Eating Better: We Need a Plan!
Why planning ahead makes all the difference
By Chef Robert Lewis, The Happy Diabetic
Just think…starting next week, you can come home from work feeling excited to cook and eat the amazing meals you have taken a little time to prepare. By planning ahead, you will provide healthy meals for yourself and your family… and hallelujah! You won’t have to stress about what the heck you should fix for dinner!
Anyone can become a great meal planner. Your old way is to plan tonight’s 5:30 dinner at 4:45, which means you might resign to road tripping to your favorite fast food joint. Trust me, I know the feeling. You come home from work tired and lacking the energy and enthusiasm to plan, shop for, and cook a healthy and happy meal. At some point however, we have to stand our culinary ground and come to terms with the fact that, to take responsibility, we need to plan in advance. Meals that happen when we roll the dice for dinner usually prioritize convenience and end up being more expensive and less healthy.
Menu planning can be a simple process, so let me show you how. In learning to eat healthy, I have discovered how to turn ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary. Here are three simple Happy Diabetic meal-planning tips. Ready, set, go!
#1 – Plan to cook and eat at home often.
OK…I admit it. I like to eat out too. But, having worked for most of my career in restaurants, I can tell you that you should only trust yourself and your mama to prioritize good health. Restaurants are becoming better at paying attention to nutritional information, and that is good, but pleasing your pallet and handling your credit card are undeniably still the primary focus of a restaurateur. You have to be a little defensive when it comes to eating in a restaurant. Be aware that portion sizes are completely wacked out. When the restaurant commercials on TV feature the grilled shrimp swimming in butter and the all-beef fried taco smothered in cheddar cheese, you need to shake yourself from the trance and say, “That meal is not for me!” You can make food at home that is delicious and far more responsible! Healthy planning and eating belongs to only you, and as you further develop your skills in the kitchen you won’t even miss those high caloric restaurant meals!
#2 – Write down your meal plans.
For me a Sunday day off works best. I turn off the TV for ½ hour and grab my iPad and/or a piece of paper and a pencil. I put on some of my favorite music, assemble my favorite cookbooks and web sites, and go to work! I think about my week ahead, my work schedule, and the people that I will share meals with. For example, I am meeting friends on Tuesday evening, so I know on that night I will need to cook a simple meal as I won’t have much time. Or, maybe I can cook a little extra on Monday to have leftovers to eat on Tuesday. Let’s see…what fresh produce do I already have on hand? I take a quick inventory of my staples and the spices in the pantry. Then, with the artistry of Picasso, I start to visualize colorful plates and write down the list of ingredients I will gather on my shopping trip. Remember: If it isn’t written down it doesn’t exist. Make time for planning ahead!
#3 – Prep meals and ingredients ahead of time.
Another reason meal plans fall apart is because real life crowds the time needed to prepare those meals we want to eat. I like to take some time on the weekend, when I have a few extra minutes, to prep some of my meals and snacks for the week. For example, I like to buy 3-5 lbs. of chicken breasts – a far greater quantity than I need for one meal. I’ll marinate, season, and bake or grill the lot. After they cool, I’ll slice and bag them, 4-8 oz. per freezer baggy. Now I’ve got portioned cooked chicken ready to go. For what, you ask? Chicken soup, chicken tacos, chicken enchiladas, Mediterranean Chicken of Love (a favorite recipe in my Cook Fresh, Live Happy cookbook!), a broccoli and mushroom chicken bake, chicken chili, chicken salad with avocado, chicken fajitas, Olive and Garlic Chicken of Love (see recipe below)…you get the idea. Even the littlest bit of food preparation can put you ahead of the cooking curve, and if/when that unexpected glitch in the schedule occurs at meal time, you will be SO pleased that you worked ahead. Good job, me!
Ok…getting the picture? You can do this! Watch my blog posts at happydiabetic.com for more great ideas. No one loves you more than me!
Olive and Garlic Chicken of Love
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 roma tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 10 pitted kalamata or black pitted olives
- ? ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ? salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add sliced chicken and sautè about 4 to 6 minutes, until golden.
3. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
4. Sautè garlic in pan drippings for 30 seconds, then add tomatoes and sautè for 3 minutes. Lower heat, add white wine, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
5. Add oregano, rosemary, and basil, and simmer for 2 to 3 more minutes. Return chicken to skillet and cover. Cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside.
6. Add olives and parsley to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Recipe by The Happy Diabetic at http://www.happydiabetic.com