In an ideal world, you'd prepare every meal from scratch, using the most nutrient-packed foods possible. In the real world, a hectic work schedule and a commitment to training can leave you with little time and even less energy to cook. Thankfully, when you're in a time crunch, you can skip a lot of the chopping—or the urge to call for Chinese takeout—because the grocery store is chockablock with healthy, ready-to-use items. Use them to your advantage, and you can set a new PR for a healthy, satisfying postrun meal.
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Mediterranean Chicken Pizza
"Whole-wheat pizza crust packs in more fiber and vitamins than crust made with refined flour," says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., a Washington, D.C.-based sports dietitian and marathoner who adds that the extra B vitamins in whole wheat help a runner's body generate energy during workouts. Prepared chicken-breast strips have a stellar 11-to-1 protein-to-fat ratio to help build muscle. "Enjoy this pizza after a run, when you can benefit from the extra sodium found in packaged chicken to replace what you lose in sweat," says Scritchfield.
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Place a 12-inch whole-wheat pizza crust on a baking sheet and bake at 400¬∞F for 6 minutes. Remove crust and turn oven to broil. Spread 3/4 cup jarred pesto on crust and top with 1 cup packaged arugula, 8 ounces packaged cooked chicken-breast strips (such as Tyson), 2/3 cup jarred, sliced roasted red peppers, 2/3 cup jarred, sliced olives, 1/2 cup torn fresh basil, and 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese. Season with black pepper. Broil for one minute.
Try baby spinach instead of arugula.
Sub in low-fat grated mozzarella for goat cheese.
Use whole-wheat pitas for mini pizzas.
Swap chicken with canned white tuna.
Sweet and Sour Shrimp Stir-Fry
Not only is shrimp a lean source of protein, "but it also provides the mineral selenium, which may help reduce joint inflammation that runners can experience from training," says Scritchfield. And the copper in cashews helps a runner's body use iron properly to carry oxygen to working muscles, she adds. Lima beans have fiber, protein, iron, and potassium, an electrolyte necessary for proper organ and muscle functioning. Frozen Asian vegetables provide antioxidants.
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Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook 2 teaspoons jarred, minced garlic, 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, 1 package frozen Asian vegetable medley, and 1 cup frozen lima beans for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 package frozen cooked shrimp; cook 3 minutes. Add 1 cup unsalted cashews, one 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, I/3 cup of the canned pineapple juice, and 1 cup jarred sweet-and-sour sauce; heat for 2 minutes. Serve over brown rice.
Try frozen mango instead of pineapple.
Omit lima beans in favor of edamame or fava beans.
Swap out the shrimp for cooked, packaged chicken strips.