Does this sound familiar?
"I'd love to eat healthy but I don't have time to cook."
"I would eat vegan if someone could make and deliver my meals."
"I want to eat more plant-based foods, but don't know what to make."
I get it! Eating well takes time and preparation. First, you have to know what you're cooking. Second, you have to go to the grocery store to stock up on the ingredients. Third, you need to prep the ingredients (cut veggies, prepare your grains). Fourth, it's time to cook. Who has the time to eat after all of that? (Not to mention there's still clean-up!)
It can be daunting to say the least.
But cooking healthy can be simple and efficient (not to mention tasty and good for you!) if you do these five things:
Plan at least three meals ahead for the week. This can be from your favorite blog, recipe book or magazine. Maybe you decide what to cook based on the season—pumpkin soup during the fall, a hearty lentil dish during the winter or light salads in the spring. The creative recipe options are endless with the options online these days!
Select a day to grab all of the ingredients from the grocery store. Make a list from your recipes (and stick to it!) to make shopping efficient.
Wash, cut and store the ingredients when you get home. Fun fact: chopping up leafy greens before storing them in the fridge can actually increase their antioxidant power! More antioxidants=better health for you.
Prepare your grains and legumes*. Having grains and legumes ready to go is the number one detail that helps to plan a quick meal during the week! Once you have the grain and protein** ready you just need to add veggies and leafy greens. Awesome grains include farro, amaranth, quinoa (truly a seed, but used as a grain), brown rice, wheat berries and bulgar wheat.
From here, you can prepare your three meals for the week and store in containers (If you're preparing a large portion for just yourself or only two people, then store half away in individual containers for lunch or freeze for dinner the following week.)
Or you can prepare the meal on the day you plan to eat it. Preparing your grains and legumes, and having your veggies ready to go, cuts the meal prep time in half during the week.
*Using BPA-free canned beans can be a great option. Trader Joe's and Melissa's also offer pre-cooked lentils. I always keep one or two boxes on hand for a quick, nurturing delicious meal like the one seen below.
**Other plant-based proteins to add to meals include tofu, tempeh, cashews, almonds, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
Here's a quick guide to making your meal super-powered nutritious AND delicious.
Think in layers: seeds, aromatics, grains, protein, veggies, leafy greens, spices and mini but powerful add-ons (sprouts and probiotic foods).
Heat your oil or veggie stock in a pan for 30 seconds.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of nutrient-dense, healing seeds like mustard, fennel or coriander seed. When these seeds pop in your hot liquid, after about a minute, they release their essential oils and nutrients (about 1-2 minutes). (Mustard is my personal fave and I use it in everything.)
Add aromatics like garlic, shallots, onion and ginger (fave alert!). Cook 2-3 minutes until translucent.
Add veggies that you want al denté like carrots, red peppers and tomatoes. Cook 2-3 minutes.*
Add veggies that require less time to cook like mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus. Cook 2-3 minutes.*
Stir in your cooked grains, beans or lentils (or other plant-based protein)
Add spices and a little salt. Spices are PACKED with nutrition plus they make the food taste delicious. Adding a little salt will enhance the flavor of the spice. My personal faves include cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne and turmeric.
At the very end, stir in your leafy greens until a little wilted.
Top with delicious herbs like cilantro, basil or dill.
Bonus: top with sprouts (radish, broccoli, alfalfa, you name it!). Sprouts are superfoods that are a great add to any meal!
Bonus #2: top with probiotic goodness such as kimchi or kraut.
*Add a few tablespoons of liquid here to prevent sticking and to help steam the veggies perfectly. I typically use either water or veggie broth. You could also add a squeeze of lemon or lime.
There you have it! With a little pre-preparation you can make yourself the most nutritious, nurturing and satisfying meal in 10 minutes!
What other time-saving tools have you found useful?