How to Eat Healthy When You Have No Time (or Energy) to Cook

Eating healthy when you have not time to cook

Sometimes finding time or energy to cook nutritious meals can be a challenge. If you feel like you are trying to juggle the demands of work, family, and other responsibilities and are left with little time or energy left to spend in the kitchen prepping healthy meals then keep reading because I’ve been there myself.

Eating healthy doesn’t need to be complicated and certainly can be done even if you have little time for making meals or you don’t enjoy cooking.

Balanced Meal Plates

When energy is low, there’s a tendency to rely on quick, processed foods. A balanced meal plate helps ensure you’re not missing out on essential nutrients and helps balance your blood sugars to avoid energy crashes and support mood stability and mental clarity, even when you’re feeling fatigued.

  1. Protein Source (25-30% of the Plate):  Ensure you are getting an adequate amount of protein.  Opt for quick and easily accessible protein options like Canned tuna or salmon, Pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese, Hard-boiled eggs, Pre-cooked tofu or tempeh, Canned beans or lentils (rinse to reduce sodium)
  2. Vegetables (40-50% of the Plate):  Frozen veggies and pre-cut fruits and veggies are equally as nutritious and can be a great time saver.  Options include: Bagged salad greens or spinach, Pre-cut broccoli or cauliflower florets, Baby carrots or cherry tomatoes, Frozen mixed vegetables (steamable bags)
  3. Carbohydrates (20-25% of the Plate): Choose quick-cooking whole grains or starchy vegetables: Instant or microwaveable brown rice or quinoa, Sweet potatoes (microwave for faster cooking), Whole grain bread or wraps, overnight oats or porridge (for a quick breakfast or snack)
  4. Healthy Fats (Incorporated Into the Meal): Include sources of healthy fats for added flavour and satiety: Avocado slices or guacamole, Olive oil-based dressings or drizzles, Sprinkle of nuts or seeds (e.g., almonds, chia seeds)

How To Grocery Shop For Quick & Healthy Meals: Tips and Ideas

When it comes to maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, it often starts at the supermarket.  Navigating the aisles with limited time and energy can be a challenge, but it’s entirely possible to fill your basket with items that help make quick and nourishing meals.

1. Plan Ahead and Prioritise

Before heading to the shops, take a moment to plan your meals for the week. Focus on recipes that are quick to prepare and require minimal effort. Prioritise whole, unprocessed foods that form the basis of a balanced meal.

Meal Ideas:

  • Grain Bowls: Combine pre-cooked quinoa or brown rice with a protein source (canned beans, grilled chicken), fresh vegetables, and a flavourful dressing.
  • Salad Wraps: Fill whole-grain wraps with pre-washed salad greens, lean protein (such as turkey or tofu), and your favourite vegetables. Add a simple vinaigrette for extra flavour.

2. Opt for Convenience Without Sacrificing Nutrition

Choose convenience items that don’t compromise on health. Look for pre-cut vegetables, washed greens, and canned goods with no added salt or sugar. These time-saving options can be the foundation of many quick meals.

Meal Ideas:

  • Stir-Fry: Grab a bag of pre-cut stir-fry vegetables, a protein source (tofu, shrimp), and a bottle of low-sodium stir-fry sauce. Serve over brown rice or quinoa for a speedy meal.
  • Quick Soup: Choose low-sodium broth, pre-cut vegetables, and canned beans or lentils. Simmer together with your choice of herbs and spices for a comforting soup.
  • Rotisserie Chicken and Pre-Cut Vegetables: Take advantage of pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. Pair it with a side of pre-cut vegetables, such as baby carrots, bell peppers, and snap peas. This combination provides a balanced meal with lean protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

3. Consider Frozen and Pre-packaged Options

Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh and have the added benefit of a longer shelf life. Additionally, explore pre-packaged items like pre-marinated proteins or pre-cooked grains that can significantly cut down on prep time.

Meal Ideas:

  • Smoothie Packs: Pre-portion frozen fruits, greens, and your choice of protein (like Greek yogurt or protein powder) into bags. In the morning, blend with your liquid of choice for a quick and nutritious smoothie.
  • Frozen Veggie Mixes: Use a combination of frozen vegetables as the base for a hearty vegetable stir-fry. Add your choice of protein and a sauce for a speedy meal.

4. Stick to Nutrient-Dense Snacks

Selecting healthy snacks ensures you have nutritious options on hand when time is limited. Opt for options like nuts, seeds, yogurt, and whole fruits for quick, satisfying snacks.

Meal Ideas:

  • Yogurt Parfait: Layer Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds for a quick and filling snack.
  • Nut Butter and Banana: Spread almond or peanut butter on whole-grain toast and top with banana slices for a satisfying pick-me-up.
  • Dips and crudities:  hummus or a healthy dip along with some pre-cut veggies like carrots are an ideal on-the-go snack.

Make ahead meals

  1. Slow Cooker and Instant Pot

Slow cookers and Instant Pots are excellent kitchen appliances for low-effort cooking. You can prepare a variety of dishes in the morning, and they’ll be ready by the time you get back home.

  1. Batch Cook

Batch cooking involves preparing larger quantities of food at once that can serve as the foundation for various dishes throughout the week. For example, cook a batch of lean proteins like chicken, tofu, or beans on a quiet day, like Sunday. Store them in portioned containers, ready to be incorporated into salads, wraps, or stir-fries at a moment’s notice. Similarly, consider cooking a few portions of whole grains like quinoa or brown rice, that can be used as a base for the weekly meals.

  1. Freeze

Keep a stash of nutritious frozen meals or components like frozen vegetables, pre-cooked grains, and proteins. These can serve as a quick and convenient option for those times when cooking is simply not an option.

Bottom Line

Remember, with a bit of strategic planning and smart shopping, you can enjoy quick and healthy meals even when time and energy are in short supply. By selecting nutritious convenience items and combining them with minimal effort, you’ll have a variety of tasty and nourishing meals at your fingertips.

Remember to plan ahead, choose nutrient-dense ingredients, and build a balanced plate.

Want to find out more or need help? Drop me an email at [email protected] or book a free call with me.

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