You’ve heard the advice: Think flavor not fat. Make veggies take up 2/3 of your plate. Yeah right. Because I have time to make my own dressing, wash and peel veggies, squeeze fresh lemons (oh gee, I guess that means I had to remember to buy a lemon in the first place…)
I hear you. But with a few staples in the fridge and pantry and a closer look at the pre-prepped produce section, here–in no particular order–are my top 10 tricks for eating healthy while still saving time. Thanks to my mom, Gail Zavelson — an amazing cook for collaborating.
1. Pre-cut veggies. These go straight from fridge to salad bowl, roasting dish or pan. I’ve seen celery, carrots, mushrooms, butternut squash, multiple kinds of onions, red/green peppers and various kinds of slaw. It really depends on where you shop as to how much of this kind of thing they offer. Beware, they do charge a premium. (If you don’t want to pay the mark-up, you can do the washing/chopping yourself on the weekends and store in an air tight container in the fridge for about a week.)
2. Pre-minced/crushed flavor enhancers. These come in a bottle, jar or tube – minced garlic, wet ginger, wasabi paste, bottled lemon or lime juice. When you up the flavor you can often reduce the fat.
3. Bagged salad greens. I like to buy the packages that come with everything — including toppings and dressings. But make sure you watch the serving size/calorie count on the dressing or your salad might as well be a chocolate cake.
4. Ready-to-go pizza dough. Pizza gets a bad rap for being fattening but that’s often about the toppings. If you make the pizza yourself you can put all sorts of healthy things on there — boneless, skinless chicken breast, spinach (pre-cut, pre-washed from the bag), artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms, roasted red peppers or left over grilled veggies from a previous meal. The more veggies the better. For the dough: there’s the stuff in the Pillsbury tube, there’s Boboli, there’s organic in the refrigerator or freezer section. Top with ready made pizza sauce or pesto (sold near the spaghetti sauce) and then start building your own personal recipe. (Don’t forget a sprinkling of the pre-grated low-fat cheese of your choice.)
5. Bottled marinades. These are a great flavor enhancer when you’re grilling or broiling — two particularly low-fat ways to cook. Usually sold near the ketchup and salad dressings, these come in a vast array of flavors – BBQ, honey/garlic, chipotle, thai peanut and on and on. In the morning put your meat (even if its frozen – because I always forget to put it out the night before) in a gallon sized zip-lock bag and cover with the marinade. Run out of marinade? Keep a bottle of Italian salad dressing on hand. In a pinch it’s a great marinade shrimp, beef or chicken.
6. Frozen stir-fry mixes. I often add additional meat and veggies that I have on hand to bulk it up a bit. Probably not one for every night tho’. The sodium content can be really high.
7. Steam in-the-bag veggies. I’m a fresh veggies kind of girl. But on those nights when you haven’t been to the grocery in a week and your down to some wilted scallions and a sorry looking apple, these veggies from the freezer microwave super fast and will do just fine. Jazz them up a bit by drizzeling with bottled lemon juice or orange juice.
8. Frozen dinner rolls. Just grab out as many as you need, heat and eat. Also helps you keep from having seconds on bread.
9.Stuffed chicken breasts. These come in several varieties — Chicken cordon bleu, stuffed with brocoli and cheese, or herbs etc. They go straight from freezer to oven and cook in about 30 minutes. Keep checking the label until you find one that is less than 400 calories per serving. Serve this with a bagged green salad from above and you’ve just put together a low-calorie, no-prep meal that tastes great.
10. Microwaveable rice. 3 minutes to perfect rice every time.The Whole Foods brand comes in brown, white and TexMex varieties.
I’m sure there are plenty more great time savers. I’d love to hear yours.