Healthy Meals in Minutes: Quick, Easy and Delicious Recipes for the Busy Fall SeasonMichelle Waithe, BASc, RHN, PTS September 1, 2012
As the lazy days of summer wind down and we get back into our hectic work and school schedules, maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge. As a holistic nutritionist the number one request I get from clients is how to make healthy meals quick, easy, and above all delicious. Commercial advertising has taught us that in order to be convenient and tasty, food needs to be served from a drive-through window or ready in seconds in a microwavable package. As a result, many have come to view the art of meal preparation with fresh ingredients as effortful, expensive, and time consuming.
It is my passion to bring joy and love back into the kitchen, exploring fresh flavourful ingredients while creating optimal health. Here are my favourite strategies to make healthy eating an enticing adventure as well as a convenient part of your routine. Preparation is the key to daily success and commitment to your healthy eating goals! Even if you have already embraced a fresh, whole food diet you will find these simple ideas and recipes extremely helpful to streamline your routine.
Stock your pantry
Make sure to have healthy ingredients in your pantry at all times so that meal preparation is a smooth process:
– Organic BPA-free canned beans or legumes, organic vegetable stock either in powdered or Tetra Pak containers, whole grain crackers and pasta, and natural nut butters are great convenience items to have on hand.
– Dried herbs and spices, dried legumes, whole grains and whole grain flours, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, goji berries and other dried fruit, raw nuts and seeds (keep these refrigerated if buying in larger quantities) are great sources of essential fatty acids, fibre, and vitamins/minerals.
– Fair trade cacao nibs and cacao powder, natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, raw agave, maple syrup, or raw honey, coconut oil and other cold-pressed oils (refrigerate after opening), and natural Himalayan or sea salt are great for adding flavour and nutrition to any recipe.
Find your favourite cooking references
Keep one or two natural cookbooks in your kitchen to use as a reference for quick and easy meals. The New Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont, Get It Ripe and Ripe From Around Here by Jae Steele, and Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk are my go-to favourites.
Bookmark websites for quick and healthy recipes. One of my favourites is http://www.beabetterbeing.com featuring the Mum’s Original line of superfood products.
Plan your meals for the week
• Once you have found a few recipes you really enjoy, plan out how to use them throughout the week and create a shopping list accordingly.
• Make larger batches of recipes like soups, stews, and dips that can be portioned and either refrigerated or frozen for quick meals and snacks.
Make a weekly shopping list
• Decide which day of the week will be your shopping day. Planning to shop during less busy times can make the experience much more pleasurable.
• Check your pantry before you shop and make a list of staple ingredients that are running low, as well as any new ingredients or fresh produce you will need for your recipes.
• You may need to shop twice weekly for produce to ensure optimal freshness; think of it as something to look forward to by exploring new ingredients you may have never tried before.
• Get familiar with your local health food store and farmers markets; many have regular sales and new specialty items to make your menus affordable and interesting. (See Vitality’s Guide to Organics)
Have a set meal preparation day each week
• This can either be on your shopping day or the day after.
• Take time to wash and chop fruit, vegetables, and greens and store in glass containers in the fridge. This will make it easy to choose healthy snack and meal options.
• Prepare larger batches of soups, stews, dips, and homemade energy bars for multiple meals and snacks during the week, or freeze for the weeks to come.
• Cook grains and legumes and store in sealed containers in the fridge. These can easily be turned into a wide variety of healthy meals in minutes with a few additional ingredients.
• Make sure to have a wide variety of containers available for storing ingredients and prepared foods.
• Glass Mason jars are great to store dry goods, such as legumes, grains, flours, and spices.
• Have freezer-safe containers on hand for storing larger batches of recipes.
• If using freezer bags or plastic containers use BPA-free varieties.
• Clearly label your batch storage recipes with the recipe title and the date made.
Healthy and Delicious Snacks
Snacking is another word that conjures up idealistic images appealing to our deepest food desires and cravings. Simply put, a snack is just a smaller portion of food. I challenge you to literally think ‘outside the box’ and come up with some creative snack ideas that will keep you energized throughout the day. Snacking is a great way to keep your blood sugar balanced and the metabolic fire burning.
Here are some of my favourite simple and nutritious snacks. Mother Nature’s package is the best there is!
• fresh or dried fruit
• raw vegetables with hummus or bean dip
• half an avocado drizzled with raw honey or homemade salsa
• celery with natural nut butter
• raw nuts and seeds, homemade trail mix
• homemade energy bars
• a smaller portion of any meal
If food preparation at home is completely new to you then start off with committing to a few days per week and source other ways to maintain healthy eating with a busy schedule. When you are pressed for time, heading out to a holistic market such as Nature’s Emporium in Newmarket or The Big Carrot in Toronto to pick up ready-made meals and snacks that adhere to the principles of whole foods eating is a convenient choice. If you find yourself unprepared or just craving something quick, healthy, and delicious there are many choices if you know where to look.
Meal Delivery Service
Another great option would be to source out healthy meal delivery services in your area. Most people think of this as an expense they simply cannot afford, but in reality it usually ends up being cheaper than buying the individual ingredients and is a great choice if health is your passion but cooking is not. As a consulting holistic nutritionist at Fuel Nutrition, a healthy meal delivery service in Toronto, I often recommend meal delivery to clients who are new to healthy eating, looking for convenience, or concerned that good food cannot be delicious. The use of fresh, natural ingredients free of artificial chemicals is paramount if you choose to add any pre-prepared meals to your routine so make sure to look for services that offer this as part of their philosophy.
No matter what your current lifestyle, there are many ways to incorporate healthy food even with the most hectic of schedules. Implementing these simple strategies will ensure that healthy eating is a part of your everyday lifestyle and a joyful addition to your routine. At the end of the day the better you nourish your body the more productive you will be, you will be equipped to keep up with the demands of daily life and create abundant health effortlessly.
Here are a few of my favourite recipes that can be made in larger batches and frozen for up to three months. Try one of these on your next food preparation day; doubling a recipe usually takes the same amount of time as making one batch and you will have enough for weeks of healthy meals and snacks.
Hearty Quinoa Millet Patties
(Makes 10 patties)
This recipe calls for a specific product created by the German biochemist, Dr. Peter Jentschura, called TischleinDeckDich (named after the famous European fairytale). This is just one of the doctor’s products created to alkalize and regenerate the body, promoting health, healing, and wellness.
- 3 Tbsp TischleinDeckDich (a convenient pantry item composed of quinoa, millet, and dehydrated vegetables available at health food stores)
- 1½ cups water
- 1 egg (as a vegan option use 1 Tbsp ground chia with 3 Tbsp water and let sit for 15 minutes)
- 2 Tbsp oat flakes
- Herbal or sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Virgin coconut oil for pan-frying
1) Stir TischleinDeckDich into water. Let boil approximately 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix cooked TischleinDeckDich with the egg (or egg replacement) and oat flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to cool for approximately 1 hour.
2) Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan. Form the mixture into small patties and fry both sides on medium high heat until golden brown. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days or in a freezer bag for up to three months and reheat in a warm frying pan as needed.
Creamy Zucchini Soup
This recipe was created by Caroline Dupont, author of The New Enlightened Eating. (Makes 6-8 servings)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
- Water or vegetable broth (enough to reach about 1 inch below the vegetables)
- 1½ cups sliced leeks or chopped onions
- 8 cups coarsely chopped green or yellow zucchini or a combination
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1) Put oil, water or broth, and leeks or onions in a soup pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, parsley, and just enough water or broth to reach about 1 inch below the vegetables (zucchini releases a lot of moisture as it cooks so don’t add too much water or the finished soup will be too thin).
2) Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is very tender, 12-15 minutes.
3) Using a blender and working in batches, or using a hand blender directly in the pot, process the mixture until very smooth. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Serve hot or cool and store in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to three months.
Grain-Free Berry Muffins
Adapted from Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk, RHN. This cookbook is gluten-, refined sugar-, and dairy-free with 130 easy recipes that assist the body in the healing process. The berry muffins were created using almond flour and honey for those who are suffering from IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
(Makes 12 muffins)
- 2½ cups almond flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp grey sea salt or pink rock salt
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large organic eggs (for a vegan version mix 3 Tbsp of whole chia seeds with 9 Tbsp water and let stand for 15 minutes in place of the eggs)
- ½ cup liquid raw honey or coconut nectar for a vegan version
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup blueberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen
1) Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the oil, eggs (or chia mixture), honey or coconut nectar, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth.
2) Using a silicon spatula, gently fold in the blueberries or raspberries just until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Divide the batter between the muffin cups.
3) Bake the muffins on the centre rack for 35 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the centre of the muffin should come out clean. Let the muffins stand for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store the muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days or freeze for up to three months.
Homemade Energy Bars
Adapted from http://www.beabetterbeing.com, a blog site developed by Ann Barnes to enlighten others about practical ways to make healthy food convenient and delicious. (Makes approximately 30 bars when cut into 4-inch squares)
- 2½ cups of almond meal or almond flour
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup hemp hearts
- 1/3 cup hemp protein powder
- 1/3 cup whole chia seed
- ½ cup goji berries or other dried fruit
- 2 Tbsp greens powder (optional)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/3 cup raw coconut nectar or raw agave
- ½ tsp vanilla
1) Mix the first 8 ingredients together (all dry ingredients) in a bowl. In a separate bowl, add together the last three (coconut nectar or agave, coconut oil, and vanilla). Combine the wet ingredients with dry ingredients and mix well.
2) Place into a glass 13 x 9 inch pan at 3/4 inch thick and push down and level. Place in freezer to become solid. Let set 1 hour. Take out and cut into squares. Place squares into a container and store in the fridge for up to three weeks or in the freezer for up to three months.
• For information on alkaline and gluten-free products formulated by Dr. Peter Jentschura, visit the Canadian distributor’s website http://www.youinfocusproducts.com/ or visit your local health food store. Also, look for their booth at Whole Life Expo, where they will also lecture on Saturday, November 10, as well as a lecture on the benefits of the alkaline lifestyle.
• Fuel Nutrition is a meal delivery service based in Toronto. For more information visit: http://www.fuel-nutrition.ca/meal_delivery.html
Get It Ripe and Ripe From Around Here by Jae Steele (Arsenal Pulp Press; 2008, 2010)
Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk, RHN (Hay House; 2012). Available at most book stores and through http://www.juliedaniluk.com
The New Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont (Books Alive; 2012) http://www.carolinedupont.com
Michelle holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Food and Nutrition from Ryerson University, is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, a graduate of The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN), and is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine at the University of Western States. Michelle has been in the health and wellness industry for over 20 years working in private practice, as an instructor at CSNN, as a consultant to supplement and natural product companies, and as a consultant to corporate clients. Michelle currently works as Director of Education for Lori Kennedy Inc., does freelance consulting for nutrition program development, and is the co-founder of the Metabolic Reset Diet and Metabolic Syndrome Certification. To contact Michelle, email firstname.lastname@example.org