We took a break after weeks 1 and 2 with The Balanced Gymnast Course Launch (where we welcomed 20 high level gymnasts and parents to the live 6-week course! Yay!).
In the meantime I’ve received some wonderful feedback from you all about the meal plans. Thank you. I know we can all use some kitchen inspiration from time-to-time.
Part of learning to eat healthfully is making things taste good. A little flavor goes a long way in helping things like vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains turn into delectable dishes that everyone will enjoy.
With everyone’s busy schedules, some planning each week will help solve the “what’s for dinner?” conundrum.
I make a loose meal plan each week for 2 reasons:
1) This gives us 4-5 meals that will also provide leftovers for lunches (healthier, saves money)
2) This plan allows us to grocery shop much less (instead of having to pick up something random everyday) and thus also saves money, time, energy, etc.
Here’s my plan for the week. For you and your gymnast, it’s really easy to modify the portions at the meal to fit your gymnasts needs. The gymnast will likely need the moderate to high intensity performance plate (more carbs), and a sedentary adult would be fine with the low intensity plate (on average, everyone is different). Download my 5-day meal guide if you haven’t and you’ll get the Performance Plates Guide and lots of other recipes for meals/snacks.
I don’t know about you, but even though it’s only early September, I am ready for the flavors of fall. I found a hidden can of pumpkin tucked away in my pantry, which means it’s moved 1000’s of miles with us over the past year. I’m ready for cozy weather with warm drinks, baked goods, and casseroles, soups, and stews. But, at the same time, it’s still pretty hot and we haven’t had a grill for 2 months (military travels), so I’m excited to pull out a few favorites for the week.
Sunday- Baked Teriyaki Salmon + Roasted Potatoes + #summersalad
Use this recipe from Week 1. I like to include salmon in our meals at least once a week because of the omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory, help with muscle protein synthesis) and because salmon is a really high quality protein (absorbed about 100% by the body). I do not get tired of this recipe. While I’d like to make some other seafood recipes like Shrimp Fra Diavlo, fish tacos, etc; seafood is really hard to get fresh up here in WY and if it’s at all “fishy” from being frozen or old, it’s a no-go for my family. If your family doesn’t like seafood because it’s “fishy”, try getting fresh fish that’s been flown in (Whole Foods does a great job with this or sometimes your local fish monger is available). If you like frozen fish, there is nothing wrong with it from a nutrition perspective. I just want to offer an alternative for you if you’ve previously tried to add this to the meal rotation but got push-back.
For the roasted potatoes, dice any kind of potato you have (russet, Yukon gold, use whole fingerling potatoes)—toss in a little olive oil, sprinkle with some garlic salt/pepper, and bake at 425 degrees F until tender/golden (about 20-25 minutes depending on size/oven). You can sprinkle with some parmesan if you’d like when finished, or add other herbs like basil, oregano, etc.
See week 1 and week 2 for the #summersalad recipe. Essentially you’re just combining your favorite greens (mixed greens, baby spinach, etc) and veggies (sliced cucumber, baby carrots, bell peppers) with some fruit (chopped apple, sliced strawberries, etc), some nuts (roasted pistachios, walnuts, or almonds) with a good cheese and your favorite dressing (when it’s hot I prefer something light and summery like a lemon vinaigrette).
Monday- Spinach Ravioli Alfredo Lasagna + Steamed Broccoli
I love this recipe, but I use a jar of alfredo sauce for a simple dinner (that your gymnast could help make if she’s not at the gym!). Serve with steamed broccoli or a big salad and that’s it: carbs, protein, fat, color, dairy. Done.
Pasta is often demonized by #dietculture, but you get plenty of vitamins/minerals/antioxidants from this dish + the veggies, so don’t stress that these are “white carbs”. Make *most* of your grains high fiber, whole grains, but remember that it’s ok to enjoy the “real deal” pasta instead of something filled with chickpeas or a lot of cellulose fiber.
Also, this meal heats up really well for leftovers; a great way to ensure your gymnast has a solid pre-workout or between practice meal.
Tuesday- Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Veggies and Cheese Toast
You absolutely do not have to make your own marinade if short on time, but I’ll say this is a really good one (especially as someone who doesn’t love pork chops). My go-to marinade is Daddy Hinkle’s, this was created by my moms’ endodontist years ago (I know, super random) and it’s amazing. You can lather some BBQ sauce on the pork chops when finished or just leave lightly seasoned with the marinade.
You can use any veggie combination for the grilled veggies. I like this recipe here which just uses some Italian dressing as a marinade (your choice from the store). Try a combination of squash (yellow and zucchini), cherry tomatoes, red onion, bell peppers, asparagus, etc.
My family loves “cheesy bread”. I top my favorite local bakery’s sourdough (sliced) with an assortment of cheese (I always have a million cheeses on hand, thanks to my mom growing up in Sweden/Switzerland. If I have some gouda, gruyere, or fontina, I’ll use those. Or maybe it’s just a slice of muenster or Havarti (those melt well), or even just some American cheese which is also fine. I bake at 400 degrees F until toasted and then broil the cheese a bit until golden brown and bubbly.
Wednesday- Fajita Chicken Thighs + Pinto Beans + Salad + Guacamole
This recipe can be used to top nachos, taco salads, tacos, etc!
I love this seasoning packet, but you can use fajita or taco seasoning (whatever you prefer). I just simply cut the chicken thighs into small bite-sized pieces (think Chipotle), sauteed in a non-stick pan and then when almost finished add ½ the packet + a little water (follow the instructions). I add a half of the packet to stretch it further and I don’t love overly-seasoned meat (but again, your choice). I like to use chicken thighs as they’re more tender than chicken breasts but there really isn’t a huge difference in the fat content (like 5g, about a teaspoon) so no big deal. It’s nice to mix up the protein sources instead of chicken breasts all.the.time.
Pinto beans are great high fiber carb to add to the meal. I use this recipe from Week 1 (use the Cumin Cilantro Black Bean recipe).
For the guacamole, I just mash 1-2 avocados, add ½-1 lime (juiced), and garlic salt/pepper to taste. You can get fancy with adding onions, tomatoes, etc but when in a hurry this will do. Or, even faster, buy pre-made guac from your local store.
Thursday- BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes + Veggies
This is a recipe I made in college that my friends LOVED! You can follow the recipe for more of a “cooking” experience (if you have the time/desire or want to get your gymnast in the kitchen with you) or take the “assembly” route the modifications below.
- Instead of splitting the potatoes and baking them, then having to scrape the insides out and mix with cheese (twice-baked style), you can just bake whole sweet potatoes and then add cheese on top with a drizzle of BBQ sauce
- Instead of having to boil chicken breasts and shred them + add the BBQ sauce, just grab a rotisserie chicken (or use leftovers from Monday’s dinner) which shreds more easily and has better flavor IMO. Even easier, have someone grab a pound of pulled pork or smoked chicken from the local BBQ joint
To balance the plate, add a salad, roasted/steamed veggie, etc. Nothing fancy, aim for the non-starchy veggies like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, all salad ingredients, etc.
Friday- Pizza Friday!!
Friday’s are traditionally pizza at our house as this was also a tradition at my house and my husband’s when we were growing up. This is not a “cheat meal” (I don’t believe in those), it’s a normal meal and I’ll serve it with a #SummerSalad to balance the plate.
Now, this recipe is all unconventional for pizza, but it’s one of my faves AND one that your gymnast can make herself for a quick lunch or snack.
English Muffin Pizzas
- Whole grain English muffin (I like the Thomas Multigrain, Dave’s Killer Bread, etc or you’re fine to you a sourdough or whatever you have on hand. This is an opportunity to get some fiber and more nutrition in).
- Your favorite pizza sauce
- Mozzarella cheese, shredded (there’s a 10 calorie difference between whole milk and part-skim, and the whole milk melts better).
- Other cheese-shredded sharp cheddar, parmesan, etc (whatever you have available)
- Toppings- crumbled bacon, pepperoni, spinach, diced tomatoes (cherry tomatoes cut into halves), herbs (dried basil/oregano)
Top English muffins with sauce. Add cheese + toppings. Bake in oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and muffins are toasted.
Saturday- Grilled Strip Steak with Twice-Baked Mashed Potatoes + #summersalad
Strip steak is a leaner cut than a Rib-eye, but it’s the fat that gives both their flavor. You don’t always have to make the leanest cuts of beef (London broil, extra lean ground beef, flank steak, etc). For my family, we do a red meat 1-2 a week, once being a lean ground beef usually in tacos and the other being a delicious steak. It’s all about the portions, so if the gymnast is using the Performance Plates to portion her meals I’m not going to stress about a higher fat meat like steak every so often. In the context of daily and weekly meals, the fat content isn’t something to stress about. And, the fat in a meat like steak lends to the “satisfaction” aspect of the meal that helps with appetite regulation.
As an added benefit, the heme-iron in animal proteins is better absorbed by the body as compared to non-heme plant-based iron, so this is especially important for female athletes who are at risk of iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia which will impair performance and recovery. I “prescribe” red meat twice a week for my high level gymnasts to help ensure they get adequate iron.
For the steak, I like to use Daddy Hinkle’s marinade for all cuts of beef, including hamburgers. You can use whatever your favorite seasoning is, but this one is especially tasty.
For the twice-baked mashed potatoes, I generally ad-lib this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. It’s totally fine to make the full-leaded recipe, but for everyday eating (and leftovers) especially when keeping other non-active family members in mind, I reduce some of the butter, etc which isn’t even noticed to be missing. If I’m making cookies or a baked good, I rarely “healthify” it as this detracts from the flavor and ultimately satisfaction. But for something like a casserole, etc I can often look at the recipe and determine if a little excess fat can be reduced without satisfying flavor. I don’t always do this, but two sticks of butter in the original recipe for this dish is a bit excessive for a side dish.
This is certainly a more time-intensive recipe, but can easily be made ahead or substitute with baked potatoes, etc.
Twice Baked Mashed Potato Casserole (serves ~4-6)
- 4 medium russet potatoes or 6-8 yukon gold potatoes
- 3-4 slices bacon (I microwave between paper towels for quick, less messy cooking)
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ cup sour cream (full fat or reduced fat is fine)
- ½ cup shredded white American (I get a block of this from the deli counter as it melts best)
- ½ cup sharp cheddar
- 1 cup milk (heated), 1-2%
- 2 green onions (sliced)
- ½ tsp season salt
- Garlic salt/pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean and scrub the potatoes, wrap in foil and bake for about 40 minutes or until done (can slice through, soft).
While the potatoes bake, cook the bacon and set out the butter, milk, sour cream, and shred the cheese (these should be about room temp when added to the potatoes).
Once the potatoes are finished, let cool and then peel the skins (you can leave the skin on 1-2 potatoes if your family enjoys the skin which is a good source of fiber).
Use a hand mixer or standing mixer to mash the potatoes, add in the butter/sour cream until well combined, then add in milk until at a mashed consistency you like. Stir in ¾ of the cheese, crumbled bacon, and half of the green onions.
Spray a 7×11 pan with PAM and place the mixture in the pan. Top with the remaining green onion and cheese, bake for 15 minutes covered and another 15 minutes uncovered (or until heated through—everything is cooked at this point).
Serve this meal with a #summersalad or your choice of steamed/roasted veggies like green beans, broccoli, etc.