It is hard to eat well when you are a medstudent, resident or busy doc (also true for busy people not in medicine The key to eating well if you are busy is planning.. but it takes time. As I’ve written before, here are the basic steps that you need to follow to eat well if you are “too busy to cook”.
- Use a calendar to organize which days you need to have dinner ready
- Find the recipes you want to cook
- Fill in the calendar with what you will take to work for lunch and your planned dinners.
- Make a shopping list.
- Shop once, then follow your plan
To follow these steps, I’ve used the internet to find recipes, Evernote to map out the week, and Grocery IQ for the shopping list. I’ve gotten pretty efficient, but it’s still takes a non-trivial amount of time… and who has that kind of time, right?
And then I read Jane Friedman’s post “My Must-Have Digital Media Tools: 2018 Edition” and I saw this…
Here’s the bottom line… this app is “expensive” ($25). But I promise, even if you are medical student without much money, it will be the best $25 you’ll spend this year.
Here’s why – this app takes the five steps listed above and puts them all into one place. It not only makes it easy to choose recipes, plan your week and shop, it almost makes it fun. Here’s how:
Use a calendar to organize which days you need to have dinner ready.
Start on the “meals” tab and put notes in for your week. If you share cooking with a significant other or roommates, you can share the account with them so everyone is (literally) on the same page.
Click on the browser tab to find new recipes. As you gather recipes in the app, it becomes your own personal “cookbook” which is searchable by category, name, or ingredients.
This was the first moment I knew I was really hooked. All you do is drag and drop the recipes you want into the appropriate day. Wow.
This is when I was completely sold. When you pull up the recipes you’ve chosen, there is a little “hat” icon at the top:
Because this app is on your computer and your phone, just take your phone with you to the grocery store. As you pick up the item, click the box next to it and move on to the next item. If you are sharing the app with your significant other or roommates, anyone can add to the grocery list or unclick things they have bought.
Here’s the official website for Paprika: https://www.paprikaapp.com/. Enjoy your healthy eating!!!! Try this plan (instead of the bagels, pizza, peanut butter and other “free” foods in the hospital) for a week or two. I promise you’ll feel better, learn better and have more energy to take good care of your patients.
This morning I was lecturing to the first year medical, PA and DNP students. At the end of my embryology lecture I included some advice on how to eat well as a busy student. I talked to them about how to set a good example for their future patients, how to increase vegetables in their diet by making Mirepoix every weekend, shopping at the farmer’s market, and how to plan for the week. I also talked about why it’s important to eat breakfast. I told them about one of my favorite fast breakfasts, but forgot the second one!
MLB BREAKFAST TACOS
Here are the ingredients:
This is SO easy and really delicious. Put ~1/3 cup rolled oats in a bowl and add twice as much (~2/3 cup) liquid. (You may need more of both depending on your caloric needs)
My favorite liquid is kefir (liquid yogurt), but it can be milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Eat it in the morning. That’s it!
You can add any variety of fruit, nut or nut butter the evening before or in the morning. My current favorite is blueberries and slivered almonds added in the morning.
It’s not often I share a single recipe, but this one is so delicious, so healthy and so easy that it warrants a separate post.
Although the recipe as written has spinach filling, you can use other fillings. Just to give you a few ideas…
- Sausage (regular or vegetarian), bottled red peppers, cheddar cheese
- Canned artichoke hearts with parmesan cheese
- Ham with Swiss cheese
- Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil
- Any leftover veggies and/or meat in your refrigerator
This “quiche” makes a great dinner, but can also be put in your bag for breakfast or lunch for a busy day or call night. Quiche freezes well, so you can make several, freeze them and have breakfast/lunch/dinner for days!
It’s hard for those that haven’t been there to understand how medical school, residency and/or long hours in the hospital changes what and how we eat. There isn’t time to sit down to eat, there aren’t good choices and often, the only thing to eat is the “free” food at conferences. But…. Free food isn’t free. There’s a reason it’s cheap (poor ingredients) and that it “tastes good” (lots of fat, sugar and salt)… but it makes us feel terrible after we eat it. (Beware the middle of the night french fries!) More importantly, we aren’t providing the nutrients we need to take care of other people and ourselves. So, what’s the answer?
Spend the money and the time to invest in your health! Grabbing donuts or bagels in the surgeons’ lounge in the morning, pizza at noon-day conference and a hamburger at MacDonald’s in the middle of the night is terrible. (You know it’s true).
So what’s the alternative? Here’s a five-step, easy plan that will let you eat better, feel better and avoid gaining weight in medical school and residency. This is predicated on cooking your own food but you can use this plan if you don’t cook by buying prepackaged foods. But really…. If you can learn how to take out a gallbladder or care for ill patients in the ICU don’t you think you can learn how to sauté a few vegetables???
- Make a plan
- Make a shopping list
- Shop once for the week and (when you can) prep ahead
- Use your day(s) off to cook things that might take a bit more time and freeze some for other days
- Keep a few “instant” healthy meals in your pantry
Make a plan
Map out your week’s meals and snacks using the “pizza rule” (nothing you cook should take longer to cook than it takes to order a pizza). Pay special attention to call days. It’s important to have really delicious food which can be grabbed in a minute when you are on call. I use Evernote to make my list for the week so I can share it with my family:
If you like to cook, you probably already know where to find recipes you’ll like. If you don’t cook regularly, I post recipes on @drmlb with #CallFood that meet the “pizza rule” and would be delicious on call. Here are few other sites I use regularly: Eating Well, Cooking LIght, My Recipes, Food Network, Kayln’s Kitchen, Skinny Taste. If you use Evernote to organize your list, it gives you one other advantage – you can download their add-on and clip recipes from the internet directly to Evernote. Each “note” (i.e. recipe) in Evernote can then be shared with whoever you cook with (i.e. whoever gets home first can start dinner!). It also lets you search all your notes so you can easily find your recipes in the future.
Make a shopping list
I use Grocery IQ for my shopping list. This app lets you organize your grocery list by the aisles in your favorite stores to make shopping faster. It also allows you to share the list with your significant other which means that whoever is able to get to the store first has the updated shopping list! I don’t really use the “coupon” feature or the barcode scanner, but if you choose to use these functions, please use the FoodEducate app with it to make sure your choices are healthy!
Shop once and (when you can) prep ahead
Planning lets you spend less time in the grocery store and absolutely means less food wasted. When you get home from the store think about the meals you are going to cook later in the week. If your carrot soup on Tuesday calls for sliced carrots, diced fennel and chopped onions, chop them when you get back from the store on Sunday and put your “mise en place” in baggies or containers in the refrigerator. Cooking is not that time consuming…. but prepping is!
One other good trick is to make “mirepoix” on the weekend for the week. Diced onions, carrots, celery, bell peppers, etc can be prepped and put in a bag. It can be an instant stir-fry on nights when you need something fast. You can also put a handful in soups, omelettes, or wraps to get extra vegetables in your day. Mix it with leftover rice or other grains to make an instant salad (you can add tuna, if you want, too).
Use your day(s) off to cook things that might take a bit more time and freeze some for other days.
You need good “comfort food” when you are working hard, but it can be both comforting and healthy. For example, this recipe for spaghetti squash lasagna. The preparation for this recipe isn’t that hard (you can steam the spaghetti squash in the microwave instead of roasting it in the oven, for example) but it’s a little too long for nights when you get home late and are really tired.
Learning to use a pressure cooker (my favorite) or a slow cooker like a crock pot is a great way to cook up a batch of something when you are home and doing other things without spending a large amount of time in the kitchen
No matter what you make or how you make it, make enough to freeze individual portions and then store them so they will stay fresh. Don’t forget to mark the containers with a Sharpie and eat them within 3-4 months!
Keep a few “instant” healthy meals in your pantry
Despite my best efforts to plan, there are weeks when I’ve miscalculated amounts, don’t have enough time or just don’t want to eat what I had planned. When that happens, it’s great to have a go-to “instant” meal, which usually comes out of the freezer and pantry. Here are some to get your list started!
Moroccan Lentil Stew – (particulary good with harissa and served over couscous)
I’m always looking for websites with great recipes that meet the “pizza rule” for medical students, residents and busy docs. (Food that takes take less time to prepare than it does to order a pizza).
Naturally Ella is a website by Erin, who “grew up on fast food” but, along with her family, made significant changes when her father had a heart attack at age 45. Her blog has healthy vegetarian recipes that are easy to prepare and make great #callfood*. Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, these recipes will convince you to join the Meatless Monday movement!
*Search for #callfood on Twitter for other “pizza rule” recipes that are great to take to the hospital for call!
The senior class ends their formal education at Baylor with a capstone course called “APEX”. In addition to reviewing critical medical information, communication skills and other important aspects of becoming an intern, there are also wonderful lectures from faculty on “how to be an intern”.
One of the APEX speakers this year was Dr. Sally Raty, who stressed how important it was to take time to care for yourself.. but that you had to look for efficient ways to do it! She promised to share recipes that are easy and take very little time to cook. I’ll share the rest of the recipes on future posts… but here is the first one (which she adapted from this recipe).
These bars have a ton of ingredients, but they are easy to find, and this bar is way better for you than those processed, chemical blobs you’re spending $2+ on. I keep all of the dry ingredients for these bars in a basket in my pantry. I just pull the basket out and make the bars. The crumbs are amazing on vanilla ice cream….not that I would ever do that, but I’ve heard it is good.
3 cups raw oats (nothing fancy. Quaker 3 minute (not instant) oats are fine)
1/2 cup whole sesame seeds, or shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened is best, but sweetened is easier to find)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
1 cup peanut or almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, liquefied if solid (or just use canola oil)
1/2 cup chopped chocolate chips (> or = 70% cacao is best)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans)
1/2 cup chopped dates, raisins, figs or other dried fruit–optional (I don’t typically add these)
1 cup vanilla or chocolate whey protein powder– Garden of Life Raw Protein is a good one and is available at Whole Foods Market
½ cup egg whites (or add a 3rd egg)
Heat oven to 350F. Spray an 11 X 7 inch glass baking dish with nonstick stuff. Throw everything in a big bowl. Mix well with your hands. Place in the baking dish, press into the pan to eliminate bubbles and try to get it level. Cook for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely to room temp. Refrigerate for a few hours before cutting into bars. Cut into about 48 bars. Refrigerate the cut bars.
It’s been a while since I posted about cooking and the pizza rule”. If you are trying to eat well as a medical student or resident, the key to success is planning, finding simple healthy recipes, and cooking for yourself.
101 Cookbooks has recipes that are healthy and many that are fast… but a few minutes on this beautiful blog will also feel like a “mini-vacation”. Heidi Swanson’s beautiful writing about food and travel, her award winning images plus the wonderful recipes make this time well spent.
It’s not easy to eat well as a medical student, resident or busy physician. Besides setting a good example, eating well is important to feel well when working hard. .. not to mention it really pays off in the long run. You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to eat well at work but you do have to cook (some) and plan (always).
One of my favorite sites to find healthy, easy, delicious recipes is cookinglight.com. They have sections like Superfast Stir-Fries and Sautés and Quick and Healthy Recipes which are fantastic for busy clinicians. If you aren’t a cook, they also have a section called Cooking 101 where you can learn basic techniques. Before you say you “can’t cook” remember – If you can learn anatomy, you can learn to cook!
To all who learn and teach, and to all who are working during this holiday season in hospitals for the benefit of the ill and injured – blessings of the season.
Brandt Family Cranberry Bread (Traditional Christmas morning breakfast bread)
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
Combine in a Pyrex measuring cup:
- 2 Tblsp melted butter
- Juice and grated rind of one large orange
Fill with boiling water to make 3/4 cup then add to dry ingredients. Then add the following to the batter
- 1 egg
- 1 cup nuts (chopped walnuts)
- 1 cup raw cranberries (cut in half)
Bake in loaf pan (325° for metal pan, 300° for glass pan) for 1 hour
- Test with toothpick
If you are particularly motivated to bake and give some away to neighbors and friends multiplying by 9 is the key to easy measurement:
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl:
1 5 lb bag flour
1 4 lb bag sugar
1 1/2 tblsp salt
4 1/2 tblsp baking powder
1 1/2 tblsp baking soda
Combine in a Pyrex measuring cup:
1 1/8 cup melted butter (2.25 sticks)
Juice and grated rind of nine large oranges
Fill with boiling water to make 6 3/4 cup then add to dry ingredients
Add 9 eggs
9 cup nuts (chopped walnuts) = 3 lbs
9 cup raw cranberries (cut in half) = 3 12 oz bags
Bake in loaf pans (325° for metal pan, 300° for glass pan) for 1 hour
Test with toothpick