Have you ever said “if only healthy eating took less time and effort, I would eat healthier because I love eating nutritious food!”? I think we all have at some point! For so many people, enjoying healthy food is not the thing stopping them. It’s finding the time to prepare that food. Eating nutritious food does take a little bit more time if we are comparing it to eating boxed food, take out, fast food, or frozen food, but if you use my tricks in this article you can make yourself healthy, delicious food in a lot less time.
1) Batch cook without recipes.
Don’t panic when I say to cook without recipes, it’s easier than it sounds! When you make individual recipes, you can spend over an hour and only get one meal out of it. When you cook your food without recipes, you can make more meals in less time. For example, you could bake 6 chicken breasts at a time and use them for 3 different meals, or cook a big batch of quinoa and add different vegetables and toppings to create many different meals. When you cook without recipes and keep it simple, you can batch cook to reduce the time and energy that goes into nourishing your body with healthy food. Think of it as buffet-style meal prep. You prepare the different components and combine them in different ways to create a variety of delicious meals.
2) Use this cheat sheet for building a meal:
3) Plan out the week.
Planning makes your life easier because you already know what’s for dinner. There’s nothing that makes it harder to eat nutritious meals than waiting until you’re already hungry to figure out what you’re going to eat. Pick the proteins, vegetables, grains/starches, toppings, and sauces you’re going to prepare for the week and list the different combinations you can use for meals. I like to write down my meal ideas in the notes on my phone so I can remind myself what’s for dinner wherever I am.
4) Prep your meal and snack components 1-2x a week.
The key to eating nutritious food is making it convenient. Allocate some time 1-2x a week to slice vegetables, cook proteins and grains, make homemade dressings, etc. That way, most of the work is already done by the time you’re hungry.
5) Choose easy snacks.
Keep snacks simple. Ideally, if you are eating a food that is mostly carbohydrates, you want to combine them with foods that contain fat and/or protein to keep your blood sugar balanced. This can look like hummus with your sliced cucumber, almond butter with apple slices, guacamole and tortilla chips, etc. It can also be helpful to find a few packaged snacks that have whole-food ingredients so you have a nutritious snack for on-the-go or when you’re pressed for time.
6) Pick well-rounded takeout meals.
Takeout can be very helpful on busy days when you need to eat but don’t have time or energy to cook, and it’s also nice to enjoy different types of cuisine instead of your own cooking sometimes! Look at the menu and try to assemble your meal somewhat like you would use my cheat sheet above. Getting pizza? That covers starch, toppings, and maybe protein too. How can you add some more vegetables? A side salad works perfectly to round out the meal. Many places serve bowl-style meals that contain all the components of a well-balanced meal. Don’t overthink it– when in doubt, add some veggies!
Contributed by Melanie Maxwell, R.H.N.