Kale and Dumbells » A journey of health and fitness.

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How to plan for healthy meals with a busy schedule

I think the number one question that I get is how to incorporate healthy eating into a busy life. I know most of my readers have a schedule that is full…full of work, kids, school, church, volunteering, cooking, laundry and the million other jobs that we do. Often cooking is one of the things that goes to the wayside, and it seems so much quicker and easier to pop a pizza in the oven or pick up fast food on the way home from work or your child’s after school sport. I will say that it takes a bit of pre-planning to eat clean and healthy, but it is possible to do so without spending hours in the kitchen!

I am the first to admit that I am not an organized person and planning in advance is not my strength. I am a bit more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that I thought I would share! I am going to give some menu options that are simple to prepare, easy to make ahead and still full of flavor and good for you. By planning your week in advance and picking up all the ingredients you will need, you will reduce the number of trips you make to the grocery store too. Make as much as you can ahead or split it up and prepare some mid-week. Also, make enough at dinner so you have leftovers for lunch the next day.

I was originally planning on posting more of my own recipes and creating a casual menu with these recipes, but for now I’m going to link up to similar versions of what I make so you can start incorporating healthy meals into your schedule right away!

 

Breakfast

First off, breakfast. I am going to share a few recipes that you can make in advance and eat throughout the week. Pick two of the recipes below and make on the weekend to have throughout the week and mix in with a breakfast of greek yogurt and fresh fruit or smoothies:

1. Baked Oatmeal – my modifications would be to use fruit of choice (banana, blueberries, etc.) and add some egg whites, as well as flax seed and vanilla protein powder. Chocolate chips are definitely optional!

2. Egg Muffins – These are so easy to make, no set recipe needed. Mix up eggs, egg whites if you’d like, and whatever chopped veggies and meat (ham or turkey sausage work great) you have on hand. Mini muffins or full size, they reheat great and are a perfect grab and go option! Variation…cook eggs in a ham or turkey bacon ‘cup’.

3. Overnight Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats – These are delicious and my kids love it too! Just reheat with a little milk. You could also try a crock-pot steel cut oat recipe, but I have heard they can get a little mushy if cooked for more than six hours.

4. Protein Waffles – Make these ahead on the weekend and keep in the freezer. Just pop in the toaster and top with some greek yogurt and sliced fruit (or make them as protein pancakes if you don’t have a waffle maker!)

5. Green Smoothies or protein smoothies. you can put most or all of your ingredients in the blender and store in the fridge overnight. Just add the frozen items in the morning and blend! These are great to have as a snack later in the day too, just double your batch so you have enough for later.

Also, check out my post on breakfast for some quick and easy breakfasts to mix in with the above ones if you want some more variety.

 

Lunch

Lunch usually involves a bit less make-ahead for me because I usually eat my lunch at home, but I know many of you are eating at work or on the go. The same concept of planning ahead will help you not be tempted by the drive-through! Making a few things in advance that you can eat throughout the week will save you a ton of time (and money). Also, be sure to utilize leftovers when you can! Soup is my favorite for that, but left over meat can easily be added to salad or served with veggies for a quick and easy lunch.

1. Turkey Taco Soup – (see below) Make a pot of this on the weekend or in the beginning of the week for dinner. This recipe can also be made in the crock-pot to keep it even simpler.

2. Roasted chicken or grilled steak with salad (or use dinner left-overs!) – Roast some chicken in the oven with some of your favorite salt free seasoning on it (ie Mrs Dash). I prefer bone-in chicken breast for more flavor and because it’s less expensive. Or marinate some flank steak…grill and slice it for the week! Serve with salad or cut up veggies. By preparing your salad and/or veggies in advance it makes it easy to throw together your lunch before. One step further, is to pre-package 2-3 of your lunches and keep them in the fridge.

3. Lettuce wraps with turkey and hummus – no recipe, but take some large lettuce leaves, and layer with sliced turkey, hummus and tomatoes. Serve with cut up veggies and some fruit!

4. Frittata – If you don’t have eggs for breakfast, these are great for lunch. Make a large pan of it and just slice and serve throughout the week.  Be sure to include lots of veggies and eggs and/or egg whites! Add some salad or fruit on the side and you are set.

 

Dinner

Using your crock-pot will definitely help make dinner prep so much easier. I will often put all my ingredients in the crockpot the night before and put in the fridge…that way all I need to do is put it in the crockpot and turn on in the morning. That said, I don’t use mine for much beyond soups or shredded pork. 🙂 Many of our dinner are roasted or grilled meat (pork tenderloin, salmon, chicken, turkey or lean steak) with veggies and a salad, which are pretty quick and easy to prepare. Here’s a few other ideas to round out your dinner meal options.

1. Shredded pork in the crockpot – No set recipe…just add water, a quartered onion, some bay leaves and spices of choice (ie. chile powder, pepper, cumin, etc. Or a jar of salsa! Try avoid taco seasoning mixes as they are mostly sodium). Serve with corn tortillas or lettuce wraps with lime, avocados, lettuce and tomatoes. Tastes great over a salad too.

2. Turkey Stuffed Peppers – You can always added cooked quinoa or brown rice as well, or serve on the side. These are easy to make ahead, cook and pop in the fridge or freezer…pull out and reheat!

3.  Honey Sesame Chicken – I have heard rave reviews about this recipe…and love that it’s made in the crockpot. She has so many great recipes on her site! Serve with brown rice or lettuce wraps

4.  Turkey Taco Soup – have this for dinner with all the fixing, and then use the leftovers for lunch!

5. Turkey or chicken meatballs with tomato sauce and spaghetti squash – a healthy twist on a classic! Pre-buy meatballs to make this an even easier dish to prepare. I add a ton of veggies like onions, mushrooms, peppers and zucchini to my tomato sauce to get more veggies in (I always say…when in doubt, add more veggies!)

6. A layered chicken enchilada dish loaded with veggies (recipe coming soon for this one…image above)

Snacks

Pre-cutting some fruit and veggies and having them in the fridge means you are more likely to grab those over some less healthy options. I also try to fit in snacks that contain protein…I find they help keep me from getting hungry too quickly.

1. Apples with almond or peanut butter

2. Veggies with hummus (roasted red pepper is my favorite!)

3. Smoothies…I love having a green smoothie when I feel like I need some more fruits and veggies in my day, or my chocolate/banana (or cherry) flax smoothie after a workout.

4. A thin crisp cracker (like Wasa or Kavli) with some Laughing Cow cheese

5. Cottage cheese with a bit of low sugar jam

6. Greek yogurt with berries or banana (almond butter is a great addition to this!)

7. Turkey pepperoni

 

I hope this post is helpful, and will help you to incorporate healthy eating into your busy week! If you have any questions at all, please feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form above. 🙂

April 2, 2013 - 6:57 pm

Lynette - Great post! I often wonder if I would eat as healthy as I do if I was working full time. Most days I prep dinner slowly throughout the day… But these ideas are great!!

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