Many of us want to eat healthy, but stress and a lack of time can easily derail our good intentions. If you feel as if you don’t have time to make nutritious meals, you are not alone. Planning, shopping and cooking are time-consuming. Doing it all while avoiding unhealthy shortcuts can seem impossible, especially during the busy work week. If you’d love to eat better but aren’t sure how, here are some tips to save you time and make healthy meal-planning easier.
1. Get the tools.
The right kitchen accessories are a great investment. They save you time and make it easier for you to live up to your healthy-eating expectations. Best buys include:
- Rice cooker: No burning, no guessing—your rice comes out perfect every time. Plus, you are free to cook something else while your rice cooker does the work for you.
- Food processor: Don’t like chopping? Use your food processor instead.
- Steamer: Make vegetable side dishes in minutes, no oil needed.
- Garlic press: Don’t get frustrated peeling and chopping garlic when you can mince it in a minute.
- Blender: Make smoothies ahead of time and store in the freezer. One option for breakfast or a healthy snack: Mix frozen fruit, water or almond milk, a banana and chia seeds.
- Plastic storage containers: Make your food-prep day easy when you have storage containers on hand.
2. Set it and forget it.
Two words: Slow cooker. Easy meals to make in it include turkey chili, lentil soup, stews and braises of every kind. Almost anything you can boil or roast also has a version for your slow cooker, including lots of healthy recipes. Imagine coming home at the end of the day, your house full of aromatic smells, and dinner is ready. Here are 52 healthy slow cooker recipes from fitness trainer Chris Freytag’s Gethealthyu.com to get you inspired.
3. Designate a food-prep day.
Pick a day just for food preparation; Sundays work well for most people. Whatever you can do ahead of time will make the week that much easier. Prepare a big batch of brown rice in your slow cooker. Bake chicken breasts in the oven. Mix some smoothies and put them in your freezer to grab and go in the morning. Chop veggies and fruit to have ready-made snacks or add-ons for your packed lunches.
4. Keep your grocery list going all week.
As soon as you are low on something or down to the last can or jar, add it back to your grocery list. This regular habit saves time. When it’s time to shop, just grab your list and head out.
5. Think veggies first.
Gone are the days of meat and potatoes at the center of your plate and maybe a vegetable on the side. Greens and other veggies are now center stage. Make vegetables the priority in your healthy meal planning. Think of what vegetable you are having first and then figure out the rest. Baked sweet potatoes go well with salmon. Steam spinach and add cooked garlic shrimp. Think peppers, onions and avocado and whip up some healthy fajitas.
6. Establish a few healthy meal staples.
We all have days when whipping up a homemade vegetable soup for the family is not in the cards. Have a few go-to meals in your repertoire that are easy to prepare. Consider scrambled eggs with leftover veggies and goat cheese. Or make a salad with whatever protein you have left such as salmon or rotisserie chicken. If you have extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and coarse ground mustard, you can whisk together a delicious and healthy salad dressing. Add a dash of salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. If you don’t eat meat or fish, toss a handful of almonds or walnuts on your salad. Have some ingredients on hand to make some healthy meals in a muffin tin.
7. Make extras.
Making stuffed peppers or a delicious and healthy chili recipe? Double the recipe so you can eat it twice in the same week, take leftovers for lunch or freeze a few servings for later.
Try some of these techniques and make meal prep easier on you and better for your health.
Read more: 3 Easy Steps for Healthier Eating
Read more: 10 Must-Read Books for Happy, Healthy Eating
Sandra Bilbray is a contributing editor for Live Happy, and the CEO and owner of themediaconcierge.net.