Making a Healthy Meal Easily

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on Feb 21st, 2013)

You come home after a long day of work and feel drained and completely lacking in creativity. It is so easy to order a pizza or Thai or anything else you don’t have to cook for yourself but you know that none of it is really healthy. Those of you who know me or even just follow our facebook page know that I’m a bit of a foodie. I love good food and am willing to take on a culinary challenge just to see if I can do it but I definitely feel the same way when I get home after a long day.

So how do we avoid this situation? There are several tricks that we can use to maintain our healthy eating habits on our laziest and busiest days. The first is to fall in love with your slow cooker. Slow cookers are amazingly helpful and save so much time. You can fill it up the night before and turn it on when you leave for work in the morning. By the time you get home it will be a beautiful pot of delicious food waiting for you. If you are uncomfortable leaving something producing heat in your home while you are away you can always cook it overnight and just warm it up slightly when you come home from work. Most slow cookers are even large enough they can make enough food for multiple meals. This especially works if you know you are going to have a long day beforehand.

It is also very helpful to have a handful of “Go-To” recipes that you can basically make in your sleep. This allows you not make yourself get creative but still have a healthy meal. Just make sure that your Go-To’s are not only easy but actually healthy too.

Over a weekend or when you first get groceries and are putting them away, take some time and do the chopping and dicing that we all find tedious. This will make it much easier to put together meals when you are tired and it may even save you space in your fridge. Cut up things like carrots, broccoli, and potatoes that do not have much liquid in them. They will keep longer than veggies with lots of fluid like tomatoes and cucumbers.

One of the most common things people do when they are feeling lazy and tired is pop a frozen dinner in the oven and not worry about making something themselves. Well, these frozen meals are full of preservatives and additives which we know are no good for us so this is no better than ordering in. Why not make some meals yourself when you do have time and freeze them to be thawed and re-heated as needed? They may not stay as long in the back corner of your freezer as those from the grocery store but they are certainly healthier and probably taste better too. You can make casseroles, shepherd’s pie, burritos, and pretty much anything you can think of.

You can even throw something simple together and pop that in the oven when you get home. This takes a little creativity but only a small input of time. Fish and chicken are very easy this way and even potatoes. You could also season the meat and fish before hand and stick them in the freezer to just pop them in the oven when you need it.

One of the best tips I can give you is to know your spices. A good combo of spices can change a bland, boring meal into something exciting and new. This does take some experimentation and time to learn what you like and what goes well together but you can develop some “Go-To” spice combos that you really like and can use on different dishes.

Picking the right foods is also very important to making a good meal. If we are just going to have pasta with butter then we might as well have ordered a pizza. At least that might have veggies on it somewhere. Our nutrient dense foods are what we want to focus on, like our dark, leafy greens, and a variety of colours. Vegetables provide the complex carbohydrates which give us the satisfied feeling of fullness that we all crave.

The last tip I’m going to leave you with is to daydream. Start thinking about your dinner sometime in the early afternoon and this will help you get excited about what you have and what it’s going to taste like. It will also cut down on the amount of creativity that is required after your brain has called it quits for the day.

Here’s an example of a simple meal that I would throw together on a lazy day;

Baked Salmon
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place a cut of salmon (this also works with a white fish too) in the middle of a large piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil.
3. In a small bowl combine 2 tsp of chili power and 1 tsp black pepper. Rub this mix onto the top surface of the fish.
4. Cut a whole lime into slices and lay them in a single layer on top of the fish. Wrap the fish in the paper or foil and roll up the exposed edges to enclose the fish in a pouch.
5. Place the fish in the oven and check it after 10 minutes. Sometimes a thicker cut requires more time than this.
6. Serve without the lime slices on top.

While the fish is in the oven prepare the rest of the meal

Spiced Rice
1. Place an appropriate amount of rice (~1/4 cup per person) in a medium pot.
2. Add 2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp ginger powder, a tsp of dried cilantro, and a pinch of salt.
3. Add water (twice the amount of rice) to the pot, cover and put on medium heat.
4. Allow to cook until all the water is gone.

When the fish is done it’s time to work on the veggies

Blanched Asparagus
1. Take a handful of asparagus (this also works with green beans too) and break off the bottom parts of the stems that are stiff and fibrous.
2. Lay the remaining asparagus in a frying pan with about a ¼ inch of water in it.
3. Put on medium heat.
4. Remove the asparagus from the water when a fork slides easily into the veggies but still meets a little resistance.
5. Run cold water over the asparagus to stop the cooking process.
6. Drizzle with olive oil.

Enjoy,
Dr. Ben

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