One thing I know for sure is that my life became way easier when I started focusing on colors instead of calories, whole foods instead of macros, and my own hunger cues instead of the clock.
That was when my meal prep went from boiled chicken, microwave broccoli, and rice to these flavorful, colorful, nutrient rich meals. I started to actually make so many more delicious recipes and create some of my own because I wasn't limited by diet rules that I once thought were true.
One of the reasons I love cooking is because it allows me to be creative and explore the world. I know the science of nutrition, and the demands that our metabolism put on our physiological needs. I have seen patients in intensive care units being fed nutrients through their veins just to get enough nutrients to heal a massive wound to their GI tracts.
I have seen patients fail their swallow evaluations, only to be told they still aren't able to tolerate more than a pureed diet.
These restrictions were medically necessary because disease or wounds prohibited these people from eating real, whole foods. So why, I ask, why would anyone want to put themselves through restrictions if its not medically necessary?
Eating is pleasurable, its a social behavior, its nourishing to our bodies and to our minds. Yes, there is a great deal of sports nutrition research that promotes foods for fuel. I am totally in support of that! I myself am always interested in how to improve my physical fitness. I'm in tune to my body's levels of fatigue and I know when I didn't eat enough calories or carbohydrates to get me through a high-intensity workout.
I know we can do both. We can eat for pleasure and still achieve our health & fitness goals.
It's not easy, but nothing that is ever worth it is easy. It is a process, a journey, and above all else it's an experiment. And if you know me, I am all about the scientific method and research. So researching ourselves, what we like; what we dislike; what we tolerate; what we crave; is all part of the experience of intuitively eating.
Here are some of the meals I'll be nourishing my body and mind with, powering my workouts with, and fueling my brain with all while achieving my health & fitness goals.
Eggs (1 Whole + 3 Whites) with Steamed Kale and Tomatoes
There is something about having green leafy veggies first thing in the morning that makes me feel like I have my sh*t together, you know? Or that I am lucky enough to have taste buds that aren't offended by the kale's bitterness but instead enjoys it's earthy flavor (with some powdered garlic and onion of course).
Kale Tomato Zucchini Frittata & Mango
Made a frittata that feels to me more like a snack than a meal so I pair it with some fresh fruit for when that Mid AM snack attack will inevitably strike. I'll be honest, I hate the way mango gets stuck in my teeth, so I don't usually have it whole. But when I walked passed them at Sprout's Farmers Market and their sweet scent took over my olfactory nerves I couldn't help but get 2 of them. One I made for a fruit salad (shown on my Instagram @monicasalafia.rdn) the other, well, it's showing up in this week's meal prep.
I'm also so glad to share this frittata recipe with you guys through this wonderful meal planning tool. More details HERE.
Vegetarian Salad Plate: Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes & Garden Salad
I consider my diet plant-based and this meal is as plant-y as it gets. Chickpeas are an incredible source of protein, as are all legumes. While they are limited in some essential amino acids, I have whole grain oats, legumes' complimentary protein source, in another meal later in the day.
I'm planning on recording a Meal Prep with Monica Episode while I make roasted sweet potatoes. I think I have single handedly consumed over a hundred pounds of sweet potatoes in my life. Okay, maybe not that much, but I eat them a lot. They are so satisfying to eat, ridiculously easy to make, loaded with nutrients, and look at them. They're beautiful! They are also so versatile. Mash them, saute them, fry them, or (my favorite) roast them with some good quality oil, a dash of whatever seasoning (I have sesame, onion, garlic, and basil here) and enjoy. Sweet potatoes are a meal prep staple in my book.
Lemon Chia Seed Blueberry Protein Oats
Remember the complimentary protein I mentioned? Well, here it is. You see, with plant-based proteins it's important that we "complete the protein puzzle" so to speak. Legumes have essential amino acids Isoleucine, and Lysine and are limited in Methionine and Tryptophan. Grains have Methionine and Tryptophan but are limited in Isoleucine and Lysine. Eaten in the same day, my body gets a complete profile of essential amino acids.
So you might be wondering, why do I call this meal "protein oats" ? That's because I added a scoop of my favorite vanilla protein powder, which is also plant-based to give my body an extra stream of amino acids. This is the meal before my workout and I break down a significant amount of muscle when I go to my gym. Having a bit of protein before and after is essential for optimal sports nutrition. And, well, it also tastes really freaking good.
Sticky Chicken Drumsticks w Yogurt Tahini Dip and Israeli Salad
Yes, this is another recipe that's included in the anti-inflammatory meal plans I'll be offering now as a tool to help you meal prep. (Just a heads up these aren't your typical meal plans, but more details TBA).
This dinner was easier to make than I expected. I just put the sauce together, poured it over the drumsticks and place it in an oven. In the meantime I made the tahini dip, which I actually messed up in the recipe, which you can hear in the podcast I recorded while I was making it. I am not a huge fan of drumsticks, it's a texture thing for me. I usually only eat chicken breasts but I wanted to honor the recipe and the meal plan. Especially if you sign up, I want to be able to speak to at least some of the hundreds of recipes.
The Israeli salad is a tomato, cucumber, onion salad. I want to explore what makes it Israeli. Is it the cucumbers? The tomatoes? Maybe its the combination of all three vegetables that originated in that area? I'm not quite sure, but I am 100% positive its the easiest, most delicious veggie salad to make.
Carrots & Cucumbers Snack with a dip (?)
I'm sure to get a hankering for a snack so having fresh, crunchy veggies all set and ready to go will really help me stay nourished, hydrated, but also not be in a positive energy balance which is what would keep me from my health goals. My favorite condiments and dips for crunchy veggies are salsa, Everything Bagel Hummus, Red Pepper Hummus, Spicy Brown Mustard, Natural Unsalted Peanut butter, and most recently Sunflower butter which to me tastes just like caramel.
Then again I also have some of the Yogurt Tahini dip left over from dinner, and that could also make a second appearance.
So that's all for this week's meal prep! I know I have a few more recipes I'm going to make that will include turkey, salmon, green beans, kale, spinach, zucchini. All of the groceries were part of my grocery shopping list that was created for my meal plan with my new handy dandy tool :)!