Monday, May 28, 2012

A Workaholic's Guide to Eating Well: Meal Preparation Made Very Simple

I am obsessed with being productive, so I've developed an approach to meal preparation that takes truly minimal time yet allows me to eat as healthily as I care to, while enjoying every bite.

I'll admit to having retarded taste buds--I only marginally appreciate a $50 wine over Two-Buck Chuck and enjoy the food at Red Lobster more than at frou-frou places.

But if you're looking to wring an extra hour or two from your day, you might find at least some of my minute-pinching ideas worth trying.

Nearly every day, I have oatmeal, although occasionally, I can't  restrain myself from running out to get a cinnamon roll from the donut shop.

While the quick-oats are microwaving, I pour a bit of frozen fruit into a dish and pull out a bag of chopped walnuts. When the oatmeal is done, I defrost the fruit in the microwave for 45 seconds. 
While it's defrosting, to the oatmeal, I add a tablespoon of brown sugar and walnuts. By that time the fruit has defrosted. I add the fruit and in three minutes, voila, I have a healthy, tasty, filling, inexpensive breakfast. I wash it down with a little nonfat milk. (Yes, I drink it out of the container to save time and having to wash a dish.)

Some days, I microwave a piece of frozen sockeye salmon or chicken. That takes five to 10 minutes. While it microwaves, I usually make a simple lettuce and tomato salad, adding Trader Joe's taste-contest-winning non-fat balsamic vinagrette salad dressing. When the meat or fish is finished cooking, I sprinkle curry powder, garlic, soy, parmesan cheese, or seafood seasoning on top. 

Other days, I'll substitute an almond butter sandwich on whole wheat bread. Or I'll have a tuna sandwich, just mixing mayonnaise into the can and spooning it onto the bread.  I accompany it with a tomato and a pickle. 

Yet other days, I'll add chicken pieces, microwaved frozen broccoli, frozen leeks to ready-in-3-minutes frozen brown rice, adding parmesan cheese for flavor. 

If I'm not very hungry, I'll just microwave some frozen broccoli and throw some parmesan over it.

For dessert, I usually have a fruit. I particularly like clementines, also called mandarin oranges.  

For dinner, I usually just choose one of those lunches other than the one I had for lunch that day. 

I do cheat--for example, the puff-pastry pizza from Trader Joe's.

For dessert, I'll have fruit or frozen yogurt. 

One or two nights a week, I have a glass of wine, usually while answering email.

I keep a bag of peeled baby carrots and fruit at eye level in the fridge so I'm not tempted by high-calorie options, which I try--not always successfully--to keep out of the house. (Port Salut cheese is a weakness.)

And in a rather vain attempt to keep my weight down, I have a hot-pink sign at eye level on the fridge: Stay conscious! That reminds me to stop eating, not when I'm full, but when I'm no longer hungry.  That only works some of the time. I'm still trying to lose that dozen pounds. 


Anonymous said...


This seems very efficient!

From the health perspective, it leaves much wiggle room for your readers who wish to aim for optimal health. They can cut down (or cut out) the fat, sugar, and animal protein in your menu. Search on Drs. Fuhrman, McDougall, Bernard, Esselstyn, or Campbell for details.

Dr. Michael R. Edelstein

Anonymous said...

Bread and gluten, bad.

Processed food, bad.

drinking milk out of a carton, white trash.

Microwaving anything, bad

Food should be enjoyment as well as fuel. You regime does neither very well.

Anonymous said...


This seems very efficient!

From the health perspective, it leaves much wiggle room for your readers who wish to aim for optimal health. They can cut down (or cut out) the fat, sugar, and animal protein in your menu. Search on Drs. Fuhrman, McDougall, Bernard, Esselstyn, or Campbell for details.

Dr. Michael R. Edelstein

Anonymous said...

Hi Marty,

My breakfast is similar. But instead of defrosting my berries, I toss them frozen into my hot oatmeal and let them melt and cool down the cereal. I add a scoop of whey protein for a good protein kick. And on mornings where I want a cold cereal, I'll add a cup of uncooked oats to a whey protein drink and let it sit about a minute to soften. I'll add a handful of frozen or fresh berries, and voila! My breakfast is usually prepared and finished in about 5 minutes.

Rex said...

1. Breakfast: Quaker Oats is not a good brand, its not organic, and it's been in storage for quite some time meaning the oats have gone somewhat rancid.

Microwaving anything turns any healthful food into a mildly toxic one.

Frozen fruit < fresh fruit. Also I work for TJ’s and their fruit, even the organic stuff, is not great. Better to dish out the cash at Whole Foods or farmer’s market.

Food combining: Fruit should always be eaten alone before a meal for best digestion. Taken with oats and/or walnuts causes the fructose to remain in your digestive tract longer than it should and initiate bacterial fermentation which releases toxic by-products. Nuts and seeds are concentrated forms of protein that should be eaten first followed by concentrated starches like oats in order to maximize digestibility. Mixing together makes it more difficult for the body to digest them.

Nonfat milk should never be consumed. Always drink full-fat organic milk from grass-fed animals only. Any other kind of milk is harmful in the long-run. Milk should always be consumed alone; never combine with anything else.

2. Lunch: TJ’s is 90% junk food. I know because I work there. If you want vinegar, only use raw, organic, unrefined apple cider vinegar. Common vinegar promotes the growth of parasites and certain yeasts/bacteria in your gut. Unless it’s organic seasoning, forget it. Eat the animal protein first, and finish with the salad. If you’re using organic sourdough or sprouted bread, that’s fine, but anything else is not great because it’s yeasted. Almond butter is best avoided. All nuts start to go rancid the instant they are shelled. Only consume organic in-shell nuts/seeds, crack them yourself, and then lightly roast them for maximum digestibility. If you want to make butter out of them yourself, that’s fine but the store bought stuff is toxic.

Mayonnaise has hydrogenated vegetable oil which firebombs your arteries among other harmful effects. Tuna is not safe for regular consumption due to high levels of mercury; only sardines, tilapia, anchovies, wild Alaska salmon and possibly flounder are relatively clean.

If you want to eat grains, best to eat whole organic grains that you soak overnight in spring/filtered water to make them easy to digest. White rice is ok once in a while but should be soaked only 1 hour.

3. Dinner: TJ’s frozen food along with most other items they have is free from artificial preservatives, but loaded with sodium to compensate. That pizza is toxic.

I could go on but proper diet is the single most important component for health. Do you really want to make efficiency more important than your health? It’s important to spend the time and money and put in the effort necessary to maintain health…

Marty Nemko said...

Rex, thanks for taking all that time.

My honest reactions: It is difficult for me to believe that there is a high probable net negative effect of all those stated liabilities on my lifespan and/or quality of life. In life, I believe it's wise to think cost-benefit/risk-reward.

In my not fully informed judgment, the risks of "not-great" frozen fruit, bread with yeast, almond butter, and Quaker oats, etc are low enough.

I will also admit that your credibility declines because I do know that tilapia is higher in mercury than light tuna.

Rex said...

“It’s difficult to believe” because hardly anyone in the US makes the connection (although that number is growing quite quickly I would guess)…Everything I mentioned is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, traditional European cooking, etc etc etc. Every major culture follows basic food combining/selection principles, and up until 50-100 years ago, everything people ate was by default, organic and mostly local. The food manufacturing industry is an aberration in thousands of years of human civilization where people have been eating fresh/fermented food directly from nature without toxins, chemicals, etc. If you want to tamper with your own biology that is the result of millions of years of evolution for the sake of “cost-benefit/risk-reward,” go right ahead…I don’t think your body or mind will appreciate it in the long run though…

You say that cancer research among other degenerative diseases is a “10 on the meter.” Are you honestly going to suggest that the growing chronic disease epidemic in the US is because of insufficient research and “life-saving” medication? Everything starts and ends with the quality of your diet and lifestyle. You want to cure cancer and heart disease, look no further than breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At least 95% of all chronic disease is rooted in a diet created by the US food manufacturing sector. 100 years ago, instead of what you mentioned, people only ate fresh fruit, sourdough bread, whole nuts, freshly rolled oatmeal and they lived that way for thousands of years. Eating what you mentioned in those combinations will most definitely diminish your lifespan and quality of life. It may be a few years or it could be the difference between being vigorous in old age or trapped in a nursing home. There is a growing body of knowledge from the field of epigenetics that suggests that offspring of parents who make dietary choices for the sake of “efficiency” ie fast food and convenience food, are more prone to chronic disease, birth defects, mental retardation, and the list goes on…You mentioned in another post that intelligence is “at least half genetic.” What do you think switches genes on or off or regulates them?…primarily diet and lifestyle. If we want people to develop to their full potential, be productive, moral, strong, and happy, we must start with ensuring that people are consuming a proper diet, especially women who are planning to conceive. How do you expect to solve one person’s career problems, let alone the national budget deficit when that person is overweight, is chronically tired, has little/no energy, feels depressed, lacks mental clarity, is prone to anxiety and depression, experiences insomnia etc? Tell me many of your clients don’t have at least one of the above? Besides the obvious psychological factors, all of the above can be caused by physiological problems due to faulty diet! This is a dimension you really should explore because it could help a lot of people find the strength necessary to weather the economic downturn…

Tilapia has much less mercury than tuna:

Marty Nemko said...

The data on moving from the 95th of quality diet to the 99th simply isn't there with sufficient validity to justify the major time, hassle, cost, and decrement of pleasure to justify it. And light tuna have less mercury than tilapia. Also I just google searched and the proponderance of the evidence suggests microwaving is not "toxic," and may even be a net positive. Moderation I think is the best watchword--at least in my opinion.

Rex said...

Guess we'll agree to disagree...Not that this matters, but in making the claim that I diminish my credibility by claiming tilapia has less mercury than tuna, I referenced the National Resources Defense Council, and the FDA also just happens to agree with them. Would be interested in hearing where you're getting your information...Moderation is important; of what is the question.

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, we must. The EPA makes clear that the aforementioned light tuna has the lowest amounts of mercury. Tilapia is not on the list. The EPA deems eating light tuna even a few times a week safe, even for pregnant women.

I don't have time to dig up the research on the other items, but truly, it seems that you are not assessing risk/reward or cost/benefit well enough. Sorry.