As a health coach, I hear a lot of excuses (most of which are valid!) for why people don’t eat more healthful food. But lack of time and money is by far the most common. My clients say, “I don’t have time to shop and cook, and healthy food is so expensive!” Sound familiar?
Recently, football superstar Tom Brady’s personal chef was interviewed about Brady’s organic, mostly plant-based diet. Brady has been outspoken about how his healthy lifestyle keeps him playing football at peak performance well into his late 30’s. (That’s ancient by NFL standards!).
When I brought this up with my clients, I heard a lot of comments like, “Of course he can eat healthy—he’s a pro athlete and his wife is the richest model in the world!” Trust me, I get it—it would be wonderful if all of us could have a personal chef in our kitchens, whipping up healthy meals all day, every day. But since that’s not practical for most of us (at least not yet—keep chasing those dreams!), here are some pro tips to help you eat like a healthy superstar. They’re quick, cheap, simple, and—yes!—delicious.
Tip #1: Cook Once, Eat Twice
When you cook a meal, prepare more food than usual and use the leftovers later. This doesn’t take much extra time, but it will save you a lot of time later. Foods like whole grains and beans (soaked and cooked) re-heat very well; just add freshly prepared veggies. Steaming and water sautéing are the healthiest ways to re-heat food. Salads can be eaten again later if you leave the greens un-dressed and keep the salad covered in the refrigerator.
Tip #2: Make a Maia Bowl
Maia is a mom of two active boys, so she’s always looking for ways to make daily life easier. What we now call the Maia Bowl was inspired by the Buddha Bowl, a dish of quinoa, beans, and veggies. Maia starts her bowls with whatever she has on hand. Grains, beans, nuts, seeds, veggies (and even fruit!) are all fair game. She then adds a homemade dressing and sometimes goat cheese or feta, and, voila—an awesome lunch or dinner is born! Maia’s go-to dressings are olive oil + lemon juice + Himalayan salt + maple syrup, or tahini + tamari + water + lemon juice.
Here’s a Maia Bowl from this week: leftover brown rice + edamame + chia seeds + dried cranberries + walnuts + goat cheese + tahini dressing. The Maia Bowl can change with the seasons. In the summer, add fresh fruit and more raw greens and veggies. Yum!
Tip #3: Use Healthy Condiments
A simple dinner of grains, beans and steamed vegetables comes to life with a few good condiments. Condiments allow each person to season the meal to their own taste. In addition to flavor, many offer health benefits (for example, umeboshi vinegar aids digestion, and fats from oil and ghee help the body assimilate nutrients from vegetables). I keep a lazy susan in my kitchen filled with various condiments.
Right now, these include: healthy, flavorful oils (plain olive oil, chipotle olive oil, toasted sesame oil, hot pepper sesame oil); ghee (clarified butter); vinegars (red wine vinegar, umeboshi vinegar, brown rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and a fig balsamic vinegar); gomasio (sesame salt); tamari; dulse flakes; roasted tahini; cinnamon; fresh ground pepper; and Himalayan sea salt.
Tip #4: Keep Healthy Staples on Hand
Healthy cooking and eating is easy when you have the right foods at your fingertips.
Here are my favorite healthy staples: garlic, onion, shallots, ginger, root vegetables (white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, etc.), grains (quinoa, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, rolled oats, etc.), sprouted spelt flour, dry beans, crushed tomatoes, arrowroot powder, baking powder, and baking soda. The fridge is stocked with nuts and seeds and some dried fruit. In addition to the condiments on the lazy susan, I keep miso and mustard in the fridge. My spice cabinet is filled with my favorite dried herbs and spices.
With staples like this on hand, you can just pick up a few greens and some type of animal protein (if you like), and you have the makings of a healthy, delicious meal.
(You can get all of these ingredients for way under retail at Thrive Market, by the way.)
Tip #5: Use Simple Recipes
Find a few go-to recipes that have only a few ingredients and don’t require much prep time. When I was busy mom of young children, my go-to simple meal in wintertime was split pea soup (see recipe, below). It is one of my favorites because it is so easy to make (just four ingredients plus water), kids love it, it’s warming, and it’s healthy! What more could you want?
Tip #6: Bond with Your Crock Pot
Maia and I have many jokes since I moved to the suburbs in Pennsylvania, where crock pots are wildly popular. However, my son, who is a personal trainer and committed to eating healthfully, has recently been preparing some delicious and nourishing meals for his busy family using a crock pot. If you need some ideas there are lots of crock pot cook books out there. The one my son, Graham, is using now is called Cooking Light Slow Cooker. I love the idea of putting something together in the early morning and having a warm dinner to come home to. If you are looking to invest in a crock pot, this is the one I have and love.
My Fave Split Pea Soup Recipe
(From The Book of Whole Meals, by Annemarie Colbin)
- 1 cup green split peas
- 1 large carrot
- 1 medium onion
- 1 tablespoon of miso
- Wash and drain the peas and put in a 6-quart pot with 6 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer.
- Cut the carrot into chunks, peel the onion and cut into quarters; add both to the peas.
- Simmer for one hour, or until the carrot is soft.
- Mash the carrot pieces with a fork against the sides of the pot until the green soup is orange flecked. Add a pinch or two of sea salt and simmer for five more minutes.
- In the meantime, dissolve the miso in 2 tablespoons of water. Remove soup from heat and add the miso. (Don’t boil the miso; it will destroy the enzymes.)
- Enjoy as is or top with croutons made from Ezekiel bread. Kids love croutons and they can help you make them: Cut bread into chunks, and toast in a frying pan with a little olive oil or avocado oil.
I hope these tips have shown you that healthy eating is easier than you thought. However, if you still feel overwhelmed or stressed about what to cook and eat, then consider working with me as your health coach. Coaching offers personal support, structure, and accountability. My coaching clients gain confidence in choosing and preparing healthy meals for themselves and their families. Making healthier choices means having more energy to meet the demands of modern motherhood. If you’re curious about coaching, contact me for a free, 30-minute consultation. We’ll focus entirely on you and your unique health concerns.