Author Archives: Mendocino Coast Clinics

The Risks of Inactivity: Why You Need to Exercise to Be Healthy

What do sitting and smoking have in common? Both are risk factors for chronic disease.

Researchers have been investigating ways to reduce our risk of chronic disease for decades. One big question: How much exercise is needed to prevent disease? The answer is at least 150 minutes per week. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines, adults should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, including at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities. Exercising up to 300 minutes per week has even greater health benefits.

This guideline was developed with the assumption that we are doing light physical activity throughout the day including walking and standing. However, many adults are mostly sedentary during the day. Many of us sit all day at our jobs and technology has replaced our need to do physical work.

Research shows that individuals who sit all day, even if they go to the gym for an hour, are at greater disease risk than those who are more active during the day. “Informal” physical activity such as walking to a coworker’s desk, around the mall or through the parking lot can add up to a lot of minutes throughout the day and is beneficial to overall health.

What is physical inactivity?

Physical inactivity is any time you are not standing or moving. Sitting at your desk, watching TV or being in your car for a long commute all fall into this category. Our health is impaired by how many hours we spend each day sitting, as well as the duration of those stints of inactivity.

Even those who exercise for 150 minutes each week aren’t safe from the dangers of sitting for too long.

What are the risks?

Many parameters to assess disease risk include blood sugar, insulin, HDL (the good cholesterol), waist circumference, triglycerides and blood pressure. Researchers have also studied the relationship between sitting and indicators of inflammation, which is common in people with heart disease. Studies have even investigated inactivity and risk of premature death. All of these outcomes can be negatively impacted by physical inactivity: The more you sit, the greater your risk for disease and early death.

How can we reduce physical inactivity at home and at work?

While there is no published recommendation for “safe” sitting time yet, a good rule of thumb is to move for at least 1 to 2 minutes each hour in addition to 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. If your job is sedentary, you can break up that time with bits of activity to improve your health. Here are a few tips to get moving throughout the day:

• Park far away from your building or use public transportation.
• Use a standing or walking desk.
• Have walking meetings, instead of sitting in the conference room.
• Take a brisk walk after lunch.
• Rather than send an email, walk to your co-worker’s desk.
• Stand during phone calls.
• Drink enough water that you use the restroom often.
• Play pool, go for a walk or play lawn games instead of watching TV.

Source: https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/benefits-of-physical-activity/risks-of-inactivity-why-you-need-to-exercise-to-be-healthy

Easy Wellness Tips

Here are some easy wellness tips to help make you healthier and happier!

1. Drink more water. Proper hydration is necessary for good health. While our hydration needs can be met by drinking other beverages, drinking water provides a healthy calorie-free and sugar-free option.

2. Add 10 minutes of exercise to your day. If you don’t already exercise, aim to get 10 minutes each day. Try walking to start. If you do currently exercise, add 10 extra minutes to your routine.

3. Get moving at work. Aim to stand up more often, or take a quick walk or stretch break.

4. Go to bed 10 minutes earlier. By the end of the week, you’ll get 70 extra minutes of sleep. If you keep it up all year, you’ll have slept 60 hours more. Imagine how well-rested you’ll feel!

5. Add an extra serving of fruit or vegetables per day. Each day, find a way to eat one extra serving. You may have more opportunities than you realize!

6. Spend more time with friends and family. This can help you to relieve stress, laugh more and relax—all of which can help increase your well-being.

7. Eat breakfast—it truly is the most important meal of the day. Find helpful tips and breakfast ideas here.

8. Reduce your screen time. Much of our time is spent behind the screens of our computers, phones and tablets, or in front of the television. Spend time doing healthier, more interactive, and physical activities.

9. Brush and floss your teeth. Good oral hygiene can promote good general health. Get in the habit of brushing twice and flossing once per day.

10. Control your portions. Limiting your portions is necessary for healthy eating and weight management.

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, updated every year since 2004, ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruit and vegetables. The guide, called the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, is based on results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

If you would like to reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides, try to purchase organic versions of fruit and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list.

The group identified the following items on its “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticide residue:

1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Nectarines
4. Apples
5. Grapes
6. Peaches
7. Cherries
8. Pears
9. Tomatoes
10. Celery
11. Potatoes
12. Sweet Bell Peppers

Here are the items the EWG identified for its “Clean 15,” which report the least likelihood to contain pesticide residue.

1. Avocados
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbages
5. Onions
6. Sweet Peas
7. Papayas
8. Asparagus
9. Mangoes
10. Eggplants
11. Honeydews
12. Kiwis
13. Cantaloupes
14. Cauliflower
15. Broccoli

Enjoying Nut Butters


Going beyond peanut butter, nut butters have become more widely available and made with more varieties of nuts than before. While the definition of a “natural” nut butter is not regulated, it generally refers to nut butters that contain only nuts (and perhaps salt and oil) with no stabilizers, which creates a spread that separates (oil rises to the top) and must be stirred before use.

Make the most out of these protein-packed spreads:

Separation anxiety. An opened jar of natural nut butter can be stored in a cool, dry place. To minimize separation, whirl nut butter in a stand mixer and then refrigerate it. Or place the jar upside down in a small bowl or plastic container (to prevent leaking), so the oil slowly seeps through the nut paste.

Upgrade frosting. For baked goods such as cupcakes, quick breads or muffins, cut out extra sugar by using creamy nut butter instead of frosting. Heat nut butter in the microwave for 10 seconds, whisk in a few teaspoons of milk, then frost baked goods.

Go savory. Use nut butters in sauces for stir-fry, pasta and roasted vegetable dishes. For a simple sauce, blend together 1?3 cup peanut butter, 2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons orange juice and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Use every last spoonful. Before recycling the jar, reuse it to make overnight oats. The oats will sop up remaining bits of nut butter stuck in places of the jar that utensils can’t reach.

Grind it at home. Use a high-speed blender or food processor to make your own nut butter. Here’s a basic formula (which yields approximately 1½ cups):

2 cups raw unsalted nuts + ¾ teaspoon salt* + 2 to 4 teaspoons oil
*If you’re using salted nuts, omit the ¾ teaspoon salt.

Flavor it. Use a mixer to blend these flavor-enhancing ingredients with 1 cup of your favorite nut butter:
• Mocha Nut Butter: Add 1 teaspoon instant coffee + 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa + 1 teaspoon sugar
• Honey Nut Butter: Add 2 teaspoons honey
• Cinnamon Nut Butter: Add 2 teaspoons cinnamon + 1 teaspoon sugar
• Spicy Nut Butter: Add 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

Refrigerate homemade nut butter for up to six months.

DIY Nut Butter Hacks

Toast those nuts: Roasting or toasting nuts before processing adds extra flavor and starts to release nuts’ natural oils, which makes the grinding process easier.
Keep it fresh: Avoid using shelled nuts that are older than four months; they will have less flavor, are harder to grind and run the risk of going rancid.
Go skinless: Opt for nuts without skins, such as blanched almonds and raw peanuts; ground-up skins become gritty and may create an unpleasant mouthfeel.
Make it chunky: Coarsely chop an additional ½ cup nuts. Once the nut butter is at the consistency you like, add in extra nuts and process for 10 seconds until they’re just mixed in.

Source: https://foodandnutrition.org/from-the-magazine/healthy-kitchen-hacks-savoring-natural-nut-butters/

Magic Beans

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Beans are a magical food, in a sense. They are the only food that can count as a serving of starchy vegetables or protein (but not at the same time), and depending on the type, beans contain 5 to 8 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving. Beans also can help reduce cholesterol, blood sugar levels and improve intestinal health.

Here are just a few ways to add beans to your favorite foods, increasing the amount of protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate and iron in your diet, and much more.

Mix Beans Into Breakfast
You can add hummus made with chickpeas to an egg sandwich or avocado toast. Eggs, black beans, guacamole and salsa also make a great combo for a savory morning!

Put Them in Pasta
Try adding white beans to pesto pasta or to your tomato sauce.

Stir Them Into soup
Beans are a great addition to any soup from chicken noodle to chili. Add your favorite type of bean to your next batch.

Spread on Sandwiches
Hummus tastes great and is so easy to add to just about any food, especially sandwiches. It’s a great substitution for mayo or other high-calorie spreads.

Top Your Salad with Beans
Try topping your salad with different beans like chickpeas, black or kidney beans or edamame. You also can make a blended white bean dressing.

Bake Them in Dessert
Substitute flour with a can of pureed black beans in brownies or try different bean flours to add to any of your favorite baked goods.

Roast Beans for a Delicious Snack
Roasted chickpeas are a low-calorie option to eat by themselves or add to your trail mix.

Source: https://foodandnutrition.org/blogs/student-scoop/7-ways-add-beans-diet/

Jane Brody’s Personal Secrets to Lasting Weight Loss

weightloss

By Jane Brody

When The New York Times hired me to write about science and health 52 years ago, I was 40 pounds overweight. I’d spent the previous three years watching my weight rise as I hopped from one diet to the next in a futile attempt to shed the pounds most recently gained.

No amount of exercise, and I did plenty of it, could compensate for how much I ate when I abandoned the latest weight loss scheme. I had become a living example of the adage: A diet is something one goes on to go off.

Even daylong fasting failed me. When I finally ate supper, I couldn’t stop eating until I fell asleep, and sometimes awoke the next morning with partly chewed food in my mouth. I had dieted myself into a binge-eating disorder, and that really scared me. Clearly, something had to change.

I finally regained control when I stopped dieting. I decided that if I was going to be fat, at least I could be healthy. I made a plan to eat three nutritious, satisfying meals every day with one small snack, which helped me overcome the temptation to binge in response to deprivation.

Much to my surprise, a month later I had lost 10 pounds — eating! Eating good food, that is, and plenty of it. I continued the regimen without difficulty because it was not a diet. It was a way to live and a healthy one at that. And I continued to lose, about two pounds a month.

Two years later, all the excess weight was gone. I never gained it back and never again went on a diet. (Even with a twin pregnancy, I gained only 36 pounds and lost them all when my sons were born at 6 pounds 13 ounces each.)

The greatest challenge to lasting weight loss, especially for someone like me with a food addiction, is the fact that no one can give up eating. Rather, one has to learn a better — and permanent — way to handle food.

I eat everything I want, in moderation. My meals — mostly homemade — are heavily loaded with vegetables, and I choose calorie-controlled snacks like popcorn at 35 calories a cup, a graham cracker at 59 calories for two squares, and ice cream (really ice milk) at 100 to 150 calories a half cup. No seconds!

My weight maintenance secrets are simple: I read nutrition labels before I buy anything in a package, I practice portion control, and I exercise and weigh myself every day to stay within a two-pound range appropriate for my height. If the number on the scale begins to creep up, I may walk, bike or swim a little more and eat a little less for a few days.

In a recent issue of JAMA, Dr. Eve Guth, internist at the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago, basically endorsed my approach. She wrote: “Successful long-term calorie reduction is most likely to result when patients decide for themselves which dietary changes to make and when. Essential to any effort is a clear understanding that dietary change is a slow process that requires ongoing vigilance” which, she admitted, “is not a popular concept in a world now accustomed to immediate results.”

Perhaps no one knows this better than Angelica Divinagracia, a fitness specialist in Los Angeles who at 53 still looks as good or better than she did as head cheerleader at U.C.L.A. In a posting mid-January on Facebook, she wrote, “The diet and nutrition business is a billion dollar industry because it’s designed for failure. When the diet ends, which ultimately it will, you go right back to where you were. Then you start another….”

Ms. Divinagracia said, “I don’t believe in diets or any particular products. I believe in learning how to create a healthy lifestyle, and the formula is simple.” The most salient points of her well-practiced advice are these: 1) Stop eating crap, 2) Eat good food that is real, not processed, 3) Avoid drinking your calories, 4) Know what one serving is and do not eat more than that in a sitting, 5) Move your butt every day — even just walking is better than being a couch potato, and 6) Stop making excuses.

Dr. Guth warns against numerous pitfalls, like being swayed by package claims of “low fat” or “low carbohydrate” instead of reading the facts on the nutrition label. “These foods do not necessarily have fewer total calories than the original version of the food,” she wrote, because sugar is often used to compensate for flavor lost, for example, when fat is reduced. Fruit juice may be fat-free but it is not low in calories because it contains large amounts of sugar, she noted.

She also urges closer attention to add-ons and condiments. “A beef patty has definite food value but after adding a large bun, dressing and extra cheese, the total calories (535) will far exceed the caloric content of the meat, pickle and tomato (240),” she wrote, adding that using butter, margarine or mayonnaise on a sandwich adds far more calories than mustard.

I don’t count calories, but I have a working knowledge of the approximate calories in nearly everything I eat. If you need to lose weight, I urge you to download a comprehensive calorie chart of common foods to help you make substitutions that will cut about 500 calories from your daily diet. You can do the same with an exercise chart, keeping in mind that the caloric cost of any activity depends on how strenuously you do it and how much you weigh.

Although most of the Jan. 16 issue of JAMA is devoted to studies of bariatric surgery, which offers the best route to permanent weight loss for some people, Dr. Guth pointed out that surgery is likely to fail too “if a patient is unwilling to make appropriate changes in food choices.”

She, like me, endorses Michael Pollan’s diet mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And like me, she notes that slow, steady weight loss suggests that you’ve made sustainable changes in your diet and exercise habits that can become second nature and last a lifetime.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/05/well/jane-brodys-personal-secrets-to-lasting-weight-loss.html

The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds

healthyfoods

Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that the standard prescription for weight loss is to reduce the amount of calories you consume.

But a new study, published Tuesday in JAMA, may turn that advice on its head. It found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

The strategy worked for people whether they followed diets that were mostly low in fat or mostly low in carbohydrates. And their success did not appear to be influenced by their genetics or their insulin-response to carbohydrates, a finding that casts doubt on the increasingly popular idea that different diets should be recommended to people based on their DNA makeup or on their tolerance for carbs or fat.

The research lends strong support to the notion that diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose and manage their weight most easily in the long run. It also suggests that health authorities should shift away from telling the public to obsess over calories and instead encourage Americans to avoid processed foods that are made with refined starches and added sugar, like bagels, white bread, refined flour and sugary snacks and beverages, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

“This is the road map to reducing the obesity epidemic in the United States,” said Dr. Mozaffarian, who was not involved in the new study. “It’s time for U.S. and other national policies to stop focusing on calories and calorie counting.”

The new research was published in JAMA and led by Christopher D. Gardner, the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. It was a large and expensive trial, carried out on more than 600 people with $8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Nutrition Science Initiative and other groups.

Dr. Gardner and his colleagues designed the study to compare how overweight and obese people would fare on low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. But they also wanted to test the hypothesis — suggested by previous studies — that some people are predisposed to do better on one diet over the other depending on their genetics and their ability to metabolize carbs and fat. A growing number of services have capitalized on this idea by offering people personalized nutrition advice tailored to their genotypes.

The researchers recruited adults from the Bay Area and split them into two diet groups, which were called “healthy” low carb and “healthy” low fat. Members of both groups attended classes with dietitians where they were trained to eat nutrient-dense, minimally processed whole foods, cooked at home whenever possible.

Soft drinks, fruit juice, muffins, white rice and white bread are technically low in fat, for example, but the low-fat group was told to avoid those things and eat foods like brown rice, barley, steel-cut oats, lentils, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, quinoa, fresh fruit and legumes. The low-carb group was trained to choose nutritious foods like olive oil, salmon, avocados, hard cheeses, vegetables, nut butters, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed and pasture-raised animal foods.

The participants were encouraged to meet the federal guidelines for physical activity but did not generally increase their exercise levels, Dr. Gardner said. In classes with the dietitians, most of the time was spent discussing food and behavioral strategies to support their dietary changes.

The new study stands apart from many previous weight-loss trials because it did not set extremely restrictive carbohydrate, fat or caloric limits on people and emphasized that they focus on eating whole or “real” foods — as much as they needed to avoid feeling hungry.

“The unique thing is that we didn’t ever set a number for them to follow,” Dr. Gardner said.

Of course, many dieters regain what they lose, and this study cannot establish whether participants will be able to sustain their new habits. While people on average lost a significant amount of weight in the study, there was also wide variability in both groups. Some people gained weight, and some lost as much as 50 to 60 pounds. Dr. Gardner said that the people who lost the most weight reported that the study had “changed their relationship with food.” They no longer ate in their cars or in front of their television screens, and they were cooking more at home and sitting down to eat dinner with their families, for example.

“We really stressed to both groups again and again that we wanted them to eat high-quality foods,” Dr. Gardner said. “We told them all that we wanted them to minimize added sugar and refined grains and eat more vegetables and whole foods. We said, ‘Don’t go out and buy a low-fat brownie just because it says low fat. And those low-carb chips — don’t buy them, because they’re still chips and that’s gaming the system.’”

Dr. Gardner said many of the people in the study were surprised — and relieved — that they did not have to restrict or even think about calories.

“A couple weeks into the study people were asking when we were going to tell them how many calories to cut back on,” he said. “And months into the study they said, ‘Thank you! We’ve had to do that so many times in the past.’”

Calorie counting has long been ingrained in the prevailing nutrition and weight loss advice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, tells people who are trying to lose weight to “write down the foods you eat and the beverages you drink, plus the calories they have, each day,” while making an effort to restrict the amount of calories they eat and increasing the amount of calories they burn through physical activity.

“Weight management is all about balancing the number of calories you take in with the number your body uses or burns off,” the agency says.

Yet the new study found that after one year of focusing on food quality, not calories, the two groups lost substantial amounts of weight. On average, the members of the low-carb group lost just over 13 pounds, while those in the low-fat group lost about 11.7 pounds. Both groups also saw improvements in other health markers, like reductions in their waist sizes, body fat, and blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

The researchers took DNA samples from each subject and analyzed a group of genetic variants that influence fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Ultimately the subjects’ genotypes did not appear to influence their responses to the diets.

The researchers also looked at whether people who secreted higher levels of insulin in response to carbohydrate intake — a barometer of insulin resistance — did better on the low-carb diet. Surprisingly, they did not, Dr. Gardner said, which was somewhat disappointing.

“It would have been sweet to say we have a simple clinical test that will point out whether you’re insulin resistant or not and whether you should eat more or less carbs,” he added.

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said the study did not support a “precision medicine” approach to nutrition, but that future studies would be likely to look at many other genetic factors that could be significant. He said the most important message of the study was that a “high quality diet” produced substantial weight loss and that the percentage of calories from fat or carbs did not matter, which is consistent with other studies, including many that show that eating healthy fats and carbs can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.

“The bottom line: Diet quality is important for both weight control and long-term well-being,” he said.

Dr. Gardner said it is not that calories don’t matter. After all, both groups ultimately ended up consuming fewer calories on average by the end of the study, even though they were not conscious of it. The point is that they did this by focusing on nutritious whole foods that satisfied their hunger. “I think one place we go wrong is telling people to figure out how many calories they eat and then telling them to cut back on 500 calories, which makes them miserable,” he said. “We really need to focus on that foundational diet, which is more vegetables, more whole foods, less added sugar and less refined grains.”

— From the New York Times, February 20, 2018

Chia Seed Pudding

overnight oats with Greek yogurt, Chia seeds and banana

Chia seeds were discovered more than 5,000 years ago and were a staple in the Aztec and Mayan diets. It’s no wonder they have stuck around for so long — they are a nutrition powerhouse! One 2-tablespoon serving provides 190 calories, 4 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber and 9 grams fat, along with numerous vitamins and minerals.

Here are three ways to enjoy chia seeds as a pudding for a brain-boosting breakfast, light lunch or snack! Each recipes makes one serving.

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
Ingredients
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened milk)
Dash of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple syrup, honey or agave
Optional toppings: sliced kiwi, strawberries or any combination of fruit

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Ingredients
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Optional toppings: 1 to 2 tablespoons trail mix for an extra protein boost; sliced strawberries and/or banana

Peanut Protein Banana Chia Seed Pudding
Ingredients
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened milk)
1 teaspoon maple syrup, honey or agave
1 banana, separated — ½ mashed in recipe, other ½ sliced on top
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut protein powder
Optional toppings: cacao nibs and sliced strawberries

Directions for all recipes

1. Place all ingredients except toppings in a medium-sized jar and stir to combine.
2. Cover with lid and place in refrigerator overnight.
3. Remove lid and stir — should be a pudding-like consistency.
4. Top with optional ingredients. Enjoy!

Quick Guide to Nutritious Meals

family-cooking-large

Planning saves time and allows the opportunity to pack the family meal with an extra nutritional punch. Before you make your shopping list and head to the grocery store, consider the following criteria for healthier options:

  • Include at least one selection from each of the five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein foods.
  • Limit foods that are fried or highly refined.
  • Incorporate high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.

Here is a balanced and nutritious dinner that the entire family will love: Mediterranean chicken breast (a boneless, skinless chicken breast baked for 20 minutes with lemon juice, a pinch of oregano and topped with feta cheese); steamed broccoli; brown rice; low-fat vanilla yogurt topped with fresh berries; and a glass of water.

Make Meals a Family Affair

Even if in a rush, families still can work together for speedy meal preparation: adults can be in charge of the entrée, older kids can prepare a salad and little ones can help set the table.
Finally, to make the most of your family meals, make conversation part of the dining experience and reduce distractions by turning off the TV and phones and tuning into your loved ones.

When You Don’t Have Time for Homemade

If you don’t have time to whip up a homemade meal, you still can enjoy all the benefits of a nutritious family dinner. Here are four speedy meals you can prepare without breaking a sweat.

  • Frozen ravioli with store-bought sauce and a salad. A well-stocked pantry and freezer can go a long way in cutting down on last minute trips to the supermarket. Fill your pantry with go-to ingredients such as your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce, whole-wheat pasta and polenta, and load your freezer with different varieties of frozen ravioli, stuffed shells or manicotti. A healthful dinner will never be more than 20 minutes away.
  • Rotisserie chicken, frozen mashed potatoes and peas. When it comes to frozen veggies you can lose the guilt. Because they’re flash frozen within hours of harvesting, frozen vegetables actually may have more nutrients than fresh which can sit at the store for days. Plus, they’re ready in the microwave or on the stovetop in minutes. In addition to peas, load up on edamame, carrots, corn, chopped spinach and even mashed potatoes.
  • Veggie burgers with a cucumber salad. A vegetarian meal doesn’t have to mean hours slaving over the stove. Keep staples such as veggie burgers and whole-wheat buns on hand for a meatless meal you can throw together on the fly. Serve with sliced cucumbers drizzled with your favorite light vinaigrette dressing.
  • Grilled chicken Caesar salad with French bread. For a convenience meal that feels homemade, slice up store-bought grilled chicken breasts and toss with hearts of romaine and light Caesar dressing. If you have a few minutes to spare, bake up frozen whole-wheat dinner rolls or French bread and the house will smell like you’ve been baking all afternoon.

How to Meal-Prep 5 Mediterranean Lunches for the Week in Under an Hour

quinoa salad

Pictured Recipe: Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

What’s not to love about meal prep? It’s budget-friendly, helps you stick to your diet, and saves you lots of time during the week. In this meal-prep meal plan, we walk you through four super-simple base recipes that come together to create delicious Mediterranean-style lunches for the work week. And the best part yet—all of the prep work can be done in under an hour. We already mapped out the prep plan for you (shopping list included!), and came up with some simple recipe ideas to create for the week (scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the ideas).

Make these ahead on Sunday:

Best Poached Chicken

Sheet Pan Roasted Root Vegetables

Basic Quinoa

Herb Vinaigrette

Shopping List

Download the shopping list here! We added a few extra shopping list items, like canned chickpeas and hummus, which we use in the meal ideas at the bottom of the page. Depending on how many people you are meal prepping for, you may need to adjust the recipes to account for more or fewer servings. If you end up making more than you need, use the leftovers for dinner this week.

Why Mediterranean?
The Mediterranean diet has long been recognized as one of the healthiest and most delicious ways to eat. It’s an uncomplicated and easy-to-follow way of eating—simply include plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (like olive oil and the healthy fat you get from salmon), whole grains (like quinoa), beans and legumes, lean protein and calcium-rich dairy items.

Let’s Get Started!
Work backwards and start with the recipe that takes the longest to prepare. While things are cooking, you can prep the other menu items. Start by preheating the oven to 450 degrees F for the Sheet Pan Roasted Root Vegetables.

Step 1: Prepare the Best Poached Chicken
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes

This simple poached chicken recipe has crazy-good flavor. The secret is using bone-in breasts and adding white wine and herbs to the poaching liquid. Don’t eat meat? Skip this step and move onto Step 3. We included vegan and vegetarian lunch ideas at the bottom of the page.

Meal-Prep Tips:
• Shred or chop the chicken while it is still slightly warm. It is harder to pull the meat apart after it’s been refrigerated.
• Don’t throw out that poaching liquid! Strain the leftover poaching liquid and use it as you would low-sodium chicken broth in any recipe for an extra boost of flavor. Store it in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
• Super-Fast Meal Prep: Pick up pre-cooked chicken breast or a rotisserie chicken at your grocery deli.

Step 2: Prepare the Sheet Pan Roasted Root Vegetables
Prep time: 10 Minutes | Cook time: 30-40 minutes

While the chicken is simmering, start to prep your veggies. This simple recipe is the perfect example of the Mediterranean diet. Fresh ingredients, plus olive oil and a little salt and pepper are all you need to make a mouthwatering heap of nutritious, tender and colorful root vegetables. This recipe makes enough for lunch this week, plus leftovers for dinner. Don’t need that much veg? This recipe is easy to cut in half.

Meal Prep Tips:
• When batch cooking vegetables, use ones that have a similar cook time so you don’t end up with some veggies that are still raw, while others are cooked to death. Some good combos include…
• Summer Squash + Green Beans + Cherry Tomatoes
• Zucchini + Corn + Bell Peppers
• Beets + Potatoes + Fennel
• Super Fast Meal Prep: Pick up pre-chopped vegetables from the produce section of your grocery store.

Step 3: Prepare the Basic Quinoa
Prep time: 5 Minutes | Cook time: 15-20 minutes

While the veggies are roasting, prepare your quinoa. This foolproof recipe for perfectly cooked quinoa is fast and easy! This high-protein, fiber-rich grain will help give your meal more satisfying staying power.

Meal Prep Tips:
• Quick cooking whole grains like quinoa and whole-wheat couscous are great go-to options for fast meal prep. When cooking grains with a longer cook time, like brown rice or farro, make extra and freeze the leftovers.
• Super-Fast Meal Prep: Buy pre-cooked rice from the grocery store for even faster meal prep.

Step 4: Prepare the Herb Vinaigrette
Prep time: 10 Minutes

While the quinoa is cooking, make your dressing. This fresh herb vinaigrette dressing recipe calls to use whatever herbs you have on hand, so it’s versatile and excitingly new each time you make it. If you want to make this recipe vegetarian, skip the chicken broth and use veggie broth or water instead.

Meal Prep Tips:
• Save yourself from washing a dish by making your vinaigrettes and dressings right in a mason jar. Just add the ingredients and shake to combine.
• Try packing your salads in a mason jar! Watch how to make the perfect mason jar salad.

Step 5: Assemble Your Lunches!
You can either build all five of your lunches now and place in separate storage containers, or store the four base recipes separately and build your lunches as you need them. For the salad recipes, wait till the night before to add the greens so you don’t end up with wilted salad.

Chicken, Quinoa & Veggie Bowl

1/2 cup quinoa + 3/4 cup chicken + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1-2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
(= 342 calories, 19 g protein, 5 g fiber)
To jazz it up even more: add fresh crumbled feta or goat cheese and sunflower seeds

Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

2 cups mixed greens + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1/2 cup quinoa + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta + 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds + 1-2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
(= 355 calories, 10 g protein, 9 g fiber)
To jazz it up even more: serve with a side of toasted pita bread and hummus

Roasted Veggie & Hummus Pita Pocket

1 whole-wheat pita + 4 Tbsp. hummus + 1/2 cup roasted veggies + 1/2 cup mixed greens + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
(= 357 calories, 14 g protein, 10 g fiber)
Cut the pita in half and spread hummus inside both pita pockets. Roughly chop the veggies and add both the veggies and mixed greens to each pita half
To jazz it up even more: add a dash of hot sauce for a spicy kick

Loaded Mediterranean Chicken-Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup quinoa + 3/4 cup chicken + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1/4 avocado, sliced + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese + 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds + 1-2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
(= 499 calories, 23 g protein, 10 g fiber)

Vegetarian Chickpea & Veggie Grain Bowl

Add 1 cup quinoa + 1 cup mixed greens + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1/4 cup chickpeas + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta
(= 303 calories, 10 g protein, 9 g fiber)
To jazz it up even more: add sunflower seeds or a dollop of garlic-flavored hummus