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  • Writer's picturePreeti Bansal Kshirsagar

Ideas for putting together quick meals on a busy schedule

Healthy eating strategies for busy lives

a) Go-Frozen: Frozen vegetables and fruits are your friends, they are easy to store and have a long shelf (read: “freezer”) life. Use them in stir-fries, soups and smoothies without the hassle of cleaning and chopping. $ for $, frozen produce provides similar antioxidants and nutrients as fresh produce.

b) Pick pre-prepped: Buy pre-washed green leafy vegetables like spinach, spring mix and kale. Pre-chopped squashes, bell peppers, and shredded cabbage are available at many stores. Glass jarred and canned foods like marinara sauce, pasta sauce, olives, salsa, sauerkraut, kimchi, wild salmon, and artichokes and of course canned beans and lentils make great meal components too!

c) Choose Healthy Bread: While whole grains are definitely preferable to refined flour products, if you include bread in your diet, go for commercially available frozen sprouted whole grain bread to get that extra protein and antioxidant action. It is also advisable to check the ingredients and see what additives (read: “non-foods”) are hiding in your bread.

An example is bread from the company Food For Life:

d) Dips and Spreads: When we think of dips and spreads for those veggie sticks or that slice of bread, the first things that pop in our mind are peanut butter or cream cheese. While peanut butter is fine, also explore almond, cashew, and sunflower seed butter to get a variety of nuts, seeds, and good fats! Organic hummus and pre-made guacamole are great spreads, too, that you can purchase in small serving-sized cups.

e) Pack Snack: Prepare your own nutty, chewy, trail mix and pack in little zip lock bags for snacking through the week. Wash and wrap organic apples/pears in paper towels to grab-and-go. When on the run, make healthier snacking choices from vending machines – remembering that 100 calories from a bag of pistachios are far superior in nutrients to 100 calories from a bag of potato chips.

f) Select Smart: In crunch time, go for the healthiest options possible – think of the hot bar at a health-food store or your bag of trail mix and a banana when you are in a rush. Think about other small ways you could make this meal/snack healthier, until making healthier choices becomes a habit.

g) Batch cook and freeze: Take a moment and think about a healthy meal. Rather than thinking about a complete meal, think about meal components; stir-fried vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa/ buckwheat and other whole grains, lentils/chilies/soups and stews. All of these can be batch-cooked over the weekend and frozen in mason jars or other freezer safe containers. Carry the mason jar of cooked whole grain and chili to work, microwave it and enjoy a delicious mid-day meal.

Last but not least:

h) Eat mindfully: Almost as important as your food choices, is how you eat. Remember, your desk is not a table! Give yourself a break when you eat and enjoy even a few moments to savor the food, chew slowly and leave some time for a walk or just to sit and breathe. You will digest and assimilate the nutrients from your food ever so much better, connecting to your body and allowing yourself the space to be. Remember that every bite matters. Every little choice that we make with our food now will nourish our bodies today and will keep us healthy for the years to come.

As Integrative Medicine guru Dr. Mark Hyman says “Always do the best you can under the circumstances rather than aim for perfection.” And, as the food journalist Michael Pollan so concisely advises, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Quick healthy Recipes:

1. 15-minute chili: Add frozen / pre-chopped vegetables, canned beans and a jar of pasta sauce to a pan. Add salt, spices – red chili powder/ garlic powder/ black pepper/ turmeric and herbs – dry basil/ oregano/ rosemary/ thyme. Bring the pan to a boil; simmer for 5 minutes and voila! the perfect chili/soup is ready in 15 minutes. Mix and match vegetables, beans, and lentils with different flavors of pasta sauces to keep things fresh!

2. 10-minute pre-prepped meal: Think of a meal consisting of a can of drained Garbanzo Beans, your batch-cooked quinoa, a generous serving of olives, marinara sauce/salsa on a bed of pre-washed spinach and baby kale. Throw some kimchi on the side, and you got yourself a delicious healthy meal in 10 minutes.

3. 5-minute healthy toast: A slice of toasted sprouted whole-grain bread with a spread of hummus and some organic dill pickles on it can make that perfect breakfast. Replace hummus with guacamole and dill pickle with kimchi/sauerkraut and you’ve got the perfect refreshing after-work snack.

4. Trail mix: 1/2 cup each of raw almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and cashews. ¼ cup each of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and organic raisins, organic dried cranberries, dried goji berries, and organic semi-sweet chocolate chips. Add 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt and mix in a large bowl. Pack in snack sized zip locks to pick and go.

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