"Meal Construction: Simple Eats, Fast" by Jess P

Food for Thought – Meal Construction: Simple Eats, Fast!

The weather’s too hot/too cold/I’m tired/it’s been a long day/I can’t be bothered cooking! But I’m HUNGRY!

There are just some days when dinner is the last thing on your to-do list and when the time to eat does come around, it’s easier to drop by your favorite take away shop (or just get UberEats to do it for you if you’re really not feeling it). Enjoying take away is an awesomely tasty part of life, but when it becomes a frequent habit, it can cause your wallet and training to take a hit. Take away meals are often high in energy and salt, and usually low in vegetables and protein. I know when I’m on the far side of hangry this is exactly what I want, but my body often feels a bit worse for wear afterwards because I haven’t given it what it needs and consequently my training tends to go flat.

My current go-tos have been to construct meals rather than cook them per say, which has been a quick and easy process with no fuss (and it means I get my veggies in). These meals are often made from things I have in the pantry or from a which trip to the supermarket.

I start by picking my protein choice which might include:
- Smoked salmon (especially when it’s on sale!)
- Tinned tuna
- ¼ roast chicken (you can usually ask the deli to cut a whole chicken into halves or quarters)
- Sliced turkey breast
- Firm tofu
- Hard-boiled egg

Then I pick veggies that will compliment the protein. Typically I’ll go for something leafy (such as baby spinach or four leaf salad) in the 120g bags (which will last me for two meals) to make up my base, then something with a bit more texture such as broccoli, green beans, cucumber or cherry tomatoes for some crunch. I roughly chop or steam my veg in the microwave (add them to a deep bowl, cover in boiled water and microwave for about 2-3 minutes depending on your desired texture). Microwaving is a completely safe and convenient way to quickly steam vegetables. For extra convenience, I’ll purchase the pre-cut bags, does mean I’m adding extra plastic to my shop, but I do my best to offset this by using canvas bags for my groceries and choosing glass over plastic where possible.

Next comes my starchy carb choice, which usually is a cup of 90 second rice if I’m at work, or I’ll quickly cook up some pasta or soba noodles if I’m at home. Roast potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato are all favorites too but take a little more prep time. A nifty way to do a baked sweet potato is (you guessed it), in the microwave. Give your sweet potato a quick wash and pat dry, pierce the skin with a fork in several spots to let the steam escape and then cover with a damp paper towel before you microwave it on high for 7-9 minutes depending on the size and how soft you like it. Baked beans, four bean mix or tinned chickpeas are excellent starchy choices which also add extra fibre and protein to the mix.

Finally I’ll add a flavor boost such as:
- Fresh chili or chili oil or flakes
- Wasabi and soy sauce
- Olives
- Nuts and seeds
- Hummus
- Kimchi
- Avocado
- Cheese (eg. feta or baby bocconcini)
- A quick Dijon mustard dressing made with a teaspoon of Dijon, glug of olive oil and pepper to taste

Toss it all in a bowl, keep it separate or mix it up and you have a wonderfully balanced meal with protein for muscle growth and recovery and vegetables for fibre and vitamins and minerals and your starchy carbohydrates for energy and more vitamins!

My top tips for meal construction are:
- Keep it simple, it’s meant to be quick and easy after all!
- Go for flavors that you enjoy to keep your tastebuds happy. It’ll keep you more satisfied in the long run.
- But also… don’t be afraid to experiment. Look for inspiration to keep things fresh and interesting – for example, I had a pizza the other night which had mango and strawberries with fresh tuna and wasabi. I was skeptical at first, but it really worked! So for a future meal, I’m going to combine mango and smoked tuna with wasabi and let that guide my other choices. Will it work? No idea! But check out my Instagram @fortheloveofnoms to find out!

- Tuna and hard-boiled egg with 90 second ‘Mexican’ rice, feta, cooked spinach, olives and cherry tomatoes
- Steamed tofu with soba noodles, green beans, fresh spinach, kimchi and sesame seeds
- Smoked salmon with 90 second brown rice and quinoa and chopped salad (carrot and cabbage) with a yogurt dressing

Want to learn more about nutrition, food and how it can help with your training!? Contact Jess P at [email protected], she will be more than happy to chat to your about your nutrition needs :)