Meal planning is a good idea for anyone, but athletes in particular need to make nutrition a priority. If you're on the go-go-go from the minute you wake up until you come home at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is take an hour to make dinner. And not only do you have to worry about your meals, you also have to pack snacks to eat before and after practice. Some portable snacks are easy to put together for the week, but nutritious, satisfying meals can be hard to come by if you don't plan ahead.
Here are some of my favorite make-ahead meals, which can be easily reheated throughout the week.
First of all, it doesn't get much easier than letting everything simmer on the stove or in a crockpot while you're home on a Sunday. Chili actually seems to get better after it sits for a couple days and the spices marinate. It's easy to combine all your nutrients in one pot: beans for carbohydrates and some protein, ground turkey or lean beef for protein, and lots of brightly colored vegetables full of vitamins and nutrients. Top it off with some cheese or guacamole for some healthy fat. I love this recipe from Whole Foods, which adds pumpkin for deep flavor and vitamin A.
2. Baked ziti with chicken sausage and veggies
Casserole dishes are great make-ahead meals, because you cook everything in one pan that is easy to reheat during the week. Tip: Once it cools, slice the ziti into individual servings and freeze some for another week. I love how this recipe uses whole-wheat noodles for complex carbohydrates and 6 cups of spinach for added nutrients as well as chicken sausage, a fun take on a lean protein.
3. Quinoa salads
Unlike lettuce salads, which tend to get soggy as the days go on, quinoa salads get better as they absorb the dressing without compromising texture. Start with a base of quinoa and add any chopped vegetables and beans you have on hand. Top with a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and Dijon mustard, and you'll have a great meal ready to go. Perfect for vegetarians. This recipe also calls for avocado to boost the healthy fats.
4. Individual meatloaves
Meatloaf is a great make-ahead meal. A fun way to make it into individual servings is to prepare your recipe in a muffin tin instead of a loaf pan. I used this recipe for Italian Turkey Meatloaf to make individual meatloaf muffins—easy to reheat throughout the week.
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