How to Prepare Quick and Healthy Meals
Need quick meals in a flash? Follow the following tips and you’ll have delicious, healthy meals ready in no time.
Ready, set, go!
1. Keep cooked brown rice on hand
There are a large amount of meals that can be put together quickly if you keep cooked brown rice in your refrigerator. If cooked brown rice and spices are all you have (and who doesn’t have that?) then you can still whip up a delicious risotto. While a risotto of rice and spices won’t be the most nutritious, I promise you that there are an infinite number of flavor combinations you can try with rice.
If you keep more than just brown rice and various herbs and spices around (which I hope you do), countless options await. With rice, apples, cinnamon and rice paper, you can fashion sweet rice rolls for a tasty lunch. Quickly cook fresh or frozen vegetables in a saucepan with sauce and if you serve that concoction on top of rice you have a simple stir fry. If you have plant milk, vegetables and curry powder, whip up a curry to place on top of that brown rice.
Other ideas for a quick meal involving rice include a rice soup, rice salad (such as All-In-One Brown Rice Salad) and vegetarian sushi.
2. Frozen vegetables
Have at one or a few varieties of vegetables in your freezer will encourage you to eat more produce. A few wonderful characteristics of frozen produce are 1) they never rot , 2) there is a high likelihood that they won’t have salt added and 3) the majority are already prepared and pre-cooked.
It frustrates me when I or anybody else throws food away, for any reason. Throwing food away bothers me as too many people in the world don’t have enough to eat. Frozen produce basically eliminates the risk of throwing produce away because of spoilage. Frozen produce can stay in your kitchen for weeks or months— maybe even years!— without becoming rotten.
Produce without added salt is important as most individuals in the Western world already consume too much salt (and sugar and oil). Too much sodium can have various health detriments. In addition, salt deadens the taste buds to flavors that occur naturally in other foods. It’s best to avoid added salt to your food whenever possible. As frozen produce is oftentimes flash-frozen, it retains its nutrition and doesn’t need more preservation other than continual freezing.
As much as I love fresh produce, yet preparing fresh can be a pain. More time needs to be dedicated to preparing a meal when fresh produce is involved. Not so with frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce is already pre-washed, pre-cut and often pre-cooked. Throwing green beans into a meal is quite manageable when the green beans are frozen and not fresh. Simply heat and serve. No need to deal with washing, sorting, chopping or cutting.
3. Fresh produce that doesn’t spoil quickly
A few types of produce taste better when they’re fresh or can’t easily be frozen. A few examples include sweet potatoes, carrots, white potatoes and cabbage. Fortunately, the examples I just provided are all also examples of produce that will last in your pantry or refrigerator for a week or more.
Many of these varieties of foods are painless to prepare. Carrots from the supermarket simply need the ends chopped off. Grating a carrot takes just a minute or two and chopping one requires perhaps a minute more. Some varieties of potatoes can be boiled, baked or steamed as is. Cabbages are simple as they simply need the outer layer removed and chopped (which can be simply done).
4. Canned, no salt added
While I don’t typically use a large quantity of canned products because of the salt, many of the reduced salt and all of the no salt added are acceptable.
Rob and I mainly utilize canned beans and tomatoes for quick and easy meal preparation when we don’t have beans, lentils or peas sprouted. While soaking, sprouting and cooking your own beans is worth the (minimal) effort, they do involve planning. Sometimes you simply don’t have the time or ability to soak and sprout in certain situations.
One example of this is when Rob and I recently moved. In our attempt to condense our possessions to as little volume and hassle as possible, we found ourselves with nothing sprouted the night we moved into our new place. We had a can of a variety of beans and tomatoes so we created Moroccan Bean Variety on brown rice within half an hour.
5. Invest in a pressure cooker
Investing in a quality pressure cooker will save you money and time while potentially increasing your health.
For me, cooking dry beans and grains easily and quickly is the main benefit of owning a pressure cooker. However, you can cook nearly anything in the pressure cooker quickly. Savory soups that have deep flavor don’t need to be simmered on the stove for hours. They can be made within 30 minutes in a pressure cooker.
Pressure cookers can be used to steam veggies within minutes, create risottos and prepare your own vegetable stock among various other applications. Rob and I use our pressure cooker at least once per day if not more. Invest in a pressure cooker and you won’t regret it. It comes with a learning curve but once you learn how to use a pressure cooker, you will wonder why you didn’t have one before.
6. Just sprout
Rob and I attempt to have one variety of legume sprouted for each day.
Normally we use the legume to make our supper and we eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Yes, sprouting peas, beans, lentils and other pulses take time out of your day. However, it doesn’t require much time at all (maybe 10 minutes from your day) and provides benefits.
One benefit of sprouted legumes is that the nutrients in the legumes have increased bioavailability after they have been sprouted. Soaking and sprouting legumes decreases the amount of phytic acid and increases the amount of phytates in the legumes, making them more easily digestible (a.k.a. bye bye flatulence!). Soaking and sprouting pulses before you cook them will decrease the cooking time of said legume, whether or not you utilize a pressure cooker to cook your legumes.
Rob and I don’t always have an exact plan for a meal when we start sprouting our legumes. As long as you have creativity and/or a variety of recipes involving multiple types of legumes, you should always be able to find something to make with your sprouted legumes. Just sprout and you will find recipes to put them in. Simply ensure you don’t let them sprout too long.
7. Be prepared
If you don’t have time or energy to prepare a wholesome meal every morning, noon and night, you’re not alone.
The easiest solution is to be prepared.
Take the time and resources when you do have the chance to cook a healthy meal to cook extra. You can double or triple recipes in order to create leftovers for upcoming days and nights when you don’t expect to have the time to create a healthy meal.
Cooked legumes, lightly processed grains, vegetables and fruit generally refrigerate, freeze and thaw well. Rob and I make large batches of Rob’s Breakfast Biscuits that feed us for days. I would recommend making a large batch of Latin Turtle Beans to quickly produce a variety of Latin American-inspired dishes such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas.
Avoid freezing prepared recipes that contain fresh, uncooked produce as the quality will deteriorate when it is reconstituted.