I originally wrote this post for fire fighters and other law enforcement training for the Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. However, the information is useful for any athlete trying to eat clean on the go.
Ask any competitive athlete or coach, and they will tell you the importance of preparation. Not that anyone needs to tell firefighters about this – you guys go through the fire academy and then regularly perform training drills to make sure you are prepared and ready for any situation. So whether you are playing in the finals of the World Cup or putting out a neighborhood fire, preparation is essential to the success of your endeavor. And this same principle also applies to nutrition.
Leaving the house on Monday morning without any food prepared and trying to eat healthy can be like walking into the desert with no water. As you well know, the American food environment isn’t exactly the best at facilitating healthy eating. So the best way to fuel your body for success is to…. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME!
Where do I start?
Before you get started, you’ll want to consider a few things, including:
- What your week looks like. How much time falls between now and thenext time you’ll have time to go grocery shopping and prepare a fewquality meals?
- What you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks between now and then. Plan meals and snacks based on your work/workout schedule, i.e. make sure you have a snack for before you train and a meal/snack after you train. For more about what to eat before a workout, go here.
- Storage and reheating logistics. Will you be at an office with a fridge and a microwave? On the road with nothing but a cooler? Or at the firehouse with access to a full kitchen.
Decide What to Make
Depending on where you’ll be and what you’ll have access to, start planning your meals. Below are some good healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack ideas – both paleo and non-paleo – for each of the situations I mentioned above. To help you quickly find an idea for your diet of choice, (P) stands for paleo, (R) stand for primal (paleo + grass fed dairy), and (V) stands for vegetarian.
If you’re on the road
- Green smoothie w/ 1 cup milk, 1-2 cups greens, ½-1 cup frozen manog chunks (R) (V)
- Apple and almond butter (P) (R) (V)
- 4+ ounces quality deli meat, raw vegetables w/ guacamole, fruit, and nuts (P) (R)
- Salad w/ greens, veggies, nuts, and dried fruit. (V) Add chicken (P) Add chicken and feta cheese (R)
- Beef jerky (P) (R)
- Trail mix of nuts and/or nuts and dried fruit (P) (R) (V)
If you’re in an office
Any idea above plus
- Hard boiled eggs with reheated paleo style collard greens and fruit (P) (R)
- Paleo carrot banana muffins w/ almond butter and fruit (P) (R) (V)
- Irish oatmeal w/ milk, slivered almonds, and fresh or dried berries (V)
- Tuna avocado bowls (R)
- Fresh soup from your local supermarket, reheated and eaten with aside
of fruit. Whole Foods “Mom’s Chicken Soup” or Minestrone are goodexamples. Just check the label to make sure there are no preservatives or funky ingredients, and avoid generic canned soup like Campbells or Progressive, which a. won’t provide sufficient calories and b. are sure to have preservatives and/or added sugars and likely to contain MSG.
- Reheated leftovers, such as this Paleo “Spaghetti”, crock pot Pulled Pork, Sweet Potato, & Pear Stew, or Chicken Scaloppini. (P) (R)
- Fruit with or without almond or other nut butter (P) (R) (V)
- Greek yogurt with berries and nuts (R) (V)
- Steve’s “Paleo Kits” (P) (R)
- Steve’s Paleo Krunch (warning – does not last long in one’s household due to extreme deliciousness) (P) (R)
If you’re at the firehouse with a kitchen
Any ideas above plus
- Scrambled eggs with veggies and/or cheese and avocado (R) (V)
- Western omelet with fruit and avocado (P)
- Fried eggs w/ bacon and fruit (P) (R)
- Fajitia Chicken salad (P) (R)
- Leftover, reheated meat w/ side of Kale and Dried Apples or other sautéed green/vegetable.
Any idea above plus
- Baked apple chips – core and slice apples, bake at 250 degrees until crispy, usually around 2 hours.
- Frozen grapes
Plan a head, but not too much – sometimes, leftovers get old. It’s great if you can save time by cooking an entire week’s worth of stir fry on Sunday, but not if you get sick of it by Wednesday and decide to get Burger King instead. Think about what you might want that week, and plan in some variety.
Pack more than you need – one of the top reasons people have trouble sticking to a healthy diet is HUNGER. And when you’re eating clean, it can be hard to go out and grab a healthy snack. So pack a little extra. It’s always better to leave a bag of trail mix or dried fruit at work for next week than down a bag of pretzels because you couldn’t find a healthier option at your nearest gas station.
Be aware of food safety – any meat or previously cooked items should be kept cold (in the fridge or a cooler). Any of those items left out at room temperature for over 2 hours should be discarded.