Life can outpace you. One minute you’re meandering the aisles of your favorite bookstore while sipping a gourmet latte the next you’re rushing off to pick up a kid, get to an appointment or (hopefully) hit the gym. Some days you have all you can do to actually grab a bite to eat, much less cook whatever it is you’re shoving in your face as you rush off to tackle the next item on the (evil and ever-growing) to-do list.
Being busy is no excuse
Don’t get me wrong, I fall victim to the same “I’ll just grab a quick (fill in the blank with your favorite go-to quick-grab food) and keep moving” trap. And, lucky us, our bodies seem to be hard-wired to crave the highest fat, sweetest, full-of-carbs food when we are stressed, too hungry, or overwhelmed.
Go figure. The times when our body needs honest to goodness nourishment, and it wants a burger with a Cinnabon® chaser. (Incidentally, I have never actually had a Cinnabon®, even when I was chubby. I’m not gonna lie, I often wonder what they are like as I pass by and whiff that intoxicating smell of spice, butter and…)
I don’t think I’m missing much…
Which brings us to this. What to do on the days that you can’t wrap your head around spelling your name correctly, much less whipping something healthy to eat. I get this question a lot, so I am going to highlight a few of my favorite tricks, go-to pantry staples and easy-to-find on the go ideas for making better choices when you’re forced to grab a fistful of something edible. First up-breakfast.
When I compiled this list, I kept several key musts in mind.
- The ingredient list must be short (this is tricky in the case of “energy bars”)
- Ingredients should be from nature and not from guys in lab coats (not always easy…see “energy bars” above)
- The products must be easily mobile
- ….and tasty
So, let’s get started.
This one will be pretty obvious…
Yogurt: Preferably Greek (lots more protein)–and unsweetened. It’s pretty simple to add your own fruit, and a touch of honey or stevia to keep the calorie and sugar counts low. One of my favorite tricks is to place about 2/3 of a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt in a covered mason jar, add a few frozen cherries, blueberries or other frozen fruit, drizzle with a little honey or a sprinkle of stevia and put in the fridge overnight. As the fruit defrosts, it imparts its juices to make for a yummy breakfast on the go the next day. Toss in a couple of tablespoons chopped almonds or walnut for crunch, added protein and a kick of healthy fats.
Hard-boiled eggs: This one is a no-brainer. Boil 1/2 dozen on Sunday for a quick grab-and-go breakfast or snack all week. Also great to have on hand to whip up an egg salad. YES! another quick and ready-to-go option.
Frozen whole-grain or gluten-free waffles: Want to feel like a kid again? Reach for a waffle….luckily there are so many healthy choices on the market today. Gluten free? Check! Whole grain? Check! Low fat? Yes! And as yummy as the ones you remember your mom tossing in plate.
There are so many ways to make waffles more grown-up. Almond butter, sliced apple, cinnamon and honey. Ricotta with honey and sliced strawberries. Your favorite ham with a few crumbles of goat cheese. Go crazy with this one! Look for brands that have just a few (recognizable to non-scientists) ingredients, around 180 calories each and are low in sugar. Better-yet, whip up a batch of homemade waffles over the weekend and freeze them in individual servings.
Brown rice cakes: Yes, this throwback to the dieting days of the 80′s is still a great option for a quick and healthy breakfast. One of my favorite ways to eat them is with (once again) a little almond butter, some sliced strawberries, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Admittedly these are a little tricky to eat on the go, but can be munched on as you go through your email at your desk.
Smoothies: There are lots of recipes and ideas for smoothies here on Kindred-Kitchen and all over the web. You can even whip one up that night before, pour it into one of those handy covered mason jars and give it a little shake the next day as you head out the door. Like magic, homemade smoothies are so much better than the ones you can pick up at the store. Bonus points–getting to use those super-cute mason jars you swore you’d make homemade jam with…who were you kidding?! Uhh, oh wait…I might be projecting a little on this one….
Low-fat string cheese and fruit: Cheese for breakfast? Yes please!
A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit: Seriously, you needed me to suggest this one?
Generally I am not a big fan of “energy” or “protein” bars, though, in a pinch, they are better than going hungry. Three of my favorites are Pure Organics Bars, Kind Bars and Think Thin–all have at least one of these things going for it: moderate to low in sugar, have few ingredients, are gluten free.
In case you’re wondering, I was not asked by any of these companies to feature their products…they are all truly food I like and eat myself and, were you to conduct a spontaneous inspection, would find them in my pantry.