Excuses. We’ve all got them, particularly when it comes to why we cannot eat more natural, healthy and balanced meals. “I’m too tired. Work is just too busy. My family has too much going on right now.” Sound familiar?
Many years ago, I had a client who told me that she couldn’t follow her book of delicious meal plans that I had meticulously created for her. Why? Because she didn’t want the pages of the meal plan book to get ruined on her dirty counter tops. What?!?! After eight years of nutrition coaching, I’ve heard lots of excuses, but this one still takes the cake.
Part of my job is helping my clients to dig deep and discover what’s really holding them back from achieving their goals. This particular client and I had an honest discussion and she revealed that having meals prepared was more challenging than she originally anticipated. We decided that she should set aside one hour each Sunday to prep a few food items in bulk for the week. Problem solved.
So today is all about solutions. I want to share some of my go-to tips on making deliciously balanced meals easier during a hectic week already filled to the brim with work deadlines, carpools, and 3rd grade math homework. The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to achieve your goals permanently without stabilizing your blood sugar (). And it’s nearly impossible to stabilize your blood sugar if you are not prepared.
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know that complete protein (protein from an animal or soy source) and a big helping of it, is the most important part of a meal. Without protein, it’s impossible to stabilize blood sugar, burn fat, increase metabolism, lose the mid-afternoon cookie cravings, boost energy… well you get the idea. The challenge is protein can be a pain because it usually requires some type of preparation, possibly refrigeration and our bodies just don’t crave it like we do carbohydrates. Oh, if only we could eat just carbs and fat every few hours and be fit!
So I like to make tender, juicy, flavorful chicken in bulk for the week. I buy a big package of bone-in, skin-on chicken breast. I prefer it to boneless, skinless chicken breast for a few reasons; mostly because it’s cheaper and when the meat is cooked on the bone with the skin on, you get a lot more moistness and flavor. Bye, bye dry boring chicken.
Here’s how I do it. I place the chicken breasts (bones, skin and all) on a baking sheet covered in foil. I season the chicken breasts with plenty of kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and any seasoning or herb I have on hand like garlic powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, etc. Sometimes I’ll even add a squeeze of fresh lemon. It literally takes me only three to five minutes to prep the chicken and toss it in the oven.
Because I buy larger chicken breasts, I bake the chicken at 375 degrees for about 45 to 50 minutes or until the skin is really crispy and the breast meat is no longer pink inside. Once the chicken is fully cooled, I remove the fattening skin and bones with my hands, drain the juices and save the meat in an airtight container in the fridge. The chicken comes out perfect every time; it’s juicy with plenty of roasted chicken flavor and lends itself nicely to a variety of quick meals throughout the week such as chicken and greens salad, creamy chicken salad, sandwiches (in place of deli meat), pasta dishes, chicken fajitas, etc. Roasted chicken is easy, delicious and cheap. And that makes it excuse-proof in my book!
The next item I like to prep in bulk for the week is a big colorful salad. I do lots of chopped romaine lettuce and any veggie I have on hand like grated carrots, chopped cucumber, sweet red onion, cherry tomatoes and purple cabbage. For me, salad is a huge pain if I have to prep it every day. By making a big salad once a week, I always have it on hand and can use it in wraps, paired with a protein for lunch or as a side dish at night with my dinner.
And I know you’ve heard it all before, but a salad a day is the perfect way to load up on the fiber, vitamins and minerals that can help you to look and feel your best. I personally strive to eat at least one salad a day with fresh, roasted chicken and homemade lemon vinaigrette for a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Last but not least, I try to make one high quality starch in bulk each week. What do I mean by high quality? High quality refers to a food item that is minimally processed and natural. High quality carbohydrates (when paired with protein and fat) have less of a spike in blood sugar than a processed food like bread. And because I’m busy and I eat balanced meals five to six times a day, it’s important to me to have high quality carbohydrates on hand. If not, I end up reaching for bread all day which only leaves me bloated.
I make a pot of brown rice (and yes, I’ve been known to do instant when I’m in a rush) or even roasted or mashed sweet potatoes and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. I toss my brown rice in a stir-fry with frozen cooked shrimp or roasted chicken, add some to my salad or enjoy it as a side for dinner. And there’s nothing better than creamy sweet potatoes with a meal.
My point is, if you take an hour once or twice a week you can easily prepare high quality, versatile and inexpensive staples to make your life easier throughout the week. Remember you are worth the investment in your health… and never let a dirty countertop stop you from reaching your goals!
Have a nutrition or fitness question? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.