How to Build a Balanced Meal (Pssst: It can also save you $!)

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Last Saturday I was on my way home from a particularly intense spin class, when hunger started to set in. You know, that post-workout hunger that is at first nonexistent because of all the adrenaline running through your system, but then hits out of nowhere and suddenly you’ll do something drastic in order to get food asap? (Like for me, that would be paying for a cab home instead of taking the subway).

I was feeling fine when I left the gym, but by the time I reached my subway stop, I knew hunger was about to strike. I could feel all that catabolic energy starting to take effect and my appetite start to build and realized I was about to want food immediately. There’s a Subway sandwich shop on my block, and I’m a fan of their honey wheat subs with turkey, loaded with nearly every veggie they offer – and because it’s a good value to buy the foot-long, I can split it and basically get two meals for the price of one.

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Which brings me to the reason I decided not to buy Subway for lunch last Saturday. Inexpensive as it may be, Conrad and I had just bought a ton of groceries, and I knew I MUST have something in the house with which I could make lunch.

So I thought to myself: 1) What goes into a complete meal?, and 2) Do I have all of these things at home?

The answers: 1) Protein, fat, and carbohydrate, and 2) Yes.

It shouldn’t be just any pro/fat/carb combo, by the way. Ideally it should be lean/high quality protein, healthy fats (nuts/oils/avocado), and complex or whole grain carbohydrates. You know… as opposed to bacon (protein) on two pieces of buttered (fat) white bread toast (carb).

I did a mental inventory of what we had in our kitchen and came up with the following:

  • Protein: eggs
  • Fat: Olive oil (also fat in the egg yolk, and although saturated fat, contains a ton of nutrients)
  • Carb: whole wheat gnocchi, kale & quinoa salad, and a bunch of veggies (fresh mushrooms, peppers, & red onion, and frozen corn, peas, & carrots)

I felt inspired to whip all this together, and the final product was not only a beautiful mix of colors (photo above!), but also delicious. The egg is scrambled in amongst the rest. It wasn’t as much there for flavor as it was a source of satiating protein (this is a trick I use when I don’t have a real protein in the house, like fish or chicken; I just mix an egg in with pasta or rice to bulk it up). And on top of all that, I accomplished my goal, which was to not spend money on lunch! I do this pretty frequently – for example, another easy-peasy (incidentally, post-workout) dinner this past week was homemade egg salad (two hard-boiled eggs mashed with a little light mayo) on two pieces of whole wheat bread.

FullSizeRender-6By the way, the directions for making Saturday’s lunch are really simple. Just prep whole wheat gnocchi and quinoa (unless you happen to have pre-made quinoa salad) according to package directions, and then mix the cooked pasta/grains in with a skillet of cooking vegetables (the combo I used was delish, but what’s great about this dish is you can use whatever you like). Then crack an egg on top and mix it into the rest of the ingredients.

You can get more balanced meal ideas here. Happy meal planning! Feel free to reach out to me or comment with any questions!

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