Happy hump day! Today I am incredibly excited to bring you a guest post from my brother! I knew he’d offer some great insight into how he stays healthy with such a busy life in the city (Washington, DC). I also knew he’d bring his great personality to his writing and I was not disappointed.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. So, take it away, bro…
Hi there! I’m the WholeHealthDork’s Bro and she has been sweet enough to ask me to share some thoughts on crafting a good diet when you’re on the run. For the past ten years that I’ve had a meat-less diet I’ve lived in many different places and held many different types of jobs with varying hours and modes of commuting that have made me become pretty good at eating healthy on the run and on the cheap. So here are some tips I want to share with you for keeping it healthy when you’re always on the go.
#1 Keep It Simple!
It may seem like it’s hard to squeeze in cooking a good meal on a tight schedule. You’ve got to search for a good recipe, get all the ingredients and you know, plan something. For many people that may seem like hours worth of work but cooking healthy does not need to be a lengthy or complicated exercise.
For most of my meals I start with a simple base of either a grain or a hearty vegetable and just color the dish with other ingredients that I find in the kitchen and make sure to work in a couple of sides. Good and simple go-to grains, like quinoa, mixed with sautéed vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or asparagus with a side of healthy greens topped with tomato and cranberries or other dried fruit makes a quick, knock-out healthy plate. If you have more time to spend, turn the oven on 450 throw in virtually any root vegetable with some light oil and garlic, wait and savor. And if anything you cook comes out a bit too flat, just toss a little bit of blue / feta cheese or a light balsamic based dressing on it and BAM! Dinner saved.
Weekend brunch. This took 5 minutes. Doobie Do.
A great resource for simple cooking is Mark Bittman’s The Mini Minimalist. Most of the recipes in this book have less than 5 ingredients and take less than 20 minutes to prepare. More importantly though, the recipes demonstrates how cooking does not need to be a major operation. My favorite recipe drives this point home: Mussels Provence – probably better than any mussels you ever had a restaurant, only requires 4 ingredients, and they’re ready in 15 minutes.
Also, there’s no law that says you have to follow a recipe exactly. I like to read a recipe as a suggestion; it has the basic ingredients, the general composition and some outline of seasonings but there’s no reason you can’t substitute anything you want. The more you play around with different combinations of flavors, the more confident you will feel about your ability to improvise it in the future and eventually you won’t have to think about planning a meal, it will just happen.
#2 Keep A (Mostly) Empty Fridge!
This may sound counter-intuitive, but the way I see it, fridges are much bigger than they need to be to store all the food I really need. The more cluttered a fridge is, the more likely it is that things are going to go bad before you get to eat them. This is probably why Americans throw out 25% of the food they buy every year. Keeping a mostly empty fridge allows me to see everything in it and see what condition it’s in. When I see some greens wilting or a tomato that’s a little past it’s prime, I don’t think of tossing it, I think that today is the day I’m going to use it. This means that instead of stocking up once a week you may be making more trips to the grocery store, but I guarantee that you are actually going to spend less money because you won’t waste food by letting it quietly die in your fridge. Also, this is a great setup for inspiring you to create new dishes just based on what you have left to cook with.
This is what my fridge looks like. Pretty stark, but nothing dies here.
Most of the ingredients I use are on their second go around in my kitchen. Nothing gets thrown out because nothing goes bad and so everything gets used twice. You don’t have to worry about cooking the exact amount of food for one or two people once you realize that your leftovers can become the base of your next dish. Grains are particularly good for this, but so is basically anything else you’ve previously cooked. Instead of just re-heating leftovers (boring!) imagine how they can fit into a new recipe.
Leftovers can be put into a winter soul food stew with black beans and kale, tossed with some spring greens for a nice salad or dropped into a curry to form some new fusion food you didn’t even know you could make. This theory also works well when you make a large batch of something like bean burger mix and then force yourself to find 5 new ways to eat it over the next couple of days because you made so much and you’re really going to be mad at yourself if you throw it out after having spent all the time making it.
Bean burger from something else with quinoa from something with a fresh salad = sweet dinner
#4 Get Smaller Plates and Slow Down!
No joke. A plate the size of a Frisbee is way too big. There’s more room for food on plates these days than we should really be eating. So downsize your dinnerware, then fill it up with less food, take your sweet time eating and then wait about half an hour after you’re done and let me know if you don’t feel just as satisfied as having served yourself the Frisbee portion.
The propagation of fast food, grab-n-go and ready-made meals in our society engenders the idea that you should have to fit eating in to a small window of time. But what’s the rush? People will always eat more when given more food and they will eat it quickly. But we all know by now that your brain lags behind your stomach when it comes to feeling full. Smaller plates means healthier portions and more leftovers which will save you time tomorrow for your next meal. So try eating your food in half-size portions twice as slow and skip that feeling of being full and just feel great.
#5 Eat and drink more (fruits and water)!
There are two exceptions to the “eat less” rule. You should eat MORE fruits. You probably don’t do that. An apple a day…? Nah, try an apple, an orange, a plum, some blueberries in your parfait, mango for dinner and another apple. Try substituting some nice sweet fruits for your other go-to snacks (i.e. chips, crackers, etc) throughout the day and see how much better you feel.
Drinking a lot of water is also critical to eating healthy on the go. For me, staying hydrated keep me energetic and it keeps my internal processes working at maximum efficiency. It helps me digest all the good food I’m eating and keeps my stomach feeling mostly full so I never feel empty between small meals and resort to eating more food than I really need.
My trick for eating more (fruit) and drinking more (water)? Reverse portion control. Instead of setting out one apple and one cup of water, I try to give myself large portions to consume. First I stock my office with a ton of fruity goodies at the beginning of the week and then I never have to worry about grabbing something every day of the week. This gives me a big fruit-u-copia at the ready all day everyday. Also, I try to carry around a 1L water bottle with me wherever I go so there is always water at the ready. “Water tastes boring” you say? Throw in a slice of any citrus or a cucumber to spice it up and voila! water is not longer a drag and your body feels great.
It’s like a fruit buffet! Right there on your desk! Hooray!
So these are just some ideas that I have found work for me, but time has shown that they’re pretty reliable. Over the past decade I’ve felt super healthy year after year and locked in a consistent weight which feels great to me without going on a diet, joining a gym or having to resist foods I don’t love. It’s all about finding your balance. I’ve found mine. I hope you find yours too.
Whole Health Bro
Thanks, Whole Health Bro! Does anyone have any questions or comments for him?