Whether you’re doing Whole30, avoiding sugar, or just eating healthy, whole foods, there comes a time where you need a bit of convenience food.
Normally, I recommend always having a few staples in your pantry or fridge/freezer for just this type of occasion. If you have some frozen stir fry vegetables and some type of protein, you can throw together an easy stir fry. Other times, you might be out and about and need some emergency food.
Here are a few tips for convenience food:
In your bag/desk/car:
- Nuts and unsweetened dried or freeze dried fruit (Dominik keeps pistachios and freeze dried fruit in his desk at the university).
- Fruit and nut bars (such as Lärabars). You’ll have to check the ingredients to make sure they only contain fruit and nuts, but these are good in a pinch. Just don’t use them to replace a sugary snack or you’ll just feed the same craving over and over again.
- Other clean-ingredient, whole food bars such as RX Bars or EPIC Bars (again, read the ingredients).
- Fresh fruit and some type of fat/protein such as nut butter, coconut butter, or coconut flakes.
- Hard boiled eggs (okay, so don’t leave these in your car, but you can make a batch and stick them in a bag in the fridge at home or at work).
- Canned tuna or sardines (you might not be the most loved person in the office, but you’ll be full, happy, and healthy).
In your fridge/freezer:
- At the beginning of the week, see which recipe is the fastest/easiest. Save it for last. If there is one night where you only have a few minutes to prepare dinner, you can throw everything together and just push all the other meals back a day. I did this this week and it worked great!
- Make a double batch of something easily freezable and freeze half once you’ve cooked it. This way you just have to reheat it and it is good to go. Even a container of cooked ground beef or grilled sliced chicken can be reheated and tossed on a salad or leftover vegetables in a pinch.
- Canned tuna, sardines, or smoked salmon. These can easily be rolled up in either a sheet of nori with vegetables or a lettuce wrap for an easy snack or meal (see image below).
- Although not directly in your fridge, run by your nearest grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken and maybe a bag/box of salad. You might have to check the ingredients on the chicken, but this is usually one of the simplest dinner options when you need something quick.
Out and about:
You really won’t have many options out and about, or everything is more on a case-by-case basis. In my area I have two options:
- Chipotle. We were shopping in a nearby town on Saturday and needed some lunch. We found a Chipotle and were able to find something to eat. You can order a salad (skip the dressing, rice, and beans) and top it with carnitas, salsa (no corn salsa), and guacamole. All the other meats and the grilled vegetables have rice bran oil, so they’re not Whole30 compliant, but at least they no longer have soy oil in them. The carnitas are cooked in sunflower oil, so it isn’t ideal, but can work in a pinch.
- A quality burger place. We have a BurgerFi nearby, which serves quality beef and discloses ALL ingredients, including the cooking oil. You can order a burger with any vegetables you like, but skip the bacon (not sugar free) and sauces. We also like orderup, which is a local place that is similar. Both places let you order your burger wrapped in lettuce and I usually recommend adding avocado to take the place of the sauce. Five Guys also has some great options, especially since they offer both a bowl and a lettuce wrap. I’m sure most people can find a local burger place that could also meet their needs if they ask.
- A restaurant salad with no cheese, croutons, or other bready toppings. You’ll have to ask lots of questions on this one, but it can be done. Although you could order it with vinegar and oil dressing, I’ve found that about 80% of olive oil at restaurants is rancid and the vinegar can contain sugar if it is cheap, so you might be better off bringing a little leakproof bottle of your own dressing (something like this).
- A salad bar at a good grocery store can be an excellent choice, especially somewhere that discloses all the ingredients on their labels like Whole Foods.
Again, these tips are heavily influenced by the fact that I’m doing a Whole30 and not consuming any form of sugar except that from fruit. Your healthy convenience food might look a bit different.
What are your tips for healthy convenience food for busy days?