I’m back with a fourth year of healthy meal planning ideas! Years one, two, and three were such a hit so I’m really excited to have a fourth year to show you. These posts have provided me a way to share what I eat day to day – to inspire you, give you recipe ideas, and to keep it real when it comes to meal planning. These posts have also given me a way to keep track myself – I can’t tell you how many times I refer back to these entries to get ideas or remind myself of a truly great meal.
Since I began working with my nutritionist two years ago, the way I eat has really changed. I think you can see it the most in this Year of Healthy Meals, and I’m really proud of that. I’m trying my best to be protein and produce heavy, reduce carbs, and increase whole grains – and those have honestly been my only goals. I don’t count calories, I don’t restrict sugar, I don’t skip dessert if I want it, I will never cut cheese, pizza, chinese food, or wine. Not because of any specific diet I’m on (I don’t believe in diets anymore). I don’t restrict myself because it’s not healthy for me. I eat mostly fruit, veggies, and protein because that’s what makes me feel the most healthy, energetic, and happy – and that’s what really matters.
Another big change I made in the past year was signing up for Blue Apron. More on that below!
Let’s begin where we always begin – breakfast – and let me say again – to shock and horror – that I am not a fan of breakfast food. I’ve never liked it, find myself liking it less and less every year, and now I really don’t like it after working with my nutritionist. Not because she convinced me bacon and bagels are evil, but because, in working with her and really understanding what my body needs to start my day off right, I realized a protein-heavy breakfast is what works best for me. When I was eating cereal or toast I felt so spacey and foggy almost immediately after. I tried bars, fruit, granola, and english muffins. Nothing filled me and I felt unfocused. Once I started eating yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and smoothies I started feeling better. I am at my best first thing in the morning and my job requires a lot of brain power. My mental clarity came back after I changed my breakfast routine and I realized it was the protein.
So, long story short, I’ve had a green protein smoothie for breakfast almost every single day of 2016. I even bought a new blender to encourage my smoothie habit (I can’t say enough good things about the Ninja Professional Blender). My favorite combination is cherries, spinach, chocolate protein powder, cocoa powder, chia, flax, greek yogurt, and almond milk. So good!
I also have tea every day and sometimes fruit too.
On weekends, or days when I need a smoothie break, I still try to keep the protein high with eggs, peanut butter, and yogurt. I try to have fruits and/or veggies too. And tea, as always (I don’t drink coffee; I’ve never liked it!).
On-the-go breakfast is made easier with homemade green smoothies but they aren’t always a possibility, especially when traveling. I always have a Clif bar stashed in my bag and try to supplement with fresh produce (easy portable options are apples, carrot sticks, and clementines. If I have access to a grocery store on the road I try to stick my my high protein favorites. When in doubt, I get greens topped with fruit and a 1/4 lb. of sliced turkey at the deli. Whatever works!
I went through a very heavy tuna-on-salad phase this past year. The salad contents changed frequently (mixed greens, romaine, spinach, avocado, red peppers, carrots, cucumber, feta, pickles, eggs) but top it with tuna and I’m a fan! The other thing I like is that when I have tuna on top of a salad, I don’t need salad dressing. Which reminds me – I didn’t intend to but I totally stopped eating salad dressing over the last year. It’s been all olive oil and balsamic vinegar for me (or tuna!).
Another frequent lunch option for me will always be homemade soup, stew, and chili. My favorites below are italian wedding soup, chicken & barley soup, and turkey chili with kale and butternut squash.
I’m a big fan of pasta salad at any time of year. It’s a great option for a veggie packed and filling lunch. I have a bunch of recipes that I love (macaroni pasta salad, classic pasta salad), but you can literally make it with anything.
Sandwiches are also a go-to for me. This year I started making a roasted veggie and hummus wrap (left) with roasted peppers, sweet potato, and butternut squash over spinach and hummus – so good. I also love just a simple turkey sandwich with veggies on the side or a grilled cheese with tomato soup.
Below are some other lunches I made (for work and at home) that I really love: veggie and chicken with pita bread, sausages with veggies and grains, rotisserie chicken and salad, lasagna and salad, chicken stir fry over brown rice, chicken with broccoli and fruit.
And finally, in the lunch category, this summer I became obsessed with avocado caprese salads. I got the recipe idea from Back to Her Roots and it’s amazing. It’s literally just tomato, avocado, basil, and mozzarella balls dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I’ll throw in spinach or peppers too. Simple and delicious.
Dinner, for me, is basically a bunch of categories that we constantly riff on: chicken, italian, mexican, stir frys, bowls, smorgasboards, burgers
The dinner struggle is real when it comes to chicken. I’m always trying to keep it interesting but it’s hard! Here are a few ideas – chicken with Stovetop stuffing (because let’s be real, that stuff is delicious), BBQ chicken with asparagus and chips & guac, chicken wings and drummies with veggie pasta salad, and honey mustard chicken with a pile of veggies.
We love pasta and italian in our house. Some favorites this year have been zoodles with ground turkey and marinara and chicken parmesan. Also raviolis and salad!
We do a lot of variations on tacos, burritos, and quesadillas too. There’s a million ways to make them but my favorite ingredients are ground turkey, chicken, black beans, refried beans, butternut squash, spinach, shredded carrots, avocado, caramelized onions, greek yogurt, guacamole, and always cholula.
Stir fry is a great dinner option because you can toss in anything you like and call it a stir fry. I always base stir fry around soba noodles or rice noodles but other than that, anything goes! Ingredients we use often are marinated pork, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, summer squash, green onions, peanuts, soy sauce, Bragg’s aminos, and sweet chili sauce.
This year I got big into Bowls – basically just a big bowl of stuff that goes really well together. Bowl #1 is basically a salad but full of awesome stuff – spinach, strawberries, red onion, quinoa, avocado, nuts, and an avocado dressing (I was inspired by this recipe). Bowl #2 is spinach, shredded carrot, caramelized onion, grilled pineapple, and brown rice (this recipe was inspired by a meal I had in Dublin). Bowl #3 is massaged kale, broccoli, chicken sausage, beets, pumpkin seeds, and feta (earthy, wholesome, super filling).
Another household favorite – burgers! We usually go for turkey burgers but chiken burgers and salmon burgers are awesome too. Good with a bun, without a bun. With salad, with chips, with chips and salsa, veggies and guac. You name it.
A few other random odds and ends that are always good dinner staples – fish with veggies, salad and a sandwich, and turkey tips with veggies.
Finally, you gotta love the smorgasboard dinner. We do smorsgaboards when we can’t decide what we want for dinner, when we have a bunch of leftovers in the fridge, when we don’t want to cook, when we need to eat quick, and sometimes when we just want a cheeseplate for dinner.
One last note on dinner – we tried Blue Apron for the first time this year and we love it! I already wrote a huge post about our Blue Apron experience. Definitely worth a read if you want to learn about the structure & cost, selection & usability, what you get, recipes, food quality, diversity, & value, eco-friendliness, and my major takeaways. Or, if you just want to look at the pictures, here you go:
When I took a look through the last year’s worth of snack pictures all I could think was – whoa, I clearly have a baby carrot addiction!
But it’s good – I love snacks and I don’t deny myself them. I just try to keep them balanced and healthy.
My go-to snacks are baby carrots (obvi), cheese, fruit, pretzels, nuts, and sometimes candy.
Last but not least – while you may think I have just painted a picture of a year of green smoothies, vegetables for every meal, and a baby carrot problem, trust me when I say I do my fair share of eating Oreos and sour cream & onion chips, and going out to dinner. Like I said at the beginning, those behaviors aren’t “bad,” I don’t have any off-limits food, I’m not on a diet. I do what I want, but I try to make healthy choices most of the time – that’s all.
That said, here are my favorite meals out that I ate a bunch of this year:
I hope this post has been helpful and inspiring. Stay tuned for next year!