Please help me balance a busy schedule, heavy exercise, and dietary constraints by suggesting the perfect meal.
August 13, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Please help me balance a busy schedule, heavy exercise, and dietary constraints by suggesting the perfect meal.

First, I am operating under the assumption that meal replacement bars can not replace all meals. Though I have been through many days while traveling with just South Beach Meal Replacement bars, which contain 0g sugars, 5g fiber, 19g protein, 6g fat, and a smattering of 23 vitamins and minerals all for the low price of 210 calories per bar, I get the distinct impression this is not as healthy as I can be.

Second, I exercise at least six days a week, burning a minimum of 700 calories per day. My diet is 1400 net calories, which generally means 2100 total calories. Though the meal replacement bars are tasty, they are also filling. I can't eat 10 a day. When I am home, I eat better, but still rely on bars to get my caloric intake at its appropriate level.

Furthermore, I have food allergies (tomatoes, chief and most dangerous among them), intolerances (lactose is ok in small doses), and an over active set of taste buds (few veggies, no alcohol). This severely limits my food choices.

What I'm looking for is a meal that I can prepare in advance that can entirely replace of the traditional American meal. Such a perfect meal should be roughly between 200 and 300 calories. The meal should be nutritionally balanced when multiplied out to a 2,000 calorie diet, though I am not opposed to supplementing my diet with vitamins. Such a meal should use relatively easy to find ingredients at drug stores, grocery stores, or retail locations like WalMart or Target. (In other words, no specialty stores.) Such a meal should be low in sugars (close to 0g), relatively high in fiber (5g or higher), protein heavy (20g or higher), low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol.

Bonus points for preparation that can be done in a hotel room with no kitchen or whilst otherwise ill prepared. That said, if I can find a couple of perfect meals, I'll happily prepare meals well in advance.

Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions.
posted by sequential to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Try quinoa in small portions, seasoned with whatever you find tasty, along with whatever you can tolerate with it - it's a good flavor magnet. You can find it at most large grocery stores.

Small portions of lentils are also good, although not as sugar-free as quinoa.

Dried fruit and nuts can also work, if you pay attention to which types you're working. Nuts do push the fat a bit, but in as small portions as you want it shouldn't be a big deal. Unsweetened of course.

Finally, there's always the bodybuilder special of tuna and broccoli, if you can handle the broccoli.
posted by beezy at 2:06 PM on August 13, 2007

Porridge and egg whites
posted by the cuban at 2:13 PM on August 13, 2007

Response by poster: What is the thinking behind combining broccoli and tuna? What does broccoli add? Fiber? It's generally a no-no as far as my taste buds go, but there are meals with broccoli in it that I can eat, so it's a matter of cooking, I think.
posted by sequential at 2:30 PM on August 13, 2007

Best answer: Tuna is cheap, convenient, pure protein with a teensy bit of fat in it. Broccoli has a ton of fiber, for satiety & lots of vitamins.

There's some folklore in the weight lifting world that broccoli cleans up lactic acid and makes you less achey. No idea if it's true, but it does help fill you up when you get crashy in the middle of the afternoon. Some people just puree the whole mess in a blender and drink it, but that's too advanced for me.
posted by beezy at 2:35 PM on August 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

You might find something useful in the last question where someone asked about whether there was a perfect meal. And I think that one has a link somewhere in the answers to the time someone asked the question before that.
posted by MsMolly at 2:42 PM on August 13, 2007

This is really a harder problem than you might think!

A slice of store-brand wheat bread is 70-80 calories per slice. Pre-sliced lunchmeat varies by type, but for reference the Albertsons house brand turkey or ham is 80 cal. per 6 slices and Oscar Meyer Turkey Bologna is 50 cal per slice (and really it takes two to make me feel like I've eaten anything). A deli-style slice of cheese is something between 50 and 120 calories, depending on size/type. You would be hard pressed to put more than 50 calories of veggies (lettuce, onion, pickles, obviously not tomato) on a sandwich. Condiments are wildly variable, with horseradish or chipotle tobasco being almost free and mayo coming in around 100 cal per tbs. So if you are willing to have a sandwich on one slice of bread, that's doable in under 300 cal. Going the shelf-stable, vegetarian route, you can also put 1 tbs of peanut butter and 1 tbs of no-sugar-added jelly on a piece of that bread for about 300 cal.

One diet breakfast or lunch I am enjoying a lot is one slice toasted bread (let's say 80 cal) with 1 tbs no-sugar-added jelly (30-40 cal), and one jumbo egg (80 cal according to the carton), served any style -- use non-stick spray for fried, scrambled, over, etc. -- for a total of 200 cal. Sure it's not shelf stable, but I bet you can get any diner in America to make you an egg and a slice of toast!

If you don't mind natural sugars, there's always fruit: bananas, apples, oranges. I am also a fan of Cascade Fresh yogurt, assorted flavors, sweetened with fruit juice, 7 different cultures, 110 cal per 6 oz cup. Some grocers have it (QFC in Seattle, for example), but some don't. Most "health food" or "organic food" places do.
posted by ilsa at 3:24 PM on August 13, 2007

How about some raw oats and a protein shake? There's a lot of fibre in the oats... never really looked at the sugar content, but the large flake/old-fashioned sort are lower-GI. I eat mine with berries, but that adds some sugar to your meal. If you use different flavours of protein shakes, you can get some variety there. Add nuts/seeds to your taste/nutritional needs. Ground flax is a staple of mine. Almonds aren't bad WRT to fat/protein ration, and the nut fats aren't as bad for you as animal fats. Peruse some low GI recipes, something may strike you.
posted by glip at 4:20 PM on August 13, 2007

Best answer: If you find the bars too filling, you may want to consider less protein- or fiber-heavy options for some of your meals. I say this in part because some of my transportable favorites (All-Bran Buds plus skim milk and a Lactaid tablet, a can of tuna, a can of chicken breast, almonds, etc.) don't meet either your protein or fiber requirements.

One thing that does meet your requirements is a can of black beans -- 300 calories, 24g of protein, 21g of fiber, and plenty of nice low-GI complex carbs. I've been known to heat a can by draining it, filling it with hot water from the hotel-room coffee maker, and then draining it after a minute or two.

Eating beans out of a can does feel more "hobo" than "sophisticated road warrior," though.
posted by backupjesus at 5:46 PM on August 13, 2007

Oatmeal and bananas is my favourite quick-to-make energy breakfast. Especially if you make the oatmeal with lactose-free milk for some additional protein.
posted by desiderandus at 12:08 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: My current favourite perfect meal:

1 "Pita Gourmet" High protein/fibre pita (per 1 pita: 140 cals)
1 can Wild flaked salmon (per 1 can: 120 cals)
1 tbsp. fat free miracle whip (15 cals)
3-4 slices chopped cukes for added crunch (few cals)

Adding this up:

Calories: 275
Protein: 35 grams (10 from pita, 25 from salmon)
Fibre: 10 grams (all from pita)
sodium: 560 milligrams
Sugar: 0 grams

Of course you can substitute the flaked salmon for tuna, turkey, etc.
posted by 20something at 4:17 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

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