One of the biggest hindrances for getting health and wellness back on track for myself and most people is staying so darned busy. We all have numerous chores, work obligations or errands that keep us going from sun-up to sun-down, and if you’re like me, the last thing you want to do with the precious few hours of free time before bed is slave away in the gym. I honestly despise the American lifestyle of grinding away 40+ hours a week with only 2 days off if you’re lucky. Most of us stay so packed during our workweek we have to use at least one of our days off just to catch up on everything else.
I just realized today that since buying my new car in January, I have already put 12k miles on it. That means I spend approximately 40 hours a week imprinting my increasingly heavy ass into the driver’s seat. Since I never have time for a proper lunch break, unlucky customers going to and from their vehicles at many retail wine shops across Middle Tennessee have had the misfortune of seeing me slobbering down sustenance over my steering wheel like a Hungry Hungry Hippo.
Because of this time crunch and necessary evil of constant mobility paired with usually being financially destitute, I have become quite creative with my to-go food. Being busy doesn’t have to mean resorting to fast food 5 days a week, and it doesn’t mean hours of meal prep on your days off. Allow me to offer you some ideas for quick, healthy food that hits the spot, but I’ve gotta warn you, you should probably be ok with eating some cold leftovers. Get over it, there are starving people in Africa.
First, I like to have snacks that are easily consumed with 1 hand. 1oz portions of walnuts or almonds, a piece of fruit like apples, bananas or even ziplock bags of fresh fruits and veggies, 1oz cuts of cheese, hardboiled eggs or pre-rolled 2oz slices of deli meat with mustard are all super healthy snacks under 200 calories that you can take down while also flipping the bird to the guy who won’t let you merge onto the interstate. You could also throw together a quick protein shake in the morning and add whatever you want. I like something simple- protein powder in your choice of flavor, 1 cup of almond milk, a handful of spinach for extra nutrients, some ice and maybe a complimentary flavor to your protein, like some peanut butter for chocolate or half a banana. A few seconds in the Ninja and I’m out the door with a meal in a cup.
If you need something a bit heartier to tide you over for a long day like me, you’re going to need an actual meal. Salads are a great thing to pack because they don’t need to be reheated. Get a good base of greens, add your choice of fresh veggies, 2-4oz of a pre-cooked protein source, maybe a smattering of cheese and some low-cal dressing on the side. (I never premix my salads and dressings because they get WAY too soggy.) You could also go old school and pack a sandwich. To me, nothing beats a good old PBJ or ham-n-cheese. Add a cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese and you’ve got a meal.
If you’re ok with eating cold leftovers like I am, you can prep some 1 skillet dishes and divvy them up for several days of lunches on the go. My current favorite of the week is what I like to call a cheeseburger bowl. I prepare jasmine rice according to directions then portion out ½ cup servings into Tupperware. I prepare crumbled ground meat, usually based on what’s on sale. You can use ground sirloin, turkey, chicken or even tofu if you’re vegetarian. In greased skillet I cook the meat with hamburger seasoning and Worcestershire sauce to taste, crumbling with my spatula as I go. Once it’s cooked through, I add it to the rice in 3oz portions and top with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese, diced dill pickles and a tablespoon each of yellow mustard and ketchup. Then I put the lid on the Tupperware and give it a shake until it’s all mixed up. Boom, cheeseburgers in a bowl. You can even add shredded lettuce, diced tomato and onion if you want. Start to finish the whole meal prep takes less than 20 minutes.
I also have been prepping a variety of rustic sausage and potato meals. Chop up 2 potatoes into 1” cubes, slice up sausage into rounds, add veggies or fruits and season to taste. For example, you could do a spin on German fare and use red potatoes, onions, bell peppers and turkey kielbasa, seasoned with garlic salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Or something both savory and sweet using sweet potatoes, fresh pineapples and apple chicken sausage seasoned with cumin, garlic salt, pepper and cinnamon. You literally toss all these things in a skillet, cover and cook it until the potatoes get tender. It couldn’t be easier and I usually get 4 servings out of them.
If you find yourself in a total bind, don’t beat yourself up for resorting to fast food. A tasty low-cal and high protein option at Starbucks is the sous vide egg white bites with a Siggi’s Greek yogurt. And if you swap in your usual frappe for an iced Americano with almond milk, stevia and sugar free syrup you can save HUNDREDS of calories. You can also grab a southwest grilled chicken salad from Chick-fil-A with a diet lemonade or if all else fails, a couple burgers from anywhere and toss the bread.
I hope some of these tips are helpful for those of you stuck in the daily grind like myself. With a little forward thinking and a trusty lunch box, eventually the battle of the bulge will be won!