Quick & Easy Food Options | Will Take Less Than 5 Minutes

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If you feel you have too little time to dedicate towards preparing your food, this list is for you. It’s not an exhaustive list but should be an easy starting point for people new to creating more structure in their diet. You don’t necessarily need to weigh everything you eat but you must adjust your goals and expectations when you have a more relaxed approach. If you’re working with a professional you must also realize they can’t provide you with a lot of insight without the data coming back from a full, honest, and complete food journal (MyFitnessPal).

Most options below require 0-5 minutes of preparation time (most are on the low end of that scale). Many of the options will not even require refrigeration so they could be stored in a work desk, car, etc.

Many people coming to me over the years simply need to eat out less and they’d be in a much better position for fat loss, muscle gains, and increased performance. The “I don’t have time” excuse really doesn’t work because you have created time to get dressed for a restaurant, drive there, look over the menu, wait for your food to be cooked, sit down and eat, have your table cleaned, your bill brought out, your credit card ran, your receipt brought back, and your travel back home. When you prepare your own food or have easy food options in place it negates the “I don’t have time” excuse resulting in more free time for yourself.


PROTEIN – Quick & Easy Options

Protein I would suggest eating a good helping every 3-5 hours. Below foods are not in any order of importance, just a simple list.

Already Peeled Hard Boiled Eggs – If you take the yoke out then you have egg whites in two seconds! Eggs are going to have the highest protein absorption rate of any food. Most people will probably need 4-10 egg whites per meal.
100% Liquid Egg White Cartons – This may take about 5 minutes to make but egg whites in a milk carton. Can be scrambled or poached, super quick and super easy.
Rotisserie Chicken – REMOVE THE SKIN, and it becomes a protein only option. These are super quick and cheap, about $4-$5 gets you over a lb of chicken. Peel it apart and put it in tubberware for easiest access. Can be eaten cold or microwaved.
Harris Teeter Hot Deli Items – Not sure what to call this but at HT where they keep the rotisserie chicken hot they usually have pork loins and other non-breaded freshly cooked meat options. It will probably vary depending on your HT but these would also be good options and provide variety from Rotisserie Chicken
Protein Powders – One scoop of most protein powders gives you about 18-25 grams of protein. Shakes with water or almond milk can be made at any time of day and refrigerated for later consumption. Powders are dry and can be stored anywhere! You can use to explore protein powder ratings but for the most part they’re all more or less the same, just find a flavor you like the taste of. Whey for fast digesting protein (intra or post workout) and Casein for slow digesting protein (before bed or during long periods without food).
Protein Bars – Do not require refrigeration. Quest Bars probably have the best macronutrient ratio geared towards working out. If you can get 18-25 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, and 15-30 grams of carbs from a protein bar that’s probably going to be a pretty good bar. Once again, taste is big on adherence so find a bar or flavor you like. I would avoid bars with 15-20+ grams of sugar.
Meat in a CROCKPOT – Most all my chicken and beef is made in a crockpot, so easy. I cook in bulk so it will last me 3-5 days. I also don’t like cleaning things up so I get crockpot liners from I would suggest getting some type of Strainer to drain the fat from your meat after cooking.

CARBS – Quick & Easy Options

For performance I would suggest eating the largest portion of your carbs immediately before, during, and (not “or”) after workouts. Carbs are what provide you with energy. They do not make you gain fat. Overeating and being in a caloric surplus is what makes individuals gain fat.

ANY FRUIT – You don’t need a refrigerator, in most cases you don’t need utensils. Fruits are rich in nutrients, high in fiber, and one of the best sources for energy you can find. The entire world of fruits provides an incredibly large spectrum of options as well. If you say you get bored then you probably haven’t tried to branch out. There are over 2500 varieties of apples alone in the United States, just apples! I’m sure everyone can find one at least one they can handle.
100% Whole Wheat Bread – No refrigeration required! Can make a sandwich, be eaten by itself, used as a snack. You now have bagels, normal sandwich bread, sandwich thins, pitas, wraps, English muffins, hamburger buns, etc. Comes in all shapes and sizes as variety is abundant.
Rice and 100% Whole Wheat Pasta – Both of these can be boiled in water for 10 minutes. The directions on the box are literally three steps. Very simply and can be done while watching tv, changing out clothes, doing laundry, etc. Doesn’t require a lot of attention. If you’re really stressed for time then they now make rice cups/packs that you can throw in the microwave for 1-5 minutes.
Microwave Rice – See above
Rice Cakes – Usually provide about 8 grams of carbs for the original flavor. Not sure on the variety packs, I can’t imagine they’d be excessively more. Just to keep you full. You can eat straight out of the packaging. Add a little bit of sugar free jelly, laughing cow, or a measured portion of peanut butter for added flavor.
Oatmeal – Another thing you can portion out and throw in the microwave for less than a minute. Add some artificial sweetener packets (splenda, sweet and low, equal, stevia, etc) and cinnamon if you don’t like the original taste. This too they now offer instant oats which are even quicker and probably come in snack pack size for children lunches.


FATS – Quick and Easy Options

First thing: fats yield more calories than carbs and protein so you simply can’t eat as large a quantity without easily miscalculating calories consumed. 1g of fat yields 9 calories while 1g of protein/carbs only yields 4 calories. When eating out at restaurants you’re usually getting a very large intake of fat from condiments, butter, oil, etc. If you eyeball peanut butter or olive oil, don’t do that. If you’re attempting to lose weight then measure it out because the calories can jump up very quickly.

Any Nut Butter – Peanut butter is obviously the most popular. I would make sure the sugar content isn’t too high 10-15+g of sugar. If you search for “Natural” brands then it likely won’t have much added sugar. I use Skippy brand. Just be sure to measure it out, either 2 tbps or 30g of scale weight is typically a single serving of nut butter.
Olive Oil – Could be used as a salad dressing without added sugars and sodium. Could also be used to marinate meats, add flavor to rice or veggies. Just measure it out. 1 serving of Olive Oil which is about a tablespoon is going to yield about 130 calories. It will add up very quickly if you use it freely.
Avocado – I don’t eat these so I don’t know the shelf life but don’t require any prep.
Any Nuts – Almonds, pistachios, peanuts, cashews, etc. Pick what you want as they’re all very similar. They can be high in sodium so you may opt for reduced or no sodium options. A small handful of nuts is about 1 serving or 15g worth of fat (120-150 calories). So you can’t just snack out of the jar on these neither.

FREE FOODS (and GREENS) – Quick and Easy Options

If you learn how to read nutrition labels then you can find these all over the place. Free foods I consider to be 10-50 calories or less. When you’re hungry, in a fat loss diet and reaching for a snack these could be options. Many times “Sugar Free” options tend to be extremely low in calories.

GREENS – Just about any greens are going to yield next to zero calories. Think salad, broccoli, cucumbers, celery, etc. If you start putting dressing, bacon, and cheese all over your salad than obviously that changes things. Cucumbers with some popcorn seasoning are a easy near calorie free snack.
Sugar Free Jello – The kids snack packs yield 10 calories.
Sugar Free Pudding – About 60 calories. Probably don’t want to pick this many times but can be an option here and there.
Babybel LIGHT Cheese Circles – 43 calories

FREE CONDIMENTS – Quick and Easy Options

Aside from eating out at restaurants I believe condiments like Ketchup, Syrup and BBQ sauce may be a major culprit in weight gain issues. There are usually sugar free options available for these items and sugar free usually means very very low calories. If you’re trying to lose weight you want less calories while still being able to consume foods you like.

Hot sauce – Check the label but most are zero calories
Mustard – Check the label but most are zero calories
Reduced Sugar Ketchup – 5 calories per tablespoon. I use it and it tastes just like the real thing
Sugar Free Dressings – I’ve only used two brands “Maple Grove Farms of Vermont” and “Skinny Lady”. You would have to double check nutrition labels but these are extremely low cal options. I like Maple Groves better, I only eat Balsamic Vinaigrette
Fat Free Dressings – If you like blue cheese or ranch. Replace with fat free version if you’re trying to drop weight. If you try to quit consuming it all together you probably won’t adhere to it, this allows you to still get the taste with a fraction of the calories. Wish Bones Fat Free Chunky Blue Cheese only yields 15 calories per tablespoon.
G Hughes Sugar Free BBQ Sauce – This is the only brand I eat, has 10 calories per serving. Tastes as good as any other BBQ sauce I’ve had.
Sugar Free Syrup Options – At the gym I have a Aunt Jemina brand syrup filled with sugar and 210 calories. I have an alternative from the Log Cabin brand that yields just 20 calories. Seems like a no brainer.
Kernel Seasons Popcorn Seasoning – One serving yields about 2 calories. You can use however much you want, it’s a powder. I put it on my greens, chicken, beef, everything. I typically use Ranch but like White Cheddar as well. They probably have 8-10 flavors and do not require refrigeration. It’s dry and can be stored anywhere, it adds a lot of flavor. Can be found in most all grocery stores in the popcorn section.

FREE NON-ALCOHOL DRINKS – Quick and Easy Options

Coke zero has 0 calories and normal 20oz Coke has 240 calories. It’s obvious which option makes people gain weight. I won’t make a list here but if you look at the nutrition label and it says 0 calories then your drink is fine for weight loss. If you’re concerned a sugar free drink will make you crave sugar, what would the sugar filled drink do? A commercial for a bloomin onion makes me want to go to Outback and get one but I don’t. Part of being on a restricted calorie reduced diet is being hungry here and there plus experiencing cravings. Those that cave aren’t going to be successful those that adhere will be.

FREE ALCOHOL DRINKS – Quick and Easy Options

Sorry, they don’t exist. These are empty calories, they don’t yield muscle growth, they don’t create energy, they don’t aid in recovery, and they don’t satiate (make you feel full) you. There is no benefit to drinking alcohol while on a diet and exercising other than if it makes you feel happy? Or maybe you like the taste. I like the taste of a bloomin onion with mounds of sauce but I don’t eat that while dieting for fat loss. It’s a tradeoff. People that don’t drink will likely yield better results than people that do. Drinking is fine, but understand the tradeoffs and adjust goals accordingly.


About the Author:

Taylor Carpenter is a nationally Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Taylor was featured as a fitness expert in the first publication of NASM's "The Fitness Edge".
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