep your pantry stocked with canned beans. They're a fast and easy add-in to soups, salads, and rice bowls. They also make tasty dips and are of course, packed with fiber and protein. If beans bother your tummy, try Eden's beans. They soak their beans with kombu, making them easier to digest.
  • Make sure you have a variety of grains (quinoa, brown rice, millet, amaranth, teff) on hand. Make 1-2 batches/week, alternating the following so you get good variety:
    • Some grains benefit from soaking and/or rinsing or from cooking with a piece of kombu seaweed. Leave a comment if you want more info on this and I'll plan another post on grains
    • Try cooking grains in a low-sodium veggie broth for extra flavor.
    • Store leftover grains in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Guac! Who doesn't love it? How hard is it to make a batch once a week? RECIPE HERE.
  • Same goes for hummus! 
  • Mix and match and make things different with spices, herbs, and alliums. The same bean+grain+green combo can take on Mediterranean, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, or Central/South American personalities just by changing the add-ins. Think: Cilantro and avocado or parsley and olives? Ginger and tamari or garlic and basil? Onions, shallots, or leeks? The possibilities are endless!
  • Top your salads with seasonal produce. Tomatoes are delicious and cheap now, but won't be tasty come November. Grill some veggies. Roast some beets. Mix and match, drawing inspiration from the best salads you've ever been served. 
  • Don't forget about nuts, seeds, and sprouts! They make fantastic additions to salads and grain+bean bowls. 
  • Pack healthy snacks! If you know you're likely to want something sweet after lunch, pack an apple or a few dates. For me, having a stash of coco macaroon and dark chocolate covered nuts helps me resist the urge to grab an unhealthy snack. 

For more on the topic of packing your lunch, check out this post from last fall.

Question: What are your favorite ways to eat well when you're on the go? Leave a comment to share your tips with other FSTS readers!