How do I make a good meal out of a box of Jell-O and canned green beans? If you’re like me, you might have asked yourself this question while looking at a disappearing pantry. During this season of being at home for longer periods of time, sometimes it can be more challenging to come up with a meal in general, let alone a healthy, balanced one. And on top of all of that, you have to make it taste somewhat decent. I know this struggle all too well and am hoping to provide a few tips to help make meal preparation a little less stressful and keep the home chef sane.
First of all, the quick and easy balanced meal should contain the three macronutrients: protein, fat, (and my favorite) carbs. Every balanced meal has around an equal portion of protein and carbs with only a little bit of healthy fat thrown in. In addition to this, I want to highlight the simple and effective tool from myplate.gov
We have all probably seen this before, but it isn’t to be underestimated. It is a great visual aid in helping us make meals correctly portioned and consistent. Side note, this tool becomes more important the hungrier you are… why? Because if you get hungry enough, the words fruit, vegetables, and grains start to sound a lot more like “pastaaaaaa.” That being said, despite all the tools in the world, you still have to be quite creative when supplies are running low.
With protein for example, if you discover that you are out of meat in the fridge, there are numerous other sources that can help to fill that protein void in your meal. Foods like peanuts, beans, cottage cheese, quinoa, oats, yogurt, lentils, and edamame are some protein-packed alternatives. What is totally fascinating with these foods is that we can pair them together to still get a complete protein source. Here is what I mean: proteins can be broken down into amino acids, and there is a certain amount of different amino acids that our bodies need. Animal sources like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products are complete proteins in that they are made up all of the essential amino acids—they are complete all by themselves. With
non-animal sources, they typically lack some of the essential amino acids. But, when we pair them together, they each make up for the amino acids that the other lacks. Let me give you some practical examples: brown rice and beans are a complete combo, corn and tomatoes (or sweet
peppers) are complementary proteins, or the fan-favorites peanut butter and bread also work to complete some protein needs.
Getting creative might also look like changing up some meals like breakfast. With the weather beginning to warm up a little, adding in a smoothie a few mornings a week will help to add in some variety while also utilizing some stuff that you might typically have in the fridge or pantry. With some frozen fruit, milk (or yogurt) and even maybe a little peanut butter, you have all the macronutrients right there in one glass. Don’t be afraid to throw in some spinach or carrots because you typically can’t taste them and they add in some important vitamins and minerals to staying healthy. Switching it up might also look like “left-overs soup.” This is just what it sounds, but tastes surprisingly much better than it sounds. Throw in that shredded chicken that you made for sandwiches two days ago along with some of that brown rice from lunch, chop up some carrots and celery, add some chicken broth (try to have low-sodium if you can), and boom! You have some great chicken and rice soup. This is super quick, yummy, and has all the basic nutrients.
Last tip of the day- if you have absolutely nothing left in the fridge, consider getting takeout from some of you favorite local restaurants. You can still have a healthy, balanced meal by choosing wisely. Sometimes the small choices make the biggest difference- choose the grilled chicken over the fried, split an entree with a family member, ask for dressing on the side and use only part of it, order that yummy burger but take off one side of the bun or put the patty and the yummy veggies on a bed of lettuce. That way, we can give ourselves a break from having to cook every meal while also spreading some love and support to our local small businesses during this hard time for them.
Stay healthy and keep moving Fuel Fitness- you are loved!
Billings Group Fitness Director