Are you searching for ways to prepare healthy meals but can’t seem to find the time to get it all figured out? For many people, planning and scheduling healthy meals is the most difficult part of eating healthy everyday. There are countless “healthy” cookbooks on the market that will instruct you on how to cook tasty and healthy meals, but most are too complex and require too many ingredients to be even remotely useful. Especially for busy people like us.
Most individuals with a packed work week have difficulty in finding time to shop for groceries, let alone actually cooking, packaging and storing their healthy meals, which can also prove to be quite difficult.
If you find that you’re often giving up proper nutrition for unhealthy convenience simply because it seems to better fit your schedule, it may be time to learn some new healthy and quick eating tips that you could easily roll into your daily diet, starting today.
The truth of the matter is that when you take the correct approach, eating healthy meals can actually be quite convenient, fast and even affordable. You may have to sacrifice a little on taste in order to whip up healthy meals and snacks in a hurry, but ask yourself, is a slight sacrifice in taste worth a better body in the long run?
Most people who are serious about healthy eating would answer with a resounding “Yes!” And, this doesn’t mean you have to be eating bland, boring, cardboard-tasting foods either. It simply means that you may not be feasting on the gourmet meals that may have taken an hour or more to prepare and clean up.
With that said, let’s get started with some of my favorite fast and cost-effective healthy meals that can literally take less than 10 minutes to prepare and will feed your body right.
Whey and Casein Protein
First off, I consume a lot of protein every day. For me, preparing and devouring enough protein-packed healthy meals to meet my 200 grams-per-day goal just isn’t possible. So I often reach for my shaker and a couple of scoops of whey or casein protein. Mixed with cold water, a scoop-and-a-half or two scoops of protein can easily deliver at least 35 grams of protein instantly. And for right around 200 calories.
My personal preference is to use whey protein pre-workout and post-workout because whey is known to be quick digesting. Casein is good first thing in the morning and at night, before bedtime, because casein’s slow absorption rate keeps your body adequately fueled over a longer period of time.
I usually try to get at least one serving (1 oz.) of peanuts or almonds into my diet per day. I love the fact that they’re loaded with protein, and are high in monounsaturated fats. As you probably already know, monounsaturated fats are the same type of health-promoting fats that are found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, I get easily addicted to almonds and peanuts, so if I’m not paying attention, I will plow through a half pound of almonds in one sitting. Therefore, I usually have to weigh my portions to ensure I’m not consuming more than my 1-ounce limit per day. In general, nuts are also packed with calories, so if you’re not careful, you can quickly surpass your daily allowance.
Protein Infused Oatmeal Bowl
First things first, you need to get your day off to a great start. Nothing is going to do this better than a balanced breakfast. Like mother always said, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But, if you don’t have time to cook eggs, don’t worry… You can still get your protein needs met in less than five minutes with this recipe.
To whip up this energy-packed meal, simply cook a serving of minute oats according to directions. Be sure to purchase the unsweetened variety of oatmeal to avoid excess calories being added to your daily budget. Besides, you’ll be flavoring this meal yourself.
Once your oatmeal is cooked, simply stir in a scoop of your favorite whey protein or casein protein powder. After your protein is mixed in, either top with some nuts for healthy fats or stir in some natural nut butter. Either works well and will give this meal some extra tasty sustenance.
From there, you’ll want to add a little fresh fruit for antioxidants. Top with a half sliced banana or some fresh berries. When all is said and done, you’ll have a meal stuffed with a nice blend of carbohydrates, proteins, and dietary fats that you can gobble up in less than 10 minutes and get out the door.
Quick ‘n Balanced Yogurt Parfait
By mid-morning, it might be time for a snack. Rather than raiding the vending machine, try opting for an alternative quick fix that contains a balanced mix of nutrients.
Bring a cup of low fat Greek yogurt to work with you. My personal favorite is the non-fat Fage Greek yogurt. It basically tastes like plain sour cream, but it’s packed with 20 grams of protein per serving, which is awesome.
Once you have your yogurt, combine some some slivered almonds or walnuts, a tablespoon of dried fruit, and some toasted oats or low sugar granola. Sprinkle this mixture onto your yogurt and you’ll have a delicious parfait that will satisfy your craving for something creamy and crunchy. As an added benefit, healthy meals that incorporate dairy will also support your calcium requirements, which as you know is helpful for maintaining strong bones.
Meal Replacement Bars
If you are out and about, and don’t have a refrigerator handy to store your yogurt or other cold healthy meals, you need something you can easily stick in your bag or car. Some pre-packaged protein bars should fit the bill perfectly.
Unfortunately, most protein bars and meal replacement bars aren’t much more than glorified blocks of candy or chocolate, so you’ll need to be selective with the brands you choose. Health food stores don’t make your decision any easier, as they usually have an entire aisle dedicated to protein bars and meal replacement bars. Most bars are high in sugar and high in calories, with some added protein in the form of soy or whey blends. While the protein can be moderately beneficial, the rest, however, is not.
I’ve tried a lot of protein and meal replacement bars in my time. The two brands I generally always have on hand are Quest bars and Kind bars. Both are made with limited ingredients and have a solid amount of good-quality protein and fiber to keep you satisfied longer. Some flavors are much better than others, but you’ll eventually find ones you like.
Tuna, Salmon or Chicken Pita
Chances are, if you eat lunch at work you’re preparing healthy meals first thing in the morning, and without a minute to spare. If this is the case, canned tuna, canned salmon or canned chicken is the perfect protein source, as you can just pop the top and go.
It doesn’t get much easier than opening a can of tuna, draining the water and tossing the meat into a whole wheat pita, then adding a handful of shredded lettuce, spinach leaves, diced peppers, diced cucumbers, sliced carrots, tomatoes, or other raw veggies. To top it all off, try drizzling some olive-oil based dressing for a dose of healthy fats. Wrap the pita in plastic wrap to keep it fresh until lunch, then pair it with a piece of fruit for dessert, and you’re set.
If you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, consider opting for a homemade protein smoothie. While you can always stop off at the local smoothie shop for a quick fix, their smoothies are usually not nearly as healthy as they may seem. Store-bought smoothies often contain a number of added ingredients, including processed sugars, that just aren’t that great for your body. Instead, I recommend preparing your own smoothies so you can see exactly what you’re putting into them.
To start, I believe the best ingredients for an awesome smoothie are protein powder, Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, and fresh or frozen fruit, along with some nut butter, flaxseeds, or dried coconut flakes for those healthy fats. Blend this together with some ice, and you’ll have a delicious snack you can feel really good about.
Note that if you’re on a diet that requires your healthy meals to have more carbohydrates, you can also add some ground oats to your smoothie as well. This protein-carbohydrate combo makes a perfect energy-packed meal replacement for nearly any time of day.
Grilled Chicken Breast with Brown Rice
When it comes to your main meals, don’t let time be a barrier to your success. With that in mind, perhaps one of my most favorite tools to use in the kitchen is my George Foreman Grill. It speeds up the dinner making process considerably, so I cook with it almost every day. I simply toss a couple of pieces of lean chicken breast on it, add some seasoning, and in 10 minutes I’m well on my way to a healthy dinner.
If you decided to go this route, while you’re at it, you can also cook some minute brown rice or microwave a sweet potato as a side. Or, serve your dish with a ready-made romaine salad, lightly tossed with some balsamic vinaigrette. My personal favorite side is organic steamed broccoli florets. Broccoli is rich in dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and phyto-chemicals that have proven health benefits against several diseases. I highly recommend incorporating broccoli into your healthy meals.
I have found my George Foreman Grill to be perfect for not only quickly whipping up chicken but other healthy, great tasting protein sources, including lean steak and fish. And, if you want to cut your meal prep time in half, consider grilling your veggies on it at the same time, too.
Also remember that on a lazy Sunday, before heading back to work for the week, you might want try grilling up a handful of chicken breasts all at once, then popping them in the freezer, individually wrapped. Pre-cooked chicken makes preparing your healthy meals everyday even quicker. Simply grab and go. The more often you can cook in bulk and freeze your meals, the more time you could potentially save in the long run.
Cottage Cheese and Nut Butter
Need a quick snack before bed? Rather than reaching for a bag of potato chips or tub of ice cream, stick to your healthy meals plan. In this case, a small bowl of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with some nut butter mixed in is a great pre-bed snack and takes less than a minute to prepare. The cottage cheese or yogurt will provide additional slow digesting protein for your overnight fasting period and the natural nut butter slows things down even further by incorporating some healthy fats to the mix. Cottage cheese and nut butter is one of the classic muscle building meals that will definitely serve you well.
Final Note on Healthy Meals
By now, you should have some solid ideas for how to eat healthy meals on the go. All of these meal and snack ideas are designed to be easy to prepare, relatively affordable, and provide you with the balanced nutrition your healthy body needs.