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Help/Tips/Advice for improving carb/protein balance in diet

I'd really like to eat more protein and fewer starches, and just generally improve my diet, energy levels, and health. But I'm also really busy. Long day, long commute, 2 small kids, etc. I don't have nearly as much time to cook or prep as I'd like. When I rush out of the house in the morning, I grab whatever food I can find that will sustain me through the day. And unfortunately, the most shelf stable foods are the starches. Crackers, cookies, breads, chips, granola bars, cereal. Everything else needs to be prepped. Even the shelf stable proteins - canned beans, tuna - they're not really grab and go, unless I also grab a can opener, some condiments, spices, etc.

I know many of you are busy too, and trying to be healthy. How can I shift the nutrient balance in my diet without throwing my routine off balance?

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  1. One more little tidbit. I strongly dislike the flavor of leftover chicken or turkey. I love it cooked the first day. After it sits in the fridge, it develops this strange gamey flavor that is very offputting to me. The only times I don't notice it is with chicken meatballs - maybe because they are so strongly flavored with other things. Does anyone else have this weird poultry leftover aversion?

    Anyhow, didn't want to make it too easy to reply :)

    1. i know your life is chaotic but i always tell my clients they HAVE to carve out a few minutes for preparation/planning. if taking care of your health is a priority, you'll find the time.

      get yourself a personal-size cooler [with a couple of cold packs] that you can take to work. those things are perfect for stashing yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, deli turkey slices [notice i didn't say leftover turkey :)], hard-cooked eggs, small containers of hummus or other bean dip, bags of raw veggies...

      stock up on all your groceries over the weekend, and as soon as you get them home, divide everything into individual serving sizes for the week and stash in the fridge. this is also the time to make anything that requires a little extra time to prepare [e.g. tuna salad]. once everything is ready to go, all you have to do is tack a couple of extra minutes onto dinner prep each night to pack your cooler for the next day, and you can grab it from the fridge on your way out the door.

      1 Reply
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Everything GHG mentioned is exactly what I was going to mention. I really do my stuff over the weekends in preparation for the busy week ahead. Now, if you are ridiculously busy and can justify the expense- they do most of that stuff in individual servings...(i.e., cottage cheese (sometimes in combination with fruit...not appealing to me personally), carrot sticks with hummus or other veggies sold together in small containers...etc. That being said -for sake of the environment and your wallet, if you can set aside an hour on Sunday- to use a 1/2 cup to scoop up cottage cheese and stick them in glad containers; or snack baggies full of raw carrots (and just bring a regular size container of hummus and store at work, etc.), OR string cheese, or raw/unsalted nuts or other things like that-you'll be good to go.

      2. I work from home now, but when I used to work in an office, I would do the following:
        -- Keep yogurt and instant oatmeal in the office so in case I didn't have time to eat at home, I had a healthful back-up at the office
        -- On Sundays, I would make a big pot/pan of something -- stews, casseroles, fritattas, meatloafs -- anything that I can cook in a large quatity and divide up into portions -- and this one item would be my lunch for the entire week. This only works if you do not mind eating the same thing for lunch everyday, though.
        -- Have a variety of teas around -- there are so many lovely teas out now, that a nice cup of it in the middle of the day can get you through to lunch -- doesn't necesarily give you an calories for energy, but there is something about a nice cup of tea that is very satisfying.

        Years ago when I was at one of my first jobs out of college and not making a lot of money, I would buy bulk cans of tuna and leave them at work (and left the can opener there) and would then go to McDonald's for a $1 salad and some dressing and plop the tuna right on top. That not only was a cheap meal, but it was fairly nutritous.

        Good luck.

        1. My favorite item that I always keep on hand is Stonyfield Fat Free vanilla yogurt. The taste is creamy and the texture is more like custurd. Buy some frozen blueberries or cherries or whatever you like and mix it in.

          There are several high protein cereals and oatmeals on the market like Kashi Go Lean, plus look for ones that are high in fiber/whole grains that will be more satisfying. I really like the Arrowhead Mills brand.

          1. Easiest grab and go, shelf stable protein-heavy food is nuts. I buy in bulk at costco!

            1. A good way to get more protein is to add Whey Protein. I get mine from Trader Joes, in the vanilla flavor. It can be blended with water, milk, soymilk and added to cereals, or use it for a quick smoothie base and add in berries/fruits (which I buy frozen from TJ's). I like the taste, and it keeps me satisfied--its fairly quick to prepare.

              1. For grab and go I do individually packaged servings of cottage cheese. Hard boiled eggs are handy at lunch time. But as others have said, I think the main thing is planning. During the work week we eat very simply: a lot of broiled meat and poultry, fresh vegetables and salads. We cut up the vegetables on the weekend, and spend the bucks to buy prepackaged salad mixes. We round out with baked potatoes, steamed brown rice (get a good rice maker with a timer, it's worth the money). Incidentally, try salting chicken with coarse salt, letting it stand for a half hour or so in a bowl in the fridge, and then rinsing it and cleaning off any blood you see before you cook it. It basically amounts to koshering it. It's a lot less gamey that way and might solve the problem you have with it. It's a bit of work, but I do it with all our poultry before I put it in the freezer, and then it's ready when I am.

                1. Sasha, if you don't have nut allergies, consider carrying lightly salted almonds or mixed nuts with you; they are great! Also dried fruits are easy to carry around (I usually keep a can of lightly salted mixed nuts that I've added raisins to in my car...great mixed together for salty/sweet flavors.) Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are also a good food value if you don't get the salted ones. A smallish apple is usually easy to carry in your purse also, no protein but one of the best fruits you can eat.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Val

                    I was going to offer up nuts too.

                    But depending on the OPs goal, dried fruit is very very high in carbs.

                    How about jerky?

                    1. re: Jennalynn

                      good call on the jerky. i was so focused on the perishables that i overlooked the shelf-stable possibilities!

                    2. re: Val

                      At my Costco, you can buy big packs of individually wrapped portions of cheddar cheese - about 2 oz. each. Add a couple of those to an apple, and you have a nice mix of protein, fats, and carbs along with a lot of great vitamins. The cheese tastes better if you can keep it cold, but I've had it sit out until lunch, and it's still OK.

                    3. I know you want high protein but, don't go too nuts on the nuts.They may be high in protein and have healthy fats but they are high in calories too. Having a few is a great way to curb your appetite but, eating handfuls at a time, say, while working and you might not realize how much you've packed away.

                      I like one posters comments about tea. Increasing your fluids is smart. Whether it be tea, water etc just watch your caffeine/sugar intake.

                      Also double or triple the amount of veggies you normally eat at a meal. Have you ever heard experts say divide your dinner plate in half. One half should fit your veggies and other half is shared by meat/carbs. I started doing this 8 months ago and it's made a huge difference. I keep both fresh and frozen veggies at home. Examples of both types being cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green bean, carrots, celery, baby broccoli, mixed veggie medley (I have all this in my fridge/freezer right now). I also started incorporating a salad before my dinner meal a couple of times a week. Seriously, it's made a huge difference in my over all health.

                      Anyways, these are things to think about when replacing the extra carbs you stop eating. It's easy to axe the carbs but, you don't want to fill it with bacon. Yeah that's a little extreme..LOL, but, you get what I'm saying.

                      The comments about taking time on Sunday (or whatever day suits you) to prep for the week is key. It's a huge time saver. If you are serious about this, it's a must. You'll get into a rhythm and wonder why you never did it before. Be patient with this change. I found the first 2 weeks really hard when I started watching my portion sizes. Now I can't even fathom eating the amount I used to.

                      1. I don't have much time either, but I agree with the other posters about weekend prep. If I make a big pot of turkey chili on the weekend, my kids can get their own dinner and I can have an easy healthy lunch.
                        My favorite super fast, super healthy work lunch is a can of tuna mixed with a can of garbanzo beans, with some homemade viniagrette. Good over salad greens if you have some around, but if not I'll eat it plain or with leftover steamed broccoli or green beans.
                        I try to make extra vegetables so I can take some roasted cauliflower or squash, sauteed greens, etc. to work. I find it very hard to get in more than one or two servings of vegetables a day unless I plan ahead.
                        Every day I take a small yogurt, a prepackaged Trader Joe's individual trail mix and an apple to work to fill in the gaps between lunch and what is sometimes a late dinner. I keep a low-carb peanut butter protein bar in my desk or car for emergencies.