A lot of us live really busy lives. Between work, errands, family time, school activities, after-school activities and just general “life stuff,” it can be hard to find time for much else, including getting healthy, balanced meals. Sometimes, it’s just easier to roll by a fast-food window, grab a burger and call it a day. The problem with “easier” is that it often doesn’t equal “healthier.”
But, Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says even in our fast-paced world, with a little planning and the right grocery store staples, it is possible for families to have healthy meals that require very little prep time. “The truth is that we can create simple, delicious and healthy meals that likely will take less time than sitting in the drive-thru line,” Tillman said. “It all starts with planning. Take a few minutes, brainstorm some meal ideas and then make your grocery list. What makes this process even faster and easier is having a well-stocked fridge and pantry ahead of time with certain key items that can help make quick and healthy meals a reality,” she explained.
“One staple to have on-hand is pre-packaged leafy greens, which you can find pre-washed in containers in lots of grocery stores,” Tillman said. “These are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and can be quickly added to sandwiches or soups, or even combined with leftovers to make a healthy salad. Rotisserie chickens are another great item to keep around. They can be used for multiple quick meals in the span of a few days. At home, I’ll use a rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables and potatoes on the side for dinner then use leftover slices of chicken to top a salad. Usually, we still have leftovers to use for things like chicken tacos for dinner for a third night in the week,” she said. “They’re a good source of lean protein, too, because the way they’re roasted means most of the fat just drips off as they’re being cooked, so when you pick them up at the store, they’re ready to go,” she added.
Tillman says, we all should keep items such as nut butters, eggs, beans and frozen vegetables handy, as well. “Nut and seed butters are a great source of healthy fats and protein,” she said. “They are great to put on toast for breakfast, on a sandwich for lunch, or just as a dip with apples and celery. Eggs, too, are convenient and affordable sources of both protein and healthy fats. They not only make for a tasty breakfast, but hard-boiled eggs go great with salads, as well. Canned beans are good to have around because they’re so easy to use. I use them for things like chili or soup, but you also can make veggie burgers, meatloaves, or rice and bean bowls. All of us could stand to have more vegetables in our diets, and having frozen vegetables around can definitely help us do that. Increased veggie intake has been linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease, as well as overall better health, plus they’re harvested and frozen at the peak of their ripeness, which helps optimize their nutritional value,” she explained.
“Finally, it’s important to keep a well-stocked spice cabinet,” Tillman continued. “Spices such as cumin, garlic, chili powder, crushed red pepper, cinnamon and turmeric add tons of flavor to your meals without adding calories, fat or sodium. And, the best part is, they’re shelf-stable, so they’re easy to keep around for longer periods of time. Many spices also have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, too. They’re fun to experiment with, and can help you get creative with your recipes,” she added.