Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard! I have worked with so many clients who tell me they just don’t have time to prepare healthy meals. I have spent years helping my clients come up with tricks and strategies to fill their bodies with satisfying, nutritious meals and snacks that don’t require hours in the kitchen!
There are different strategies for those who enjoy cooking and for those who don’t ever want to turn their ovens on. I’m about to share several strategies you can start using right now, as well as a few of my favorite quick and easy recipes.
Make sure you have the Right Food In the House
One of the most critical strategies for easily preparing healthy meals is to keep your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer stocked with basic ingredients. This will enable you to put simple meals together and try new recipes without having to shop for tons of ingredients.
My freezer is always stocked with frozen fruit and greens for smoothies, tons of protein options (e.g. fish, grass-fed meat, chicken, fresh frozen meals or soups, and prepared foods from Daily Harvest or other whole food companies. This strategy ensures you have easy meal options on hand!
I have had clients who insist that they don’t like frozen food but when food is high quality and freshly frozen, it totally works. I encourage my clients to “try to make friends with your freezer!” It can be life changing.
Here is a current (snapped it last night) picture of the bottom drawer of my freezer to give you an idea of what I typically have on hand.
Make friends with your freezer!
Now onto the pantry!
Items you can always find in my pantry include dried/canned beans, quinoa, gluten-free pasta (e.g. from brown rice, quinoa, chickpea or lentils), clean protein powders/collagen, a variety of nuts, seeds, and nut butters, gluten-free flours, healthy oils and vinegars, canned salmon, chili paste, diced tomatoes, various broths, spices, and condiments.
A few items I typically have in my refrigerator are: Applegate Organics roasted turkey breast, eggs, organic chicken sausage, avocados, sauerkraut, and an assortment of fresh veggies that can be steamed, stir fried or thrown together as a salad.
What I love about the turkey and sausage is it keeps for quite a while. Although it is a packaged food, it is a clean, organic brand that has sustainable practices, making the convenience trade-off worth it.
I am not a big meal planner so I love to have a variety of options on hand I can mix and match, depending on what I feel like having for a meal.
Become a Food Architect with "NO-COOK MEALS"
I make nutrient-packed smoothies most mornings. I call smoothies the healthiest fast food on the planet! Using a basic formula, you can create a myriad of healthy well-balanced smoothie meals.
My basic go-to is:
These are my favorites, but there are so many variations you can try!
Salads are always easy to throw together, too and there are so many different ways to combine ingredients. You can make a salad with just a few ingredients (e.g. spring mix, celery, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and lemon) or throw a lot in as you can see in the picture below. You can add a protein like chicken, beans or shrimp too.
Keep in mind that a “meal” doesn’t have to be conventional – some turkey, almonds and fruit is a healthy well-balanced meal.
Chia pudding is a favorite of mine and a favorite for a lot of my clients, many of whom had never heard of a chia seed before! You can take the basic recipe (at the end of this article) and add all kinds of toppings. I even make chocolate chia pudding, pictured below with blackberries.
Next up, last night's dinner.
I worked late and had nothing planned for dinner: items-on-hand to the rescue!
These simple staples made for a lovely dinner.
Embrace Leftovers: Cook Once, Eat Several Times!
If you are going to cook, you might as well make a lot! Big batches of soup, a few trays of roasted veggies, hard boiled eggs, roasted potatoes, roasted chicken—all work well to cook in big batches that can then be eaten throughout the week or frozen in single-serve containers for another time.
On the weekend or when I have time, I will bake a bunch of chicken breasts that I can use during the week to add to salads, soups, or eat with some steamed veggies on the side. Sides like quinoa or cauliflower rice (shown below) can also be made in bulk and used for other meals.
Big sheet pans are great for roasting in bulk. I store my leftover roasted veggies in a mason jar for use with another meal. These will last approximately 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
Stews are also a great easy way to bulk cook. You are basically just throwing various ingredients you like, e.g. chicken, veggies, rice or quinoa into a big pot with liquid and spices. So many possibilities!
One of my favorites that I make a lot is “Chicken Curry in a Hurry” from nom nom Paleo’s Ready or Not cookbook, but you don’t even need a recipe to pull a stew together. And if you have an Instant Pot, you can use that as well to make it go even faster!
I have a few basic healthy soups (one recipe at the end of the article) I can have for a light meal or add some cooked chicken, shrimp/scallops, or additional veggies for variety and protein. The same soup can be served differently each time if you like!
Quick and Easy Cooking Methods
There are so many ways to cook everything in just one pot or pan or on the grill.
When I work with a client who wants to learn how to cook an easy meal, I always start with teaching them how to stir fry. It is a simple formula—protein plus veggies. You can always add a side of rice, pasta or cauliflower rice if you like.
If you follow the tips for keeping your freezer and fridge stocked with the right healthy foods you like and you master the stir fry, you never have to sweat a meal. For the protein, you can use seafood (cooks easily and quickly), chicken, ground meats, beef—whatever you enjoy—and just about any veggie.
A favorite combo of one of my client’s (as she was learning to cook) was peppers, onions, mushrooms and chicken. When she first started, she bought cooked organic chicken and added that when the veggies were done. Easy peasy!
A few examples below are chicken and veggies with some curry spices, a simple scallop and broccoli stir fry, ground bison and broccoli and mushrooms and scallops with mushrooms and bok choy.
Another easy way to get a fast, balanced meal is with eggs.
Eggs don’t just have to be for breakfast! I love to scramble veggies and toss in some eggs. You can put some greens and avocado on the side to add some extra nutrition and yumminess! Frittatas are super easy to make also and require just one pan.
Grilling is another easy approach that always hits the spot.
I love to throw salmon and asparagus or a nice grass-fed filet on the grill and have it with some veggies. You can throw your veggies and protein all on the grill together and not have to dirty your kitchen at all!
Steaming veggies is another quick and easy approach.
Remember the chicken sausage I mentioned that I always have on hand in my fridge? In 10 minutes, I can heat up my chicken sausage in a pan on the stove, steam some broccoli and pour some good olive oil over it, add a dash of garlic sea salt and voila – dinner! I enjoy sauerkraut with this meal which is another healthy fridge staple of mine.
Lastly, soups are great one pot meals and as mentioned in the section above, are great for bulk cooking as well.
Food Delivery and Meal Services
Two more ways to shorten the time it takes to make meals is to:
1) get your groceries delivered
2) use a meal service
There are many of these kinds of services out there today!
I am a big believer in grocery delivery. Yes, it comes at a small additional cost, but it is cheaper than eating out or ordering take-out because you don’t have what you need in the house. Or even worse, grabbing something unhealthy! If you are an Amazon Prime member, Prime Now is included in your membership and they deliver from Whole Foods or their own warehouses.
Another popular delivery service is Instacart, which I only use in a pinch because they do cost a bit more. But they both have saved me on numerous occasions, particularly when I can’t get to a grocery store for my perishable items.
There are 2 primary types of meal services.
One is something like Green Chef, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Purple Carrot (vegan) and Sun Basket. These are subscription based and they send you kits with the ingredients measured out and the steps to follow. You still have to put the meal together and cook it, but it saves you from having to think about what to make and getting all the ingredients together.
The other approach is meals that are already made and just need to be heated. The two I have tried and would recommend are Balanced Bites Meals and Daily Harvest.
Balanced Bites uses all clean quality ingredients (not organic), the food is cooked fresh on Sunday, frozen and shipped to you by Tuesday and you get them by Thursday or Friday. There is a lot of variety, they are delicious and taste homemade. The pictures on their website will make your mouth water!
I love having some of these in my freezer for when I want a full interesting meal but don’t have time to cook. This isn’t subscription-based; you order a box of 10 meals whenever you want.
Here is an example meal – lemon chicken (thigh), bok choy and riced broccoli.
Daily Harvest is organic, vegan and also comes frozen.
They have smoothies, chia pudding, soups, harvest bowls and snacks. The quality and flavors are great. They have a lot of variety and while it is subscription based, you can skip weeks whenever you want. I typically add a protein to the soups or bowls if I am having them for dinner but many of them are great as a light meal as well. Here are some examples from my freezer.
Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have to Take a Lot of Time!
I hope you found a few ideas in here that will help you prepare healthy meals without a lot of fuss and bother.
As promised, below are 2 simple recipes that can also be used for bulk cooking and be varied to suit your personal needs and tastes.
If you would like a free copy of my smoothie guide, which has a lot of tips and tricks with over 20 recipes, you can download it by clicking HERE.
If you would like to get in touch you can find me here or email me.
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Creamy Onion Soup
Makes 4-6 servings
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
Sea salt and black pepper
In a large soup pot, add the avocado oil over a medium-low flame. When the pot is hot, add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes until the onions are soft and sweet.
Add the chopped cauliflower, vegetable broth, and coconut milk. Cover and bring the soup to a boil. When the soup is boiling, turn down the flame and allow it to simmer until the cauliflower is soft. Turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender OR ladle the soup into a blender and blend in batches until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add more broth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Bulk Cooking Tip: Double or even triple the recipe and store in large mason jars or freeze in single serving sizes in freezer-proof containers.
Basic Chia Pudding
Makes 1 serving
Add milk to a serving bowl and mix in liquid stevia if using. Stir well and add chia seeds. Allow the mixture to sit for 15 to 20 minutes (or overnight), stirring occasionally. When the pudding is thick, top with berries or other toppings as you like.
You can add chopped nuts, shredded coconut, cinnamon, a mix of fruit, hemp seeds, etc. Endless choices!
Bulk Cooking Tip: Make 4 servings at once in a quart size mason jar. Add more non-dairy milk as needed if it gets too thick.