This article originally appeared in The UltraSimple Diet.
I know it may seem like a lot to do to stay on The Daniel Plan when you already have a busy schedule (like when the kids are getting back in school). But it’s worth it. The difference you will see and feel is well worth the time investment you make in the program.
Nonetheless, I want to make this program as easy as possible to follow even if you do work full time (or more) and juggle a thousand other responsibilities. Here’s what I recommend.
Adjust the meal plan to your schedule. If you work early or late, you can adjust the meal plan to fit your schedule. Just make sure you have three meals and two to three snacks a day. Remember you should eat every 2-3 hours.
Plan for 2 days of cooking. Cook on Sundays (or whenever you have time) and mid-week (Wednesday) and do as much as you can in advance. On these cooking days you can:
- Make extra brown rice. Make rice twice during the week. On Sunday, cook 2 cups of raw rice with 4 cups of filtered water, 1 tbsp. of olive oil and ½ tsp. of sea salt (See cooking suggestions below). Keep it in the fridge and heat up as needed. Then do the same thing again on Wednesday.
- Prepare vegetables in advance. Prepare enough for ½ the week on Sunday. You can either steam them all and keep in zip lock bags, or preferably keep them raw and steam them in the morning (this will take less then 10-15 minutes a day). Repeat this on Wednesday.
Use organic frozen vegetables if you do not have time to prepare and cook vegetables. Choose organic and choose from a wide variety available. Cascadian Farms provide good quality organic, frozen vegetables—almost as good as fresh.
Use canned beans. Rinse and prepare according the Tuscan bean recipe or eat straight out of the can with some olive oil, lemon and sea salt.
You can place the beans and steamed vegetables in a container the night before with some olive oil, lemon juice and salt, bring it to work, and heat it up,
Use wild Alaskan canned salmon as your protein source at any meal. My favorite tasting brand is Vital Choice Seafood (www.vitalchoice.com).
Shakes are quick to prepare in the morning. They take less than 10 minutes to prepare and consume!
Ask yourself if there is there something wrong with your lifestyle that doesn’t allow you to make a few simple healthy choices each week. Your body will thank you!
Cooking and Preparation Suggestions
Here are a few cooking tips to make your experience on the program even simpler and cut down on the time needed in the kitchen this week.
A little planning and preparation will go a long way to making your week effective and simple. Your meals are intended to be delicious, as well as quick and simple to prepare. Here’s what to do:
Steam or sauté your vegetables with some fresh spices.
To steam simply:
- Put 1 cup of water in the bottom of a sauce pan.
- Purchase a steaming rack, (You can get then at any grocery store for about $2) and place it over the water.
- Chop your veggies, place them in the steaming rack, cover and steam them for 4-8 minutes depending on the vegetable and your desired level of tenderness.
- Add your favorite seasonings, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and a little sea salt to taste.
You can cook almost any vegetable this way. It’s easy. It’s delicious. And it takes almost no time at all.
- Put 1 tbsp. of olive oil in the bottom of a frying pan. Turn the heat on medium high.
- Chop your veggies and drop them in.
- Sauté for 5-7 minutes for desired flavor and tenderness.
- You can also add onions, garlic, and / or mushrooms (shitake are particularly tasty) to sautéed veggies to make them more flavorful. To do this you might want to add your onions, garlic, and mushrooms first with a little salt, sauté them, and then drop in your chopped veggies.
Chicken and Fish
Fish and chicken are super simple. Just grill, broil, or sauté your fish or chicken; season with olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, ginger, or cilantro. Here’s how.
- Sprinkle some sea salt and whatever other seasoning you choose on your fish or chicken. And place them under the broiler.
- Fish will probably take around 7-10 minutes. Just watch it until the fish or chicken is tender and white throughout. Chicken will take longer. Perhaps up to 15 minutes. You will know it’s done when you press the chicken with your finger and it’s relatively firm.
- Simply season your fish or chicken and put it down on the grill. That’s it. The same cooking times above apply. Turn once half way through cooking.
- Place 1 tbsp, of olive oil in the bottom of a frying pan. Turn the heat on medium high.
- Heat up your oil first. Then place your seasoned fish or chicken in the pan.
- Turn regularly to avoid browning the fish or chicken too much on one side. This will be particularly important for chicken. Fish should be turned only once.
- Follow the instructions for time above.
- As with the instructions for sautéing vegetables, you could add onions, garlic, mushrooms, or even vegetables to this dish to change it up and make it interesting.
You can season your meat once they are done cooking with sea salt and 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil, and lemon juice if you choose. (Note you probably won’t add more extra virgin olive oil if you sauté.)
Heat up canned beans (I prefer the small white canelli or navy beans) with 1–2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil, some rosemary, and sea salt. Add sautéed, chopped vegetables to the beans. Be creative.
Follow the same guidelines for chicken or fish or simply add tofu to your steamed or sautéed vegetables.
To cook brown rice boil 4 cups of filtered water, rinse 2 cups of dried brown rice, put it in the water with 1 tbsp. of olive oil and ½ tsp. of sea salt, cover and leave covered, bring to boil, and simmer on lowest heat for 45 minutes. Do not stir. Optional: add 1 tsp. of turmeric or 2 round ¼-inch slices of ginger to the water when cooking. These are powerful anti-inflammatories.
Spice Up Your Food
Remember to add spices to your cooking. Place some slices of ginger in the cooked brown rice or add 1–2 tsp. of turmeric for delicious yellow, Indian-style rice. Add fresh rosemary, chopped fresh cilantro, or fresh crushed garlic to your vegetables.
Then serve. That’s all there is to it. No fancy recipes, no long preparation times. Just simple, real, whole, allergen-free foods.
Getting everything ready before the week starts will make your week go smoothly and help you achieve maximum results. I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of being prepared, having all your ingredients ready, and spending a little time up front preparing and cooking what you need for the week.
Let’s review these simple cooking and preparation suggestions:
- Pick simple preparation methods such as sautéing, grilling, or broiling for fish and chicken.
- Mix up the flavors of your chicken and fish by changing your cooking methods and adding in various spices from the list I gave you above. This will help you keep from getting tired of eating the same thing every day.
- Steam the vegetables, or lightly sauté in olive oil with garlic and ginger and a little bit of salt.
- Cook 2 cups of brown rice at once and keep it in a tightly-sealed container in the fridge. Heat it up just before eating.
- Pre-cut or chop a few days worth of vegetables and keep them in sealed glass containers or ziplock baggies so you can steam or sauté them when you’re ready.
- Soak nuts overnight in water to make them easier to blend, and store them in your fridge to have them ready for your UltraShake.
Taking these simple steps will keep you healthy with little time investment. We all have busy lives, but being healthy doesn’t have to be a time burden. Improve your energy and save time during the busy weeks by using these simple tips. Your body will thank you for it!