The better weather, higher mileage (running is now our only outlet), stress of working from home, and/or energy expended from chasing kids around all day, probably means that you’re experiencing a big appetite right about now. Combine this with being cooped up at home all day, and you might find yourself wandering into the kitchen more frequently than usual.
I love pretzels and chips as much as the next runner, but filling up on “empty” foods that are low in nutritional value can lead to nutrient deficiencies and weight gain (snack foods never truly satisfy a hungry runner). And on the flip side, dieting is not the solution, either. Dieting leads to imbalanced eating, an unhealthy relationship with food, and is simply no fun. Food is not our enemy and should be celebrated and enjoyed.
Everything you eat should taste delicious so that at the end of a meal you feel completely satisfied. Taking the time to eat balanced meals three times a day and two nutrient-dense snacks helps prevent late night snack attacks (and your kids wondering what happened to their box of bunny-shaped crackers). Not to mention that filling up on nourishing whole foods prevents injuries, keeps your hormones in balance, and is essential for lifelong health and happiness.
As a busy mom, I’m speaking from personal experience. When I squeeze in an early morning run and come home to complete chaos (Lily chasing Rylan around the house because he’s taken a toy she wants, etc), it’s easy enough to skip eating a real breakfast. When my breakfast isn’t substantial, I find myself unable to focus while writing and I end up jumping up from my computer every 15 minutes to wander into the kitchen.
Hangry mom combined with homeschooling and working from home is a recipe for disaster. On mornings when I eat my one of my favorite savory breakfasts like a veggie-loaded omelet with toast and butter (don’t skimp on the buttah!) or a power bowl with rice, sautéed greens, scrambled eggs, and avocado, I feel so much better all day. When I eat satisfying meals, I’m able to get my work done faster (my focus is better) and I have more energy for my kids.
So what constitutes a balanced meal? Female runners need a significant amount of fat in their diets. Every meal and snack should include healthy fats (and of course protein) to keep you satiated. Low-fat yogurt topped with sugary cereal isn’t going to meet the needs of your hard-working body—you’ll end up with a serious chocolate craving right after breakfast (I’ll admit I love a square of dark chocolate with my morning matcha latte).
Once you start incorporating more whole-food fats (favorites listed below) into your meals—and you take the time to sit down and enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner—your snack attacks will be a little less frequent. When your meals are delicious and satisfying, you’ll be able to trust your hunger when it tells you it’s time for a snack (please pass the chips and guac!).
Make the Perfect Power Bowl
Power bowls are nourishing, satisfying, and balanced. They’re a great way to ensure you’re getting all the macronutrient boxes checked, since they’re high in complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats. They’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals, thanks to the rainbow of seasonal veggies you can include. Oh, and did I mention they’re incredibly simple and easy to use whatever you have on hand in your fridge or pantry?
To make one, just follow this simple formula: Grain + Veggie + Protein + Sauce
1. Place a scoop of cooked rice or quinoa in the bottom of your bowl.
2. Add your favorite sautéed or roasted veggies.
3. Top with a protein.Elyse’s favorites: Spicy Black Beans, Crispy Tempeh, Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken, Miso Salmon, fried egg, grilled steak.
4. Spoon the sauce generously over top. Top with fresh chopped herbs or pickled veggies, if you’re feeling fancy. Enjoy!
Elyse’s Favorite Healthy Fats
- Grass-fed cultured butter
- Coconut milk, virgin coconut oil
- Nuts, seeds, nut butter
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Pasture raised (local) eggs
- Grass-fed red meat
- Organic dark meat chicken
- Salmon and other fatty fish (canned sardines)
- Whole milk yogurt and aged cheeses
- Dark chocolate (70 percent or higher)
Elyse’s Favorite Power Bowl Sauce
Turmeric Coconut Curry Sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or virgin coconut oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute (be careful not to burn the spices).
2. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the flavors meld, about 10 minutes.
3. Use an immersion (stick) blender to blend the sauce until smooth. Alternatively, transfer the sauce to a blender and process until smooth. To save time, this sauce can also be left chunky.
4. Store sauce in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 1 week. Freeze leftover sauce in individual portions (I recommend using freezer-safe half-pint glass jars) and keep stocked in your freezer to help you pull off last-minute meals.
Elyse Kopecky is a nutrition coach, chef, and two-time New York Times best-selling author. In her new exclusive “Food Is Fuel” monthly column, the co-author of Run Fast. Eat Slow. and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. will explore everything women want to know about how to fuel—from breakfast to snacks, to recovery, and on-the-go foods. Have a topic you’d like to have Elyse talk about? Email us at email@example.com.