I usually find it easier to eat clean and healthy during the summer, because there is so much delicious, local food available at the farmers markets and from my backyard garden. But, for the first time in my life as an avid cook, I am overwhelmed with the amount of preparation and time it takes to prepare healthy meals. This post is a reminder for myself on how simple it can be and 3 simple steps to take to eat well, and still have the energy to enjoy the food I cook during a busy work week.
Step 1: Make a plan
Eating well is like anything else: if you set yourself up to succeed, you will. And all it takes is a few short moments to get organized, choose recipes, and schedule them into the week (This is even easier since I started using Plan to Eat). In my household, we can get away with cooking 3-4 unique meals each week and feed ourselves with the leftovers the other days of the week. We cook extra each time we cook and package up serving size containers of leftovers to reheat for the next day's lunch. I encourage those of you who do not like leftovers to get over it: leftovers make life so much easier!
Step 2: Rely on quick cooking whole grains
Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, millet, and farro, are not only delicious, but packed with nutrients and fiber. Every week I make 1-2 "deli" salads with a whole grain base for lunches - easy breezy! Many whole grains take up to an hour to cook, which is easier to work into a weekend meal than a weekday meal. If brown rice is your thing, make it easier on yourself by either cooking a big batch at the beginning of the week to use in dishes throughout the week, or cover the rice with water before you head off to work and let them soak all day. This is halve their cooking time (and make them deliciously digestible). Another option is to play with quicker cooking grains, like quinoa, soba (buckwheat) noodles, and farro, which cook up in only 25-30 minutes.
Step 3: Prep your veggies ahead
Some vegetables take a while to prepare, so to incorporate a cornucopia of these nutrient powerhouses often requires some planning. I try to prepare as much in advance as possible, so it's easy to throw together a meal for lunch or dinner during the work week. Here are a few tips:
* Wash and shred/tear/chop salad fixings for the whole week: lettuce and salad greens, carrots, pea pods, cucumbers, bell peppers, beets, etc.Make a lot and only turn the oven on once, especially when it's hot outside. Roast a bunch of beets, summer squash and zucchini, or root vegetables in one fell swoop and enjoy them all week long in various forms. If you season them lightly with just salt and pepper, they can be as versatile as you need them to be.Have quick cooking veggies on hand for those days you're scrambling to get a meal in between commitments: pea pods, green beans, cherry tomatoes, baby lettuces, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower florets. With a few other ingredients to flavor and round out a meal, these simple ingredients keep you packing healthy energy.
I hope these tips help you get in the kitchen...and happy to be there. Happy cooking!
I love food.
I love thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it. I love growing food, cooking and eating food. I use this space to try to convey that. Follow me on social media for more day-to-day inspiration on these topics.
Jesse Haas, MS, CNS, LN
Link to Practice Better Patient Portal
©2016 all rights reserved
Thank you to Emma Freeman and Mette Nielsen
for many of the photos on this website.