So many people today are overloaded with work, family and personal demands, often rushing to adhere to a stressful "24/7" schedule. When our lives are packed to the max with busyness, one of the first things that goes out the window along with self care, is our nutrition. Oftentimes, in a busy frenzy we end up choosing meals that are fast, easy and neatly packaged. The thing about fast and easy is...well, you can’t be fast and easy forever and still keep it together. The reality is, your everyday meal solutions don't need to come from drive-through windows or Styrofoam take-out boxes. Even with a busy lifestyle, you can incorporate nutritious choices for every meal with ease. Being time-starved doesn't mean you have to sacrifice nutrition. A few small changes in your meal and snack strategies can yield positive results.
Supermarkets today offer an array of partially prepared while not overly processed products and other kitchen "shortcuts." When you're busy, you can still put good nutrition on your table without doing all the time-consuming preparation yourself and cutting your self short with additives and preservatives.
- Always keep fresh greens in the fridge and then add nutrient-rich extras: add nuts and seeds for protein; chopped fresh vegetables; sliced apples, pears, or berries. If you top your greens with flavorful fresh choices, you won't want to drowned your salad with fatty, creamy dressing. Just a splash of olive oil and a dash of vinegar will zest it up.
- Stock up on seasonal, quality snack foods including fruits, nuts and seeds. Instead of reaching for that bag of chips to satisfy your craving opt for carrot sticks and your favorite flavor of hummus. I happen to love red pepper....and lentil spread is totally growing on me! Try Oasis Classic Cuisine Lentil Dip with some gluten free Mary’s Crackers (flax and onion are the best!).
- To boost the nutritional quality of your favorite pasta dish, always add additional vegetables. Brown rice pasta tossed with garlic, tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms is a staple in my house. The pasta, vegetable variations are truly endless.
Do It Ahead
When you're doing it all yourself, it's best to do it ahead. Spend some kitchen time on nights or weekends for easy meal prep during the week. And always prepare and try to stick to a weekly meal plan. This will help limit your snacking and you will save money on eating out last minute.
- Plan - Keep an ongoing shopping list so you always have nutritious, easy-to-prepare ingredients on hand.
- Pre-prep when you can. Put breakfast cereal and bowls on the table or put together a packed lunch the night before. Assemble tomorrow's casserole while you clean up from tonight's dinner. Wash and slice raw veggies ahead so they're ready for snacking, salads, or a stir-fry.
- Make double or triple batches. With soup, stew, salads (i.e., pasta salad or bean salad), sauce, or whole grains, such as brown rice, you can make enough at a time for several meals. Or prepare two casseroles at a time - one for now, one to freeze for later.
- Cook once for two different dishes/meals. For example, each Sunday evening I (try to) make a large batch of brown rice that will last for 3-4 meals. Sunday night dinner is grilled salmon with brown rice, Monday breakfast is a brown rice porridge with almonds, So Delicious coconut milk and dried cherries and Monday night it’s stir fry! Cook once and eat many times. You can also prepare hearty vegetable soup on Sunday; add chicken or beans and rice for variation on Tuesday. Cook plenty of brown rice or whole wheat pasta - some for tonight's primavera, some for tomorrow's pasta salad. The options really are endless.
Simply because life is busy doesn’t mean we can let our nourishment fall short. Besides if you don’t fuel that machine called your body with the proper nutrition, one day it will break down.
Keep it Fresh!