Eating on the Run: Healthy Frozen Meals
I am a child of the original frozen meal era – think: blue Banquet flat box that contains fried chicken with instant mashed potatoes and corn on the side. My mom would pull them out for my brother and me as a treat on a busy week night. The frozen meals back in the 70’s and 80’s could be considered junk food by today’s standards. Let’s skip to 2019 – today’s consumer demands for cleaner and healthier prepared foods have led many frozen meal producers to create frozen meals for time-crunched consumers who still want healthy food, but don’t have time to cook or for the millennial who cooks for one. The convenience of frozen meals cannot be underestimated: they are quick and easy, hot out of the oven or microwave, and help time-crunched people eat a complete meal.
There’s no shame is pulling out a frozen meal these days as long as the consumer has a set of purchasing criteria. Here’s what I use: contains no less than 15 g of protein, less than 650 mg of sodium, and around 400 calories. The meal must include a lean protein source and plenty of veggies or whole grains. Add a fresh salad on the side and you’ve got a complete meal. Always read the nutritional facts label and be able to pronounce all the ingredients. There are plenty of vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, Keto, and GF and DF options on the market, so again, look for something that fits your dietary standards.
Consider purchasing frozen meals from these brands. You’ll get fast food that is also healthy:
- Lean Cuisine
- Saffron Road **great ethnic options
- Eating Well
- Love the Wild
- Good Food Made Simple
- Sweet Earth
- Healthy Choice Power Bowls
- Caulipower (frozen pizza or pizza crust)
**Also, check out Trader Joe’s frozen meals (I like the burrito bowl with quinoa) or pizza crust (I like the kale and spinach pizza crust or look at other pizza combinations). Just add some sauce, veggies, and cheese to build your pizza.
Eating on the Run: Losing Weight as an Endurance Athlete
Even though I tend to stay within a 3-5 pound weight range most of the year, there are times when I need or want to drop below my range as I know that a few pounds can make a difference in my performance, especially going up hills. While a few pounds may not seem like a big deal, consider this – try carrying a 5-pound bag of flour while doing hill repeats. Then, lose the bag of flour and try doing it again. Which is easier? Losing that bag of flour is what you stand to gain in terms of performance and power as an athlete. When we factor in the importance of achieving the ideal power to weight ratio, then losing a few pounds becomes a priority to help us hit performance goals. Old research claimed that losing a pound of weight was equivalent to about 3,500 calories. More recent research indicates it might be closer to 4,000-4,200 calories but in either case, when this number is broken down into daily units, then calorie intake and energy expenditure needs to be balanced so as to not jeopardize performance as an athlete. There’s a fine balance here which is why you shouldn’t go to extremes.
Here are some useful tips that can help endurance athletes lose weight:
- Try to lose weight in the off-season; if there is no off-season, keep reading.
- Cut no more than 200 calories per day.
- Eat nutrient-dense, quality food. This is where the adage of “eat quality, not quantity” rings true.
- Increase fiber and protein; decrease sugar intake.
- Stay hydrated.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Get the stress down.
- Cut back on alcohol. Ditch the post-run beer. It’s just empty calories.
- Track or log your meals. Look over your numbers daily and make adjustments. Keep accurate records of your serving sizes. Most people underestimate the amount of food they eat.
- Skip snacks and eat 2-3 well-balanced meals every day. If you’re not hungry, no need to feel like you must eat at a certain time. Listen to your body.
- If you’re feeling good during a workout, keep going another 10-15 minutes. Keep burning calories! Or, build-in a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout 1-2 times a week to build more muscle.
Katina Sayers is the owner/operator of Katina’s Nutritional Coaching Corner. She has an extensive background in health and education that began with degrees in exercise physiology, health and physical education, community health, and culminating with a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction. She completed an advanced certificate of study in Integrative Nutrition and Health Coaching from the renowned Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York City. For the last four years, she has worked one-on-one with clients, presented a multitude of nutrition topics for large and small audiences, contracted with businesses to implement worksite wellness initiatives, and currently manages day-to-day food service operations at a local non-profit agency, as well as directs activities related to nutrition and health. Katina can be reached at email@example.com.