By Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D. • Runner’s World
In an ideal world, you’d prepare every meal from scratch, using the most nutrient-packed foods possible. In the real world, a hectic work schedule and a commitment to training can leave you with little time and even less energy to cook. Thankfully, when you’re in a time crunch, you can skip a lot of the chopping—or the urge to call for Chinese takeout—because the grocery store is chockablock with healthy, ready-to-use items. Use them to your advantage, and you can set a new PR for a healthy, satisfying postrun meal.
Mediterranean Chicken Pizza
“Whole-wheat pizza crust packs in more fiber and vitamins than crust made with refined flour,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., a Washington, D.C.-based sports dietitian and marathoner who adds that the extra B vitamins in whole wheathelp a runner’s body generate energy during workouts. Prepared chicken-breast strips have a stellar 11-to-1 protein-to-fat ratio to help build muscle. “Enjoy this pizza after a run, when you can benefit from the extra sodium found in packaged chicken to replace what you lose in sweat,” says Scritchfield.
Here’s how: Place a 12-inch whole-wheat pizza crust on a baking sheet and bake at 400¬∞F for 6 minutes. Remove crust and turn oven to broil. Spread 3/4 cup jarred pesto on crust and top with 1 cup packaged arugula, 8 ounces packaged cooked chicken-breast strips (such as Tyson), 2/3 cup jarred, sliced roasted red peppers, 2/3 cup jarred, sliced olives, 1/2 cup torn fresh basil, and 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese. Season with black pepper. Broil for one minute.
Total time: 15 minutes
Try baby spinach instead of arugula.
Sub in low-fat grated mozzarella for goat cheese.
Use whole-wheat pitas for mini pizzas.
Swap chicken with canned white tuna.
Sweet and Sour Shrimp Stir-Fry
Not only is shrimp a lean source of protein, “but it also provides the mineral selenium, which may help reduce joint inflammation that runners can experience from training,” says Scritchfield. And the copper in cashews helps a runner’s body use iron properly to carry oxygen to working muscles, she adds. Lima beans have fiber, protein, iron, and potassium, an electrolyte necessary for proper organ and muscle functioning. Frozen Asian vegetables provide antioxidants.
Here’s how: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook 2 teaspoons jarred, minced garlic, 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, 1 package frozen Asian vegetable medley, and 1 cup frozen lima beans for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 package frozen cooked shrimp; cook 3 minutes. Add 1 cup unsalted cashews, one 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, I/3 cup of the canned pineapple juice, and 1 cup jarred sweet-and-sour sauce; heat for 2 minutes. Serve over brown rice.
Total time: 15 minutes
Try frozen mango instead of pineapple.
Omit lima beans in favor of edamame or fava beans.
Swap out the shrimp for cooked, packaged chicken strips.
Crunchy Cocoa Chili
A 2011 European Journal of Nutrition study found that polyphenol antioxidants in cocoa can blunt the muscle-damaging effects of oxidative stress resulting from exercise. “Canned beans are a good source of carbohydrates and lean protein, the two key nutrients runners need for exercise recovery,” Scritch-field says. Furthermore, University of Arkansas scientists determined that soy protein, which is abundant in tofu, can stimulate protein synthesis, making this no-fuss vegetarian chili a smart postexercise meal option.
Here’s how: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 diced onion and one 8-ounce package of sliced cremini mushrooms; cook 4 minutes. Stir in 1 block of firm tofu (diced), 2 teaspoons cumin powder, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon jarred, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste; cook 3 minutes. Add one 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, one 6-ounce can tomato paste, one 15-ounce can each of black and kidney beans (drained and rinsed), 1 cup frozen corn, and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder; simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with crumbled whole-grain tortilla chips on top.
Total time: 40 minutes
Use frozen peas to replace corn.
Cook lean ground chicken breast with the onion instead of tofu.
Swap the tortilla chips for shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese.
Mini Salmon Loaves with Salsa
“Canned salmon is a very rich source of DHA, a type of omega-3 fat that promotes brain health and helps lower blood triglycerides to reduce heart-disease risk,” says Scritchfield. What’s more, University of California researchers discovered that DHA can improve skeletal-muscle blood flow during exercise. Just be sure to check that the label says “wild salmon” to avoid high mercury levels. Oats have fiber and magnesium, a bone-building mineral that may also slash diabetes risk by improving insulin sensitivity.
Here’s how: Combine two 5-oz. cans wild salmon (drained), 1 cup frozen chopped spinach (thawed), 1 diced red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons chopped dill, juice from 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup quick-cook rolled oats, 2 large eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. Divide mixture among 12 lightly greased muffin cups and bake at 375¬∞F for 20 minutes. Let cool before unmolding, and serve topped with jarred salsa.
Total time: 30 minutes
Try canned crab instead of salmon.
Swap out red bell pepper for diced frozen asparagus.
Trade spinach for collard greens.
Eat right and perform better. Find a nutrition plan for you.