As I prepare to host my first group related to eating healthier and having a meal plan at-the-ready, I recognize some reasons why it’s so hard to tackle the beast of planning, eating well, and exercising.
So often, we feel like it’s all or nothing. But it’s about progress, not perfection. And it doesn’t have so complex, expensive, or unpleasant.
Never underestimate the power of frozen foods
From frozen fish fillets to frozen fruits and veggies, you don’t have to feel guilty or unhealthy if you buy frozen ingredients. Frozen foods can make meal prep way simpler. When you need veggies for a casserole, you can just grab the mixed bag from the freezer. If you’re like me and enjoy a piece of fish like tuna or salmon for lunch, you can buy a bag of frozen, wild caught fish for around $10-$12 (which gets 5-8 pieces of fish). I like to just toss it in a pan with salt and pepper, and then eat a salad or frozen veggies with quinoa.
Some of my favorite quick, healthy options are:
Birds Eye Steamfresh Protein Blends
If you’re like me, the idea of just a salad at lunch every day is boring and not filling enough to last until dinner, or even the midday snack. That’s one reason I really like these blends of frozen veggies with proteins like lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas. They’re great for lunch, but also for dinner. Whether you need a quick and healthy side dish, or want to whip up a quick stir fry, you could add a few ingredients like tofu, chicken, soy sauce, and more veggies to make the main dish.
My favorite flavors so far are California Style and Italian Style because of the broccoli and lentils. 🙂
Frozen foods retain a majority of their nutritional value, too (much more than canned). So you’re not cutting yourself short by using frozen foods. Plus, you don’t have to worry about as quick of an expiration date.
Veggie trays save time and money
I’m a big fan of buying a veggie tray each week. For about $10, I get several of the veggies I’d want for the week, already cut up and easy to access. We rarely waste any of these veggies, but may if we buy everything separate. I buy the varieties that include some or all of these:
They often come with their own dips, but if you want a healthier option that still tastes good, try Hidden Valley’s dressings made with Greek yogurt. We really like the ranch and cucumber dill, but they have other flavors, too. Of course, the ranch isn’t as rich as the regular packets, but it’s only 60 calories per serving (rather than over 100 like most dressings). https://www.hiddenvalley.com/products/bottled-dressings/greek-yogurt-dressing/
Beans are a healthy (and inexpensive) staple
Super healthy, fiber-rich, and often cheap. I tend to stock up on the canned ones at 35 cents (Hy-Vee recent sale), and you can get more bang for your buck buying dried and soaking.
We pop open a can of black beans, or refried black/other beans, every time we make tacos, burrito bowls, or quesadillas. Al and I like Wild Kenyan Hot Sauce on the beans, but you can also add a bit of shredded cheddar or feta.
We also like to make dishes with many bean variations. A family favorite for years is Calico Beans. It’s a mix of any type of beans you want to use (we like black, kidney, lima, navy) enhanced with bacon and ground beef. You can cut the sugar by not using as much brown sugar or using low-sugar/homemade ketchup. Also, most recipes call for a can of pork and beans. Not a fan.
This is a great, hearty meal, and it’s also awesome to make a bunch extra! We freeze at least two extra meals’ worth every time I make it. To keep it a bit healthier, I double the recipe, but use 1 pound of ground beef (90% lean is good) and 1 pound of ground turkey.
It’s fun to eat this in tortillas with a little hot sauce and feta, on its own, with some bread and butter…really anything goes!
Here’s one recipe: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/calico-beans
There are many more ways to keep healthy eating and meal prep less stressful, and easier to stick with (without breaking the budget), but for now, this is a good start.