As a registered holistic nutritionist, my goal is to steer people towards eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. A fresh organic apple instead of apple juice or apple sauce, grass-fed beef instead of a frozen meatball comprised of a mash-up of leftover chicken, pork and beef pieces held together by soy, wheat and corn derivatives. You get the picture.
“But where am I going to find the time to prep all these unprocessed foods?” you may ask.
Even with my own business and a family to take care of, I rarely spend more than 30 minutes per day actually cooking. Over the years, I’ve learned to shop smart and pick “clean foods” that also involve minimal prep.
Here are a few strategies I want to share with you so that you can be in and out of the kitchen with food ready to go in no time:
1.) Always of have a box of pre-washed salad greens at eye level in your fridge. Baby spinach, some nice peppery arugula, spring mix, herb mix – whatever. Boxed greens are a health saver and a time saver. They are the foundation for entrée salads, add color, bulk, and flavor to soups, sandwiches and wraps and, best of all, they take ZERO prep. Just eat them while they’re fresh. We even throw them into our breakfast smoothies for a quick dose of stress-busting B vitamins in the morning. Keeping them at eye level makes them easy to grab and less likely to go forgotten and wasted.
2.) Make a big pot of vegetable soup on the weekend. Pick a day, Saturday or Sunday, and make it soup day. (I sometimes choose the day before I do a grocery run so that I use up the last onion, carrot sticks, celery or leafy greens.) The idea is to make a really big batch that you will then portion out into Tupperware or glass jars for packed lunches throughout the week. For that simmered-all-day rich flavor base, feel free to cheat and use some organic low sodium chicken broth instead of making your own broth. Soup with at least 4 vegetables (ie: onion, carrot, celery and tomato) in a base of pre-made broth takes no more than 20 minutes active cooking time and will keep for 3 to 5 days.
3.) Grill or bake 4 to 6 chicken breasts or fish filets at a time. The number of chicken breasts you choose depends on how many mouths you are feeding. Fire up your grill or oven (perhaps while your soup is simmering!), cut the chicken breasts in half length-wise to thin them out and help them cook faster. Season with dried herbs and garlic, lemon and dill, honey and mustard, whatever you fancy, let them cook for 20-35 minutes depending on thickness, cut into salad-ready chunks or slices and you’ve got lean protein for at least 3 days!
4.) Have hummus, wraps, frozen veggies and tuna on hand at all times. The hummus, tuna, and wraps, combined with the requisite boxed green from Tip #1, make an easy handheld (read: cutlery free) lunch or dinner. The frozen veggies – which are as good as fresh, by the way – provide a switch up for the veggie soup from Tip #2.
5.) Only buy broccoli, cauliflower, collards and turnip greens in frozen form. Again, frozen is as good as fresh in terms of nutritional value. Many people want to eat their cruciferous vegetables but are daunted by the prospect of washing and chopped giant stalks of collards, etc. Eat your collards, but skip the chop ‘n’ wash workout! Most grocery stores have pre-chopped greens in their freezer section. You just need to find them and use them. We always have a bag or two of broccoli and/or cauliflower in the freezer that I can easily throw into soups or rice dishes, or just steam up in under 5 minutes. Frozen broccoli or cauliflower is also a HUGE time saver. (Bonus tip: Toss lemon juice, olive oil and mustard into a Tupperware with frozen green beans. Pack it in the morning and by lunch the green beans will have marinated and thawed into a delicious salad.)
6.) Eggs = Easy Meal. Whether it’s an omelet, a scramble or just a hard boiled topper for your entrée salad, eggs complete your meal in a way that provides lean protein, brain-boosting choline and a healthy amount of cholesterol that is essential to hormone production without promoting heart disease. Always always have a dozen free range organic eggs on hand for a quick, healthy meal. Don’t forget to load up your omelet with boxed leafy greens.
7.) Bake 6 sweet potatoes at a time. Got your oven on anyways for Tip #3? Wrap a few organic sweet potatoes in tin foil, place them in a glass baking dish and let them get happy in the oven at 350 F for 20-35 minutes depending on size. Sweet potatoes can be the healthy carbohydrate component for a few of your meals, giving you a healthy dose of beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium.