Healthy and Fast Meals with (almost) No Cooking Required

I’m not going to lie, I have slacked off a little (or a lot!) when it comes to cooking this year. Between school, work, trying new workout classes ;), and trying to get a decent amount of sleep, cooking just hasn’t been a priority. But don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m having frozen meals or fast food – it just means my meals are a little more simple and don’t take much time to make.

Whether you are a student like me, a working professional, home taking care of kiddos, or have other responsibilities, time is always the number 1 excuse for not eating healthy, so today I thought I would share my tips and tricks for fast and easy, healthy meals.

1. Cook ahead of time – I typically only turn on my oven and stove one or two times a week. I’ll make some chicken, roast some veggies, brown some ground turkey, and cook some rice or quinoa. From start to finish, it usually takes me no more than an hour. I keep everything in separate containers in the fridge so it’s ready when I get home from a long day at work.

2. Build a meal – Now that you have all the food is cooked and ready to be eaten, all you have to do is put it together. Think of it like an assembly line…add some rice, chicken, broccoli, and sauce to a bowl, pop it in the microwave and voila, dinner is served.

3. Oh, wait – there is no step three 😉 It is so easy there are only two steps! See, no excuses!!

Here is a little cheat sheet for building a healthy meal:

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  • Tricks if you are really short on time:
    Choose canned tuna, buy a pre-baked chicken, or try canned beans which don’t require cooking for your protein sources
  • Use frozen veggies that you can steam in the microwave – no baking or chopping required.

Now that you have the “recipe” to build your own healthy meal, I thought I would share some of my favorites. Some might sound strange, but I promise they are tasty! Also, lots are vegetarian since I was experimenting with being a vegetarian for a month.

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No excuses now! What are your favorite meals to build?

Peanut Butter Energy Balls + Olympics

I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen the past few days testing out some new recipes so expect lots of yumminess soon. Today I thought I would share one of my favorites: Peanut Butter Energy Balls. They are perfect to grab as a quick snack or to enjoy when you need a little sweet snack after dinner. They are incredibly easy and fast (and don’t require any baking). Just mix all the ingredients together, roll ‘em into balls, and enjoy!

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In Other News…

Guess what today is?! The opening ceremony of the Olympics (aka my favorite time of every other year); in fact, I am watching them as I type this! Seriously, I am obsessed with the Olympics. I have already downloaded 5 iPhone apps to make sure I’m always up to date on scores and medal counts, and my butt will likely be glued to the couch for the next few weeks watching everything from gymnastics to synchronized swimming to beach volleyball.

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Olympic Training Center 2010

On a more serious note, I attribute my love for the Olympics to my involvement in sports throughout my life. If I had not been an athlete myself, I would not have the same appreciation for all the athletes competing in the Olympic games. As a rhythmic gymnast, I learned the importance of being healthy a living a balanced life. I saw first had how eating habits could impact my energy and performance at practice and competition. These experiences are really what have guided me on my path in college to become a dietitian. Whether I work with athletes in the future, that is tbd.

Enjoy the games and go team USA!

Homemade Bread

Since coming back to the United States after studying abroad, I have missed the bread-filled lunches I had with my host family. I tried buying bread at the grocery store but it just didn’t add up to the seed-filled bread I learned to love in Europe. Thankfully, a friend in Germany sent me a bread recipe to try and it was just what I was looking for! I also love this bread because all the seeds give it protein. Depending on what types of seeds you use, one slice can have over 6 grams of protein!

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The recipe is below, but here are some more helpful hints to make this delicious bread:

  • Be sure to pay close attention to the measurements. Since the recipe is from Europe, all measurements are in weight (grams) so you will need a small kitchen scale to make it.
  • As for the ingredients, I found everything I needed at Whole Foods. The trickiest one to find was the fresh yeast, but a Whole Foods employee knew exactly what I needed when I asked. It comes in a small cube in the refrigerator section.
  • As the recipe says, I used an electric mixer but you can also mix the ingredients with a spatula. Either way you mix it, the dough should be slightly thicker than cookie dough but still sticky and wet.
  • You can bake the dough as soon as you are done mixing. No need to wait for it to rise!

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Enjoy the bread fresh for 3 days or freeze some to eat later! I like mine with honey as a sweet snack, but it is also good for making sandwiches.

Zucchini Pizza Bites

Craving some late night pizza? Ready to call the delivery man? STOP! Try these Zucchini Pizza Bites. They are super yummy and will be done before the delivery man shows up.

Using zucchini as your pizza crust gives you and extra serving of vegetables and significantly decreases the calorie count compared to regular pizza.

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I’ll admit, it is not the same as fatty, oily pizza, but they are a great alternative. They also are a little messy, but nothing a little napkin won’t fix.

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Keeping Snack Portions Under Control + Study Abroad Classes

Have you ever sat down in front of the TV or went to read a textbook chapter with a big bag of chips? Let me guess… the next thing you know, the whole bag is gone. Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. I have been know to polish off a big bag of Skinny Pop watching too many episodes of Dance Moms.

We, in America, tend to eat WAY more than a typical portion size. Think about that bag of chips; the nutrition fact label probably said you should have shared that bag with 10 other people!

While nutrition fact serving sizes may not be realistic, they should be used as a guide to limit your intake especially on snacks that are easy to overeat.

My favorite way to prevent overeating is to pre-portion my snacks. As soon as I get home from the grocery store I take the big bag of food and separate it into smaller Ziploc bags. The next time you need a snack, you grab one of your little Ziploc bags. This way, you don’t have a whole bag sitting in front of you for you to mindlessly keep eating.nuts portion pic

Not only is this a great way to limit how much you eat, it also easier to grab a snack on the go. You can just grab a pre-portioned bag and be on your way!

I especially like to do this with my favorite trail mix from Target. Nuts carry a lot of fat and calories so overeating can be dangerous. As soon as I get home, measured out ¼ cup of nuts and put each into a snack bag. When I am running out the door to get to class, I can grab a bag and not have to think about how much to eat.

If making portion size bags isn’t for you, I suggest buying the small snack bags from the store (like buying the small bags of chips instead of the huge family size). It might cost you a little more money but it will prevent you from eating the whole bag at once.

Study Abroad Update!
My flight is officially booked and I am signed up for classes. I am in a public health program where my core course will be Health Delivery and Prioritization in Northern Europe. As a part of this class, I will spend a week in Helsinki, Finland and Riga, Latvia learning about various European health care systems. I will also be taking Health Beyond Boards, Anthropology of Food, and Danish Language.

T-92 days until I am on my way!

Scrambled Eggs in a Mug

With one week of school in the books, I am finally getting used to living in a hotel. First, I’ve got my printer working (it was a tragic first few days without a printer). Second, and most importantly, I have just discovered how to make scrambled eggs in the microwave and they were EGGcellent!!

My favorite post-morning-workout breakfast is an omelet, so after my run this morning I decided I would give microwave eggs a shot in the tiny hotel microwave. These eggs were so fluffy and delicious that they are probably my new favorite microwave food. They were also much easier and less messy than making eggs on the stove, so I will be making these even once I move into my apartment.

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Here’s how to make these scrambled eggs:

  1. Crack as many eggs as you want (or as many that fit) into a microwave safe coffee mug and mix with a fork until the yolks are mixed in. I like to use egg whites because you still get lots of protein, without the fat, cholesterol, and high calories in the yolk.
  2. Optional: Add some chopped veggies to make it more like a scrambled omelet. I used zucchini and broccoli this morning.
  3. Put the mug into the microwave on high for 1 minute then stir.
  4. Place it back into the microwave for 1 minute and stir again.
  5. If the eggs are no longer runny, they are ready for you to enjoy. If they are still runny, continue to microwave and stir at 30-second intervals until they are fully cooked.
  6. Enjoy your eggs straight out of the mug or put them onto a plate.

You can also make these in a disposable coffee cup for eggs on the go. Just bring you cup of eggs in the car with you, and they fit nicely in the cup holder.

Eggs are a good breakfast choice (especially with the vegetables) because they are high in protein to keep you satisfied throughout the morning.

Black Bean Burrito

Hola! In the mood for some Mexican food? This black bean burrito recipe is delish! It is also one of the easiest recipes I have made; it takes less than 10 minutes and uses few dishes.

Black Beans are a great source of protein and fiber to keep you full throughout the day. The approximate* nutrition facts for one serving are shown here. They include all ingredients excluding the optional ingredients listed on the recipe.

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My favorite way to enjoy this Mexican feast is using lettuce leaves as the burrito wrap and adding some guacamole (which is a great healthy fat).

Hope you enjoy!

Black Bean Burrito

*Nutrition facts will vary depending on the brand and amount of ingredients used for this recipe.