Anyone who knows me well is aware of the fact that I am consistent about packing clean meals and toting them around with me throughout the day. It can be cumbersome to pack food, especially when I know I will be out of the house for most of the day, but by doing so I have peace of mind knowing that I will be able to stay on track with my meal plan no matter what. Competitors and fitness professionals practice this habit and can attest to the power of clean eating in maintaining a sculpted, muscular physique.
However, I realize that many of you who do not compete or have an involvement in fitness may be wondering if there is any point to packing meals if you are an average person. There are a multitude of benefits to be gained from packing meals for the day:
• Portion Control – If you measure and weigh your portions before placing them into containers, you will have full control over your intake.
• Cooking Method – Steaming, baking, boiling, grilling and poaching are easy cooking methods which also enable you to prepare food without adding unnecessary fat.
• Save Money – By purchasing food at the grocery store and preparing it yourself, you will save a significant amount of money.
• Maintain A Low Sodium Diet – Restaurants often add significant amounts of sodium to enhance the flavor of their dishes. If you are trying to keep your sodium intake low, you are better off preparing your own food.
• Accommodate Medical Dietary Restrictions And Food Allergies – Restaurant meals may add ingredients which are forbidden from your meal plan due to medical conditions or food allergies. Instead of taking a risk, you are better off preparing your meals and packing them with you.
When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me (https://youtu.be/GQltYTRLTC4) and had meals from Icon Meals (https://iconmeals.com/) with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!
I always recommend tempered glass storage containers over plastic, since heating up ingredients in most plastic containers carries a risk of deranging the plastic and releasing harmful chemicals into the food. I make an exception with BPA-free containers, and recommend the types which have locking lids to prevent leakage of food.
The BEST meal packing system out there is made by Six Pack Bags:
By adopting the habit of packing your meals, you will be on the road to better health!
Please check out my YouTube review of the new EatSmart Digital Kitchen Scale! Its sleek and slim design is also lightweight and portable, and the large digital readout is very easy to see.
Check out my review of the EatSmart Precision Digital Kitchen Scale! You can purchase this new item directly from https://eatsmartproducts.com/
You can use either sweet potatoes or yams for this clean and delicious recipe! I used to make very large batches when I was still competing, and think this recipe and the yield are perfect for those who do their food prep ahead of time. I don’t peel the potatoes beforehand but you can certainly do so if you wish.
DR. NAITO’S SHAKE AND BAKE SWEET POTATOES
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, washed and cut into one-inch sections
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Place cut sweet potato sections into a clean kitchen trash bag. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour into bag. Twist bag closed and shake mixture so that it coats the potatoes evenly. Place coated potato segments in a large baking dish which has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until slightly tender.
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I have used other brands of meal bags, and I honestly love Six Pack bags the best. This company has come a long way, and now they not only have Meal Management Bags, they also have Backpacks, Duffels, Briefcases, Women’s Bags and Accessories to help you keep everything in perfect order. They are top quality, fuctional and stylish. Get one!
Slow cookers are incredible time savers, but I have always struggled with the texture of foods which results from this method of cooking. Red meat cooks incredibly well, but the cuts which work best are higher in fat and tend not to fit into my meal plans. That isn’t much of an issue since I tend to buy 90% lean ground beef patties and just broil them when I need them.
Chicken and yams are another story entirely. I consume both of these food items regularly, and find prepping them to be incredibly tedious. My favorite method of cooking chicken is to grill them outside, so that I get that crispy char, but the intense summer heat has discouraged me from doing this. I was tempted to use my slow cooker but I didn’t like the mealy texture that slow cooking imparted to chicken, so I decided to experiment a bit, and finally hit a winning prep method that works for me. Until the mercury drops to acceptable levels, I will use my slow cooker to cook chicken, employing an incredibly simple prep method.
Here’s what I do: I take about 8 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast and place it in the slow cooker, then I season HEAVILY with salt free seasoning and lots of black pepper, white pepper and parsley. I then add two to three coarsely chopped onions (usually a mix of red and yellow) and a few cloves of garlic. Sometimes I will also add a few stalks of chopped celery. I DO NOT ADD WATER. I used to add water and never liked the almost mealy consistency which resulted, but then I read Ashley Kaltwasser’s tip about not adding water and tried it, with great results. I allow this mixture to cook for 10 hours on low. The only issue I have with slow cooker chicken is that I need to add a LOT of seasonings to make it tasty, but then again, I like stronger flavors in my meats.
Once I had my chicken slow cooker method down I was pretty happy, but I wanted to figure out a way to make yams with the same marinade I usually use, but in the slow cooker. Typically I will marinate my yams, then throw them on a cookie sheet and bake them, but the summer heat once again got me thinking about cooking methods that didn’t require me to stand near a strong heat source. I turned to my slow cooker once again, but added only a small amount of liquid (contrary to what the manufacturer recommends), resulting in yams which had the perfect degree of softness.
Here’s my slow cooker yam recipe: I wash about ten pounds of yams, then cut them into large cubes. Then I place them in a clean plastic bag. In a bowl, I combine about 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup pomegranate vinegar, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. I mix this well, then toss into the bag with the yams and shake vigorously until the yams are completely coated. I let this sit overnight. Then the next morning, I simply place the yam mixture into the slow cooker, add 1/2 cup water. I set cooker to 10 hours and let it do its thing. I LOVE the flavor in my yams because it is highly seasoned, and the yams are soft yet not mushy.
Try these recipes and let me know if you like them!
Ever since I began competing in 2009, I have become a high maintenance traveler. It’s almost impossible to avoid becoming high maintenance when things like finding a gym and locating clean food are foremost in one’s mind. I’m not saying that it’s not possible to stay on track with workouts and food while traveling, but foraging for certain “fitness” resources becomes an essential part of prepping for a trip in a fitness person’s life.
I honestly believe that it is always possible to create intense workouts in any location by performing plyometrics, calisthenics, climbing stairs, running on the beach, etc. However, I also know that those of us who love lifting weights go through iron withdrawals when a gym is not available during travels. My first question when a trip is being booked is, “Where is the closest gym, and how is it equipped?”, rather than what sights there are to check out. No hotel room routine or outdoor workout will ever feel as good to me as weightlifting.
Road trips are the easiest since a car can be loaded up with meals and water, but I am always concerned about whether there is a refrigerator in the hotel room at my destination. Though I am resourceful and can put my food on ice, food spoilage is almost inevitable after a couple of days. Packing food when traveling by plane is much trickier since certain food items either travel poorly or are not allowed by TSA. If you need to bring a lot of food and decide to check in your food bag, be prepared for the possibility of lost luggage. My food bag was lost for 24 hours on one trip when I was traveling to a national contest, all because the airline had cancelled a flight, yet had neglected to reroute my food after they booked me on a replacement flight! I also had to spend the night in a freezing cold airport terminal during that trip, so by the time I got to my final destination, I was exhausted and frustrated. When I discovered that my food had been lost, I literally began crying. Eventually my bag was found and delivered to me, but 7 pounds of chicken and beef were on the verge of spoiling by the time the bag was back in my possession.
Traveling abroad holds even more challenges for the fitness person, since many countries don’t offer clean meal prep services. Even if a local market is located, how will food be prepped if your hotel room lacks a kitchen? I am currently facing this challenge as I prepare for a trip to Hungary. I will make sure to pack a bunch of whey protein, Quest bars and nuts to at least ensure that I meet my body’s daily protein needs. I have also looked into purchasing prepped meals and having them shipped to the hotel on the day of my arrival. Thank goodness I will be staying in a room with a kitchenette when I travel to Sydney, and can cook up a bunch of fish and chicken once I arrive there.
I know that those of you who are not involved in the fitness industry must be reading this and thinking that I am nuts, while those of you in fitness will be able to relate to what I have been saying in this article. The thing is, I don’t want my body to rebel from radically different eating habits or food choices, so I will uphold my high maintenance perspective and do everything in my power to eat clean. Most countries tend to consume whole foods and aren’t in the habit of eating copious amounts of fast foods, a fact which I am thankful for. I look forward to consuming the local produce and trying new foods while staying clean.