Does the thought of meal prepping sound totally unappealing or overwhelming? No prob. Eating healthy truly doesn't have to be a huge time suck. In this episode I share tricks I use so that I'm always able to throw together a speedy, nourishing meal without having to invest in a lot of prep time beforehand.
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Hey, life boosters. This is Dr. Amelia health coach and veterinarian here to help you ditch yoyo, dieting people, pleasing and perfectionism by breaking the norm and living a life that energizes you from within. so I just finished prepping some vegetables for the week and it inspired me to record this podcast because I don't do meal prepping in the traditional sense of like blocking out a big chunk of time and sitting down and thinking about What meals I'm going to have, or like spending, you know, a chunk of time prepping all this food. Because for me that is so unappealing and I just, I don't like blocking out a huge chunk of time for that. And I find like if I plan all the meals in advance, I really like just like seeing what I'm in the mood for that day. And like, what if I'm not in the mood for the dinner that I planned, like six days ago, you know? Um, it also just, it takes a lot of mental energy thinking about what I wanna have and going through recipes and, you know, like spending a Sunday prepping food. It's just not what I choose to do. So I wanted to share how I create an environment where there's always food that's easy and available to put together a really quick meal without having to do meal planning in the traditional sense or the sense that takes up time and mental energy. So it kind of comes from a concept that I use with trying to keep my house relatively clean. And this is not something that I always do with my house, but it certainly is something that I heard a long time ago and I really liked it. And basically it's the concept where if something is only going to take like a minute or two, then I'll do it right then. So for cleaning or keeping the house. In a good state that means for example, if I'm bringing in the mail, just sorting through it and dealing with it in that moment is really only going to take a minute. But if I just leave it to be dealt with later, then they could pile up and it could take longer. Or if I have grocery bags that need to get put away or just washing my dishes, gonna be honest I don't always do that) but I try to remind myself that like, just in that moment, just washing the dishes so they don't pile up it's worth just getting it done in that moment instead of having a huge pile later. So I do that with food in that, anytime I am preparing something, I tend to make extra because I already have the tools out. And when I'm, for example, chopping vegetables, it really like the amount of time it takes to chop up like a few more veggies and put that into another container it's like a tiny amount of extra time, whereas like all of the cleaning of the knife and the cutting board, or like, if I'm spiralizing zucchini, you know, that's kind of annoying cleaning that. And so if I can just batch and do a few more so that I have those for extra meals that is very worthwhile. So that's one thing that I just did this morning. I wanted to have some roasted vegetables for my salad and I have my foodie ninja, which I just love more than anything. I'm obsessed with the foodi ninjas because it makes it so easy to roast vegetables really quickly. I don't have to wait for the oven to preheat. So I literally just chop up the vegetables, put them in the fooding ninja, turn it on and they're ready to go. And in the morning it sounds like roasting vegetables for a breakfast would be too time intensive, but I just chop 'em up, you know, it takes a minute or two, and then I do my workout while they're roasting. So it really, isn't a huge time commitment. so I was already chopping up a big batch, so I fill the basket. So that already is something that I'm going to have for other meals during the week, um, or like another breakfast tomorrow. And then I also, at the same time, I am going to be working in hospitals for the next few days. And so I am going to want to have lunches that I can pack. And one go to super easy lunch for me. I will use a base of zucchini noodles and then either, you know, I'll add some kind of protein, like a chicken, or I might cook extra shrimp and put that on and I'll use different toppings that I have available, whether that's extra Virgin olive oil or olive tapenade, there are things I can do to just mix it up just a little bit. But having that base as zucchini noodles will make that super easy. So I don't really love cleaning the mandolin. So I just, spiralize a bunch of zucchini all at the same time. So I only have to clean the mandolin once. That's one example of how I just do a little bit extra. It really didn't take a lot of extra time, but now I have like zucchini noodles that I could use all the way through the week. I have some roasted vegetables that I'm going to use. And it didn't mean like blocking out a huge amount of time because I already was doing that for one of my meals. So I'm always thinking with my meals, I'm already taking an amount of time that is devoted to cooking. So during that same amount of time is there's something else that I can be prepping that I will be able to use for future meals as well. So that definitely can look like just making extras of the meal. So making extra veggies or doubling the protein, that way I can have that as like a lunch the next day or something like that. It also means so a lot of the times I'm at the stove, I'm either sauteing something or something is cooking. And during that same amount of the time, is there something that could also be cooking on the stove that's pretty hands off? So a lot of the times that could look like making a batch of quinoa or some like lentils or mung beans, because those are very hands off. I literally just have to put them in the. pot, turn it on and I just have to be around, you know, to make sure that like once it's boiling, I can turn it down to simmer and make sure that when the timer goes off, that I'm there. But otherwise it doesn't like the amount of time I need to be doing something is so tiny. And so for example, like last week I made some mung beans and that cooking time, I think was like 20 minutes. So that was easy because it was just while I was making other things for dinner, I could use some of those mung beans in my dinner. And then I used half to just to pack. And oftentimes I'll even freeze half of it so that in a busy week, I can just take that out of the freezer and have those ready to go. And then I also wanted to make something fun so I made a hummus out of the mung beans. And so that ended up being a, another big thing that I could use for snacks or throw into a variety of meals throughout the week. And it really didn't take a lot of extra time. Another major thing that helps me so that I don't have to really meal prep is relying on my kitchen staples. I have go-to things that I always have either in my freezer or my fridge and pantry that makes it so that I can throw together a meal really quickly because they're already prepped. So what I mean by that, number one would be frozen items. Frozen veggies are a big one. I would say my major staple is cauliflower rice. I use that so much because it's already prepped. If I had to, every time I wanted cauliflower rice, if I had to have like a fresh crown of cauliflower and if I had to like, get out the food processor, break it down to little pieces and then cook it, I would never make cauliflower rice. But the fact that I just have it ready to go and it can be ready in four minutes for a huge variety of things, makes it a staple for me. And I don't like cooking it in the bags, even when they say that they're microwaveable just because I am very cautious of plastics and that type of thing, but I will either pour it into a microwave, safe bowl and microwave it, or I will often just dump the frozen cauliflower into a pan and cook it that way, because I love it gets if you put a little bit of oil, I like avocado oil or extra Virgin olive oil. Um, if you just put it right in the pan, it'll all cook great. And it gets just a little bit caramelized a brown and crispy when it cooks. So cauliflowers is a huge staple. I can use that in so many things. I love it in my life boost rocket fuel wraps. I use those for breakfasts so often. I also love cauliflower rice nourish bowls. So again, we talked about having a base of like zucchini noodles. Another one of my go-to ones for any meal, but really easy lunches would be cauliflower rice. That's just a blank canvas. And then I can add whatever other flavors I'm in the mood for to make a really yummy nourishing. So other veggies that I like to have in the freezer, I love the Asian stir fry mixes. Because once again, I didn't have to wash any vegetables. I didn't have to cut that huge variety of vegetables. They're all prepped and ready to go. And I can just microwave 'em a little bit to cook them and then pop 'em in a stir fry, and they're going to be ready in no time. So easy. Frozen broccoli is a huge one. I love the frozen mushroom medleys, like trader Joe's has some that already are seasoned with extra Virgin olive oil and, and have some seasoning. Uh, whole foods has a nice mushroom medley that doesn't have any seasoning. And I just dump those from frozen right into a pan and I can cook them, um, or put them into a soup and they work so well. You can also put the frozen vegetables. Uh, I will put them right into the ninja foodie to roast them. Aldi has some butternut squash that's already cubed. I mean, cutting butternut squash can be a bit of a workout if you haven't done it before. And so it's nice not to have to like cut the skin off and that type of thing. Little pro tip. If you do have a fresh butternut squash and you want to cook it and you don't want it to be a workout and to sweat a little bit, then if you just poke some holes in the butternut squash and you put it into the microwave, if you microwave it just for like a minute or two, that will soften it up a little bit so that it is easier to cut the skin and, and to cube it. so I really encourage you to, if you are not utilizing frozen vegetables, sometimes there's this thought that they're not as healthy as fresh produce. And in reality, they are often some of the most fresh, it can be a great way to get affordable organic often vegetables that are already prepped. And a lot of the times they're flash frozen. So once they were picked they were frozen when they were fresh, compared to so much produce in the grocery store that has actually, it's been a really long time since it's been picked. And so some of the nutrients may have already been lost. So frozen is an awesome way to be getting nutrient dense vegetables that are easy and always available so that if your fridge is empty, you still have really nourishing options on hand. So check out what you have. There are just so many, I mean like asparagus, Brussels sprouts.... that's a great way to really add a big variety because as a reminder, what's optimal is at least 30 different plants per week for optimal gut health. And, utilizing frozen section is a great way to not be wasting food and trying to buy a variety of things, and then having them go bad before you can use them. Beyond vegetables, I also really recommend utilizing frozen protein similar to the vegetables with fish. You know, you may think that all of the fresh food in the grocery store is more fresh. In reality, again, that's like fish, that's kind of sitting out versus the frozen fish has been frozen soon after being caught. So that is a huge staple that I use because I can easily defrost just the amount of fish that I need really quickly in a bowl, just with cold water and cook that as needed without having to have prepped anything. I love having frozen shrimp, because if you want something that defrosts super quickly shrimp does, and then it cooks in just a few minutes. So if I am just really hungry when I get home from work and I want something really easy, shrimp is such an awesome option. You can also find really great, like chicken meatballs or Turkey burgers that have very clean ingredients. I always look for just on the ingredient list. You wanna see the meat and like chicken and then some spices. I always make sure that there aren't all these weird additives or sugar, you'll be shocked how much weird stuff can be in something that should simply just be like a chicken burger. It should just be like chicken and spices. Sometimes you're gonna find all sorts of weird additives. So I make sure that that's not the case, but there are some really great like chicken breakfast sausages or meatballs or things that can be cooked very quickly that are such time savers to have in the freezer. Now, finally, when we moved to like fridge and pantry staples, the big thing is I mentioned how I don't really like meal planning because I'm never really sure what I'll be in the mood for that day for dinner. And I like to base my meals off of like what kind of cuisine I'm in the mood for? Like, am I in the mood for Mexican flavors? Do I want like Mediterranean? Italian? And I kind of categorize things like that. And my panty and my fridge always have. Staples that make it so that I could throw together any of those flavor combinations. So for example, throwing together, Mexican, I always have salsa and lime juice in the fridge. And I always have some avocados, so that that's super easy. And I have a very big spice cabinet because spices add so much excitement. You could have like the same meal, but if you're using different spices, that will completely change the whole flavor and it can make something super simple so exciting. For example, I can take something so basic like a tilapia fillet. And because that's something that I'll use somewhat frequently, Aldi has them. They're so inexpensive and they're individually frozen. It's very easy to defrost and I'll usually cook it either in parchment paper, kind of like rolled up. That can be a great way to not make your house smell like fish when you're cooking fish or I'll just, um, make it in a pan and cover the pan, again, so the house doesn't smell fishy. Matt hates the smell of fish. So I'm very sensitive to trying to mask any fishy smells. So I'll do different flavor combinations. For example, if I'm craving Asian, I like to put a little bit of coconut aminos. Coconut aminos are an alternative to soy sauce. Um, that's something that I recommend during the body vacation because soy sauce has gluten, which it's just one of those hidden places where gluten is. And coconut aminos are an alternative for that. So you can use either tamari sauce or coconut aminos or soy sauce, and then I'll put some ginger and wasabi powder and that can be really yummy or. Trader Joe's has like green goddess seasoning mixes. So that's a nice, easy mix of all these like fresh herbs and some chives. And that creates a totally different flavor. Or sometimes I'll do like a smoked paprika and that kind of makes a little smokey flavor. You could put dijon mustard on for another flavor. You can top it with a pesto. You can easily transform a boring blank canvas into whatever flavor you are craving, as long as you have those staples on hand. So, as I mentioned, some of the ingredients that I like to have for like an Asian or Japanese theme, I like to have some kind of like coconut aminos or tamari sauce or soy sauce. Uh, definitely ginger. I do love having wasabi powder. That adds just a little kick and really makes things interesting. Rice vinegar, highly recommend having lots of vinegars. I like apple cider vinegar, balsamic, vinegar, or rice vinegar. Always adding that little bit of acid can really help to balance the flavor profile of a dish. I like to have tahini, you can use tahini in so many different things from like Mediterranean to Asian flavors. I also love it on fruit, so that's a really big staple. Um, when I'm making Asian stir fries. Tahini can be a great addition for like a little bit of that, um, healthy fat and to make a creamy dish. Other things I like to put into an Asian stir fry to have like that creaminess peanut butter powder. I love because that absorbs kind of the extra moisture and creates this thick peanut sauce. That's really yummy. Or using a garlic hummus that can also create that creamy consistency. So those are all, some staples that I have. If I want to create a Mediterranean flavor, then I love having roasted red peppers in jar. Artichoke hearts in jars. Again, jars are a great way to have all these prepped foods that just, I open it and it's ready to go. I don't know if I said kalamata olives, but those three, like having column outta olives, roasted red peppers and artichoke carts, that can be a great combination to make Mediterranean flavors. I have some mint outside because that is literally the only herb that I can grow, basically, because it's a weed. So I have a plethora of mint and that's it. Just a little bit of fresh mint onto like a cauliflower rice nourish bowl. So. What I mean by a cauliflower rice nourish bowl is having the base of cauliflower rice. And then I decide what theme I want. So if I'm making a Mediterranean bowl, then I would choose a protein. So maybe I'm using shrimp or lentils. Or chicken, and then I can add some Mediterranean flavors. So I wanna add more plants, right? So I'll add kalamata olives, artchoke hearts, roasted red peppers. And then I might add some lemon juice and some freshmen, and maybe I'll use the tahini and make a little bit of a tahini dressing. So you can just mix up some tahini with some water and lemon juice and bam, you have a dressing, and that would be a super simple dinner that's plant packed. You have healthy fats, you have protein and it's ready in no time. Other Asian or Japanese flavors that I love. I love umi plum vinegar that, um, adds a really kind of salty kick and just a little bit goes a long ways. That can be great in like a poke bowl. I like to have some nori that dried seaweed, you know, from sushi, you can add that into like a poke bowl. And I like to make pokes that have a base of cauliflower rice once again, you could add like some cucumbers and ginger and you could add edamame which you could get frozen and maybe some sauteed mushrooms from frozen. All those are super easy. And I also, have like a sesame seed seaweed mix. There are lots of neat, like Japanese seasoning mixes that you can get if you are kind of bored with seasonings or if you don't have a very well stopped spice cabinet, I encourage you to have so much fun looking for what different mixes are out there. There's just a whole world of spices. One word of caution is that so many spice mixes do have added sugar or all these weird additives to it to prevent clumping and trying to preserve it longer. So that's one thing just to like always check the ingredient list, but I do find that thrive market tends to have pretty good deals for spices. And that's where I find things like the Sesame seaweed mix. And I also love getting like their Curry powder. They have a lot of great, interesting options that don't have sugar added to them. So I know I'm doing just a little bit of a brain dump right now. I didn't really plan, plan this out, but I, I encourage you to think about the types of meals you typically like, like do, is your family like Mexican or Italian or Asian or Mediterranean? Like what flavors do you really like? And making sure that you just stock your pantry and fridge with the staples that will give you that flavor. And then thinking about how you can really include a lot of vegetables around that. And that can be a great way just to start transitioning your family towards more nourishing options. While still using the same flavors that your family really likes. You know? So if your family really love Italian food, how can you maybe start to swap out some of the less nourishing parts of those dishes for more nutrient dense things while still including the same flavors. So for example, if your family really like spaghetti, then could you. Start to experiment maybe with like a lentil pasta, that's gonna have more protein or maybe could you start to put like a little bit of like zucchini noodles in there, or maybe in the pasta sauce? So I've just taken you on a wild ride of like, uh, an Amelia brain dump of some of the tricks that I use so that I don't have to spend a lot of time meal planning. this may be something that you want to go back and listen through again. I likely could have organized this in a better way, but I was just inspired by my zucchini noodles and roasted veggies and wanted to record this podcast. So I hope that you find some of these things helpful to summarize some of the things I recommend are just always thinking, is there something that I can prep additionally, while I have all this out, that's really not going to add a lot of extra time or effort. Really have fun experimenting and embracing the frozen section and seeing what you can find. That's going to be really easy to grab for fast meals when you haven't planned ahead and make sure that your pantry and fridge are well stocked with the flavor combinations that you love, so that depending on what you or your family are in the mood for that day, you can easily just throw that together without having to, um, have done a lot of prep ahead of time. One other thing, something that saves time would be, I love rotisserie chickens because that is just so easy to grab. And definitely, I like to break it down. So removing the meat from the skin and bones while it's warm, makes it so much easier to do. And then I'll just portion that out. And that will often be, um, especially for like packed lunch. It's just so easy. Ready to go. And sometimes I'll even freeze half or I'll get an extra chicken and freeze that. So that one week I can just take that out and then I will have the meat ready to go. So just always thinking about those little hacks that are going to save you a huge amount of time. One of the big hurdles with having a sustainable, healthy lifestyle is that thought that you have to meal prep and that can take up a huge chunk of time where maybe you don't wanna spend your Sunday meal prepping, or maybe you don't wanna have to like spend that mental energy making those decisions. You know, we can have decision fatigue, especially as a vet. I can tell you for sure that when I get home at the end of the day I have made so many decisions and sometimes I just don't want to have to make more. So a huge piece of maintaining a sustainable, healthy lifestyle that feels totally doable. Again, you want to always be. Making sure that you're prioritizing the three life boost LS. You have to love what you're doing and the way that it's making you feel it has to fit in with your lifestyle and feel totally doable, and it has to be something that you can see doing long term. So if for you meal prepping just takes a lot of time and mental energy, and if that's draining, then don't do it.. It's one of these things, how are you making your life harder than it has to be? You really need to make sure that your healthy lifestyle is giving you energy and making your life easier. Not harder.. So these are some of the tips that can help to make sure that your environment sets you up for a success so that you have lots of really nourishing foods that are yummy readily available. And it's just about making sure that your kitchen is stocked with things that that are easy and will set you up for success. So I hope that you find this helpful if you do, if you like tips like this, and you'd like more, please let me know. And if you know somebody that you think would benefit from this, please share it. I would also be so grateful if you're enjoying this podcast if you left a review because I think that that is helpful. Cheers to your inevitable health, happiness, and success.