I hate cooking. If there’s a pan involved, it might be too much work :) All right, well I don’t go that far, but usually I try to maintain a one-pan maximum and also a 10 minute max on time.
However, we all know that the reality is, the more you cook the better you look (shout out to Dr. Chris Mohr for that little gem).
So if you love to cook, go for it! You have a leg up. But if you are like me and would rather spend your time doing things other than cooking and cleaning (it’s a lifestyle choice I made when I stopped competing), I thought I would put together a list of the tools and tricks I use to make fast, clean(er) meals while also not slaving around the kitchen daily.
Much of this list involves pre-made and pre-prepped items. Yes, they may be a little more expensive, so there’s a consideration there. But personally, for me, the few extra bucks is worth it to save my time. It’s a personal choice :) Here you go!
1) Buy and use fresh cut and washed veggies as much as possible. Most grocery stores are doing this now, but you can definitely get plenty of variety at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Like these shredded Brussels spouts that Jade and I use at home all the time (below). Focus on veggies that present the biggest cutting/prepping challenges like onions, peppers, etc.
2) Utilize low sodium cold cuts. Admittedly, for those who eat clean, the thought of hitting the butcher counter for cold cuts seems a little dirty. But this is a competition trick that Jillian introduced me to. When in a bind, using low sodium cold cuts can work if you do a little research. Choose a leaner cut like turkey or chicken. Is it perfect? No, but it’s lean protein on the go.
3) Buy pre-cooked grilled chicken breasts. Almost every grocery store offers this now. So super simple. Are there a few more preservatives? Yes. But don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. There’s 25 grams of protein, zero carb per serving, and ~200mg sodium. Add to salads, quick stir-fry meals (see veggies above) or even mix with scrambled egg whites and a dollop of avocado for a pseudo-California omelet (my fav lately).
4) Do a protein shake every day, preferably post-workout as one of your “meals.” Many of the natural protein powders today, like Vega One and HempForce by Onnit, are more like food anyway. They have digestive enzymes, probiotics, additional omega-3s and fiber. One scoop offers ~30g protein. Mix with unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup of frozen berries and throw it in the Vitamix or Magic Bullet.
5) Cook hard-boiled eggs on the weekend and split them up into 3-4 per baggy for quick grab & go during the week. About 6g protein per egg, I will usually eat these as a snack with nuts or an apple. My brother Danny buys them already made and peeled, which most stores offer now too.
6) Get the frigging OXO Salad Chopper and use pre-bagged greens to make BASes all day looooong. I have been telling you guys about this gadget that changed my life. Need. To. Buy. Do it. Buy bagged salad greens that are already pre-washed and use the Chopper to stuff as many greens down your throat as possible. Add any fibrous veggies you’d like, plus lean protein and voila, a BAS :) I do at least 1 a day.
7) Spend the money to get a high-quality blender. For fit gals, this is absolutely money well spent. Jade has had his Vitamix (~$300) for the last 13 years. The thing is amazing and can chop, blend, mince or shred anything–protein pancake batter, the most ice-y protein shake, frozen fruit, etc. Other options include the Magic Bullet and the Ninja blender.
8) Use the “New” TV dinners. I’ve found protein-only pre-cooked meals at Trader Joes and they taste amazing (already seasoned, etc). There is a small amount of sauce that accounts for ~10g carb, but the rest is protein. Sodium intake (once again, not the biggest factor) is around 500mg/serving so a tad on the high end (but then again eggs are high in sodium too). These take 2 minutes to microwave. See pic.
9) Make and freeze protein pancakes. This is an old competitor trick! Competitors will do anything to feel like they’re cheating :) and protein pancakes offer the mouthfeel of bread without out the carbs. Here’s a recipe for you. Muster your energy for an hour on the weekend and then freeze them to reheat during the week. 2 pancakes per serving.
10) Get frozen veggies or fruit. Frozen veggies are just that–veggies that have been frozen. No preservatives, extra ingredients, etc. Use these for stir-fry, quickie dinner sides, etc. My fav dessert is a cup of frozen raspberries with a packet of Truvia sprinkled on top. And honestly, I was never one to consider fruit a LEGIT dessert (just being honest), but this is amazing. Try it!
11) Do take-out salads. Admittedly, I do a lot of take-out. Probably at least once a day and my fav option for take-out is a salad because a) I can see every single ingredient in it, b) I can take things I don’t want off it (like dried fruit, croutons, fatty cheese, etc) and c) it offers a few servings of veggies that I don’t need to work that hard for. Find a place that has a BAS you love and do it a couple times a week in a pinch.
12) Know what to order at restaurants. You don’t have to be a dieting martyr! Use restaurants if you have to :) And if you know what to order wherever you end up, then this is not an issue. I’ve written/video’ed how I order at restaurants before. Make good choices and you can literally eat well anywhere. Some of my fav places for easy ordering are Panera and Chipotle, and you can find these guys pretty much in any city.
13) Salad bars at Whole Foods or other grocery stores. The best thing about salad bars is, once again, someone else has to do the dirty work for you (cutting, washing, etc) and you get to enjoy the outcome. This can be expensive so you’ll have to watch it, but it can be an easy convenience option when you just don’t feel like grocery shopping until tomorrow :)
14) Fully cooked bacon (!!!). Yes, this has been a new find for our household and it’s great because a serving only contains ~7g fat, 100 cals and 400mg sodium (see pic). Not too shabby, plus bacon offers FLAVOR to meals, which is key in determining if you can sustain your healthy eating. Add a few chopped pieces to salads, egg white omelets or stir-fry and it makes the entire meal that much more delish.
15) Use easy no-cook snacks like nuts, jerky, fruit. When I am being suuuper-lazy in the kitchen, which is fairly regularly, I do snacks that take absolutely no prep, like unsalted nuts, fruit that needs no prepping like apples, pears, frozen berries, etc and jerky or protein bars. Great as on-the-go and travel options.
16) Make clean baked goods. Admittedly, I do enjoy clean baking. Well, more like I enjoy the outcome enough to break my no-more-than-one-pan rule :) There are tons of options here on the site, like this one and this one. If I make a healthy almond bread loaf or my protein scones on the weekend, I will section them into servings for snacks during the week. They make me feel like I am cheating, but they don’t impact my waistline. YUM!
Hopefully this list can help you cut some time corners and still be able to maintain your weight (and your sanity!). Good luck :)
Hop on over to the JillFit Facebook page and share your fav convenience strategy with me!