Packing meals for a day out isn’t as easy as it sounds: Prepackaged meals are often heavy on empty calories, fat, and preservatives; and that hodge-podge of foods you grab from the fridge often ends up a mess by the time you open your pack to eat. Solve both problems by pre-making meals that are filled with superfoods and easily stowed.
“Once you know how to cook and stow your own meals, you’ll stop grabbing nutritionally empty snacks when you’re on the go,” says elite-level duathlete Jennifer Lentzke, R.D., a sports dietitian with Toro Performance. “It’s all about packing a meal that’s satisfying, but also getting the right balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.”
1) Quinoa with Shrimp
Bombproof Grain Bowl
“This is basically like one of those Chipotle bowls, except much healthier,” says Lentzke. “It’s super filling, but the fiber comes from quinoa instead of rice and beans, the protein from the shrimp, and the healthy fats from the avocado.”
Make it: Cook a cup of quinoa. Add in diced grilled shrimp, half a sliced avocado, and a dollop of your favorite salsa to flavor the quinoa. Mix everything together.
Pack it: As long as you eat it the same day you pack it, this bowl doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Good ole Tupperware is perfect because no amount of jostling of these hearty ingredients (shrimp is even more durable than salmon; and quinoa, unlike rice, stays slightly crunchy no matter how moist it gets) will change their taste or texture. In fact, it may even add flavor, as the quinoa marinates in the shrimp and salsa.
2) Chicken and Avocado Wrap
Wraps are far superior to bread when it comes to staving off sogginess, says Lentzke, so they’re built for loading up on veggies. Here, you get your healthy fats from almonds and avocado, protein from chicken, and fiber from the tortilla, hummus, and spinach. Top off with your favorite veggies.
Make it: Takealarge whole-wheat tortilla, line with hummus, layer in raw spinach. Add sliced grilled chicken breast and top with sliced avocado and a few slivered almonds
Pack it: Rolled in a couple layers of aluminum foil, a wrap is indestructible and can even be easily eaten on the move—just unwrap it as you go. For extra protection, the right-size thermos or insulated coffee mug works as a “wrap canister.”
3) Loaded Chicken Sweet Potato
Compared with regular potatoes, sweet potatoes—which are full of vitamin A for stronger bones and better immune function—pack more of a nutritional punch and are equally as filling. But the skin is the best part, not because it’s full of fiber but because it acts as a natural carrying case.
Make it: Bake a sweet potato for 45 minutes (or nuke it for five), and scoop out some of the potato from the skin. Grill some chicken and chop it up small. As soon as the potato is done, drop in the chicken and some shredded cheese and close up the potato so it melts. Open back up and layer with sautéed kale, sea salt, and a dollop of salsa. Close it up again. Wrap in foil.
Pack it: Foil and a plastic bag are plenty to keep a sweet potato safe. “It’s so hearty, and it doesn’t matter if it gets smashed,” says Lentzke. “It’s like an indestructible nutrition bomb that works warm or cold.”
Bonus Tip: If you're cooking for a group or for more than one outing in a week, bake a batch—they keep really well.
4) Black Bean Turkey Chili
Meat and beans are what make chili such a protein powerhouse—use ground turkey to keep it lean and black beans for extra iron. Hot and hearty, chili goes great on a high-altitude hike, ride, or climb.
Make it: In a pan, sauté a pound of lean ground turkey in a pan, until brown. Add a chopped onion, three cloves of chopped garlic, and cook for two more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a can of black beans, two tablespoons of chili powder, one tablespoon each of ground cumin, sea salt, and hot sauce, two cans of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, and a cup of water. Simmer on low for 30 minutes.
Pack it: A good thermos will keep chili or soup hot for up to 12 hours. A 16-ounce model or smaller stashes easily inside any backpack or shoulder bag, or in your bike’s water-bottle cage (maybe even in a large coat pocket). Eat with a spoon or simply drink it!