Monday, December 10, 2012

Quick & Easy Meal Planning & Prep for Athletes, Part 4

This post is part of an ongoing series of articles addressing meal planning, prep, and menu ideas for endurance athletes. To view the firstsecond, and third articles in this series, please click on the corresponding links.

As promised earlier, today's post will provide some healthy, quick, and easy meal ideas with links to corresponding recipes (from my recipe blog) that can be used during training season. Listed below are two ideas for each dish category:

1. Homemade Muesli - Deceptively simple and packed with high-energy nutrients, this is a great choice for those days when you just don't feel like eating the usual (i.e., store-bought, boxed cereals). It's also an excellent alternative to hot cereal, especially when the warmer weather rolls around. I often make big batches of it and then store it in a large, resealable plastic bag.
2. Blueberry-Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes - When most people think of pancakes, probably the last thing that comes to mind is health. ;) However, that's what sets these pancakes apart. They're healthy AND delicious, not to mention, extremely quick and easy to make; plus, they're real people-pleasers for both children and adults alike. They just taste like regular, honest-to-goodness pancakes, but the great thing is that the batter isn't made with a single drop of butter. Surprise your family by making them this special treat on a weekend day, and just watch their faces light up with smiles. :) There's nothing quite like the taste of light and airy buttermilk pancakes with warm, gooey blueberries that just melt in your mouth.

Lunches & Dinners:
1. Teriyaki Salmon Burgers - This meal is a nice alternative to regular (beef) hamburgers, especially if you're trying to up your Omega-3's and reduce your weekly red meat consumption for health reasons. Not only is salmon a rich source of Omega-3's, which are great for reducing post-exercise inflammation, but it's also a great source of protein. For more nutrients and less contaminants, be sure to choose wild salmon over farm-raised whenever possible. Wild salmon contains more Omega-3's than farm-raised; it's also 20% higher in protein but 20% lower in fat.
2. "Cheat Sheet" Chili - Made with lean ground turkey meat, beans, vegetables, tomatoes, and a bunch of dried spices, this dish is great for those times when you are tired from a busy day of work and workouts and just don't feel like putting in a lot of effort to cook. :) This chili is also portable and freezes well, so you can make it in advance and take it to work with you or eat it for future dinners. It's a huge time-saver!

1. Shirazi salad - This recipe contains just 3 major vegetables (OK, technically a tomato is a fruit, so 1 fruit and 2 vegetables) and a very short list of ingredients. Plus, you don't even have to turn on the stove. Can't get much easier than that, eh?! It's not just healthy, but it's so fresh, crisp, and delicious! Try it for lunch and add a protein source like shrimp, grilled chicken or beef, or if you're vegan/vegetarian, add tofu, black beans, or chickpeas instead. Or serve it for dinner as a prelude to other Mediterranean courses like falafel, pita spread with hummus or babaganoush, or shish kebabs made on the grill.
2. Cucumber, Tomato, & Artichoke Salad - Here'a another very simple but tasty, 3-ingredient salad. The dressing is easy enough to make, and you can make it ahead to save time. Or, do I what I do: Plan ahead and make a large batch of dressing, which can be poured onto salads in future. (The dressing will actually keep for quite a while.)

Recovery Snacks & Beverages:
1. Almond-Cherry-Sesame Crunch Bars - These energy bars are not only easy to make but they also make great on-the-go snacks as well. They can either be eaten as a regular snack during the day, eaten as recovery snacks, or consumed as fuel a few hours before a workout. If you're in a rush to get out the door in the morning but don't want to miss breakfast, you can also grab them to take with you as you're walking out the door. This high-energy bar is basically a complete meal in bar form, so it will provide you with all of the essential nutrients to keep you going throughout your busy day. And, it's much healthier for you (and fresher-tasting!) than most commercially sold energy and meal replacement bars.
2. All-Natural, Watermelon-Coconut Sports Recovery Drink - This drink is ideal for endurance athletes because it's got the perfect mix of key ingredients to ensure proper recovery (i.e., essential electrolytes, Omega-3's and powerful antioxidants) and contains the recommended 4:1 carbs to protein ratio to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle. For maximum effectiveness, be sure to consume this drink 15-20 minutes after a workout. If you're short on time, you can skip the green tea and just replace it with more coconut water, or just brew some green tea in advance and store it in the fridge for future drink-mixing.

If you'd like more healthy, athlete-centric recipe ideas, you are welcome to visit my recipe blog or check out the list of fitness and nutritional lifestyle books that feature my recipes, menu plans, and sports nutrition content. These books are part of Brett Stewart's 7 Weeks to Fitness series (from Ulysses Press).

Best wishes for health & happiness,

-Corey (a.k.a. "Cyberpenguin.")

 For more tips on healthy eating, sports nutrition, and wellness, feel free to follow my public Facebook feed, recipe/nutrition blog, Cooking with Corey, and/or running blog, See Corey Run. My recipes and sports nutrition insights will also be featured in an upcoming series of nutritional lifestyle books for athletes. For more information, please visit The Athlete's Cookbook Facebook page.