Quick healthy prepared meals under 15-minutes prep or cooking time are possible! Whether you are packing for a work lunch or coming home after a long day for dinner, we have more options than ever at our grocery stores. Even though I enjoy cooking, on most days I don't have time to make a meal from scratch. Let's decrease your stress by giving you back some time to relax. So here are some strategies to eat healthy, on a budget, and enjoy good tasty food quickly!
For the urban dwellers, I'm choosing some Trader Joe's frozen items to highlight.
* Cod Provencale (top two images): Imported from France, it is fairly low-impact for those watching their carbs and sugar. The portion of the fish is generous and filling. The ratatouille would take me too much effort to make from scratch, but from this frozen packet, it's delicious. I re-heat this package on stovetop. And if you want to add more veggies and fiber to your meal (YES, please do!), add some pre-washed baby organic spinach from your fridge to boost your nutrition and bang from this tasty meal fit for foodies. For those avoiding wheat, this helps you meet your dietary preference, but it is not officially gluten-free for those who have strict gluten allergies.
* Spinach lasagna (checkered image): Ricotta cheese has quite a lot of protein. This spinach lasagna is filling as the main entree, or could be divided in 2 as a side pasta dish to accompany another protein or veggie main dish. What's terrific is you can pronounce every ingredient on the label, and it looks like what you would use to make it home-made. We want to avoid foods that have artificial preservatives, so the rule is, if you can't pronouce it, you probably shouldn't be eating it.
* Pakoras: If you like Indian food, you'll enjoy these curry spiced little fritters. The frozen pakoras I cook ahead of time in the toaster, so that they are quick to re-heat when I need a snack to get me to my next meal. A vegetarian item, they are surprisingly filling. I encourage you to discard the sauce or use it sparingly since it seems to have a lot of sugar. In general, if you're watching your waistline or trying to stay healthy, please beware of sauces and dressing -- where the hidden calories are!
* Chicken chile verde burritos -- 2 in a package. You can have 1 as your main, and add salad or veggies for a more complete healthy meal. Save the other one for another meal. These burritos are top-notch compared to other frozen burritos, as one of my mexican food taste-testers has rated these the Chicken chile verde burritos the best.
In any grocery store, here are my suggestions for quick healthy meals:
* Turkey or Chicken chili: Beans are a terrific source of fiber and protein so you can feel full! Check the labels to see if they added sugar or other additives. Go for the cleaner brand. Amy's Organic is a terrific brand of chili and soups. I also get a tub of Grass-fed Beef Chili from a eco-conscious responsible butcher shop.
* Split Pea soup: Like beans, peas are also a terrific source of fiber and protein. Besides the canned form, you can get split pea soup "flakes" (freeze -dry, mix with hot water) from places like Santa Monica Co-op's bulk food bins or other natural health food stores that have a bulk food section. Add ready-to-eat slices of chicken breast and you've got a very filling meal that is very green as well!
* Canned fish like smoked herring or sardines over a bed of pre-washed baby greens: Here's the salad recipe from a previous post. You can use "power to the greens" mix from Trader Joe's, baby spinach from anywhere, or even better, if you have greens from the salad stands of a local farmers market.
Have these items below for your fridge to be well-stocked:
* Free-range organic chicken breast or turkey breast meat ready to add to a salad.
* Cans of beans or garbanzo beans are a great topping to a salad.
* Cans of fish, clams, crab meat (whatever your tastes guide you!), preferably not the heavy-metal exposed fish like tuna.
* Salad greens like baby spinach work well as a salad base or wilted in a stir-fry.
* Frozen mixed vegetables so you can stir-fry or steam as a veggie side. (save time from washing and chopping!) There are even mushroom medleys in the freezer section if you like mushrooms and don't want to spend the time to wash and chop.
* Happy eggs are quick easy protein (omega-3, veggie-fed, free-range -- as you wish)
* Frozen peas -- peas are such a winner for protein and fiber -- easy to add into a dish
* Frozen french-cut beans -- they are picked young and the stems removed, so much quicker than picking them yourself
* Frozen asparagus - these are a new-found item!
* If you really can't get around to eating your vegetables, please at least try drinking your greens powder as backup so you can keep your body more alkaline and with some greens power.
* Nuts and seeds -- like almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios -- perfect for snacking when you're very hungry waiting for your food to heat up or get put together. Always a great addition to give extra crunch to your salad.
For all prepared foods to taste freshly-made and a boost of nutrition:
* Add fresh window herbs like basil or thyme to freshen up your prepared foods-- yum!
* Stock your cupboard with cinnamon, nutmeg, and the collection of Italian herbs and/or Mediterranean spices.
* Have a pepper mill so you get fresh ground pepper that makes your food taste more gourmet.
* And if you're a foodie for flavored salt, you can even get truffle-infused salt or other flavors to make your food taste gourmet or from a fancy restaurant.
No more boring dinners or big confusion of what to eat! Bon appetit!