The biggest obstacle I hear from the people I coach is that they “just don’t have the time.” Before the lockdown people were SO busy with work, families, managing a house, and the million other things that came up. And, to be fair, still do…
So it’s no surprise that our lifestyle before CoVid-19 saw us often grabbing convenience food – food that not only doesn’t serve our bodies but that also ends up negatively impacting the rest of the family and their waistlines. This leads to guilt and then a vicious cycle begins.
And if the lack of pasta, biscuits, crackers and pizza in the local stores is anything to go by, just because the world has slowed down almost to a halt, it seems that people haven’t yet used this opportunity to get away from the convenience food trap in favour of exploring a better way to feed themselves.
I was once on that hamster wheel too when I had a high pressure corporate job that saw me on the go from 4am (phone calls from Iran) until midnight most days (phone calls from Argentina) but, thankfully, I was “rescued” by my gluten intolerance making me ill to the point where my acupuncturist said she was surprised I was still alive.
On top of this I was brought up in an environment where food was functional, not something to be enjoyed. My parents were born and raised during WWII, food was a luxury when they were little and so they were never educated to see food as medicine or as an art form as opposed to just sustenance. ? oh dear… I sound like the aliens in Strange Planet!! ?
The point is I was really rubbish at cooking until I nearly keeled over from eating too many of the things I love that are dangerous for me: pasties, focaccia, funky breads, pies and all the other tasty foods that you have in the UK and we don’t have in Italy. When I had my first mid-life (nutritional) crisis 20 something years ago there wasn’t such a thing as a GF aisle at the local store. Zero. Crickets.
So I had to buy a recipe book and visit the fresh produce aisle. Although my first experiments in the kitchen were somewhat lame, my health benefited tremendously from the lifestyle change and I am now a fervent advocate of cooking from scratch. If not all the time, at least 90% of the time.
I know that there are many people out there in the same place I was at all those years ago, because they just don’t know another way. So, I’m here to help! ?
It’s time to have fun in the kitchen!
Now that we are forced to stay at home is the PERFECT TIME to re-evaluate how we feed ourselves. If you are usually strapped for time, now is your chance to experiment and find ways in which you can prepare healthy meals in a heartbeat. So that when you get back to normal in a few weeks time you will have established a new habit and you will be able to limit the amount of times that you have to rely on convenience food. ? I have a tip for that too, btw…
Check out my strategies for healthy, quick, and convenient dinners (or whichever meal you choose!) for a bit of fun in the kitchen… they are not gourmet meals but these are the same strategies used by chefs who feed large numbers of people at once.
If you are cooking:
1. Pre-cook proteins, pre-wash and chop veggies. You can do this 1-2 times a week depending on time. I’m a fan of the Sunday Ritual, where you prep and portion for the entire week. I know this is not necessarily applicable right now, but it will be. How to do this: Simply grill or bake enough protein to sustain dinner each day of the week. Then you can freeze a few portions so you can just grab one at dinner time and heat it up. You can prep the veggies to be prepared on the spot in the evening before dinner or in advance like the protein. You know what? Just throw it all in the wok! Job done! ?
2. Purchase pre-chopped veggies. If you were just thinking…”Yeah, but the part I HATE is washing and chopping! And I still don’t have time for that…” it’s OK to go the easy way. Pretty much every supermarket sells vegetables that are ready to throw in a pan, in the oven, or on a grill. It will typically cost you a little bit more for the pleasure, but it’s worth it if this is what it takes to make the right choice. For you. And nobody is buying these right now so you can often pick them up at a “reduced to clear” price.
3. The 10 minute, minimal effort meal. This is one of my favorite strategies! It’s as simple as this: £5 roast chicken, steam in a bag veggies, and wrapped microwavable sweet potato. Serve the chicken, grab 1-2 cups of veggies for your plate out of the bag (season if you like), and eat half the potato with a dollop of butter. And you’ve got leftovers too! ?
4. Slow cooker meals. It doesn’t get much easier than throwing a bunch of ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning then coming home to a fully prepared meal (and a house that smells awesome). Also requires minimal clean up! This is definitely easy to make in large portions, so you’ve got leftovers. Again! ? ?
Still not convinced that cooking is good for you? Here are my TAKEAWAY strategies!
5. If it’s still operating, hit the deli counter. Most supermarkets will have some semblance of a deli counter although, right now some may have decided to shut it down to prevent contamination. They still place deli products on the shelves though. You could pick up meats or cheese and a funky salad from here for a quick but still delicious and healthy meal. Often at a reduced price.
6. Healthy takeaway. This is easier to do than you think. I love Kebab shops for this because they always have grilled protein and salad or grilled vegetables. If you go for the huge portion you will get more than one serving out of it too, so you’ve got breakfast for the next day!
Believe me, I am all about convenience when it comes to food, so I always suggest making way more than you need so you can just grab it from the fridge when you need it!
Admittedly, I mostly have salads but when I cook, I keep it SUPER SIMPLE.
This is my recipe for a super quick but tasty Tofu Stir Fry:
1/2 packet of tofu (or 1/2lb minced beef)
1 medium onion
2 small peppers (any color), chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
A splash of balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
Heat a wok to medium high. Add coconut oil and let it melt (you can scrape it off the cooker later). Add the onion and fry it until it becomes translucent. Add the pepper. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes or a bit longer and on a higher heat if you like them slightly charcoaled in places. Add the balsamic vinegar. Let it evaporate. Add the minced beef or tofu and cook for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I usually throw this in a bowl and eat it as is. This makes about a couple of servings for me.
If you want extra carbs you can serve this with about a half cup of quinoa. Or rice. Or a small steamed potato.
How is easy is that!? Under 15 minutes! And you just can’t beat a good stir fry…
Give it a try and let me know how you like it!