20 healthy meal ideas for busy athletes

Between your day job, working out at the gym, any hobbies you have, family responsibilities and a social life, how do you even find time to cook a proper dinner at night? But, as an athlete, you know that nutrition is absolutely vital to your performance. There’s no stopping by a fast food joint on the way home to pick up a burger and fries for you! 

Some people will tell you to just start meal prepping — then you always have a meal handy! But that also takes a lot of time. At least once a week, you could spend hours in your kitchen putting together meals to last through the next few days, possibly hours that you don’t have. 

Don’t worry, though. There are still plenty of healthy, nutritious meals you can enjoy at a moment’s notice, regardless of your busy schedule. Don’t believe us? Try these 20 healthy meal ideas, perfect for any busy athlete. 

1. Omelettes 
If there’s anything that’s easy to whip up fast, it’s an omelette. Plus, it’s so versatile! You get the protein from the eggs, and then you can add in your other favorite healthy ingredients (from cheddar to spinach to peppers) for a quick, five-minute dinner.

2. Porridge 
For another fast breakfast food (though, really, why not eat it at any time of day?), go for some instant porridge and then add in some of your favourite ingredients to spice things up a bit. Reach for the cinnamon, raisins, cranberries, pecans or walnuts, and maybe accompany your oatmeal with a side of an egg or a piece of bacon. 

3. Quick pasta 
Another 10-minute meal you can whip up in a flash? Pasta. Just boil some water, throw in the noodles of your choice (go for a whole-grain variety) and wait, before topping with a veggie-filled sauce (which you can find in your grocery aisle — just watch out for sauces that are filled with added sugar).

4. Meat and veg 
Keep some frozen chicken or salmon filets in your freezer and quickly saute them after you get home from work. Add a few seasonings of your choice and then serve up your protein-rich dinner with a side of frozen or fresh vegetables, which can easily be warmed in the microwave or on the stovetop.

5. Beans and rice
A staple around the world, beans and rice isn’t just kind to your schedule, this dish is also kind to your wallet. You can combine endless varieties of rice and varieties of beans to find the ones you like most. Opt for microwaveable rice and canned versus dried beans, for a quick fix. 

6. Yogurt parfaits
For a fast breakfast that actually is convenient to prep ahead, go with a parfait. In a jar or other container, layer some granola, greek yogurt, slices of your favorite fruit and some nuts.

7. Stuffed baked potatoes
Cooking a baked potato doesn’t require you to wait around the oven for an hour and a half. Pop that potato in the microwave, with a few fork holes jabbed in the side and covered in a damp paper towel, and you’ll have a first-rate baked potato in as little as a few minutes. Stuff it with veggies (broccoli is a good choice) and perhaps a dab of margarine. 

8. Quick salads
With the amount of prepackaged, prepared fresh veggies on the market today, there’s no excuse to not have a salad at every meal. Grab a pack of pre-cut, pre-washed lettuce or greens and your favorite toppings (think pre-chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, sunflower seeds or nuts, your favorite cheese, maybe some olives) and you’re good to go!

9. Easy bake
If you do have time at home, but not really time to be in the kitchen, you can put your oven to good use. Line a baking sheet with some aluminum foil and throw on a protein of your choice (chicken, salmon or shrimp work fine), alongside some chopped veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, peppers and onions, etc.). Drizzle it all with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake until done. 

10. Tacos 
Whatever your favorite taco fillings, there’s usually a way to make tacos quickly, and packed with both nutrition and flavor. If you like breakfast tacos, whip up some scrambled eggs and top your tortillas with some mashed avocado and salsa. Voila! If you like dinner-style tacos, purchase pre-cut, pre-cooked chicken in the freezer aisle and saute the strips with some taco seasoning until heated through. Add to your tortilla alongside your salsa, cheese, sour cream and other goodies, and you’re done!

11. Toasts
Toasts just about every way are becoming popular not only on Instagram with your favorite influencers, but at restaurants as well. Make your own version at home, but don’t worry about them being picture-perfect. Just top your whole grain toast with peanut butter, fruits and honey for a sweet treat, or with mashed avo, microgreens and maybe some sliced radishes for a savory lunch or dinner. 

12. Quinoa or rice salads
Quinoa and brown or wild rice both make excellent bases for a hearty, filling salad. If you purchase microwaveable pouches of either, you’re that much closer to a quick meal. Microwave your grain of choice and then top with tomatoes, red onion, olives, artichoke hearts, cucumbers or other favorite items.

13. Burrito bowls
If you love Mexican food, but would rather skip the tortilla, go for a burrito bowl instead of a taco. Take all your favorite taco fillings and pile them high in a bowl of microwaveable brown rice. Perfect mix-in items include corn, salsa, black beans, cilantro and maybe a low-fat Mexican dressing. All it takes is a little microwave magic and opening a few cans. 

14. Stuffed peppers
Have a little time to let something sit in the oven while you’re working out or answering some emails? Pop a pouch of microwaveable quinoa in the microwave, then mix it with some corn, black beans and tomatoes. Cut the top off a few bell peppers, stuff your quinoa mixture inside and sprinkle on a little cheese. Throw in the oven until done.

15. Skillet meals
Skillet meals are an easy way to get a lot of variety in your weekly dinners, without messing up a bunch of pots or pans. Just pick your favorite protein and a few veggies, and you practically have a meal. Think chicken with zucchini and corn, steak strips with broccoli and peppers or shrimp with asparagus and squash. 

16. Bunless burgers
Burgers often get a bad reputation as an unhealthy meal, but if you lose the bun and the bad-for-you toppings, you have a protein-rich main dish that’s done in a flash. Heat up a skillet (or the barbecue, if you want) and let the patties cook to your desired level, and then top with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and maybe a slice of cheddar.

17. Loaded nachos
Load up a sheet pan with a single layer of tortilla chips and top with black and pinto beans (from a can, drained), corn (also from a can, drained) and cheddar cheese. Bake at a high heat until the cheese is melted and bubbly (about five or 10 minutes), and then top with salsa and some avocado!

18. Lettuce wraps
If you’re craving chicken salad, but don’t want the bread or the mayo, go with this option instead. Mix chunk chicken from a can with Greek yogurt, turmeric, salt, pepper and some chopped grapes, and then wrap the mixture in large, Bibb lettuce leaves. 

19. Sweet potato hash
Eggs make everything better! Dice up some sweet potatoes (or get them pre-diced in the freezer aisle) and saute them in some olive oil, along with some spinach. When the potatoes are soft and very nearly done, crack a few eggs on top and sprinkle with a bit of red pepper, pepper and salt. Just cook until the eggs are done, but still runny.

20. 10 minute healthy pancakes
Yes, it's true! You can have your (pan)cakes and eat them, too! Combine ground oats with banana, eggs and protein powder to make a batter. Cook in an oiled pan for a few minutes on each side and drizzle with some all-natural maple sugar.