Something that I hear time and time again is that a lack of time stands in the way of making healthier changes. I totally get it! We have all been there and so often poor food choices are driven by a lack of time. The more I explore the issue of time (or lack of it) with clients, it actually comes down to expectations. The expectation of what ‘cooking from scratch’ or even just ‘cooking’ actually means.
So what is the answer?
Reframing the situation!
I promise that it is possible to create healthy and tasty meals quickly and without spending a fortune but this comes down to individual interpretation of what cooking entails. When I am up against it (which is most of the time), I put an emphasis on what I call assembly meals as opposed to meals that require lots of prep and cooking.
What are assembly meals?
Meals that you can simply put together (assemble) and where I don’t need to spend hours peeling, chopping, prepping food before frying / poaching/ roasting / baking it.
Think of these meals in chunks; you need some protein then some carbohydrate and then add in the all important veggies!
Current favourites are using smoked mackerel fillets and then serving these with a bowl of pre-roasted veg (whenever your oven is on put a tray of veg in to roast), add in some salad leaves and maybe some hummus or herby creme fraiche to top. Takes all of 3 minutes and is a really healthy, filling and delicious meal.
Could you open a tin of lentils, stir in some rocket, crumble some feta and chop up some precooked beetroot? Again 3 minutes and fantastic!
My all time favourite that does require cooking BUT a 1 minute assembly job on a baking tray; 1 salmon fillet, 1 handful fine green beans, 1 handful cherry tomatoes and a few black olives. In a hot oven for 15 minutes and done! Double this and have 1/2 for lunch tomorrow!
So much is about planning and making it simple. Use a jar, open a tin, try a paste….none of these things are ‘cheating’ or something to feel bad about. If the above mean that you have an extra 5 mins with your kids or simply that you actually get some extra veggies in because you can chuck them in a ready made sauce then BRILLIANT!
Also embrace the freezer! There are so many quick, helpful frozen options out there now. Butternut squash is one of the best as I LOVE this vegetable but loathe the prep that it requires!!
Tip on to a baking tray from the freezer and into an oven, roast for 30 mins, blitz with some coconut milk and red Thai curry paste and voila you have a delicious creamy and warming soup without having had to chop or create any mess. Yet you still have a bowl packed full of wonderful beta carotene rich butternut squash. Plus you probably have a few servings left over to freeze and keep for a rainy day when warning up a bowl of this might just save you from picking biscuits all throughout lunch.
So try to think differently about food, it really doesn’t need to be complicated in order to be healthy. Keep it simple and ditch the guilt as far as frozen, tinned and pre-prepped veggies/pulses are concerned. These are your FRIEND!!