After a number of you wanted to know just what are the coaches always eating, I’ve decided to lay out not only what that meal consists of, but a full day of eating in the life of Coach TJ. I hope to provide some perspective on what makes up my (subjectively healthy) diet, meal prep, and give you a few tips and tricks that I use to make clean eating affordable, convenient, and most importantly, delicious.
Breakfast: Before I have my morning coffee, I fill the mug with water and force myself to get a head start on hydration. I make at least three cups of farro, an ancient grain that is the “mother of all modern wheat,” according to Chef Dan Barber, in bulk 2-3 times a week. I then saute this in a pan with olive oil and salt, crack three eggs on top, add a dash of feta cheese, scramble, and pour over a cup of raw mixed greens. The heat from the egg/farro mix gently wilts the greens, which provide nice texture contrast to the porridge-like consistency of the scramble. Plus, starting your day with raw greens will make you feel super healthy no matter what you eat for your next two meals…
Snack: I always pack an apple and a peanut butter “Rx Bar” to hold me over between breakfast and lunch.
Lunch: The other two components of my meal prep (in addition to farro) are sweet potatoes and chicken thighs. I make both of these in the oven on a sheet tray, which I line with silver foil so that there is essentially no clean-up. I combine ½ cup of farro, diced chicken thigh, olive oil, salt, half a bell pepper, three-ish tablespoons of feta, a few kalamata olives + at least a tablespoon of brining liquid, and half a sweet potato. This is lunch almost every day. When I get bored of it I swap out a vegetable or add in carrots, string beans, celery, etc, or I’ll change the type of seasoning I use on the chicken. Right now, it’s chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, but I might use a jamaican jerk seasoning or go French and do tarragon and parsley. The olives and feta are the secret weapon for me. In the past I’ve added fresh herbs, which take your salad game up to a whole new level.
Post-Workout Shake: I use this shake all the damn time! It’s one scoop of “Coconut SFH Fuel Protein” (which is by far the best protein powder I’ve ever had), a scoop of peanut butter, a banana, and half a cup of frozen fruit and six ounces of water. Importance here is the balance of the three macronutrients. Easy, peasy, delicious. So good that I’ll sometimes have one in place of typical dessert!
Dinner: Tacos! Not-so-lean ground beef, avocado, and salsa on a “Paleo wrap” flourless tortilla (I buy at Whole Foods). The only “cooking” I do for this is to prepare the ground beef with taco seasoning. This takes about 20 minutes and leaves me with leftovers. I’ll sub out the chicken thighs for ground beef and keep the rest of my lunch pretty much the same. I might have half a sweet potato with dinner as well.
Meal prep doesn’t have to be a day-long process that results in 21 lined up tupperwares of perfectly measured meals. Over the past 8 years of doing CrossFit and eating for performance I’ve tried a number of diets and strategies, including zone, paleo, and intermittent fasting. What I’ve realized is that any way that one can sub a take-out meal for a home-cooked one counts as “meal prep,” and is a major win in the grand scheme of things. After a few years of experimentation, I now take about an hour, twice a week to make sweet potatoes, a grain, and chicken thighs. I use these as a base for building the rest of my meals. In the case of lunch, I’ll dice raw vegetables and set everything up the night before–breakfast and dinner I like to make a la minute.
My overall message and advice to anyone looking to clean up their eating is to take an incrementalist approach. That is, any improvement is a plus. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the fads and literature out there. When in doubt, take esteemed food writer Michael Pollan’s advice to “eat real food, mostly plants, not too much,” or keep it in the CrossFit fam with Coach Glassman’s “eat lean meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar.”
Ok, maybe a little sugar every now and then 😉