These days, free time is at a premium, given the busy lives we all lead. After a long day of work, instead of making a good, home-cooked meal, it's tempting to take the easier way out with fast food. To help us eat well in spite of our packed schedules, Habs strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard once again turns to team nutritionist Martin Frechette, who serves up several options for keeping a healthy diet when we're back at the grind.
Planning is key, whether we're working a lot or on vacation - it's a huge time-saver. Whenever there is some free time to cook, the best advice I could give is to double, triple or even quadruple the recipe. Just like that, we've created multiple meals out of one. After all, cooking four chicken breasts instead of one doesn't add much extra time to the process.
We can refrigerate or freeze whatever we don't eat. In the fridge, meals can be kept for three to five days, and it's two to three months in the freezer. We don't need to eat what we've made the next day, otherwise our meals risk getting repetitive.
If we know in advance that our schedule will be a bit busier than normal and we anticipate not having time to cook, we should think ahead and stock up the freezer. That way, all we'll have to do during that extra-busy period is reheat or defrost meals that are already ready to go.
Using frozen vegetables for cooking is a very practical solution. They have the same nutritional value as fresh ones, and they often come pre-washed and cut. We can just heat them up and include them in whatever we're making. It's a simple way of increasing our vegetable intake and doesn't take a lot of effort.
As for grain products like brown rice, quinoa or bulgur, the key again is to prepare them in large quantities, because it can get tiresome to constantly take 20-30 minutes to prepare small amounts. It's a good idea to prepare them in larger quantities at the beginning of the week, allowing us to easily divide them up for each meal.
When it comes to our sources of protein, like meat, chicken or fish, the easiest way to go is to use a slow-cooker. We can put a whole chicken or large pieces of meat in, like our grandmothers used to do. Start it in the morning and it'll be ready in the evening, or vice-versa.
Those of us with heavy work schedules may want to consider catering services, budgets permitting. There are more and more companies offering services to meet those needs nowadays, and they offer either ready-made meals that just need reheating, or boxes containing ingredients and a recipe. No need to think about the menu, grocery shopping and sorting through ingredients; everything is there and ready to go. It's food for thought, so to speak, for busy professionals and athletes alike.
The restaurant option is a practical one, sure, but we should be mindful of a few things. Just like when we're on vacation, it's important to minimize how much processed food we eat and to make sure we're eating appropriate quantities. The difference between vacationers and people who are working, though, is that for the latter, going to the restaurant becomes a part of the lifestyle.
When we head to a restaurant while on vacation, we may let loose a little bit, because we know we're only on vacation for a small amount of time throughout the year. When it's part of our regular routine, we should strive to eat at the restaurant the same way we do at home - that is, by eating a balanced meal. Aim to be more disciplined and put more emphasis on vegetables, less on fried foods, make better drink choices and eat smaller portions to ensure our meal is just the right size.