This time of year we’re bombarded with ways to slim down or shape up -- and it all makes us want to tune out! If healthy habits don’t fit into real life, they’re not going to stick. Here are some tips to make meals healthier and life a little easier without following a one-size-fits-all strategy.
- Make a plan
“The plan” is simply a list of dinner recipes or ideas for the week ahead. Use it to create your grocery list. Having a plan for the week, or just a few days can really help get a handle on your eating habits and even your budget. Start writing your list of daily dinners when you come across a recipe you want to try, or write the list on whatever day you do your big grocery shop. After the big shop, pop proteins you’re using later in the week into the freezer, and prep and wash veggies you know will last and store them tightly in the crisper.
- Cook in quantity when you have the time
Don’t think of batch cooking as making a month of fully-prepared frozen meals – that’s too complex! Try making a big batch of staple items to use throughout the week. A big pot of soup or stew, several cups of whole grains, slow cooked beans, a sauce or dressing and even several bunches of hardy steamed greens make a great start. These work in different combinations at dinner and for quick take-to-work lunches. Try beans and rice topped with greens and a sauce, and the next day mix soup with grains and use that to stuff bell peppers. Tasty meals can come together from just a few staples.
- Stock your freezer
Soups, stews, grains, beans and sauces all freeze really well and last for months. Portion out single serving quantities. If you do this each week of your batch cooking, you’ll end the month with a variety of beans, grains and soups at the ready to rescue any hectic day.
- Give your favorites a makeover
Making healthier versions of your favorites will help you stick to your plan and be satisfied with the way you eat. Are you a big fan of baked goods? Try using apple sauce or other fruit purees in place of butter in some recipes. Mac and cheese your weakness? Stir in a ton of green veggies or puree cooked cauliflower into the sauce. Love Grandma’s marinara? Decrease the oil and add tons of veggies.
Eating healthy meals doesn’t have to be a total departure from taste, convenience or sanity! A few simple tweaks can help you make a healthy change that lasts the rest of the year. Tell us: what are your tips for keeping healthy meals on hand?