The kids are nagging, its dark outside, the dog is yapping at you for a walk, you need to prepare dinner for tonight and lunches for tomorrow. You pull out a pack of chops from the freezer, but you need to wait for them to defrost. You go to the fridge, to find a faster option and you notice that you’re out of milk for the morning’s breakfast….you wonder to yourself, how other families make things work?
Worry less, this. is. a common. theme! In our fast paced, time poor world, we often struggle with choosing the healthiest option. We tend to favour speed of dish over nutrient density of dish. You’re not alone. We all struggle at the best of times, but for today’s ‘Ask Alex’, we are going to explore some ways to eat healthily when you have little time to prepare.
Prepare in advance.
Yes I know its a lot to ask, but it actually does make a difference. Preparation and organisation are the keys to healthy eating for the whole family. I often suggest that my clients spend a couple of hours food prepping on a day when it suits e.g. a Sunday afternoon. This can include cooking up batches of wholegrains, boiling eggs, pre washing and slicing vegetables, soaking nuts/seeds, cooking meals.
**See my tips on food storage for some handy tips to get the most from your pre-prepped food.
Do a weekly food shop.
Write a shopping list for the week and do one weekly shop. Even better, write out a weekly meal plan and shop to that! Not only will this save your monies, it will help guide your weekly food intake and ensure healthy meals.
Keep a stocked pantry.
Keeping a stocked pantry with healthy staples such as nuts/seeds (e.g. almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pepitas), wholegrains (e.g. rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal breads/wraps), tinned legumes (e.g. lentils, cannellini beans, chickpeas), tinned fish (e.g. salmon sardines), herbs/spices, frozen vegetables and eggs. Having these ingredients on hand can make any healthy meal happen fast.
Plant a veggie/herb garden.
Growing your own produce is super satisfying. There is nothing like picking your own strawberry or tomato or pulling your own carrot from the ground. I promise you it always tastes so much better. By doing this, you will always have seasonal fresh produce on hand. A herb garden makes jazzing up a bland meal easier too. I love to add fresh basil and parsley to my salads, stir-fries and soups. Fresh rosemary is perfect on meat. Fresh mint is perfect in drinks. See friends, the options are endless.
Invest in a slow cooker.
This is probably my most favourite tool for healthy eating. I always say to my clients who are time poor, invest in a slow cooker, it will become your newest best friend! They’ll tell you. These beauties make healthy eating super simple, super quick and super achievable. Whether its a soup, a cut of meat, a stew, a breakfast, a healthy dessert…the slow cooker can do it all! All it takes is a few minutes prep in the morning or night before and bobs your uncle.
Some examples of meals I love to cook include; lamb shanks and veggies, silverside and veggies, veggie curry, soups.
With lamb shanks for example;
- 2 lamb shanks,
- 1 tin of diced tomatoes,
- A few sprigs rosemary or dried rosemary
- 1 tin of lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2 onions quartered
- 4 whole carrots, cut in half
- 1 sweet potato into chunks.
Put the lamb shanks in, cover with tinned tomatoes, place carrots, sweet potato, onion and lentils around the lamb. Throw in rosemary. Don’t worry about putting in any more liquid, it makes its own. Cover and cook for 6 hours.
Come home from work, sauté some greens and voila, serve everything warm (serves 2).
The most work you will do is washing your slow cooker!
Other benefits to a slow cooker means that you can make extra for lunch or dinner the next day, you can cook cheaper cuts of meat and it makes your house smell fabulous! Oh how I love the humble slow cooker.
DO NOT skip a meal.
This is a hands down non negotiable! A non-consistent eating pattern will come have you eating the cupboard and fridge out when you finally get a chance. This deprivation mentality is not healthy. The body thrives off consistent meals and snacks.
Indulgence is key to a healthy life as well. Yes I said it. I am giving you permission to indulge!! It actually helps us to control our relationships with food and create balance overall. Perhaps pick 1-2 days a week where you will treat yourself. Remembering, to eat mindfully; with intention and attention. You don’t need to eat the whole block of chocolate, save some for tomorrow or the next day. Trust that your body and your holistic self will thank you for it.
Cook a little more.
One of the best ways to ensure a healthy lunch is to cook a little extra the night before. For example, if you’re having a side of veggies; roast a few more veggies to put together a salad. If you’re having a roast chicken; carve and put some aside to make a healthy sandwich for the next day. if you’re having a curry; set aside some leftovers with a healthy grain.
One of my most favourite things to do in winter time especially is to cook up a big pot of soup for the week. This makes healthy eating so easy. I call it my ‘Soup Snack’ and will often have a cup of soup alongside my lunch or for a snack in the morning or afternoon.
Need some more inspiration….
Make a speedy stir fry. Stirfry your choice of fresh or frozen vegetables, add a rinsed tin of legumes or some leftover roast chicken, some tamari, garlic and ginger. Serve alongside some pre-prepared cooked wholegrains or a microwaveable sachet of brown rice or quinoa.
Make a healthy fish and salad meal. Throw together some fresh greens and leftover roasted veggies to make a salad. Microwave a piece of frozen fish from the freezer (3-4 minutes, until cooked) and voila, a meal in under 10 minutes.
Make a healthy pizza. Use a wholemeal wrap as a base. Cover with tomato paste or a healthy pesto. Add your vegetables of choice (e.g. fresh tomato, capsicum, eggplant, zucchini, onion, broccoli, sweet potato…). Add a sprinkle of cheese, some herbs and bake until cooked. You can even crack an egg on top prior to baking if you feel extra inspired. Serve with a handful of fresh spinach or rocket on top.
Remember, we’re all human. We can only do our best!
Feel free to post your own tips and tricks below.
Happy reading friends!