As a Food Coach, I work with a lot of people who say they want to feel better but are struggling to integrate healthy habits into their lifestyle. Many people assume they have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing healthy foods. They dread the thought of cooking or having to prep food for themselves or their families. It is my mission to prove to you that you don't have to sacrifice all your free time and energy to eat well.
I'm a visual person and I learn by watching. So, I thought I could show you exactly how I do this, step-by-step, so you can try it at home. The goal is to eat as much "real" food as possible and to make quick meals so you aren't sweating it in the kitchen too long. I know you are busy and would rather spend your time with your family, doing fun things, or let's face it, relaxing. Watch, read, and learn!
Step 1: Shop for Food.
It is important to pick up a lot of produce. The best way to ensure you are getting enough veggies it to "shop the rainbow." Pick vegetables in every color you can find. Here are some examples:
Red: Bell Peppers, Beets, Tomatoes, Radishes
Orange: Carrots, Bell Peppers, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes
Yellow: Yellow Squash, Peppers, Golden Beets, Onion, Lemon
Green: Collard Greens, Broccoli, Asparagus, Green Onion
Purple: Cabbage, Eggplant, Red Kale, Kohlrabi, Potatoes, Onion
In addition to produce select proteins. The amount is based off how many people you feed. I calculate 2-4oz per meal, per person. I like meatballs, ground meat, chicken thighs or cutlets, nitrate-free sausages, eggs, fresh fish, canned beans or lentils, and nut butter.
Select Flavor! - Buy condiments, fresh herbs, and spices. Be sure you have a high-quality sea salt as well as high-quality oil and vinegar on hand at all times. I love pesto, salsa, hummus, dips, spreads, sauces, etc. Just be sure to read the ingredients of any packaged product. No meal is complete without flavor!
Extras: Snacky foods like fruit, chips, crackers, cheese, bars, etc. This should really only make-up 10-20% of your groceries and consequently your diet.
Outsource: You can always order groceries on-line. It's not that much more and it does save time. I do recommend going to the store at least every few months so you can scope out new products you might like to try.
VIDEO: See What I Bought.
This time I shopped for one and this is what it looks like. My husband is on the road, but that is not an excuse to live off of greasy take-out. Going out for every meal is way more expensive. Plus, restaurants use a lot of low-quality ingredients like cheap oils and salts that are inflammatory instead of health supportive. So, while I LOVE to eat out, I have to limit it to support my goals of feeling well and vibrant, not to mention for the sake of my bank account.
Step 2: Prep Your Veggies
FIRST, A THOUGHT ON ADULTING
YES, being a grown-up means making sacrifices for what is right in the world. Sometimes we have to make an effort. You give effort in your career and/or for your kids, so let's just come to terms that this takes SOME time and energy. If you really do want to feel awesome, this is the reality you need to accept. In just 1 hour, not 3 or 8, you can set yourself up for kitchen success. If you are actually just looking for someone to enable you and your poor choices, then you can find someone else who will gladly take your money and tell you everything you want to hear. That's not me and the choice is yours. I once read somewhere that maturity is aligning your choices with what you actually want in life. What do you actually want?
So, if you are still with me, I assume that you are onboard. Good choice! So here we go...
Just a quick note, like laundry and housekeeping you CAN outsource the next few steps. However, unlike laundry and housekeeping, I do think participating in this with your family is a very grounding activity that creates intimacy with your health in a profound way. So, consider how often you outsource and try not to do it all the time.
BACK TO PREP BASICS
Step 1: Be sure you have a large cutting board and a nice sharp knife. A sharp knife is safer than a dull knife! Have a compost or trash nearby for your scraps. If you're feeling fancy, save your scraps to make your own broth.
Step 2: Set the oven to 375. Grab 2-3 sheet pans. Chop chop chop, slice slice slice. You will get to know how you prefer your veggies chopped with experience. Proper knife skills are key to getting this done FAST. You don't need chef level skill, just enough comfort to get the job done.
Step 3: Season with a little salt and avocado oil. I like to go basic on the seasoning so I can apply different flavors later. Create single layers of veggies on your sheet pans. Be sure quicker cooking veggies are together and longer cooking ones are together.
Step 4: Roast - Cook for 30-45 minutes, until lightly browned. Do NOT overcook them.
MEAL PREP STEP 3: OPTIONAL
While the veggies were cooking I made a quick condiment. I wanted to buy pesto but it was so expensive. I was going to make my own, then I decided to make this olive chimichurri. Watch how I did it. You can do this AND clean up the kitchen while your veggies cook.
1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch parsley, 3/4 cup green olives, and avocado oil to desired consistency - in Vitamix or food processor.
At a minimum, do your dishes, or get your spouse, kid, or roommate to do it if you can. You can always buy your own pestos, sauces, etc. Just read the labels and pick ones with real ingredients. Try to avoid these deal breakers: MSG, weird oils including palm oil, chemical preservatives, anything a number in it, high fructose corn syrup (processed corn products in general).
Now all you have to do is store your cooked veggies and a homemade sauce. Who ARE you? Someone who is committed to their health and living their best life, that's who!
I like to store veggies separate so I can pull them as I want in different combinations.
OK, So Now What?!
So, now that you have the most time-consuming part out of the way, the goal is to compose prepped ingredients with fresh ones to make super fast meals in just 15-30 minutes.
I prefer to cook all my proteins fresh, but ideally, I can roll over some protein to a leftover for the next day's lunch, which I'll pack the night before or in the morning. When it comes time to compose a meal, select your veggies, proteins, flavors (sauces, condiments, herbs, and spices), and you can add rice, whole grains, etc. Don't forget to sprinkle on the fun stuff like avocado, cheese, nuts and seeds, flavored oil and vinegar, whatever floats your boat. If it tastes boring then you might be missing something. You MUST season your food.