Easy meal hacks to help you eat well this season
Ah September….the return to alarms, school uniforms, new timetables and that familiar hum of routine.
It marks the start of a busy season for us all but with some easy meal hacks (and a little bit of prep) you can cook some great eats for you and your crew that won’t pack a huge punch on your time. Read on for some savvy tips from Dietician-Nutritionist Whitney Stuart to help you prep, eat and enjoy healthier meals on the go this September…
Meal prep know-how
Healthy, easy mealtimes come down to one major thing – prep!
Despite common belief, meal planning only takes a few minutes and can actually save you time and money in the long run, avoiding that last minute scour of the kitchen cupboards to cobble a meal together. Research simple recipes your family will enjoy; make a meal plan for the week; and shop for the ingredients you need. It’s a great way to avoid impulsive store purchases that are poor in nutrients too.
- Get into component meal prep: Think in nutrients instead of meals, then batch them together! Prep one vegetable, one protein, one carb and one fat. For adults, prioritize at least two cups of non-starchy veggies and a palm size of protein per meal.
- Write out your snacks and meals for the week ahead - so you have all the ingredients you need to get ahead.
- Batch cook - prepare a meal component that can be used multiple ways! For example, make 2lbs of ground turkey - half to be used in stuffed peppers and the other added to meat sauce over zoodles.
- Use sauce/spice to jazz it up - experiment with different sauces and spices to see what your family enjoys most. This is especially important with veggies, as adding flavor in the form of sauce or spices can change everything. For example, roasting broccoli in nutritional yeast and garlic, or sauteed in teriyaki sauce.
Eating well on the go
Limited time doesn’t need to mean limited nutrients (i.e. reaching for the nearest processed snack). With a little bit of preparation, you can enjoy plenty of nutrient-dense snacks on the go that will help keep blood sugar levels stable and ensure everyone gets their fill of the good stuff.
- Get into Bento boxes – these are great for snack style meals for the family. Fill them with crunchy veggies, one protein, a creamy dip or fat, a starchy veggie & a carb like crackers. These Inari Sushi bites and Cauliflower Pancakes are perfect veg-packed Bento bites.
- Always be prepared with a snack. Options like meat sticks, individual bags of nuts/seeds and almond-flour crackers are great for on the go.
- Stock up on shelf stable snacks (and heat stable if needed!) and keep these in the car. Jerky, pumpkin seeds, dried apple rings are all great options.
- Meal prep breakfast for the family. Egg muffins, protein waffles, overnight cauli oats & this Mango & Coconut Tricky Rice can easily be made the night before (and stored in the fridge for up to a week).
Utilize the freezer and pantry
The freezer is your friend when it comes to efficient meal prep. Not only is a great place to house all the meals you make in advance, it’s also useful for storing complex carbs and veggies that can bump up the nutrition in your meals. Make your meals, portion them out and label them in the freezer so you know when they need to be eaten up by. It’s a great way to get ahead of the week.
Fresh doesn’t always mean best. There are STACKS of great store cupboard subs you can use to bump up the nutrients in meals. “Vegetables are so versatile and easy when they’re shelf-stable”, says Whitney. “Fresh, frozen and shelf-stable contain the most nutrients, but try to avoid canned where possible.”
Throw some Fullgreen Riced Veggies into the mix for an easy grab and go nutrient boost. From pantry to pan in minutes, they are a great way to bulk out meals with valuable fiber and nutrients. Tip them in a stew, add them to a pie, or simply stir fry with your favorite protein for a speedy stove top dinner.
Whitney's Pantry faves:
- Legumes - look for low-sodium options. Legumes are in high fiber and can be an additional source of plant-based protein. Add black beans to egg scrambles, chickpeas to a salad or kidney beans to soup.
- Rice - high-fiber rice like brown basmati when paired with protein and non-starchy veggies is an easy option at mealtime. Prepare it in bone broth for added nutrients and protein.
- Bone broth - for on the go nutrition or added nutrition at meal time. Can be added to soups and stews, but also can be used as a replacement for water in whole grains like rice and quinoa.
- Fullgreen - shelf-stable vegetables are a win-win for quick nutrient-dense meals that contain fiber and antioxidants.
Veggies, complex carbs, spices, herbs, healthy oils and protein sources are all key for a modern healthy diet. Not only do they ensure your crew get a healthy spread of nutrients, they provide multiple ways to get creative with your meal planning – providing the foundation for a great sauce, pesto or spread that can really ramp up the flavors of your dishes.
What to stock up on:
- Healthy spices that are rich in antioxidants such as cinnamon, turmeric or oregano bring stacks of flavor to meals
- Avocado oil for high-heat cooking and heart-healthy fats. This is an excellent option for roasting or air-frying.
- Eggs are always in our fridge because they have a long shelf-life and are an easy way to add protein to any meal. Plus, they’re rich in vitamins and minerals, the yolk is especially dense in choline.
- Easy shelf stable veggies to inject quality nutrients into one pot, hearty family meals.
Quick and easy recipe hacks
Time-savvy hacks are the key to meal prep mastery. Give these tips from Whitney a go:
- Prepare meal components in bulk that can be used multiple ways throughout the week. The key is keeping a variety of sauces and flavors to keep mealtimes versatile. For example, a great pasta sauce that can double up as a spread on a pizza or added to cheesy veg bites.
- Switch to nutrient-dense ingredients in recipes you like, that way cooking doesn’t seem overwhelming or unenjoyable. For example, use ghee instead of butter or an avocado oil-based ranch instead of the classic ranch bottle.
- Keep meal starters on hand, with easy shelf stable options that make cooking easy, nutritious and efficient.
- Get the family involved with cooking, this can be a bonding, learning experience and spreads out the responsibility. Not to mention it’s incredibly rewarding for kids.