Fuss-free Healthy Eating

By Sandra Bolan

Scroll through Instagram and you’ll likely find thousands of posts with perfectly prepared and portioned out healthy meals.

You’ll also see kids’ bento boxes with lots of chopped veggies and fruit, mixed nuts and things like avocado and sprout sandwiches.

Do people really love kale as much as they claim to? Will kids really eat a sandwich full of veggies, or would they prefer peanut butter and jelly? 

Most important, where do people find the time to make healthy meals without spending hours in the kitchen? 

Here are some ideas for making healthy meals with little effort.

Meal Prep. If you’re so inclined to, jump on the meal prep bandwagon. Meal prepping is “a strategic cooking method that allows proper portion control over a set period of time,” according to the meal prep service Prepared Nutrition. You use five to seven identical containers with equally portioned out meat, grains and veggies. Do not confuse meal prepping with re-purposing leftovers. That is an Internet no-no.

Batch cook. Make a large pot of whole grain rice, quinoa or pasta. Use this as a meal base throughout the week. All you need to do is add freshly cooked, or leftover meat and vegetables.

Cut fruit and veggies for the week. Once cut, store them in individual or snack-sized bags or containers, then grab and go as needed. You can also use your cut veggies with the rice you batch cooked to make a stir fry. When you’re doing your weekly shopping, make sure to grab one or two pre-made sauces to use for stir fries or quick pasta dinners. If you’re really pressed for time, buy pre-cut fruit and vegetables, but it will cost a bit more than doing it yourself.

Pre-made salads and dressing. For quick, easy lunches, buy bagged lettuce and bottled salad dressing. Add your protein of choice (meat, nuts or tofu) plus some raisins, chopped apple, mandarin orange or grapes and you have a satisfying lunch. It also costs a fraction of fast food salads.

Want meat in that meal?Buy a store-bought, cooked chicken, or two, early in the week, shred it and store in the fridge. Take out portions to add to stir fries, tacos or salads.

Make the slow- or multi-cooker your BFF. I call them dump dinners or one-pot-wonders. Pour all your ingredients – meat, cut veggies, canned beans, liquid (broth, tomato sauce) into a multi- or slow-cooker, turn it on and let the appliance do the work. Depending on the size of the family, this can also leave you with leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Make your own snack packs. There are tons of pre-portioned, to-go snacks available from nuts to fruit, hummus and avocado spreads, as well as meat/cheese/fruit/cookie combos. But if you want to save some money, make your own. For trail mix, buy your favorite nuts, raisins or cranberries, toasted oat cereal and chocolate coated candies and mix them together. Portion the batch into snack-sized bags so when you’re making lunches for the family or need a quick snack they’re ready to go. You can also do this with the Lunchable-type snacks or meals. Buy meat, which can also be used for sandwiches, hard cheese, crackers and whole fruit. Portion them out in bento boxes. These are also easy activities you can do with the kids.

Never skip a meal, including breakfast. Mornings never seem to go as smoothly as we hope, which sometimes leaves us skipping breakfast at home, swinging by a fast food restaurant between dropping the kids off at school and heading into the office. Make overnight oats the night before or have toast and peanut butter. No time to toast the bread? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich works too. Hard boil a bunch of eggs, then peel and store them in the fridge. Grab one or two as you head out the door. They can also be added to salads and bento boxed lunches.

Meal kits. If you have absolutely no time to cook, hate grocery shopping and cooking, or don’t know how to cook and are willing to spend the money, meal kits may be worth a try. Homechef.com: Customized weekly kits start at $6.99/serving. Kits are available for families, couples and singles. The company offers weekly meal rotations. Prep times range from five to 30-plus minutes. BlueApron.com: Each box contains perfectly portioned meals with step-by-step preparation and cooking instructions. Meal kits start at $7.49/serving.Blue Apron also has a monthly wine delivery service that pairs with its recipes. Freshly.com: Customers receive meals cooked by chefs that are ready to eat in three minutes. Each meal is sized for one person. Plans range from four to 12 meals per week with pricing from $7.99 to $11.50/meal. Shipping costs are added at checkout. All these services have apps with recipes and cooking techniques. Customers can also manage their accounts from the various apps. WGW

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