One of my friends recently posed a question – besides grabbing some greens at salad bar, I don’t really eat as healthy as I should and cooking balanced meals seems like a lot of work. Any ideas?
I know for me – since I’m not doing a lot of meal preparation as much of the time I only have to fend for myself it would be easy to fall into the trap of snacking on low nutrition or sugary foods constantly. But I’ve found a few ways to help avoid that without feeling like I’m spending hours in the kitchen. Apart from gabbing a piece of fruit instead of a biscuit (and believe me sometimes I stare at each in contemplation before deciding on the worse choice) here are some tips to help swing your diet to the nourishing end of the scale. We all want that trim body and alert mind – well this may help:
“Eat the Rainbow”
I’m sure you’ve all heard of that saying before – basic macronutrients are relatively easy to get in wholesome formats—fish and eggs provide protein; avocado and nut butters provide fat; and sweet potatoes and brown rice provide carbs. But healthy bodies need a vast array of minerals and vitamins that act as co-factors in the complex panoply of biochemical pathways that comprise tissue building and repair. And that’s why veggies are so important.
Fresh vegetables are high in key micronutrients that get processed out of packaged foods. Most vegetables are goldmines of fibre, minerals, and vitamins. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Veggies are also packed with natural pigments: red is lycopene; orange and yellow are bioflavonoids; green is chlorophyll; and blue is anthocyanidins.
This rainbow display of naturally occurring pigments is important for plant health. Plants are constantly exposed to the elements, and over the eons, they developed pigmentation that not only allows them to become more complex (and thus more adaptable to their environments), but also protects them from radiation from the sun’s rays. And when humans eat those plant colours, we gain
some of their protective prowess against radiation and other agents of cellular damage. This is the single most important reason to make the eff ort to eat 1–2 cups of vegetables at least twice daily.
I spend a few hours and cook up a few meals or prepare cold/salad meals – usually to last me a week of snacks, lunch (even dinner). One large meal will give me four portions. It stops me from overeating, ensures my ingredients are fresh (and organic), I get to include all the desired food groups to satisfy a balanced meal. And best of all, it’s ready at a moment’s notice during the week ahead, and I don’t have to bother with instant noodles or something like that when I’m low on energy and couldn’t be bothered cooking.
Also I prep raw food and seal them in baggies to freeze, later I can steam them with a protein of my choice If I am in the mood to create a meal (almost) from scratch. It’s all about reducing the time I spend in my kitchen for when I’m feeling lazy and likely to grab something less nutritious.
Soups & Smoothies
Another terrific way to prepare veggies (or use them up before they’re past their prime) is to make soups and smoothies. If you don’t own a slow cooker, get one. They’re wonderful for cooking vegetables and spices together for a long time over low heat. This gentle heating opens the plants’ cell walls and allows their myriad healthy elements to meld together. And there’s nothing better than coming home to the aroma of a stew or thick soup that has been slowly cooking all day.
I quickly wash and chop up a variety of veggies, throw them in to the slow cooker with either chicken or another meat of choice, season and leave it to cook while I’m at work. When I get home, dinner is served! There are also enough portions left over to freeze meal sized servings to last a week.
Needless to say my freezer is well stocked with a plethora of healthy meal choices!
I’m not one to make smoothies, but my friend loves them – her favourite tool for making smoothies is a Vitamix blender, but most other blenders will also do the job. Her favourite smoothie is base roughly two parts water, 1 part yogurt, and either lemon juice and salt for a savoury shake, or cinnamon and honey for a sweet one. The sweet blend can also feature fruit – try bananas, blueberries, or mango chunks – but cooked yam and a little maple syrup are also nice for a change. A savoury blend can feature spinach, kale, cabbage, sprouts, garlic, tomato, cilantro, radishes, and/or any leftover cooked veggies. She says a nice thick smoothie makes a good meal replacement for calorie conscious days, and can also serve as a wonderful snack or appetizer.
Top of the Morning
And who says you can’t have veggies for breakfast? Consider keeping a glass container of finely chopped onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, and maybe grated carrot of jicama in your fridge to easily toss into an omelette or tortilla – or even over a bowl of warm whole grains.
If you plan on having whole grains for breakfast (e.g. oats, buckwheat millet, etc) soak them overnight using 4 parts water to 1 part grain. This makes them easier to cook- and digest. This ‘soupy’ porridge (known as cnongee in Ayurvedic medicine) is a perfect vector for any number of toppings. Try something simple such as raisins and cinnamon, or go fancier with pecans, sprouts, and a spoonful of kimchi, pickled beets, or marinated artichoke hearts, plus a big pinch of arugula.
So there are many quick ways to include more fruits and vegetables into your diet – it just takes a little imagination, some preparation, and fun experimenting J
I’d love to hear any easy, low preparation methods you have used to amp up your diet – share your tips below in the comments section..
Kate Grainger & Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.