Happy Friday, League of Wildness!
I hope everyone has some wildness on tap for this spring weekend! As the days get longer and the sunshine more plentiful, I always aim to spend an ample amount of time outdoors. Even when I am working I sit outside so I can enjoy the sun, the fresh air, and the sounds of life returning to our forests. What I don’t like to do at this time of year is to spend a lot of time indoors, meal prepping and cooking.
When I was growing up and had long bus rides to sporting events, it was the highlight of my day to discover my mom had packed a “Lunchable.” Those plastic-wrapped compartments of processed meat, cheese, crackers, and if you got the deluxe version, a Capri Sun and some type of candy. As I got older, I still liked the nostalgia and the idea of them, but realized they are not exactly nutritious. They don’t pack a lot of “bang for your buck” exchanging your dollars for nutrient value. So I went looking for ways to improve on the concept yet retain the simplicity and now I make my own “adult Lunchables”!
My day is centered around my workouts. In the morning I do a fasted cardio session, and in the afternoon I do a solid strength session 6 days a week. My personal preference is to focus on the protein, and fill in with healthy carbs and fats. That is what I’ve found feels the best for my body and aids me the most in recovering from workouts and making progress week-to-week. The “adult Lunchables” make it easy to adjust macros, and to keep a variety of foods in my diet which is also important to me.
I keep a steady supply of eggs, fruits, veggies, skinless chicken breast, salmon, shrimp, olives, healthy dips like guac and hummus, high protein yogurt, and nuts so I can whip up quick, but nutritious meals and spend more time outdoors. This is also a benefit when I need to bring lunch on-to-go such as when I have to spend a day in the car and don’t want to eat out or get gas station food. It’s easy to make them ahead of time and put them in a container to just grab and go.
Here are a couple of example of such meals for me:
Insert photo lunch on 3/15:
3 boiled eggs, ½ cup cottage cheese with pineapple, 2.5oz beef jerky, 1oz habanero jack cheese stick, 1oz pistachios
This is a bit of a bigger lunch, but this was leg day and I also had a lot of heavy snow to shovel. More normally, I would have 2 eggs and ditch the cheese if I was having nuts.
Lunch on 3/30 photo
2 boiled eggs, 1 oz pistachios, 1 container high protein yogurt with a few raspberries, peapods, mega seed whole-grain toast with almond butter. I usually make my own yogurt but ran out!
You might notice that there is a decent amount of fat in these meals. That is largely due to the nuts, which I rotate between pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and cashews primarily. Don’t let the fat in nuts scare you off, they are incredibly healthy and studies have shown that despite the fat, increasing nut intake does not lead to weight gain as long as you are eating normal serving sizes. The body seems to handle the fat in nuts differently than some other high-fat foods. Healthy fats are vital and good for you, so don’t be afraid to enjoy nuts and seeds and avocados! The type does matter, though. Make your guac at home so it’s not full of addedjunk. Check the labels on nuts to make they do no contain industrial oils (like canola) and are not coated in sugar
No-Bake Energy Balls
One of my other favorites does need a little bit of prep, but is amazing to take on a hike or a long car ride: no-cook energy balls.
These sticky little concoctions can hold a good amount of nutrition and calories, as well as tastiness. The basic idea is to use old fashioned rolled oats (not the flavored packets!), something sticky to bind everything together. I usually use almond butter with a little bit of raw honey or real maple syrup. Then you can add in whatever else you prefer. There are also paleo versions for those not wanting to use oats. I usually add some chopped nuts, a little bit of dried chopped fruit such as a dried apricot or a date, and chia or hemp seeds. You mix it all up and then form them into 1-inch balls and put them in the fridge to solidify. The downside of these is if it's hot out they can make a bit of a mess so make sure they are in a sealed container if you are using them for a hike or outdoor wild gym sesh.
Some other easy meal tips:
Roast a pan of in-season veggies, let them cool and store in the fridge. Then all you need to do is add a protein. Bonus points for cooking some chicken, fish, or steak ahead of time (or as leftovers). Last week I made a pan of beets, sweet potato, red onion, and asparagus and added shrimp to it for my lunches.
We grow a garden so all summer we have fast and easy greens, beans, asparagus, garlic, onions, broccoli, and potatoes. The garden takes some time and attention to get started but once it is growing it needs little work. The benefits of being able to walk into the back yard and pick truly fresh food for dinner are worth the effort. Especially right now when the cost of groceries keeps going up!
Boil eggs ahead of time and store them in the fridge. I always have some boiled eggs available. I cook them in my Instant Pot where they don’t need to be watched and always come out perfect. It also does an amazing job with wild rice and I use it to make Greek yogurt as well.
Keep a stock list of items you can eat quickly to always have on hand: nuts, nut butter, avocado, hummus, veggies, eggs, chicken, beef jerky (be careful about the amount of additives in jerky, we make our own), smoked salmon, in-season fruits.
Having these always available means I can eat decently even on days when I am too busy to cook. It is just as quick to grab a plate with eggs, nuts, hummus, veggies and some fruit as it is to order take out.
I used this recipe as a jumping-off point for the energy balls. I personally try to stick with less processed options so I don’t use the sweetened shredded coconut or milk chocolate chips, but this gave me a place to start for my ratios and measurements. I like Lily’s dark chocolate chips for a low-sugar but tasty chocolate option.
This is a great example of a way to do these paleo-style without grains, and they are amazing!
Once you try a few, you’ll develop a good feel for your preferences and then the sky is the limit on what you can turn them into. These are a big hit with our kids when we have 10-hour days in the car. They are filling, easy to make, and so much better than gas station or fast food.
The biggest benefit for me is that I don’t have to think so hard about what to eat, or spend my weekends in the kitchen meal prepping. There is always something fast, easy, and healthy to grab when I need to and it keeps me from snacking or falling into bad habits of skipping meals and then overeating at dinner because I am starving.
What other meal hacks do you have to share? I am always looking for new ideas to try out so reply to this email and let me know what works for you.
Make it a wild weekend!