Diet and Nutrition

5 tips for healthy eating after a weekend football binge

Diet and Nutrition

After game-day junk food, reset your week with healthier dinners.

It’s Monday, and you’re not sure what to fix for dinner after a long weekend of football and junk food. It can be hard to get back on the healthy-eating bandwagon after you’ve enjoyed chicken wings, cheese dip, and calorie-laden beverages all weekend.

In fact, a recent study suggests that on the Mondays following weekend NFL games, the amount of saturated fat and calories consumed increases significantly in cities with losing teams.

You need a game plan that you can rely on week after week. But how? Before your games start, get into the huddle and regroup so you can prepare quick, healthy meals for the week.

The five tips below will help you get organized to make four delicious, heart-healthy recipes. The full recipes and a list of ingredients are available at the end.

1. Assign dinner themes

For many people, the hardest part of eating a heart-healthy diet is the fear of getting bored. Nobody wants to eat the same thing every day. But assigning a nightly dinner theme doesn’t have to be boring. You have a wide variety of preparation and seasoning options available when you select versatile themes.

For example:

  • Monday is stir-fry
  • Tuesday is turkey or veggie burgers
  • Wednesday is chicken
  • Thursday is fish
  • Friday is family choice

Using this approach, you won’t waste time thinking about what to make because you’ll already have it planned out. Even better, once your family is attuned to the tasty routine, they can dive in and help start dinner if you’re running late.

2. Know the fundamentals

Once you know what your main protein will be, the next step is figuring out how you want to prepare it. Plan easy-to-make-meals such as stir-fry or crockpot dishes a few times each week. Stir-fry is easy to prepare and cooks quickly, and crockpot dishes more or less prepare themselves.

Using a patio grill or an indoor electric grill is another easy alternative. You can cook a variety of foods on these versatile surfaces, including tasty grilled vegetables and fruits for side dishes.

3. Prepare the playbook

This is the part that trips up many of us. We get home only to realize we forgot to buy a key ingredient at the store.

To bypass that frustration, make a plan to have the ingredients you need on hand each week. Prepare a grocery shopping list ahead of time for all the items you’ll need for your week of preplanned meals.

An easy way to stay on top of your ingredient stockpile is to purchase all of the items on your list once a week on the same day of the week. That way you’re planning in advance, but not so far in advance that your produce and meat may spoil.

4. Gather your equipment

Save time and avoid meal-preparation stress by gathering the equipment you’ll need for tomorrow’s dinner tonight. If you’re going to prepare a crockpot meal tomorrow, set the crockpot, nonperishable ingredients, and seasonings out on the kitchen counter after you clean up from tonight’s meal.

If tomorrow is turkey burger night, grab your spatula, serving tray, whole-wheat buns, and seasonings and set them on the counter so you’re ready to go tomorrow night when it’s time to cook. Dinnertime tends to be hectic for busy families, and it’s easy to forget an ingredient or miss a step in a recipe when you’re in a hurry.

5. Get your game face on

On Sunday, start meal-prepping for the upcoming week. If you know you’re having stir-fry the next night, chop up your vegetables and store them in the refrigerator to grab and go. You also can cook the meat you’ll use throughout the week and freeze it. That way, at dinnertime all you’ll need to do is reheat and eat.

As a rule, it’s best to avoid highly processed foods. However, some processed foods are not only convenient but also are nutritious, affordable, and more available, including:

  • Frozen vegetables with no sauce
  • Lower-sodium canned beans
  • Precooked whole grains with little added fat and salt

Below are four easy, heart-healthy recipes to kick-start your week of healthy meals. View the list of ingredients to make all four dishes.

Once you get into the habit of planning and preparing heart-healthy meals, jazz up your recipes by adding new flavors and side dishes to accompany the meals. Your family won’t get bored, and your Mondays will be far healthier, whether your team wins or not!

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Easy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry with Cooked Farro

Prep time: 40 minutes Makes: 4 servings


  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken tenderloins or breasts cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 tablespoon canola, soy, or peanut oil
  • 2 (16-ounce) bags of frozen stir-fry vegetables (without sauce, rice, or noodles)


Stir farro into a medium-size pot of boiling water. Turn heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain excess water. Mix together soy sauce, jam, vinegar, and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Pour half of cooking oil into wok or large skillet. Heat on high flame for one minute, add frozen vegetables, and cook, stirring often, for approximately 5 minutes. Transfer vegetables from wok or skillet to large plate. Pour second half of cooking oil into wok or large skillet. Heat on high flame for one minute, add chicken chunks, and cook, stirring often, for approximately 10 minutes. Add sauce, cook, and stir until sauce is thickened and bubbly (1 to 2 minutes). Return cooked vegetables to wok or skillet and toss to evenly coat with sauce.

Nutrition information per serving (including ½ cup cooked farro): Calories: 380, Total Fat: 4 g, Saturated Fat: 0.3 g, Sodium: 494 mg, Potassium: 32 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 47 g, Dietary Fiber: 7.1 g, Protein: 34 g.

Turkey or Veggie Burgers with Crunchy Coleslaw and Warmed Pinto Beans

Prep time: 15 minutes


  • turkey burger patties
  • toasted whole-grain buns
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • onion


Preformed turkey burgers cook on indoor electric grills in approximately 10 minutes. Serve on toasted whole-grain buns with all the fixings (lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.). You also can substitute turkey burgers with veggie burgers. For veggie burgers, place frozen burgers directly onto an electric grill (don’t thaw) and cook for 8 to 10 minutes without turning. While you’re grilling, gently heat lower-sodium pinto beans (or beans of your choice) in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

Cabbage Slaw

Prep time: 30 minutes Makes: 4 (approximately 1 cup) servings


  • ½ cup fresh orange juice (from about 2 oranges)
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 bag of pre-shredded cabbage (12 ounces)
  • ½ small purple onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper


Tip: Prepare cabbage slaw first and let it chill in the refrigerator while you grill the turkey or veggie burgers and heat the pinto beans.

Whisk orange juice, vinegar, oil, and honey in large bowl. Add cabbage and onion and toss until well coated. Fold in cilantro and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 174, Total Fat: 14 g, Saturated Fat: 1.9 g, Sodium: 164 mg, Potassium: 64 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 13 g, Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g, Protein: 1.4 g.

Slow-Cooked Chicken Cacciatore with Whole-Wheat Pasta and a Side Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes, 8-10 hours in crock pot Makes: 4 servings


  • 1 pound bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (28 ounces)
  • 1 small green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry or low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder


Tip: When it comes to pasta, keep your serving size small by filling the neck of one 16-ounce water bottle with spaghetti. The recommended amount per person is 2 ounces dry or 1 cup cooked.

Make sure you purchase lower-sodium spaghetti sauce. Several brands have a version that uses the word “heart” on the label to signify lower sodium.

Place chicken thighs in a crock pot. Slice pepper and onion and place on top of chicken pieces. Add remaining ingredients, gently stirring in spices. Cook covered on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high 4 to 6 hours (until chicken is thoroughly cooked). Serve over whole-wheat pasta with a green salad on the side.

Nutrition information per serving (including 1 cup cooked pasta): Calories: 461, Total Fat: 7 g, Saturated Fat: 1.2 g, Sodium: 702 mg, Potassium: 477 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 68 g, Dietary Fiber: 5.7 g, Protein: 31 g.

Dill and Dry Mustard Fish with Broccoli and Quick Mediterranean Salad

Tip: First, prepare the salad and chill in the refrigerator while cooking the fish and broccoli.

Quick Mediterranean Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes Makes: 4 (1-cup) servings


  • 2 ready-to-serve (precooked) multigrain medley
  • 2/3 cup lower-sodium canned chickpeas
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup cucumber, diced
  • 1 tablespoon feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil


Toss all ingredients in a bowl, chill, and serve!

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 188, Total Fat: 5.4 g, Saturated Fat: 0.9 g, Sodium: 136 mg, Potassium: 346 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 30 g, Dietary Fiber: 5.5 g, Protein: 6.2 g.

Dill and Dry Mustard Fish

Prep time: 30 minutes Makes: 4 servings


  • 1 pound fish of choice (fresh or thawed)
  • Up to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dill
  • 3 tablespoons white cooking wine
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning


Tip: Start steaming the broccoli around the same time you begin cooking your fish. Once the broccoli reaches the tenderness you like, remove the lid to preserve its naturally bright, green color. Fish cooked the right amount of time will be flaky and tender, not rubbery and tough.

Combine olive oil, wine, lemon/lime juice, and garlic in a shallow nonstick skillet, heating on medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add fish and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Gently flip fish and season with dill, dry mustard, and Cajun seasoning. Cook 4 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filet. Total cooking time is 10 minutes for each ½ inch of thickness of fish.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 208, Total Fat: 12 g, Saturated Fat: 12 g, Sodium: 162 mg, Potassium: 348 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 0.4 g, Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g, Protein: 23 g.

Shopping List


  • Farro (an ancient grain similar to brown rice, but it takes only 20 minutes to cook – sold in most supermarkets near the rice or in the “organic grain section”)
  • Whole-wheat spaghetti
  • Pre-cooked multigrain rice medley (sold in supermarket near rice)

Cooking mediums

  • Olive oil, canola oil, and rice vinegar
  • Dry cooking sherry and white cooking wine (sold in supermarket near vinegars)


  • Low-sodium soy sauce
  • Onion and garlic powders
  • Dry dill and dry mustard
  • Cajun seasoning (look for brand with < 250 mg sodium per tsp)
  • Honey


  • Lower-sodium pinto or black beans (look for brand with < 200 mg per serving)
  • Lower-sodium chickpeas
  • Spaghetti sauce (look for one lower in sodium, approximately 300 mg per ½ cup)
  • Minced or chopped garlic

Fresh or frozen items

  • Oranges and lemons (2 each)
  • Onions (one purple, one white)
  • Green pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, parsley
  • Pre-shredded cabbage (12-ounce bag)
  • Feta cheese (lower fat and sodium versions will work, too)
  • Meats: 1 pound skinless chicken tenderloins (skin-on is a little cheaper if you have time to remove the skin), 1 pound skinless chicken thighs, 4 preformed lean turkey burgers (>90% lean) or veggie burgers (in the frozen section), 1 pound fish of your choice
  • Two bags of frozen stir-fry vegetables (without sauce, rice, or noodles)

For your health and safety, freeze fish if you are unable to cook it within one to two days from purchase, and freeze chicken or turkey burgers if you are unable to cook them within two to three days from purchase. Or, simply buy frozen.