Good nutrition doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and a little time to consistently plan and prepare nutritious, healthy meals. If you are committed to starting a healthier eating plan, I’ve put together some advice and ideas that will hopefully help you.
First of all, planning is key. Without a plan, there’s little to no chance of proper execution. If you don’t have a meal plan for the week, you’ll be more likely to turn to eating out and/or eating junk food. Plan your week around your schedule. I recommend committing the time to put in a bulk cooking session one day per week. Yes, it does take time but isn’t your health worth a little extra time each week?
I have weekends off work so I try to plan for my bulk cooking day to be Saturday. On Wednesday, I make a meal plan for the upcoming week. This gives me a few days to work it out and extra time if something comes up Wednesday and I need another day or so. I mainly plan on dinners since breakfast and lunch are generally the same every day. Plan your dinners to try to utilize any leftovers and remember – the freezer is your friend
We typically do a big grocery shopping day on Friday, so I start my meal plans on Fridays.
A typical week of dinners for me will look something like this (I’ve added some notes)
F – pasta casserole (usually provides leftovers for weekend training lunches or another week night meal)
S – veggie pizza (fun and a good weekend meal)
S – vegetable bowl with greens, a grain, beans, hummus, etc.
M – lentil tacos with a side of roasted potatoes
T – soup of the week (a big pot of soup will feed us for at least 2 weeknight meals, and sometimes provide leftovers for a weekend lunch)
W – leftovers or a stir fry
Th – soup
Does it always work out perfectly? Of course not. Maybe your husband is training for an Ironman and eats all the soup on Tuesday. Maybe those leftovers you were counting on as Thursday’s meal are a little too left over. I like to keep certain staples on hand for those evenings when I need to create a dinner on the fly. Canned or frozen beans are a must, as are lentils. Make a big pot or two of beans on your bulk cooking day and freeze them. Potatoes keep well in a dark pantry and are also good to have on hand. Canned tomatoes come in helpful as do a few boxes of pasta. While we try to stay away from highly processed foods, like boxed pasta, having it once in a while is generally all right. Tofu is processed, but also has a long shelf life. In a pinch on a Thursday night, a tofu scramble and roasted potatoes makes a decent meal.
Another idea for the last night of your “meal week” is what I call a “Hodge Podge Meal” which means I just look at what we have in the fridge and create something. Half an onion, half a pepper, some black beans and some quinoa equals a simple stir fry for dinner.
I also try to plan for snacks and snacky-type afternoon weekend meals. If Coach Jay is out for a 4 hour bike ride on Saturday morning, I know he will need more than a lunch of leftover soup for the afternoon. Other leftovers are always handy, as is salad. Homemade trail mix is filling and easy to make with nuts, dried fruit, some vegan chocolate chips and a sprinkle of salt.
Create your grocery list while making your meal plan. Try to be as comprehensive as possible and pick up a few extra things at the store.
An extra head of cauliflower comes in handy for an afternoon snack. Roast the florets and toss in buffalo sauce. Carrots and pita bread dipped in hummus is a filling snack as well.
As I said above, a bulk cooking day takes time but ultimately saves you much more time throughout the week. On a typical Saturday cooking day I will make/do:
Each week is a little different, depending on what I have planned but by prepping ahead of time, I usually only cook 1 or 2 weeknights a week. Everything else is ready!
Remember, the freezer is your friend. Check it while meal planning to use things before they get too old, and use frozen leftovers for quick weeknight meals. A few weeks ago we had lentil tacos and I froze the leftover filling. It served us well as a quick dinner last night. Plan next week’s soup around this week’s frozen beans. You can even freeze cooked rice to use in future dishes.
Make your plan around your own schedule and I promise the more you plan and implement these strategies, the easier they become.
* salad chop – add a scoop of this on a salad anytime. Mix chopped cucumber, bell pepper (any color), beans (opt.) and add white wine vinegar, a little salt and a little sugar (opt).
It's October and the weather is getting cooler, at least in some places. Here in South Carolina it's still pretty warm during the day, but soup is always a good option for dinner. I like to make a big pot of soup on the weekend for meals during the week. It's a quick fix if you get home from work or the gym late and just don't have time or the energy to cook a meal.
This simple minestrone soup is easy to make and, as most of my recipes, easy to modify. The recipe calls for white beans and I have used both Lima beans and Great Northern Beans - both are good. The pasta can be any variety you like, but I find a smaller shape is best (small shells, rotini, etc.) You can also leave out the pasta and add an ancient grain like Barley or Bulgar.
We think this soup is best when made a few days ahead of time. It's easy to keep it oil free by sauteing the veggies in water instead of oil.
Jbird Minestrone Soup
2 quarts ( 8 cups ) vegetable broth
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (we like fire roasted)
1 large onion diced
4 - 5 carrots diced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
cooked (or canned) white beans - 3 1/2 cups (2 cans)
8 oz frozen peas
1 cup of bite size pasta
salt and pepper to taste
1) In a small saucepan, just cover the diced carrots with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.
2) In your soup pot, saute the onions in water (about 1/4 cup adding more as needed), until soft. Add the carrots and the carrot water to the onions.
3) Add the Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes and saute for about a minute.
4) Add all other ingredients.
5) Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
I hope you enjoy this soup!
Several years ago, I wanted to create a bar like store bought bars, but I wanted it to be healthy and not packed full of ingredients I couldn't pronounce. I experimented with some recipes I found online and finally came up with my own creation. These are handy when you need a little snack or are craving something sweet.
I list the basic ingredients below, but you could always mix it up with different dried fruit or add nuts. Also, the measurements are approximate, you can always adjust to your taste.
To really make these easy, you need to use a food processor and a good mixer. The food processor is integral to getting the fruit chopped up small.
Dried dates (pitted) - 1/2 -3/4 cup
Dried apricots - 1/2 - 3/4 cup
Raisins - 1/2 -3/4 cup
Ground Flax seed - 1 Tbsp plus a sprinkle
Unsweetened applesauce - about 3/4 cup
Banana - 1
Quick oats - 2 cups
Cocoa powder (regular or dark) - 2-3 Tbsp
Vegan chocolate chips - 1/2 cup
Water - as needed
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Add the dates, apricots and a sprinkle of flaxseed to the food processor. Mix until the fruit is finely chopped.
3) Add the processed fruit, flax seed, applesauce and banana to the mixer and blend until the banana is mostly mush.
4) Add the rest of the ingredients, except water, and mix. Add water as needed to help it mix and add moisture.
5) Spray and 8x8 or 9x9 glass pan with cooking spray. Add the bar mixture and press in and smooth out.
6) Bake for 30 - 35 minutes. If they are too moist, cook a little longer next time.
7) Cool before cutting. I cut them into squares and store them in the refrigerator.
Here is another good recipe for hot summer days. It's nearly raw and contains the colors of the rainbow. You can make it completely raw, of course, but we love roasted cauliflower, so I roasted it and lightly roasted the broccoli. I'll include 2 options for sauces, one is light and one is a little heavier. Both compliment this dish very well, so pick one and give it a try. (You can also use rice noodles instead of raw zucchini noodles.)
I used the spiralizer attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer to spiralize the zucchini. I use a peeler to make the carrot ribbons. If you don't have a spiralizer, you can ribbon the zucchini as well, but I highly recommend getting a spiralizer.
3 medium zucchinis
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup of finely chopped cabbage (red or green)
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 head of broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
chopped cilantro (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup tahini or peanut butter
2 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 Tbsp fresh grated or diced ginger
2-3 Tbsp water (as needed)
1) Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the cut cauliflower with a little olive oil and salt, and spread on a sprayed baking sheet. Cook for about 20 minutes, flip and add the broccoli, and cook another 12-15 minutes.
2) While the cauliflower is baking, spiralize and/or ribbon your zucchini and carrots and chop the cabbage and green onions. Mix all together in a big bowl.
3) Whisk together the ingredients from the sauce of your choice. (If making the heavier sauce, you might want to use an immersion blender.) Toss the sauce with your veggies either all in the big bowl or separately in serving bowls.
4) Add mixed veggies to serving bowls, add the cauliflower and broccoli and garnish with peanuts, cilantro, and/or sesame seeds.