Recipes

How to Prepare Meals (and Stick with It) as a Working Professional

Guest blog by Tal Woliner

If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled for years to figure out how to juggle eating well with a hectic work schedule and constant food temptations at business meetings, events and happy hours. It might even be a source of anxiety and frustration. I’ve figured out a way to work around it and you can too!

Almost three years ago, I decided to take control of how I eat and work out and apply the same rigor and planning I employed in the rest of my life. That’s when I first started working out with Sonja. On top of being an incredibly talented personal trainer, Sonja is a nutritionist. It was her advice about how to eat a healthier diet that started me on a journey that has evolved into preparing meal plans that I can actually stick with.

The key to changing the way you eat is planning, planning, planning. I used to try to prepare breakfasts and lunches every night to take with me the next morning to have at work. Even though I had the best intentions to stay on track, I realized it wouldn’t last and I’d inevitably go out to eat as the week progressed. That all changed when I started preparing my breakfast and lunch meals for the entire week on the weekends. While that sounds daunting, it’s actually easier than you think.

Here are some tips that will transform how you prepare meals for the work week:

1. Check your calendar before heading to the grocery store.

Doing so will help you figure out which days you’ll be in the office and will need meals. While my plans sometimes change in the middle of the week, I’m usually pretty good at estimating how many meals I’ll need. It helps keep me honest so I can make enough meals to last me for the week.

2. Search for inspiration for recipes from sites like Pinterest.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that there is a plethora of blogs, websites, and amateur and professional chefs posting their recipes online. Instead of brainstorming ideas from scratch, search for inspiration online. Pinterest is my go-to source for healthy and creative recipes for my meals. The key for me is not to get bored making the same thing every week or I’ll deviate from the plan.

3. Pick recipes that scale up to save time.

While I try to mix up what I make each week, I pick recipes that will yield multiple quantities so I can be efficient with my meal prep time. A good example of that is the egg muffins I make every other week that last for the entire week. Here’s a great recipe I reference often. I usually just mix up which vegetables I sauté to vary up the muffins. If you love everything pumpkin like I do during the fall, you can also try these pumpkin muffins that use old fashioned toasted oats instead of flour.

4. Set aside a block of time on the weekends to buy groceries and prepare meals.

Every weekend I head to the grocery store with a shopping list in hand so that I’m not forgetting the essential ingredients to make the meals I’ve chosen. That means I’ll be ready to go when it’s time to prepare meals.

Then, depending on what my weekend plans look like, I set aside 2-3 hours of mostly uninterrupted consecutive time to make the meals I’ll be eating during the work week. I found that making a commitment to set aside time on either Saturday or Sunday will save you hours of headache later on when you’re exhausted and would rather binge a show than make yet another meal at night.

5. Use shortcuts to make meal prep even easier.

Here are some tips that have helped me cut down on time and expand my recipe options:

  • Buy mason jars if you’re making salads. I bought a pack of 12 mason jars on Amazon for only $11.99 and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made. I make salads each week as I can’t always count on leftovers from dinner to serve as lunch meals the next day. The reason I love mason jars is you can ditch multiple pieces of Tupperware and put all of your salad ingredients, including the dressing, in one jar. The jars lock in the freshness and ingredients are layered in such a way that lettuce doesn’t get soggy. If you’ve never seen a tutorial on how to load a mason jar, check here and here. Also, see below for my go-to salad recipes.
  • Invest in condiments you’ll likely use every week. I make homemade salad dressings at home (overtime, you’ll likely prefer them over store-bought versions), so I have a variety of vinegars handy, which usually serve as a base for any dressing you’ll make. I have red wine, white wine, balsamic and apple cider vinegar ready to use (salad dressing recipes also below).
  • Upgrade your appliances (if needed) to enhance meal prep. I also have a crock pot, electric can opener and food processor to help me make slow cooked shredded chicken, use canned vegetables like chickpeas, and make herb salad dressings, respectively. These tools have helped me expand my repertoire of recipes.

If you follow these steps and make a habit of it, you’ll feel like you took back control of what you eat and how it’s prepared. I know I do. I’ve been following this process since the beginning of the year and I’ve found a way to make it fit into my schedule because it’s a priority. I find myself less excited to eat out during lunch when I know I can make food better and healthier on my own. I hope you’ll consider this approach or find your own methods to make a plan and stick with it. You won’t regret it.

Salad Recipes

Salad Dressings

  • Balsamic Vinaigrette – Whisk these ingredients:
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
    • ½ cup olive oil
  • Apple Cider Vinaigrette – Whisk these ingredients:
    • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Tomato Basil Dressing – Blend in food processor:
    • 1 medium tomato, chopped
    • 2-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
    • 1 clove garlic, chopped
    • Pinch of sea salt and pepper
  • Herb Salad Dressings (including Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette)
  • Other dressing ideas:

5 Easy and Healthy BBQ Essentials

Hi all! How many times have you shown up at a BBQ and there’s not even a single veggie...except for maybe a pickle to throw on your burger? Most typical BBQ’s involve a ton of highly processed carbs and meats. If you’re trying to eat well or watch your weight, it is not happening here! Luckily there are lots of easy, BBQ friendly food items you can bring along and people will love you for it...and if not at least you’ll be good to go ;).

Here are my 5 favorite easy and healthy BBQ essentials:

1. Veggies for the grill - This is beyond easy! Pick up some asparagus, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions at your local market (ideally organic). Slice veggies long ways and sprinkle on a little pepper and sea salt. Bring it along to wherever the grill may be. You can also get a little more fancy and put the sliced veggies on a stick. Voila! Veggie kababs!

2. Homemade Turkey or Lean Beef Burgers with lettuce buns: High quality meat is essential. Insure that you are getting the good stuff by purchasing it at a local market or from a butcher you trust...then prep the burgers yourself! It’s this easy:

Place ground meat in a large bowl. Sprinkle on sea salt, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and any other desired spices. Mix spices into the meat with your clean hands, and roll into balls. Place on a sheet of waxed paper or a plate, and press down on the balls to flatten them. Place patties in some tupperware or ziploc, and you’re good to go. After grilling, wrap with large bed of romaine lettuce. Even better, add a scoop of the guacamole salad (see below) on top of the burger before wrapping with lettuce. Yum!

3. Hummus with sliced veggies: Home-made hummus is a piece of cake! It’s cheaper than buying it, and you can make it in larger quantities. The key ingredients are chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, water, and sea salt. Blend these ingredients to desired consistency and taste (note that the hummus comes out creamier if you soak the chickpeas overnight). Slice up some celery sticks, carrots, and cucumbers. These essentials will definitely be a hit.

4. Guacamole Salad: Who doesn’t love guacamole?! Especially when it’s homemade. Try adding a healthier twist on it by adding in shredded carrots and diced cucumber.

Start by mashing 4-6 ripe avocados with a fork or potato masher. Add in fresh minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, paprika, finely diced tomato, and lemon to taste. Then add shredded carrots and diced cucumber. It makes for a perfectly healthy dip!

5. Summer salad plus fish: Fish and salads are both great additions to a bbq (bring separately and add together once fish is grilled). Wild salmon and tuna fillets are easy to cook on the grill with just a little salt, pepper,and lemon. Then place fish on or aside one of these two perfectly easy and delicious Summer Salads. They will go great with your grilled fish or burgers.

Strawberry Spinach Salad with macadamia nuts:

In a large bowl combine: Organic spinach leaves, sliced strawberries, thinly sliced red onion, chopped unsalted macadamia nuts (almonds or walnuts work as well), crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Dressing:

Balsamic vinegar, raspberry vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper (Whisk together slowly in small amounts to create desired taste...watch the honey though ;))

Coconut Pear Salad with Arugula

In a large bowl combine: Organic arugula, sliced pear, diced cucumber, unsweetened flaked coconut, and sunflower seed

Dressing: 

Water, sunflower oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, small amount of honey to taste

Enjoy!

 

 

Megan's Favorite Crockpot Chicken

  One of my favorite kitchen appliances, hands down, is the crock pot. It's so versatile, easy to use, and can really make any meal taste delicious without having to be in the kitchen for an hour. I learned of this recipe a while ago from the blog Rubies and Radishes and changed it up a little bit, adding a few ingredients but still keeping it super simple. I get all the ingredients for this recipe from Trader Joes, but I'm sure you can find similar ones anywhere else.

If you're in a rut or not sure what to make this week for dinner, this is a great go-to recipe. Put it in the crockpot before you leave for work and it will be ready to go when you come home.

Crock Pot Chicken Verde

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs OR 3-4 chicken breast
  • 1 jar Trader Joes Salsa Verde (any salsa works, just make sure there is no sugar in the ingredients)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bag frozen Roasted Bell Pepper and Onions from Trader Joes (or fresh sliced peppers and onions)
  • Optional toppings: sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes, shredded carrots

Directions

  1. Put chicken, salsa, and salt and pepper in crockpot. Set to low and allow to cook for 4-6 hours
  2. During last 30 minutes or so, add in desired amount of bell pepper and onions (sometimes I do half the bag, sometimes I do all of it)
  3. Shred chicken with 2 forks and add additional salt and pepper to taste
  4. Serve over a bed of spinach and top with desired toppings.

For more from Megan, visit her at corewellnessandnutrition.com