Preparing healthy, wholesome meals doesn't have to be a full-time job. Nutrition Diva has 4 tips that will save you time (and money) in the kitchen.
One big challenge with trying to eat healthy is that is takes a little longer to plan and prepare healthy meals than it does to open a box or can. And not all of us have an hour or more every evening to spend preparing a home cooked meal.
This week, I have four strategies that can help you eat better in less time, by making the most out of the time you spend shopping and cooking, starting with one that may surprise you:
Tip #1: Use Processed Foods (Wisely)
We hear a lot about how we need to eat less processed foods and more whole and minimally processed foods. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to grind your own peanut butter, roll your own oats, and ferment your own kefir (unless you want to).
There’s a big difference between a frozen bag of chopped onions and a can of crispy French fried onion, or between a bag of pre-shredded mozzarella and a tub of processed cheese food. See also: Can Processed Food Be Healthy?
Time savers like pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables can make it easier to get more vegetables into your day, and you don’t need to worry about stripping all the nutrients out of your food. Although there may be some losses, there will still be plenty of nutrients left in your vegetables. And if having those vegetables ready to eat means that you actually eat them, then you are gaining far more than you are losing. See also: What's the Most Nutritious Way to Eat Vegetables?
Yes, you’re paying a bit extra for the convenience but let’s not be penny wise and pound foolish. If not having to chop your own onions makes it possible to cook something instead of going out for dinner, you’re saving a lot more money than you’re spending on the convenience.
Prepared foods like tomato sauce, soups, and salad dressing can also make it easier to turn fresh ingredients into a quick meal—and it’s perfectly fine to use them. Just look for the ones with ingredient lists that look more like recipes and less like chemistry experiments.
For lots more on how to select the healthiest packaged and prepared foods, see my book Secrets for a Healthy Diet.
Tip #2: Keep a Grocery List
One thing that can get in the way of cooking is finding that you don’t have all the ingredients needed for a recipe. And how many times have you returned home from the grocery store, put away eight sacks of groceries, and discovered that you didn’t have what you needed to make a single meal? This is why everyone needs a grocery list.
It can be a pad that’s stuck to the fridge with a magnet or a fancy smart phone app. It doesn’t matter. If you see a recipe in a magazine or online that looks good, take a moment to add the ingredients to your list.
I also have certain staples that I always keep on hand: canned tomatoes, rice, olive oil, frozen vegetables, canned tuna, and so on. If I use the last can of tomatoes, I immediately add it to the list—and my pantry stays stocked with the essentials. You can download the shopping list template that I made to go with the Nutrition Diva’s Grocery Store Survival Guide.
By the way, there are two more essential parts to this making this strategy work: 1) Remember to take the list to the store, and 2) Remember to check the list to make sure you’ve got everything before heading to the checkout!
See also: Meal Planning: What Works?