What?! You don’t have time to cook healthy dinners? Who does though?
In fact, one of the most frequent reasons people sacrifice their health to do other “more important” things, is the lack of time. Is there a way to handle our crazy overwhelming lives and eat healthy? Is there a way to succeed in your new journey to a healthier you without failing every time you start? Let’s look at some ways you could cook healthy meals by following a few simple approaches. Where should we start?
3 things to know about you and healthy meals if you are busy
First of all, it is a matter of planning. Doh. I know, you are a super busy mom of three, a business owner, a student with an extensive social life, or just a girl who works a lot and, it is hard to know where to start. Create a plan. Planning is half of the deal. You are far more likely to follow through when you have made a plan and written it down. Without a plan, we are prone to sudden (and sometimes disappointing) spontaneity.
Whether you choose to meal prep or eat out, you need to know what you are getting yourself into. How much time will it take to meal prep? What are the places I can go for lunch without paying an arm and a leg, yet be happy with my food choices? “I hate meal prep, do I still need to do it?” The answer is NO. Think through what you’d like and would not like to do, timeframes, schedule, and support system (can your boyfriend buy some veggies on the way from work?). Things like that will take half of the stress off your shoulders.
Give yourself some credit. Be accountable for what you sign up to do – praise yourself on the good days, don’t beat yourself up too much on the days you did not do well. Eating healthier is done for YOU. For most people it doesn’t happen overnight, and there are often many habits which we need to change for your better health, your stronger and healthier body, and for your goals and ambitions. You should be your first reason to do it. Yes, your spouse, your kids, parents, and even your cat are a good motivation to help, but you need to make sure that YOU matter. Ground your motivation there, and you will feel much better on this journey. Remember: while support is helpful, you are the foundation for your desires.
Thirdly, practice. Everything we succeed in requires practice. Don’t know how to make an omelet? Go to YouTube and spend 3 minutes watching a video. Repeat it in your own kitchen ( don’t forget to break the eggs, hehe). Make a mess. Laugh. Try again. Combine the ingredients you never thought of putting together. Make something delicious and simple by looking up your favorite dish (and healthy-fying it). Practice until you get it. Most of the approaches below require a beginner’s skills but, in the end, it should be a) easy b) enjoyable 3) quick.
There might be a learning curve (like in anything we try to accomplish) – stay patient and remember why you started. Don’t go for a 3-star Michelin recipe… Pick something that sounds good and you can cook in the timeframe you have.
My approach to healthy meals
Here are a few approaches that MOST of my cooking is based on. I am a busy gal. My fitness training is extremely important to me, and it takes some good hours out of my week. I do not have children (but I hear you: it is another full-time job). Being an ambitious professional, I spend decent 40+ hours working on my business every week. Add travel, family commitments, time with my favorite guy…chores, shopping, etc. I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen (and I can’t stand meal prep although I do recommend trying it because it works miracle for some folks).
Try some of these approaches to create your breakfast, lunch-to-go, or dinner with family. Most of them require throwing a bunch of items together (takes seconds!) or setting a timer. So you can multitask if you wish or take a nice bath to relax waiting for your dinner.
How to Stay on Track: Healthy Meals for Busy People
1. Eggs. Bacon. On repeat.
Breakfast-wise it will only take you 10-15 mins to make breakfast. You can precook your bacon the night before or on the weekend, then eggs will take only a few minutes. Add avocado, some good sugar-free salsa or sliced veggies – you are good to go. It works wonderfully in the evening if you skipped breakfast and don’t feel like messing around in the kitchen for long. After all, #breakfastfordinner is a trend. Want something more elaborate?
My favorite breakfast: Breakfast tacos with Siete foods tortillas.
Utilize what you’ve got. Did not finish your taco salad last night? Take that leftover meat (leaves are probably soggy by next day), heat it up, add a few chopped veggies – voila! When making meat and fish – cook some extras. Grilling? Some tougher veggies will keep in the fridge for a bit (peppers, squash, mushrooms). Cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and root veggies do well too. Improvise – add sauce, warm things up in a pan with grass-fed butter, or turn them into a casserole (my favorite!) by adding eggs, some cheese, and herbs.
My favorite recipe with leftovers: Chicken pot pie.
Stir-frys are wonderful because they can be done in 20-25 minutes, the variety of them is endless, and you can create a new dish every.single.day. Start with oils + aromatics, add the meat of choice (sear it), and veggies. Cook till vegetables are al dente or fully cooked (up to you). Add herbs mid-way or some nuts and seeds at the end. Experiment with sauces or keep it plain vanilla. Find your perfect flavor – and keep making it!
Here is a helpful guide to building a perfect stir-fry for you.
4. Bake stuff.
Throw it in a baking dish, and forget about it? Sounds good to me! Oil a baking form, put seasoned pieces of meat on it (chicken breast, thighs, pork loin and chops, beef cuts work best). Add cut up veggies ( something sturdy like broccoli, cauliflower, squash, sweet potatoes), season, throw in the oven. The only thing you need to know here is the temperature your meat should reach to be perfect
It is done when:
Chicken and turkey @ 165 degrees;
Pork @145-160 degrees (depends on readiness);
Beef and lamb @130-155 degrees (depends on readiness).
Baking is one of the healthiest ways to get your meals in! Just remember to set a timer so your bath is truly enjoyable and the kitchen does not smell like burnt veggies!
My favorite all-in-one baking dish.
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Yes. Good ole’ plain crock pot. Have you tried pulled pork or chicken? Does chili sound perfect for this cold weather? Soup or broth? Just meat and veggies with some tomato sauce? Throw everything in, add a bit of liquid, and forget about it till you are back from work. Keep the setting low though just in case.
My favorite crockpot recipe.
I am pretty much a salad queen. I just love how fresh they taste, how many types of salads I can come up with (warm, cold, with pickled items, cheese, fruity, etc.). You still can try and like them, even you are not a fan – I believe it’s the matter of finding your perfect match when it comes to salads. Start with your favorite leaves (I love a mix of Spring mix + arugula + romaine and a bit of kale). Add a protein of choice. Throw in the veggies (avocados, tomatoes, and mushrooms are my go-to). Add some nuts, seeds or a bit of fruit. Whip up some dressing or use EVOO+balsamic or some lemon juice. Toss, take a big fork and ENJOY. Easy enough?
7. Meal prep.
Many people find more free time on the weekends. We can unwind, step off the crazy schedule, and spend an hour or two in the kitchen to make things organized and save time during the week. Few things to keep in mind:
1) Make protein: bake/saute. It will work as a base for most of your meals
2) Not all the veggies are equal. Some veggies can be cut up and stored in air-tight containers when others will give a lot of juice or brown ( tomatoes and avocados, although they are fruits). Bell peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, cucumbers, celery, fennel and such will keep well.
3) Whip up your dressing and make condiments and sauces this day. They work perfectly for so many meals such as stir-frys, salads, and leftovers. You will appreciate them later in the week.
4) Think through your snacks as well. They can supplement your meals very well, and keep from you getting hangry while you are making dinner.
James Brown should be singing loud in your ears when you cook. He makes everything better. Healthy meals are EASY. Trust me. I did not know where to start when I started…but with these simple steps you will be a PRO in a couple of weeks!
Things to take away to get your healthy meals ready this week:
- Plan ahead.
- Do it for YOU.
- Practice the methods above.
What are your favorite healthy meals? I can’t wait to hear about them.
Author: Anya Perry
Anya Perry battled boring diets, low energy, and declining health for over 10 years before she found what works. Now, she helps women achieve their dream state of health, fitness, and vitality… without the struggles, battles of miserable diets and yo-yo results. She can’t live without coffee and challenges.