How to make healthy meals quickly when you don’t have time
You’ve just come home after a long day of work, maybe the kids need seeing too, maybe the house could do with a clean.
You have demands calling you from all directions.
“Mum, where’s my Lego?”
“Mum, I need help with my homework.”
“Mum, what’s of dinner?”
Ah yes, and then we have to cook a healthy meal for the family!
I know how you feel. I am lucky that I work from home but I also have a toddler to take care of 24/7, a house to run, a family to feed all while being pregnant.
Our health often come at the bottom of the many to do lists.
So, from a personal perspective, how do I manage to always eat healthy? To always have 3 meals (and snacks) that are healthy, nourishing and work for my goals?
Today, I will give you my best tips on how to make healthy meals quickly.
You absolutely must start planning your meals.
I know it takes a bit of time to plan the meals initially but honestly, it takes so much less time throughout the week nipping to the shops to buy something because there’s nothing in.
It will save you so much money because you wont need to do multiple shops. Whoever goes to the shops and just picks up only what they need?
You can make multiple meals from the same ingredients. This stops you from buying more ingredients for a new meal each night of the week.
Everyday we have decisions we need to make. The problem is that we can only make a certain amount of decisions based on willpower.
e.g. I should eat something healthy for breakfast.
By the end of the day we start to get decision fatigue and our willpower starts to slip. This is why we find it so hard to make healthy choices when we are third after a long day.
It’s just so much easier to give in and have something we know isn’t healthy.
I get so fed up of having to think every day what we were all going to have to eat. When you plan ahead you know what you are having.
What to do
Plan what day you will go food shopping
Plan what day you will write a food menu for the week BEFORE you go food shopping
Pro Tip – I never leave meal planning and food shopping for the same day. There’s limited time to go food shopping so trying to come up with a healthy plan before takes time, which I don’t have.
If I don’t have the weekly food plan ready and I buy on impulse I always have to return to the shops at least 2 times that week.
For me, Thursday night I do the food menu planning while watching the TV after my little one has gone to sleep. I prefer to make it entertaining so I don’t mind doing it.
I write out the following:
3 lunch ideas
3-4 dinner ideas
1 salad dressing
I then write out day by day what I will eat.
(Note that this changes a lot because I may end up going out or there might be something leftover that needs using. But I have my foundations.)
I also note if I will eat out that week, for example lunch out on Friday and Saturday. So I know I have 2 meals I don’t need to cater for.
Weekends are the busiest time for me and when I don’t want to do any cooking so I always plan something and have it ready before the weekend.
You can do the same with whatever days are your busiest.
A typical day
Breakfast for me is either oats or a smoothie so I don’t need to plan that.
Even though I work from home, I nearly always have a salad for lunch. (A ginormous salad that really fills me up)
For dinner, I will have a main meal such as stir fry, curry, bean stew, etc.
I like to make a savoury and sweet snack for the week as I’m starving while pregnant. (Pick one.)
Hummus and vegetable sticks
Crackers and salsa
Nut butter and celery
Handful of nuts and seeds
Pro tip – If you are not pregnant or breastfeeding or have no existing medical issues, I encourage you to stop snacking and stick to 3 meals per day for better digestion and efficient fat burning.
#2 Keep it simple
This may seem way too much to do already but bare with me! We usually rotate the same meals over and over again.
Pick your favourites and stick to them.
Finding one new meal to cook per week is great for your recipe repertoire and can give your taste buds a kick resulting in a home cooked meal over a takeaway.
You don’t need to cook elaborate meals in order to be healthy.
In fact, the simpler and quicker is the best option for me and many others.
A simple plate of brown rice, warmed kidney beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and diced avocado will do the job.
Find meal ideas that you like and find healthier versions of them, (you can find loads of inspiration here on my pinterest boards, don’t forget to follow!)
#3 Eat the same meals.
This may seem boring but if you make something tasty you don’t mind eating it a few times. For my salad I usually have the same one (adding/swapping leftovers each day) and I eat that all week.
For Dinner – I will cook enough for 2 meals worth and rotate them in the week. Sometimes that’s not possible, e.g. I wouldn’t want to cook 2 days worth of stir fry because it might go mushy. But I would chop the vegetables at the same time and have it ready for another night in the week.
Pro tip – Choose 1 easy dinner as a back up.
After planning, for example, 3 main meals (stir fry, curry, bean stew) I then make note of a super simple meal i can throw together.
This could be a microwaved sweet potato, topped with black beans, frozen peas and tahini. This is something I know I can buy in but requires no cooking.
In order to be healthy, you have to be prepared to cook and there’s just no way of getting round this one.
If your new to cooking, have a look on Pinterest for inspiration and try one new recipe per week.
Keep meals simple with minimal ingredients.
The more you cook the easier it will be able to put meals together quickly and easily.
#5 Healthy convenient foods
Keep a stocked fridge and freezer so that you always have something on hand to throw a quick meal together.
Look for healthy convenience foods such as:
Soups (add extra beans and some veggies for a filling meal)
Frozen vegetables (add to soups, stews and curries)
Frozen fruit (add to smoothies, oats and for baking)
Hummus/salsa (for snacks, thin hummus with water and use as salad dressing)
Healthy fillers such as oven baked falafels
#6 Meal prep
You knew this was coming.
Again, there’s no way of getting round this one.
Do you have to prep your entire weeks worth of meals and snacks and have them ready in containers in the fridge? NO.
If you are new to food prepping, try doing 3 days at a time. For example, Saturday and Wednesday.
Even 2 days at a go is better than nothing.
The main point is to always, always, always, have a meal ready for
a) your busiest time
b) the current day
If you don’t have anything healthy ready, guess what? Your probably not going to eat something healthy.
My meal prep tips
Breakfast – overnight oats are my thing. They are quick and easy and you can make them the night before.
I put oats in milk overnight with either chia seeds or flax seed and sometimes some frozen berries. The next day I top it with fruit, nut butter and seeds or nuts.
Lunch – buddha bowl. I nearly always have a big buddha bowl. They take 5 minutes to assemble and, are really tasty and keep me full for hours.
I include the following:
Veggies (as many as you like)
At the beginning of the week I chop up a variety of vegetables (carrot, pepper, beetroot, onion)
I chop lettuce daily as that needs to be done last minute.
Carbohydrates (pick 1-2)
Protein (pick 1-2)
A tin or 2 of beans
Pan fried tofu
Fat (pick 1-2)
I simply add this last minute.
Fruit – dried or fresh
Spices – paprika, curry, cumin
Fresh herbs – coriander, mint, dill
Roasted veggies – cauliflower, pepper, broccoli, onions
Each day I then assemble everything in a big bowl, top it with some dressing and I’m done. You can also have soup/crackers if you feel more hungry.
Dinner – I don’t prep everything but I cook 2 meals at the beginning of the week for my dinners and 2 meals mid week. That way I can rotate these meals all the way through to the weekend.
#7 Always add fruit and veggies
How to take your healthy up a notch and get quicker results.
Whenever you make something to eat, always eat it with a side of vegetables or salad. Choose green vegetables or non starchy vegetables as much as possible.
A few days a week, finish your meal with fresh fruit instead of dessert.
Bean chilli and sweet potato wedges, served with sweetcorn and a side salad
Lentil dahl and rice with steamed green beans
Mushroom and beans on toast with a side of grilled tomatoes
Don’t make it complicated, a simple side of sliced tomatoes will suffice.
End the meal with fresh cut up fruits such as sliced melon, grapes, berries, mango, oranges
Frozen fruit can also be used, just thaw out for 15 -20 minutes first for an icy treat.
Still need inspiration?
Try these quick and easy recipes to get started:
Some no-recipe suggestions:
Baked potato wedges, salad and avocado
Tray bake – Combine various vegetables (onions, broccoli, sweet potato) on a tray with spices of choice. Serve with chickpeas and a drizzle of tahini.
Mixed salad with assorted vegetables (cucumber, tomato, shredded red cabbage) humous and baked sweet potato with balsamic vinegar.
Humous and grated carrot on a wholemeal sandwich, side of salad and an apple.
Soup – onion, garlic, leftover veggies, red lentils/tin of beans, veggie stock, and dried mixed herbs. Pour over quinoa.
So there you have my best tips for eating quickly and healthy when you have absolutely no time.
I know some of these tips requires work before hand but I promise you will save so much time, effort and energy in the week. Not to mention you will feel better, have increased energy and even lost a few pounds!
If you liked these tips, let me know in the comments which tip you are going to try this week. What helps you prepare meals quickly? Share below
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