Too busy for a healthy meal? No way!

9 08 2013

I think just about everyone I talk to says the same thing…”I am just too busy to eat healthy-it takes too much time.” And to that I say, WRONG! As I pass my local fast food

Cathy Shaw

Cathy Shaw

establishment everyday on the way home, I see a line of cars about 10 deep waiting for their “quick” meals. I am sure most experiences are much like mine…I wait in line for 15 minutes and finally receive my order which is inevitably missing something or has the wrong items in it. Once I have them fix the problem and correct my bill, pay them and make sure I count my change, it has officially taken me about 25 minutes. In those 25 minutes I could have gotten home, taken off my coat, checked the mail, and prepared a healthy, simple meal for me and my family.

You have to remember that healthy does not have to be equivalent to fancy or gourmet. In my eyes, healthy equals simple, fresh and tasty. It is using basic, handy ingredients to create fast and easy balanced meals. To keep time to a minimum and nutrition in the forefront, here are some “go-to” items I keep in my kitchen:

Canned beans: Cannellini beans, Pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzos (preferably reduced sodium) These are great to throw in salads, soups, casseroles and skillet meals.


Canned tomatoes: Crushed, puree, diced, sauce and paste. I keep these on hand for making quick tomato sauces, vegetable soups, casseroles and pasta dishes.


Unsweetened frozen and canned fruit: Even when you don’t have fresh fruit on hand, these are great options for creating fruit salads, quick snacks, desserts and smoothies. I keep single serving fruit cups on hand (packed in 100% fruit juice) for my kids to grab for snacks or lunch.


Tuna fish: An easy way to make sure you are getting some fish in your diet. Comes in foil pouches to throw in lunch pails, or even packed in garlic and extra virgin olive oil to add to special recipes.


Bags of romaine and baby spinach: An easy way to add greens to sandwiches or wraps as well as create a base for things like grilled chicken or steak salads.


No salt added canned vegetables: A healthy way to add veggies to meals and recipes if you are afraid of buying too many fresh vegetables because they go bad.


Whole wheat pastas and brown rice: I keep a variety of pasta shapes and sizes for my family to choose from. Whole wheat pasta and brown rice are cheap, quick to prepare (minute rice) and are an easy way to add whole grains to vegetable dishes and casseroles. Also an easy way to create a simple side dish without all the added sodium of packaged pasta and rice sides.


Whole wheat wraps or pita pockets: A great way to change plain sandwich into something fun!


Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: I buy these on sale and keep in the freezer.


Eggs: A great source of high quality protein and easy to whip up in omelets or egg salad (never count out breakfast for dinner!)


Peanut butter and jelly: The best go-to ever! Preferably look for natural peanut butters without a lot of added sugars and look for fruit spreads or low sugar fruit butters.


Veggie burgers: An easy way to throw together a quick lunch or dinner sandwich- a great source of plant based protein.


Variety of dried herbs, olive oil and vinegar: Keep these on hand for quick additions to your recipes. I keep a lot of herbs and spices on hand, but the basics for me are basil, oregano, parsley, garlic (fresh and powder), old bay, fresh ground pepper, sea salt and rosemary.

Bottom line: Keep your pantry stocked with basic, healthy ingredients that are easy to put together. It will take you less time than going through the drive through for a “quick” meal that really isn’t so quick. Try this Tuna and White Bean salad- you can serve it over baby greens or with sliced tomato in a pita or wrap. Pair with some fresh fruit and you have a meal!

Tuna and White Bean Salad: makes 6 servings

2 6oz cans of tuna packed in garlic and olive oil

2 15oz cans of cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

6 Tbsp red wine vinegar

½ tsp fresh ground black pepper, or enough to taste

Sea salt to taste

In a large bowl, add tuna with its olive oil. Using a fork, break it up into pieces and gently toss in beans and onions. Drizzle with red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition facts per serving: 209 calories, 25g carbohydrate, 7g fat, 15g protein, 416mg sodium




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