We get it, preparing healthy meals can seem like a huge undertaking, especially if you can’t cook or don’t have the time. But rest assured, eating healthfully does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. If you stick to the basics, you’ve got yourself covered!
It’s common to try and take on everything at once when making healthier lifestyle changes; to be the perfectionist, your motivation is high, it’s Monday, you’re rearing to go – but you get to Wednesday, and you feel a whole different way…
You might be that person to go ‘all-out’, making extravagantly healthy meals that take hours to prepare, but when you don’t have the time or energy to prepare those meals, you resort to ordering pizza because it’s easy. Or you decide to remove ALL carbohydrates from your diet, as you believe they’re ‘unhealthy’, only to find you now have absolutely no energy to continue your health journey? This ‘all or nothing’ attitude is not sustainable and will hinder your progress.
It’s about finding the in-between. It's not a choice between eating perfectly or terribly, we have a lot of healthy, easy to prepare choices in the middle. Read below for our manageable top tips to start today, small changes you can do now that can elicit the biggest change – it’s these small wins you will come to rely on when you aren’t feeling so motivated.
Everyone’s idea of meal prep is different, but many wrongly believe it consists of spending hours of your Sunday, cooking the same foods for lunch and dinner for the week – boring!
- Salads and wraps are so easy to make and often require no cooking time. Having lots of salad foods in your fridge ready to throw into a wrap or salad bowl. Salads don’t have to be boring. They can be very filling and packed full of nutrients.
- Have cooked meat (chicken, lean mince, turkey burgers, meat-free sausages) in the fridge. This is very handy & a quick source of protein to throw into curries, fajitas, stir fries, or those salads and wraps just mentioned.
- Having boiled eggs in the fridge as a good source of protein to throw into salads, wraps or having them on toast, or quick, satiating snacks when working from home.
- Make a little extra dinner to have for lunch the next day or make some meals in bulk. Some of my favourite meals to cook in bulk are curries, chillies, stews. Some meals are better than others to batch cook, whereas fish fillets or fresh salads for example, tend to be better made to be eaten fresh.
- Tinned foods like beans, tuna, chickpeas, kidney beans are great to have in the cupboard. They have a long shelf life and can be thrown into anything.
- Microwaveable rice, noodles, quinoa, bulgur wheat, grains & pulses are such a time saver.
- Having frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer saves time chopping vegetables and prevents waste when the fresh alternative might have turned bad. Choose a variety of coloured vegetables too, like buying mixed bags as eating a variety of coloured vegetables maximises your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Buying raw, pre-cut vegetables are equally nutritious and contain fibre just like their un-chopped counterparts do. You may have seen negative comments online about the oxidation of chopped fruit and veg, but if they are sealed (which they would be straight after chopping in the factory), then you do not have to worry about oxygen getting to them until you open the package yourself. Just be sure to check the date on any labels and don’t buy the reduced ones, as these will likely have been lying around the supermarket for a while. Make your purchase based on which is freshest, because after five or six days, unstable vitamin C and carotenoid levels begin to drop in pre-cut fruit and vegetables, when they oxidise with moisture in the air.
- Having a well-stocked fruit bowl will serve as perfect snack options. Research has shown that this can also serve as a low-cost behavioural nudge – by positioning fruit in clear sight you can significantly increase your consumption (Marcano-Olivier, M. et al., 2019).
Here are some basic lunch or dinner meals prepared by our Nutritionist Abby, from pre-roasted veg, pre-cooked chicken and new potatoes - different days, different colour veg and different spices to flavour!
Written by Abigail Attenborough (ANutr)