The number one reason most of us grab an unhealthy meal over a healthy one is convenience. Junk food is ready to be stuffed in your face, and when you're short on time, cooking is one of the first things to go out the window. Today we're going to show you three super simple, healthy, protein-packed meals you can make in a flash.
Now, these are not the three healthiest meals in the world, and they're not the three fastest meals in the world. There are plenty of others out there. These are simply the three food hacks that will help get you through the day in decent shape.
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Breakfast: Eggs to Go
Eggs are an excellent way to start your day; they pack about 6g of protein each, plus a heap of vitamins and nutrients. Only downside? They tend to be difficult to eat while walking or driving. The solution is to create an edible holder.
- Eggs (between two and four)
- Tortilla (preferably whole wheat)
- Olive oil (just a few drops)
- Spices/hot sauce (recommended)
- Cheese (optional)
- 1. Put just enough olive oil into a non-stick pan (11 inches, or so) so that the eggs won't stick. Use a paper towel to evenly distribute it. Turn your burner to low-medium.
- 2. Add your eggs to the pan. You can pre-scramble them in a bowl if you like, or you can just crack them directly onto the pan and puncture the yolks if you're in a hurry. Let the eggs slowly cook, undisturbed, almost like you're making an omelette.
- 3. While the eggs are cooking, take your tortilla and jab it a bunch of times with a fork to create a rough surface. Don't pierce it all the way through. Once the outside edges of the eggs are mostly cooked but the inside is still runny, lay the tortilla on top of the eggs, rough-side down. Allow them to sit for about 30 seconds so they stick together.
- 4. Use a spatula to get under the edge of the eggs, then run it the whole way around so that the eggs slide freely. Then carefully flip the whole thing, so it sits tortilla-side down.
- 5. Allow it to cook this way for another couple of minutes. If you're going to add some shredded cheese, do so at this time (though you'll be making it somewhat less healthy). Shake on whatever spices and/or hot sauce you want, too. Remove from heat when the tortilla is crispy, but not burned. Fold it in half, wrap it in a paper towel and run out the door.
The entire process takes about five minutes. The result is crispy and delicious. It's also much more stable than, say, an egg sandwich, because the eggs are locked into the tortilla, so you're much less likely to spill. Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol, and there is on-going debate (no, it hasn't been settled) about whether the cholesterol in eggs translates to cholesterol in the body. Consult your doc if you're worried about it. This recipe also works with egg whites alone.
Lunch: Replacing Mayo
Canned salmon and canned tuna are both very high in protein, and the salmon is especially high in Omega-3 fatty acids. This is good. You can get wild-caught, dolphin-safe, low-sodium varieties on the cheap, but that doesn't change that the fact that the fish has been cooked beyond recognition, and it's tough enough that eating it feels like work.
Most of the world solves this problem by adding copious amounts of mayonaise to the fish which does indeed make it much more moist and palatable, but there are two problems with mayonaise. One: It's bad for you, and Two: It's disgusting. Lucky for us, though, nature has provided a solution that's not only healthier, but tastes much better: Avocado.
The technique couldn't be simpler.
- 1. Drain a can of salmon or tuna (6 ounces, give or take), and then empty the fish into a bowl.
- 2. Cut a ripe avocado in half, and scrape one half onto the fish. Mash with a fork until thoroughly mixed.
- 3. Add seasoning (lemon pepper or dill are great additions) and/or hot sauce. Enjoy.
Let's not sugar-coat this: It looks absolutely disgusting. It's a mushy green and pink abomination. Get over it. It tastes vastly better than the same fish with mayonaise, and avocado adds nutritional prowess. Avocados are high in fat, but the great majority of the fats are monounsaturated, which are "the good kind of fat" you typically hear about, which may help to boost brain function and heart health. It also boosts HDL ("the 'good' cholesterol"), contains a ton important vitamins, and even adds a bit of protein to the equation. Toss the mixture in some tupperware and hit the road.
Dinner: Quinoa Collaboration
Unless you've managed to completely avoid health food stores for the last five years, you're aware of the quinoa explosion. It's a whole grain (a seed, actually) that cooks like rice, but packs in way more protein (about 8g per cooked cup) and way more fibre (5g or 20 per cent of your recommended daily intake). But you can get even more milage out of quinoa by tossing another healthy food in with it: beets.
Some people find that quinoa has a nutty, almost bitter taste. Beets share some of the earthy flavours of quinoa, but are predominantly sweet when cooked. The flavours blend extremely well, making it something that's great for dinner or even breakfast, if you're feeling saucy (toss a couple fried eggs on top). Not only that, beets are packed with antioxidants, and they're one of the best sources of folate (vitamin B9), which is essential for proper cell production, especially in the blood and in your skin.
This one is absurdly easy, especially if you have a rice cooker.
- 1. Add one part quinoa and two parts water to your rice cooker. I usually do a pound at a time, but that will depend on how big your pot is. If you don't have a rice cooker, just use a pot on your stove.
- 2. Wash and peel your beets. Or don't peel them if you're in a hurry. No biggie. Using a large knife, cut them into chunks. They don't have to be too small, but it's better if they're bite-sized. There's no ratio you need to follow, but for about 200g of quinoa I typically chop up three medium-sized beets or two fairly large ones.
- 3. Toss the beets into the rice cooker, close the lid and turn it on. Let it cook for its normal cycle. Done. If you're using the stove, cook on low heat with the lid closed, stirring occasionally until the beets are tender.
The results are perfectly cooked, tender beets, and quinoa with a lovely, reddish hue and a subtle sweet flavour. It's true that this isn't a recipe you can make while running out the door, but if you make a big batch and toss it into a bunch of tupperware containers, it will be something you can grab while you're heading out the door, and it will last up to a week in the fridge. You can play with tossing other veggies in with your quinoa, but beets are tough enough to hold up with the long cook time (40ish minutes), whereas brussel sprouts will turn to mush. Subbing a low-sodium broth in for water is another great way to add flavour and nutritional value.
These aren't meant to be meals you would eat every single day, but they're convenient, nutritious, and will help you maximise your workouts. If you have some fast/easy/healthy/portable recipes of your own, please share them in the discussion below.