Healthy Eating - 10 Tips to Keep It Simple
"Keep It Simple" is a phrase I use A LOT. It's something I always try to emphasize when encouraging and assisting others with eating healthy and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Simple is sustainable, and healthy eating habits are not going to be maintained unless they are easily sustainable. So, KEEP IT SIMPLE, healthy eating does not have to be complicated. To help you out, I've put together a list of my favourite ways to keep it simple in the kitchen, and quickly get healthy meals on the table, with less stress.
Keeping your kitchen stocked with versatile basics and go-to staples for your favourite healthy meals is essential to keeping your meal prep quick and easy. Buy in bulk, and always check your fridge and pantry before heading out to the grocery store to ensure you always have what you need on hand. Some of my favourite staples include fruits and vegetables, whole wheat/chickpea/lentil pasta, brown and basmati rice, extra lean ground beef/turkey, precooked chicken pieces (this is a real time-saver!), black beans/chickpeas/lentils, sweet potatoes, and healthy oils (olive, avocado, coconut).
Equipping your kitchen with some good quality small appliances, utensils and accessories will help make your meals come together quicker and with less effort. Some of my favourite time-saving kitchen gadgets include: rice cooker, small food processor, high speed blender, sprializer, good quality knives, multiple cutting boards of various sizes, quality pots and pans of various sizes, and multiple glass storage containers.
Meal Prep on the Weekend
If you can, spend a couple of hours on Sunday meal prepping for the week ahead. I like to prep ingredients on Sunday that I can use for multiple meals throughout the week such as rice and/or quinoa, roasted vegetables, and ground meats or grilled chicken. Select items that will keep up to 4 to 5 days in the fridge, that are versatile, and can easily be added to multiple dishes.
Cook in Bulk
Always make large batches of family favourite recipes, especially ones that store or freeze well (pasta sauces, soups, casseroles, lasagna). Getting two meals out of one prep session is always a great idea and will make week night meals much easier.
Keep the Ingredients to a Minimum
This is a big one for me. If I find a recipe with a mile long ingredient list, I just keep on looking. If it needs more than about 15 ingredients, I usually pass. Typically, the more ingredients required, the longer it's going to take to prepare. Delicious, healthy meals can be made with simple, minimal ingredients and less than 30 minutes of prep and cook time. Recipes with less than 12 ingredients are typically my favourites, and I tend to use even less if I'm developing my own recipe.
Get Creative with Leftovers
Don't let those leftovers go to waste! Sometimes the best meals are made with various odds and ends that have accumulated in the fridge by the end of the week. Leftovers can easily be added to a salad or a rice bowl, transformed into pizza toppings, or tossed into a pasta dish.
Get Your Family Involved
If they can eat, they can help cook (well, once they reach a certain age)! From measuring, to chopping, to setting the table, there's a job for everyone. Get your kids involved, they are much more likely to try new foods if they have helped prepare them.
Learn to Multitask
Being able to multitask in the kitchen can easily cut your cooking and meal preparation time in half. But, it does take time to master (believe me, I'm still working on it!). Knowing how long it takes for certain things to cook, and how long it takes you to prepare ingredients is key. Ideally, once you get one item cooking or one stage of a recipe on its way, you'll want to move on to the next step, while still being able to occasionally keep an eye on that first step. Timing is everything, and it just takes practice.
Create a Schedule or Weekly Meal Plan
Knowing ahead of time exactly what you are preparing for each meal of the week saves time and avoids wasted decision time ahead of meals or last-minute unhealthy choices. Spend some time on the weekend planning and scheduling your meals for the week and ensuring you have all of the ingredients you need.
Use Prepared Foods
You don't always have to make things from scratch. There's no shame in using store bought sauces and dressings, etc., to save time! Just be sure to read the label and look for minimal, healthy ingredients, with ideally no added sugars, refined ingredients, colours, preservatives or other additives. Some of my favourite dressings, marinades and sauces are from Primal Kitchen and Good Food For Good. Premade sauces and marinades can be so helpful in preparing quick, healthy stir-fries, pastas, rice bowls and other meat or vegetarian dishes.
Now, keep in mind, you don't have to overwhelm yourself and implement all of these tips at once. But, a few simple changes to your kitchen, to the way you plan and prepare your meals, can help make healthy eating simple, manageable and sustainable.