Between work, school runs, errands, and generally busy schedules, cooking a healthy meal after all of that probably makes you tired just thinking about it.
But before you succumb to the siren song of ordering in or heating up a frozen dinner, check out how easy it is to throw together a delicious meal with everyday foods that are probably sitting in your pantry and fridge right now.
1. Brown Rice
Cook up a giant batch of brown rice on Sunday night as part of your meal prep for the week and you’ll have the base for a slew of filling meals for lunches you can take to work and dinner when you get home.
(Pro tip: Check out these 7 easy tips that will have you meal prepping like a pro in no time!)
You’re probably thinking, “ugh, brown rice takes forever to cook,” “it always ends up sticky,” or “it always ends up chewy/under cooked/etc.” Don’t be afraid of the rice: Here’s exactly how to cook fluffy, nutty, perfect brown rice every time.
Here are just a few of the recipes you can use with brown rice:
Spanish Brown Rice: This is a side you can eat like a meal. Add chicken, tofu, or your protein of choice and dinner is served.
Poached Eggs With Greens and Brown Rice: Who says eggs are for breakfast? In less than 20 minutes, you’ll have a simple, flavorful, and healthy dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Southwestern Rice and Bean Salad: Everybody loves a rice bowl, and this one will bring out the Tex-Mex lover in you. It’s got a medium-spicy kick, plus bright flavors of cilantro and green onions.
More brown rice recipe ideas:
Beans of all shapes and sizes are rich in protein and fiber. Keep a variety of canned beans in the pantry, or cook a big batch that you can quickly heat up and toss with a few spices for a quick meal. Or try one of these bean-centric recipes:
Savory Slow Cooker Beans With Rice: Let’s all take a minute to praise the inventor of the slow cooker, the busy person’s (and lazy person’s) best friend. What could be easier or better than throwing a bunch of ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning, and coming home to a hot meal at the end of the day?
Baja Black Beans and Rice: Remember that big batch of brown rice and beans we suggested you cook to use later? Mix them together with cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, and queso fresco. Dinner. Done.
Chicken and Black Bean Burrito Bowl: What’s better than a burrito? A burrito in a bowl. This burrito bowl takes 20 minutes and it’s endlessly customizable, so skip the calorie-bomb takeout versions and make your own at home.
More bean recipe ideas:
Fruity Whole-Grain Breakfast Porridge. Oatmeal gets a makeover with hearty whole grains and dried fruits in this slow cooker recipe.
Irish Oats With Turkey Bacon, Cheddar, and Chives: Prefer savory instead of sweet? This robust bowl of healthy goodness is the perfect way to break your fast in the morning.
More oatmeal recipe ideas:
4. Canned Tuna
You can add this versatile ready-to-eat protein into salads, casseroles, and sandwiches. It’s inexpensive and packed full of vitamins and healthy fats; just make sure to look for tuna canned in water, not oil.
Tuna Noodle Casserole With Veggies: This definitely isn’t your mother’s tuna casserole. Made with whole-wheat pasta, kale, and tuna, this dish is packed with protein and makes great leftovers.
Mediterranean Tuna Salad Sandwich: Typical tuna salad can be a heavy, mayo-filled gut-buster. This version, however, is light and bursting with the flavors of lemon, red onion, capers, bell pepper, and more.
Make a big batch and you can get even more meals out of it: Mix a scoop with greens, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, or raw veggies.
Salad Nicoise: Turn your kitchen table into a European bistro with this classic French salad. It’s filled with the goodness of tuna, green beans, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives, and more — and it’s only 291 calories per serving.
5. Frozen Shrimp
Enjoying “fancy” seafood meals doesn’t mean you have to buy expensive, fresh-off-the-boat fish. With a package of frozen shrimp, you can create a variety of dishes that are inexpensive and fast.
Shrimp Coconut Curry in a Hurry: If you buy frozen shrimp already peeled and deveined, this gorgeous dish can be ready in 10 minutes. We repeat: 10 minutes.
Garlic Basil Shrimp With Zucchini Noodles: This is the perfect opportunity to bust out that new spiralizer, but if you don’t have one, a vegetable peeler will work just as well. Garlic, basil, and pesto combine to create a rich, flavor-packed “pasta” dish. (Not a fan of zucchini? Try this shrimp bowl with carrot and squash noodles instead.)
Shrimp Tacos: Mmmm tacos. We’ve never met a taco we didn’t like, and these tacos are no exception. These are easy to make and tasty to eat; each taco is bursting with ingredients like cumin, chili powder, cilantro, avocado, lime — and more.
More shrimp recipe ideas:
Believe it or not, you can make pesto in 10 minutes flat. This is another one that you should make in a big batch and freeze for later. Even non-chefs can master this easy recipe for basil pesto.
Grilled Veggie Quesadilla: Most people think of pesto as a sauce, but you can use it as a spread, too: A dollop of pesto elevates this roasted veggie quesadilla, and can do the same with any sandwich.
Breakfast Caprese With Pesto: Add pesto to your next egg dish for a savory twist to breakfast. This protein-packed egg-white omelet gets an extra boost with a drizzle of homemade pesto sauce.
Quinoa With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto: The combination of sun-dried tomatoes and pesto sauce is zesty, earthy heaven for your tastebuds. This is a hearty dish you can eat hot or cold, and it’s perfect to pack for an office lunch.
7. Sweet potatoes
Packed with vitamin A and rich in fiber, sweet potatoes bring a natural sweetness to so many fast and simple dishes. They can be cooked in batches in the oven, microwaved if you’re short on time, eaten plain, or turned into mash, pies, or fries.
When a dish calls for white potato or grains, sweet potatoes are often a great substitute that provide even more nutrients and antioxidants than their counterparts.
Barbecue Chicken Baked Sweet Potatoes: Stuffed baked potatoes are great for when you don’t have the energy to cook multi-ingredient/course meals. With only five ingredients, this dish creates a spin on classic comfort food that will satisfy the whole family.
Sweet Potato Latkes: The traditional latke recipe calls for white potatoes, oil, and sour cream, but this dish swaps in sweet potatoes for a healthier version of this classic recipe.
They’re great for the holidays, or as a side dish along with chicken or fish. They can also be topped with applesauce for a sweeter snack.
Hearty Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Apples: This easy-to-make recipe is a great way to use up extra chicken. In less than 30 minutes, you can create this hearty, fall-flavored dish in the cast-iron skillet that can be stored for easy leftovers.
More sweet potato recipe ideas:
There’s a squash for every single season, and they are all so useful in the kitchen: Butternut, delicata, kabocha, spaghetti, and others provide endless options for incorporating more veggies and nutrients into a variety of meals.
Beyond simply being diced and sliced, squash provides the perfect healthy substitute for noodles, tortillas (yes! see the zucchini recipe below), and a variety of other grain-based dishes.
Pad Thai with Spaghetti Squash: Looking for a healthy twist on this traditional dish? Make your own pad thai with spaghetti squash. Making “noodles” out of shredded spaghetti squash allows you to pack even more veggies into your meal without sacrificing flavor.
Roasted Butternut Squash With Cranberries and Feta: This savory dish is great for any fall or winter meal, and makes a tasty addition to your Thanksgiving spread. Winter squash varieties include butternut, acorn, and pumpkin. They are harvested in the fall and can be used all winter to create flavorful, nutrient-rich meals.
Mexican Chicken Zucchini Boats: What better way to cut down on processed carbs and boost vitamin intake than using fresh zucchini as the base of your dish?
More squash recipes:
Eggs are nutritional powerhouses that can be part of any meal — add hard-boiled eggs to make a not-sad-desk salad, bake savory vegetable frittatas, or use them to craft your favorite meat and cheese quiche.
(Bonus: Pairing eggs with vegetables is a great way to get more veggies in before lunch.)
Vegetarian Eggs Benedict: Tired of scrambled or over-easy eggs in the morning? This vegetarian dish uses a healthier version of hollandaise sauce combined with mushrooms and asparagus for a veggie-packed start to your day.
Sheet Pan Sweet Potato Hash With Eggs: Garnished with cumin, chili, paprika and cilantro, this savory dish is perfect for breakfast, dinner, or anything in between. The combination of sweet potato chunks, over-easy eggs and beans creates a nutrient-packed, satisfying dish that will keep you satisfied for hours.
Mini Denver Quiches: These mini quiches are yummy for a bite-sized breakfast or brunch, and are great for on-the-run mornings when you need a grab and go option! Packed with protein from eggs and ham and a hearty serving of bell pepper, this dish will start your day on a balanced foot.
More egg-cellent recipes and tips:
Stock your kitchen with these key staples and you’ll be prepared for a healthy meal any time of the week.
9 Pantry Staples for Healthy Eating was originally posted at <a href="https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/pantry-staples-for-healthy-eating" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/pantry-staples-for-healthy-eating</a> by Lili Ladaga
A Guide to Eating a Dairy-Free Diet
Drink milk? Paleos pass on it. So do vegans, of course, as do some vegetarians. And those who abide by “clean eating” guidelines are dairy-free as well.
But why would someone ever want to consider a dairy-free diet? (What? No ice cream??) Are there benefits to going dairy-free?
Before we get there, it’s important to note that not everyone needs to go dairy free. For many people, dairy is perfectly fine as part of a healthy diet. Dairy can provide a lean source of protein, such as reduced-fat, unsweetened plain Greek yogurt (2%).
Dairy is also a good source of calcium and vitamin D, which many people lack in adequate amounts in their diet. Fermented dairy products are also a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health.
But if you are considering saying bye-bye to Brie, let’s look at the benefits and pitfalls of removing dairy from your diet — and talk to experts about what you need to know before you go on a no-dairy diet.
What Is a Dairy-Free Diet?
The motivation to adopt a dairy-free diet could be related to health, ethics, the environment, culture, or a particular way of eating, like the Paleo diet.
Here are some other foods to avoid on a dairy-free diet (and what not to eat when you’re lactose intolerant):
cream half-and-half ice cream kefir milk chocolate sour cream goat and sheep milk dairy products (sometimes, depending on the individual)
If you’re avoiding dairy, you will want to inquire about the ingredients in baked goods and read the labels of processed and packaged foods like dips, sauces, and soups.
At restaurants, dishes may contain butter or cream, so be sure to let your server know if you’re not eating dairy.
Is a Dairy-Free Diet Right for You?
There are plenty of reasons you might want to find out whether a dairy-free diet is right for you. It may be that you don’t like it or you grew up in a culture where milk isn’t commonly consumed. Or perhaps you’re a vegan who avoids all animal products for ethical or environmental reasons.
You could be among those affected by lactose intolerance, the inability to process the natural sugar in milk and other dairy products, or you could have an allergy to milk or milk protein. And, there’s also the processing and production of milk and dairy — some dairy-free dieters are trying to avoid the growth hormones often found in conventional dairy products.
“There’s been growing discussion around the hormones in and pasteurization of dairy products and how they alter our milk and milk products,” says Lauren Minchen, R.D.N. (Did you know that organic milk contains 50 percent more omega-3s than conventional milk?)
Whatever our reasons for going dairy-free, there are more people skipping their morning milk, according to the US Department of Agriculture. We collectively drank 6 percent less milk in 2016 than we did in 2015, and in 2010, the USDA released a report that found the number of individuals drinking milk had “decreased significantly” since the late 1970s.
What Are the Benefits of a Dairy-Free Diet?
The benefits of a dairy-free diet will depend on your reasons for going dairy-free. If your reasons are environmental, the benefits may be intangible, for example. Minchen shares that she recommends a dairy-free diet to clients working with skin and digestive health. Weight loss is another common reason to follow a dairy-free diet plan.
Dairy and Acne
When it comes to the connection between dairy and noncystic acne, most of the research is on teens. A 2005 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology used data from the Nurses Health II study of over 47,000 women to retrospectively examine the connection. They did find “a positive association” between acne and dairy consumption.
But according to a 2010 literature review in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, “[d]airy ingestion appears to be weakly associated with acne.” Those researchers instead stressed the connection to diet, suggesting further study was needed on omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, zinc, vitamin A, and fiber.
So why would dairy be connected to noncystic acne? It could be the presence of bioactive molecules (including hormones) in dairy products, says Krista Haynes, R.D., C.S.S.D., and nutrition manager at Beachbody.
“While the exact mechanism is still unknown, there are hypotheses, mainly around hormones found in milk,” she says. “There’s really no such thing as ‘hormone-free’ milk. Dairy has several hormones in it, including insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and androgens, which can contribute to sebaceous gland activity and hence acne. In addition, some speculate there’s a link between lactose and insulin spikes and acne.”
Dairy and Weight Loss
The big question most people have is “will giving up dairy help me lose weight?” There’s no doubt that triple-cream Camembert, ice cream, and whipped cream are treat foods. Other dairy foods like 2 percent cottage cheese and light ricotta are considered protein sources, even in Portion Fix. So is there a connection between dairy and weight loss?
Yes, but the answer is not clear-cut. While many experts and studies say we should save high-fat dairy products for special occasions or swap them for lower-fat versions, some research suggests you can have your higher-protein, moderate-fat dairy and lose weight, too.
One 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that subjects who ate a cheesy snack before lunch ate less at their midday meal and throughout the rest of the day. However, this was a small study of just 27 normal-weight women.
Before you reach for the string cheese, consider a 2012 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In examining 29 randomized controlled trials, researchers found that consuming dairy was linked to weight loss when subjects also cut calories or when they followed a diet for a year or less. When they had free rein over their food choices or followed a diet for over a year, the opposite effect was observed.
Dairy and Digestion
If a food doesn’t sit well with you, you’ll likely avoid it, and the same goes for dairy. Some people report occasional digestive complaints after eating dairy, including occasional bloating and gas, sometimes related to lactose intolerance.
As with any health issue, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor or a trained health-care professional.
Lactose intolerance means that an enzyme (lactase) needed to break down lactose (milk sugar) is missing. This is quite common. “In most human populations, lactase activity decreases during mid-childhood (about five years of age), resulting in low levels from that age onwards,” says Haynes. “Lactose intolerance is most common in East Asian adults — less than 10 percent of this group can break down lactose.”
What Can You Eat Instead of Dairy?
If you’ve given up milk or are considering it, you’ll need to know what you can eat instead of dairy. In some cases, such as cheese on top of a salad or a dollop of sour cream on tacos, you can skip it. But what about milk and butter in recipes or Greek yogurt as a protein source?
“There are so many options these days, including coconut, almond, hemp, soy, rice, and quinoa alternatives,” says Minchen. There’s also vegan Shakeology for your daily shakes, nutritional yeast to add a rich cheesiness, and even vegan cashew queso sauce. You can also make your own homemade almond milk.
Just keep in mind that the nutrition content of non-dairy alternatives may not be the same as the dairy version. For example, almond milk yogurt doesn’t have much protein, so it’s not a good swap for Greek yogurt as a protein source.
And rice milk may not have the calcium of skim milk, so you may want to find a fortified version instead.
“For cheese and sour cream, I love guacamole or hummus as a substitute (which are creamy and rich without the milk),” says Minchen. “For milk, I love unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk, or organic soy milk. And for yogurt, almond and coconut yogurts have improved in flavor — just watch the sugar!”
You may also consider cutting back on dairy. “Something else we will work toward is determining how much dairy they can tolerate,” says Minchen. Some of her clients can comfortably enjoy dairy a couple of times per week, so she occasionally includes dairy in their meals “to make the plan more sustainable and enjoyable.”
What About Calcium on a Dairy-Free Diet?
When you think of the benefits of milk, bone health likely comes to mind. What about calcium on a dairy-free diet? If you’re not drinking milk or eating dairy, how can you ensure you’re getting enough calcium? After all, calcium is an important nutrient for our hearts as well as our musculoskeletal system and our nervous system.
“This abundant mineral is highly regulated in the body, which means that if you don’t consume enough through your diet, calcium is leached from your bones to maintain constant concentrations so that these bodily functions can happen,” says Haynes. “Therefore, it’s imperative to get enough to meet your daily needs.”
While up to two-thirds of the calcium in Western diets comes from dairy products, there are plenty of other sources. Dairy-free calcium sources include beans and dark leafy greens as well as calcium-fortified foods like almond milk (check the label to see if it’s fortified) or calcium-set tofu.
“Dairy is rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium,” says Minchen, so replacing dairy with lots of dark leafy greens, broccoli, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and organic soybeans (all foods that are rich in the same nutrients) “can be helpful in ensuring that you aren’t missing out on vital nutrients,” she says.
The Bottom Line
You may opt to go dairy-free for a number of reasons. The benefits of a dairy-free diet may be personal or could include skin and digestive health or weight loss.
If you are dairy-free, read labels and seek out healthy alternatives. (If you want to include dairy in your “everything in moderation” diet, that’s OK, too.)
A Guide to Eating a Dairy-Free Diet was originally posted at <a href="https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/dairy-free-diet" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/dairy-free-diet</a> by Lili Ladaga
Meal Prep Tips for Clean Week (or Any Other Week!)
Your mission — should you choose to accept — is to eat clean and exercise for seven days in a row. It’s just a week; you can do anything for a week!
Bonus: These heathy habits may stick around for much longer. But before you begin anything, you need a plan. A good place to start is Clean Week with Megan Davies, who has a little trick to making clean eating as easy as possible: meal prep.
Implement these easy tips and see for yourself how eating clean can be simple, delicious, and fun.
(Pro tip: Once you nail these Clean Week meal prep tips, you can move on to the Portion Fix container system to take your new healthy habits to the next level!)
How to Meal Prep for Clean Week (or Any Other Week)
1. Don’t be afraid to repeat
No need to make an entirely new meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Just choose two or three of your favorite recipes for each meal, and simply double or triple the recipe so you can have it multiple times throughout the week. (Remember to take “repeats” into account when you’re writing out your grocery list!)
2. Batch cook
Choose recipes or mix-and-match ingredients that are similar so you can cook up a big batch of foods and eat multiple times throughout the day or week. Easy foods to batch cook:
- Roasted veggies: Add them to a breakfast scramble, then toss some into your salad for a not-sad desk lunch.
- Quinoa: Add this nutrient-packed food to your soup for lunch, then turn it into a side dish with baked salmon at dinner.
- Chicken breasts: Bake a few chicken breasts to pair with a side of sautéed veggies and a baked sweet potato for dinner. Then add a sliced chicken breast to some zoodles for a clean “pasta” dish for lunch the next day.
- Hard-boiled eggs: Grab these as an easy snack when the afternoon slump hits, then make avocado egg salad toast for breakfast in the morning.
- A big pot of brown rice will last you 4–5 days in the fridge or in the freezer for up to one month. This versatile grain can be used in a slew of recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
3. Portion, then plate
Meal-prep containers are your new best friend: All you have to do is portion out your meals in advance after you’ve batched cooked your meals for the week.
No more standing in front of an open fridge trying to decide what to eat; just grab your container and go.
Many people choose Sunday as a “meal prep” day, but pick whatever day is most convenient for you. Committing to a few hours of prepping one day can save several hours during the week.
4. Be mindful of food safety
Most foods will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. If you’re making something on Sunday that you don’t plan to eat until Friday, put it in the freezer and defrost it in the fridge Thursday night.
Some foods like eggs and sweet potatoes don’t freeze well, so schedule freezer-friendly meals at the end of the week so you only have to cook one day during the week.
5. Frozen fruits and veggies can be just as good as fresh
This is especially true when it comes to meal prep. Since frozen vegetables have already been cooked, all you have to do is heat them in the microwave with some cooked quinoa and your pre-made chicken breast and you’ve got yourself a balanced meal.
Frozen fruit is also a great addition to Shakeology; no washing or cutting required.
6. Mini meal prep
Certain meal prep tasks should wait till the night before or just before eating: like washing fresh fruit (to ward off mold), chopping delicate greens (to prevent wilting), or adding fresh herbs (to minimize oxidation and maximize flavor).
7. Look for shortcuts
Make it easy on yourself if you’re willing to swap a few extra dollars to save a little extra prep time.
Many grocery store chains offer pre-chopped veggies, zoodles, “pre-riced” cauliflower rice, peeled and diced fruit, pre-washed salad greens, and pre-cooked proteins like fish, chicken, and tempeh.
Meal prep can seem intimidating at first — planning ahead! endless grocery lists! batch cooking! — but it’s not, we promise. Follow these tips, set up a process that works for you, and you’ll be meal prepping like a pro in no time.
Meal Prep Tips for Clean Week (or Any Other Week!) was originally posted at <a href="https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/clean-eating-meal-prep-tips" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/clean-eating-meal-prep-tips</a> by Lili Ladaga