Most people have been told that eating healthier should be one of their goals. And skipping fast food by preparing meals at home is one of the easiest ways to do that. But unless cooking is your hobby, that just sounds like so much… work.
But since ILA wants to support you in your healthy habits, we’ve found some of the best tips on simplifying home-cooked meals. Check out these three suggestions to see what might work for you!
Pre-prepare Snacks, Meals, or Ingredients
Eat healthy snacks, they said. But when you are on the go, it’s a lot easier to grab a bag of chips than to cut and chop fruits and veggies. That’s why pre-preparing snacks is one of the best ways to stay healthy. When your groceries come in for the week, don’t just put away your whole produce. Plan to take the time to wash, cut and portion out servings you can grab on the go.
For example, make bags of carrots with a small sauce container of dressing. Or try sliced apples with nut butter. If you like granola or energy bites, make a batch at the beginning of the week, then divide it up into serving-size containers.
The same process can be applied to meal prep. If you work during the week and struggle to find time to put together a healthy dinner, then order groceries on the weekend and pre-prepare ingredients according to your meal plan. If you want to have salads for lunch, wash and chop your ingredients and put them in containers for the rest of the week. If you are going to use veggies as dinner ingredients, then clean them up and store them together by meal.
And you can’t beat the simplicity of batch-making freezer meals to pull out when you are short on time. On a day off, spend the afternoon creating multiples of the same main dish. There are many freezer meal recipes available online.
Don’t Buy Junk Food
Ouch. That sounds harsh. Or maybe overly simplistic. But the fact is, if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. And I don’t mean “don’t buy junk food ever,” what I mean is “don’t buy junk food from the grocery store.”
Eating at home isn’t going to make you any healthier if the food you eat there is equivalent to what you would find at a fast food restaurant. Too many cookies, prepackaged snacks, frozen meals, or lunches of canned ravioli can be just as bad for you as a trip to McDonald’s.
Since most of us are going to eat out from time-to-time, and we are most likely going to be invited to parties and special events, try to save the junk food for special occasions. Instead of buying a cake from the grocery store and having a slice for dessert every night, find a healthier alternative for home and save the cake consumption for birthday parties.
If you go to an event or the movies, you’ll be a lot happier indulging in some concession counter snacks knowing that you don’t eat that way at home every day.
Keep Things Simple
A simple way to eat healthier is by keeping things…simple. I’m sure that sounds vague, so let me explain.
First, choose simple recipes. Unless you enjoy cooking like Martha Stewart, there’s no need to get elaborate. If you are short on time, you’re much more likely to be inspired to cook when the ingredient list and skill list required for a dish is short.
Homemade chili, baked chicken, and boiled eggs are all examples of simple recipes. If you can make a meal from five ingredients or less, then it’s considered pretty basic. You can actually google “five ingredient recipes.” There are a lot of other people out there sharing information on how to cook without spending all day on the preparation. Simple recipes save you time.
Simple ingredients also usually boost your nutrition value. If you’ve heard people talking about cooking with “whole foods,” they generally mean single ingredients that don’t have any additives. For example, onion powder would be a simple ingredient. A packet of flavor mix that has multiple unpronounceable ingredients and a few preservatives thrown in would not be a simple ingredient. Simple ingredients keep things healthier.
And one-pot-wonders are a way to simplify your preparation and clean up. One of the worst parts of cooking can be having to wash all of the dishes afterward. When you make slow cooker meals, besides the tools you may have used for preparing ingredients, all you have left to clean up is one dishwasher-safe crock. Once again, one-pot meals are easily searchable online if you need ideas. They range from crockpot to casserole dish.
Inspired to get busy in the kitchen? ILA has dozens of kitchen and cooking aids that you can check out here. There’s something to keep everyone active and independent.