5-Day High-Energy Meal Plan
Thank you to the American Pecan Council for sponsoring this post
Consider for a minute all the reasons we choose to eat what we do. Comfort, hunger, health, cravings, weight, and budget are among the many that come to mind. But what rises to the top for me, particularly when it comes to feeding a family, is nutrient density, and choosing foods that will help you stay energized and fuller longer. Nearly any food can fill you up, but not all food will genuinely nourish and sustain you, from the first taste of breakfast to the last bite of a bedtime snack.
What Makes a Nourishing, Sustaining Meal?
We all know how it feels to fill up on empty calorie treats. It’s typically a sugar high followed by an energy dive. But what foods do the polar opposite? What can truly rev up and sustain our engines for the long haul?
Ideally, it’s a combination of high-quality carbohydrates, such as whole grains, good fats, such as pecans and olive oil, and protein, such as chicken and fish. Carbohydrates are the body’s go-to energy source, whether they’re fueling our brains at work or our kids’ bodies on the soccer field. On top of energy, good quality carbs offer essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. Good fats and protein digest more slowly than carbohydrates, so help keep us satiated. The carb/fat/protein triumvirate (embellished with plenty of vegetables and fruits) makes for an energizing, nutrient-rich plate.
A Nourishing, Sustaining Meal Plan
To illustrate the concept of a nourishing, sustaining eating pattern, I’ve collaborated with the American Pecan Council on a five-day meal plan. Pecans are the through-line here, since they’re a unique package of protein, good fats and fiber*, which helps you stay fuller for longer.
Often considered more of a dessert nut, pecans are in fact an unquestionably nutrient-dense food that works just as well in any number of savory dishes. Pick up a bag to stash in your pantry and use all week long as delicious fuel to:
- Chop and scatter over yogurt, oatmeal or cereal for breakfast
- Toast and add to hearty lunch salads and soups
- Toss into trail mix for between-meal snacks
- Incorporate into dinner recipes for an added punch of flavor
5 Nutritious, Sustaining Dinners
Below you’ll find a meal plan featuring five main dish recipes that are custom made for lasting energy. You’ll find something for everyone here: omnivores, vegetarians, meat lovers, pastavores, and “almost vegans” alike. Enjoy.
This Farro Risotto is an excellent example of high-quality food as fuel. It features whole-grain farro and gets its flavor and meaty texture from a combination of pecans and mushrooms. Doing it all in the Instant Pot makes easy work of family dinner.
Sandwich night takes a flavorful turn with these savory sandwiches. Start by slathering whole-grain bread with nutrient-rich Pecan Muhammara (a Middle Eastern spread done in a snap in the food processor). Top with meat you’ve pulled from a rotisserie chicken along with a pile of arugula and you’ve packed all your food groups into one scrumptious hand-held meal.
This turns the concept of classic Alfredo on its head. The pasta sauce derives its creaminess from a combination of pecans and cauliflower that blend into a luscious sauce that sneaks in good fats and veggies. Tossed with linguine and a light shower of Parmesan cheese makes for a nourishing meal that few will guess doesn’t have a drop of cream.
Choosing a lean cut of pork, seasoning it with salt and pepper, and grilling it on an outdoor barbecue is a simple road to a nutritious supper. All that’s left to do is stir together a peach salsa embellished with plenty of pecans to add texture, flavor, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats*. A side of grilled vegetables and a favorite grain adds up to a beautifully balanced plate.
Talk about quality carbs! Quinoa takes center stage in this recipe, adding protein and plenty of fiber (not to mention good fats thanks to pecans and extra-virgin olive oil). Fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and a squeeze of lemon mean there’s no shortage of flavor, either. This is a good one to enjoy as a main dish supper, packing leftovers for school or work lunches.
*According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving (28g) of pecans contains 18g unsaturated fat and only 2g of saturated fat.