One of my favorite comedians, John Mulaney, has a great bit about the difference between kids and adults. It goes something like this:
Ask a kid what they did over the weekend: “Awww, we didn’t do anything!” *pouty face*
Ask an adult the same question: “Ahhh, we didn’t do anything!” *happy face*
As an adult, is there anything more satisfying than canceled plans? If there is, I haven’t found it.
What is a top complaint among grown people in the modern world? Too much to do, not enough time.
And when people get busy (myself included), diet is one of the first things to fall by the wayside. We reach for what is fast and convenient, which our industrial food sector is more than happy to supply.
My purpose here is not to offer a philosophical treatise on the perils of modern life, but rather, to share some of the tools I have picked up to better nourish my body when I don’t have much time.
As I have shared in some of my previous posts, I used to consume quite a bit of fast food. It was my “go-to” option when on the go. I would hit a drive thru on my way to work, or to my second job, or to school, or whatever, get some cheap, greasy (yet undeniably tasty) food, and eat it in the car, usually while driving. Hardly a mystery why I felt bloated and sluggish after such meals
So in the name of sharing practical, real-world experience that has helped me go from someone who consumed fast food on a regular basis to someone who rarely consumes it, these are “a few of my favorite things” in my survival toolkit.
Disclaimer: Many of these items are Trader Joe’s products. This is not some sort of surreptitious commercial for my employer. But since I do work there and we have so many great products at affordable prices, I do the bulk of my food shopping there. Most of the products I describe here can be found in similar forms at other stores. End PSA…
Trader Joe’s Just a Handful of Raw Almonds: I used to carry chocolate in my purse, but now I carry these instead. They are perfect for times when hunger strikes or I just need a little nutritional boost to get me through until my next solid meal. I love the pre-portioned packaging, and not just because it is so convenient. Nuts like almonds are a great choice, but for someone like me, they are easy to overeat. Having the portion control built-in keeps me from mindlessly reaching into the bag for another handful.
Trader Joe’s Frozen Turkey Burgers: If I need a meal but don’t have much time, these turkey burgers are a lifesaver. Doesn’t require much attention: I just heat the pan, put the burgers on for six minutes (go back to whatever it is I’m doing), flip them and reset the timer for another six minutes, and done. Easily dressed up with the mustard or hot sauce (my condiments of choice), and in twelve minutes I’ve got a tasty, filling, protein-packed meal.
Cauliflower Rice: This little bag contains a perfect marriage of low-carb and convenience. I enjoy making dishes from scratch whenever possible, but making your own cauliflower rice is time-consuming, messy, and tedious. Trader Joe’s to the rescue with this product that only contains one ingredient: cauliflower. No added salt, sugar, stabilizers, thickeners, preservatives, nothing. Add to a breakfast scramble and it provides the same mouth-feel as hashbrowns. Mix it with black beans and cheese, or throw it under your favorite stir-fry, and I swear you won’t miss the white rice. Your pancreas will thank you.
Organic Valley Whole Milk Cottage Cheese: There are a million brands and varieties of cottage cheese on the market, but I love this one for a few reasons. 1) It’s made with milk from grass-fed cows, 2) It’s full-fat, so it has fewer stabilizers/thickeners as low-fat and fat-free versions, 3) It packs a whopping 14 grams of protein in just a half-cup, 4) A small amount is quite satisfying, and 5) It’s delicious.
Trader Joe’s Fully-Cooked Chicken Breasts: These are a staple in my fridge. I’m the queen of the one-skillet meal. I love to take whatever veggies I may have in the fridge, do a quick saute with grass-fed butter and garlic, and then chunk one of these pre-portioned 4 oz chicken breasts into the mix. A delicious, satisfying meal full of quality veggies and protein in under 30 minutes. They are also great chopped into salads or beans, topped with avocado and salsa, or mixed into spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. There are many brands of pre-cooked chicken besides these Trader Joe’s breasts, but be sure to check the labels to ensure they don’t have a host of unwelcome ingredients, like MSG, soy fillers, or flavor additives.
Trader Joe’s Hot Smoked Salmon: I never used to like smoked salmon; I thought it was slimy and smelled awful. That was before I discovered this gem. Hot smoked salmon has a taste and texture closer to grilled salmon than traditional cold-smoked salmon. It may seem expensive, but I get several servings out of a filet. When I break down the price per filet to how many servings I get out of it, it is less than I would spend on a burger from a fast-food joint. I open the package and store it in tupperware, and just take out a few ounces of savory, high protein goodness when I need it. It’s so rich that a few ounces is all I need to be satisfied.
Eggs: Behold, the humble egg! So simple, yet so versatile. And for the love of God, eat the yolks!!! That’s where most of the good stuff is. A deep orange color in the yolk is a sign of a wonderfully nutritious (and delicious!) egg. I eat eggs for breakfast every day, and it really doesn’t take that much time. I’ve learned the hard way that a bowl of cereal or a bar doesn’t cut it for me in the morning. Starting my day off that way ensures that my blood sugar will be unstable and I will fight hunger all day. Yes, it takes a few more minutes than grabbing a bar, but it’s worth it. And it really is just a matter of a few extra minutes. Scrambled eggs will cook in a hot pan in practically seconds. Trust me, some days I have to work at 4am. I set the alarm for 2:45 am, and I manage to get dressed, make and eat eggs (and usually bacon as well), make my coffee, and be out the door by 3:30 am.
You may be asking yourself, “but what about bars? Aren’t they a good option for eating on the go?” This is just my experience, but for me, the answer is no. I have experimented with several different brands and types of bars, and finally concluded that they just don’t do anything for me. Even high-protein, relatively low-carb bars, like Atkins or Quest, leave me feeling hungry again in about a half-hour. I don’t think my body registers them as real food. I’m much better off eating some almonds or cottage cheese, which leaves me satisfied until my next meal rather than searching for something else to eat in fairly short order.
I’m not saying no one should ever eat bars, but I am saying read the ingredient list carefully. Many bars are loaded with sugar. The manufacturers just use fancy names to obscure that fact: evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, invert glucose syrup, fruit juice concentrate, these are all just code names for sugar. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just because a form of sugar is more “natural” or less processed, like honey or maple syrup, does not mean it won’t spike your blood sugar and induce the same insulin response as plain old white table sugar. It will. Even raw food bars sweetened with dates are no exception: one medjool date weighing 24 grams has 16 grams of sugar and just 1.5 grams of fiber. Yes there are vitamins and minerals, but there is not enough fiber present to offset the negative impact of that much sugar, even if it’s “natural.”
This is a snapshot of the “convenience” foods that work for me. They are my new go-to option that keeps me away from the drive-thru. When I eat them, I feel satisfied, nourished, and ready to get on with the business of my day. When choosing your own “convenience” foods, ask yourself, “how do I feel after I eat this?” If the answer is sluggish, tired, or quickly hungry again, it may be time to try something new!
Are you ready to try something new? Do you need help getting started? Call me at 614-517-2520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about my individualized coaching services! Come join my other clients already working with me at Ludus Magnus!