First published at www.johnberardi.com, Jun 5 2003.
If you’re like me, once you grasped the intricacies of John Berardi’s dietary combinations outlined in his Massive Eating and Don’t Diet programs, you began to suffer the cruel fate of food monotony. The taste and creativity of a meal quickly takes a position on the backburner when six meals a day must be planned with precise macronutrients ratios, within an ever-evolving daily caloric goal. When I began, I found myself grabbing two cans of tuna and a pile of brown rice, and calling it a meal. That gets old quick, and soon my friends were embarrassed to eat with me in public. So for the sake of my taste buds and for the sake of not being forced to live the life of a hermit, I slowly experimented until creating a number of recipes that could actually be considered proper meals. These are meals that you could make for a date. Said date might even be impressed for reasons beyond the fact that she is not eating large amounts of fat and carbs together.
So put down that days-old rubbery chicken breast and shot glass of flax oil. It’s time to turn those P+C, P+F meal combinations into something more than macronutrient ratios.
Protein + Carb Meals
A lot of these recipes are influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine because I’ve had a lot of friends from this area of the world that shared their cooking tips with me. Don’t worry, they’re all easy to make, and remember, exotic is good.
It turns out that some of the dry falafel mixes out there are very healthy, as long as you don't deep-fry the stuff. Look for a mix with whole-wheat flour and lots of fiber.
- 1.5 servings of falafel mix (about 0.65 cups dry)
- 1/2 whole wheat pita
- 4 oz grilled chicken breast
- 1/2 medium cucumber, chopped
- 1 small tomato, chopped
- 1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
- Soak the falafel mix in water as directed on the box, and form a few 1” balls from the dough. Fry in a non-stick pan without oil, using a bit of Pam cooking spray if needed. I usually flatten the falafel balls a little in the pan and flip them repeatedly. It also helps to lower the heat and put a lid on the pan to cook them thoroughly.
- Cut the chicken in cubes, adding some salt and pepper when grilling or reheating.
- Chop the cucumber and tomato in small pieces and mix together with the yogurt, adding a dash of salt, and some fresh parsley if you have any.
- Open the half pita, throw-in the cooked falafel and chicken, and put a layer of the yogurt sauce over it, saving the remainder for dipping.
- K/cal.: 614
- Fat: 9 g (2s, 4m, 2p)
- Carbs: 79 g (17 fiber)
- Protein: 69 g
Here is a recipe that I adapted from a meal that a college roommate from Bombay taught me to make. He was a strict vegetarian, and he’d always give me a look of resigned disapproval when I slipped some bird onto my plate with a sheepish grin.
- 1 cup cooked (boiled & drained) yellow split peas (you can substitute canned green peas if you’re desperate)
- 6 oz grilled chicken breast, cubed
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
- 1/2 whole-wheat tortilla
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 inch cube fresh ginger root, finely chopped
- Masala spice powder, 1-2 tablespoons
- Salt, to taste
- Stir fry the onions, garlic, and ginger in a nonstick skillet with Pam over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onions start to brown. Add chopped tomatoes and about 1/2-1 cup of water to mixture (or chicken stock), add masala powder and salt to taste
- Bring to a boil; add the chicken, then stir-in the yogurt 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Eat with a heated wheat tortilla, which tastes a lot like naan when you heat it over the flame of a gas stove.
- K/cal: 670
- Fat: 9 g (3 s, 3 m, 3 p)
- Carbs: 70 gFiber: 20 g
- Protein: 80 g
Baked Yam with Turkey Meatball Marinara
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this recipe was created when I, as a broke college student, spent all of my money on 6 pounds of ground turkey breast during a sale, only to find out that it tastes like an old tire when grilled like a normal burger. But mix it with a few other ingredients and it’s magic.
- 1 lb. ground turkey breast (97-98% lean)
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 2 medium yellow or white onions
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 large green pepper
- 1 large egg white
- 2 medium yams
- spices (below)
- Poke some holes in the yams with a fork, wrap them in foil, and bake for an hour at 400 degrees. While they’re baking, make the marinara sauce: chop the tomatoes and place them in a pan over medium-low heat. Mix in 4 cloves chopped garlic & 1 chopped onion, and sliced green pepper. Stew with a lid after stirring-in a dash of salt, some oregano & basil. Keep stirring the stuff as you cook the meatballs.
- To make the meatballs, mix these together in a large bowl: ground turkey, 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1 chopped onion, raw egg white, and a dash of salt and pepper (the raw egg white holds them together when they cook). Form into 2-inch meatballs and place on a cookie sheet, throw these in the oven with the yam for 15-20 minutes (also @ 400 degrees). They're done when you can poke them with a toothpick and the juice that comes out is clear, rather than cloudy.
- Cut the baked yams down the center and mash the interior with a fork. Stuff them with the meatballs, then pour the marinara sauce over them (it will thicken when it cools a bit), and then top with grated nonfat Parmesan cheese. Makes 2 servings.
Macronutrient Profile (each serving):
- K/cal: 595
- Fat: 6 g (2s, 1.5m, 2.5p)
- Carbs: 79 g (13 g fiber)
- Protein: 57 g
Bust-out the fez, it’s time for a little taste of Marrakesh.
- 12 oz. grilled chicken breast, cubed
- 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous, dry
- 1 cup chicken broth, from bouillon
- Sun-dried tomatoes, about 20 pieces, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 can green peas, drained
- 4 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
- Spices, below
Fry the garlic and onions in a nonstick pan (large enough to hold all the ingredients listed above) with cooking spray for a couple of minutes until they start to brown, then add the chopped tomatoes. Stir until they become fluid, and then add the broth. Bring to a boil and add the following spices: 1 bay leaf (whole), 4 whole cardamon pods, dash of cinnamon, dash of tumeric, dash of chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground coriander. Slowly stir-in the yogurt, one tablespoon at a time. Add the chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and peas. Then stir-in the dry couscous, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, cover it again and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
Makes 2 servings.
Macronutrient Profile (each serving):
- K/cal: 670
- Fat: 9 g (3 s, 3m, 3p)
- Carbs: 73 g (12 fiber)
- Protein: 73 g
A Note About Spices:
It’s amazing how picking-up a few spices, other than salt and pepper, can really make a huge difference in everyday cooking. A dash here, a pinch there, and suddenly you’ve got some gourmet muscle food. Make a trip to the spice section of a larger specialty market (whole foods, central market, etc.), or better yet, a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food market. Pick up these spices (they'll be useful for spicing up all kinds of food):
(Fill a little baggie with each):
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground tumeric
- Ground celery seed
- Whole green cardamon pods
- Whole bay leaves
- Ground cumin
- Whole black mustard seeds
- Ground red chili pepper
- Ground coriander
These spices are super-cheap, and they make your food taste great. Plus, they are full of anti-oxidants.
Also, pick-up some whole garlic and ginger root. You can store the ginger root in the freezer indefinitely.
Desserts, Snacks and On-The-Go Meals
While sit-down meals are great, a lot of us find ourselves in work settings where grabbing a pre-made bar might be the most convenient option. The following recipes are portable and quick.
Protein + Carb Snacks
These bars provide a nice snack, and they’re good for that second post-workout meal after your shake.
- 2 cups raw oat bran
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup egg whites
- 1 cup nonfat milk
- 2 cups chocolate whey protein powder
- ½ cup granulated Splenda
- 5-6 scoops maltodextrin (180 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons oil (canola or olive)
Mix it all together in a big bowl, then spread it out on a large nonstick cooking tray. Add some cooking spray, or wipe a little olive oil on the pan with a paper towel. Bake for 25-30 minutes @ 350 degrees.
Cut into 10 pieces.
Macronutrient Profile (each bar):
- K/cal: 344
- Fat: 5 g (1s, 2.5m, 1.5p)
- Carbs: 54 g (Fiber: 7 g)
- Protein: 28 g
Here's a tasty little treat that is also well suited for that second jolt of fast-acting carbs and protein after your PWO shake. Or you can split it up for a couple of desserts following P+C meals. It’s a great choice to follow the Dal Masala recipe listed above.
- 1 cup cooked basmati rice. The quality, fragrance, and taste of basmati are far superior to any other rice I've ever had. Sure the GI is higher than brown rice, but in this case the taste just doesn’t compare. That’s why I like to eat it as one of the post workout meals. Prepare the basmati rice in bulk by adding a cup of rinsed rice to 1.75 cups boiling water, cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
- 2 cups skim milk
- 2 scoops vanilla protein powder (try to find a brand that doesn’t taste like powdered chicken feet, and depending on the brand, you might add some Splenda to get the desired sweetness).
- 2 tablespoons sugar-free instant Jell-O vanilla pudding
On medium-low heat, simmer the cooked rice in milk for 20 minutes or so, until rice bulks-up, cover and cool for a few minutes, then add the protein powder (and Splenda if necessary), and a dash of salt, stir, cover and put in fridge until it cools. Add Jell-O mix to cooled mixture, whip, and you're all set.
- K/cal: 478
- Fat: 4 g (2s, 1m, 1p)
- Carbs: 63g (2 fiber)
- Protein: 47 g
Blueberry Bran Muffins
These little treats are made from low-GI carbs, so you don’t have to worry about eating one or two after a P+C meal. They also have a bit of flax meal to add moisture, and just a couple of polyunsats. I’ve been eating these for a while and loving them, so recently I gave them the final test by taking a batch to a dinner party, complete with professors and their wives. Success! They were reduced to crumbs, followed with compliments about their taste, rather than their ingredients.
- 1 cup oat bran
- ½ cup flax meal
- 4 scoops protein powder, flavor of your choice (I like chocolate with this recipe).
- 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup granulated Splenda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 jumbo egg whites
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- 2/3 cup water
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the egg whites, extract, and water. Stir until mixed well. Scoop into a muffin pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes.
Makes 6 large muffins.
Macronutrient Profile (each muffin):
- K/cal: 176
- Fat: 4 g (1s, 1m, 2p)
- Carbs: 20g (4 fiber)
- Protein: 21 g
Yes, you read this correctly…blueberry cheesecake! Just be careful with these things, as it is nearly impossible to put the cheesecake down after you’ve taken one bite. From my experience, and the stories of my friends who have made them, it’s almost impossible to keep an entire cheesecake around for longer than one day.
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup ground flax seeds
- ¼ cup raw oat bran
- 1 oz fat-free cream cheese, warmed in microwave
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 cups lowfat cottage cheese
- ½ package (52 g) powdered Jell-O instant pudding, cheesecake flavor
- 3 oz. fat-free cream cheese
- 3 scoops strawberry whey protein powder*
- 1 cup frozen blueberries and 4 tablespoons granulated Splenda (*see option 2 below before adding these at this stage)
To make the crust, mix crust ingredients in a large bowl. Stir this mixture until it is all the same consistency, then press into a 9-inch pie pan sprayed with Pam, stretching the crust up the sides of the pan.For the rest of the cake, put the other ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. You might have to blend it in smaller portions, depending on the power of your blender, but resist the temptation to add water, as this makes the cake soupy. Also, more Jell-O mix can be added for more desirable consistency. Pour the blender mixture into the crusted pan, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
*Blueberry option 2: to make a ‘fancier’ cheesecake, thaw the blueberries, then stir the Splenda in with them, and use this as a topping for the cheesecake.
Makes 6 slices.
Macronutrient Profile (each slice):
- 258 k/cal
- Fat: 5 g (2s, 1m, 2p)
- Carbs: 30 g (2 fiber)
- Protein: 25 g
A few notes about some of the dessert ingredients:
Flax meal is simply ground flax seeds. Flax seeds are cheap as sin in bulk, and you can grind them at home with a hand-held coffee grinder. I usually grind them just before their used. If you want to make the meal in bulk, just be sure to store it in an airtight container in the fridge to preserve its freshness.
Splenda is used as a low-calorie sweetener in many of these recipes, as I prefer its taste to other artificial sweeteners, but others can be used according to your preference. Splenda is not entirely carb-free, since they use a bit of maltodextrin to give it texture. There are 24 carbs in 1 cup of granulated Splenda. This was calculated into the nutritional information for the relevant recipes.
So there you have it. These meals should give you enough variety to avoid the tuna can doldrums. Bon appetit!
John Williams is an archaeologist by training but his free time is occupied with eating well, training hard, and learning more about fitness and nutrition. John can be contacted at [email protected].