When I tell people that I cook every day for three different diets/preferences, they can’t believe it. They tell me that they would rather eat what others are eating rather than having to spend extra time and energy! They have a point. BUT I am particular with food (and everything else, if I’m honest), and even though sometimes (like, right this second!) I enjoy a big bowl of chocolate granola and almost the entire jar of chocolate peanut-butter, I like to have a healthier option at hand.
This article will be helpful if
- you, like me, have a big appetite, and need healthy options for when hunger pangs attack.
- you are new to plant-based cooking.
- you are the only one who is plant-based and are cooking for meat-eaters.
- you are all vegan/plant-based but have different dietary restrictions/preferences.
- you are busy with various other responsibilities and don’t want to waste time/money/energy in the kitchen.
So here are my tips to have delicious, healthy food, every day.
Tip #1 Meal (and snack) Preps
This is especially important when one is on a detox, or if you are trying to develop the habit of eating only whole foods plant-based, or if you are temporarily following a specific diet, including an elimination diet. Or if you, like me, easily get hangry and simply MUST eat right then and there! You open the fridge and there is nothing there. You open the pantry, nope, nothing “healthy”. There IS a big bag of chips, though. And/or that icecream in the freezer. Worse comes to worst, there is that pizza joint you can order take away from. Something’s gotta give!
Instead, imagine finding steamed/roasted vegetables in the fridge; fresh fruits on the countertop; nuts and seeds in the pantry. Stock your pantry and the fridge with ready-to-enjoy, nutritious foods so you don’t even have to make a decision when those hunger pangs attack.
Tip #2 Meal Planners
As I said in my previous post, planning what we are going to eat ahead of time has enormously simplified our life. Not only that, this will reinforce one’s ability to make healthy choices every day. We decided to PlateJoy, after trying various different meal planners. We use that because we like the recipes a lot, it saves us money because we buy what we need at the grocery store, and Plate Joy is amazing at preventing food waste- I think it’s what they’re known for. I recently read that Americans waste 50% of their food! Imagine the amount of money we are literally throwing away.
On PlateJoy personalization page, I always select the batch food option, besides daily meals, to save more money and time. I plan ahead for the following week, so we have a list of items next time we go grocery shopping. I’ve meal planned for years manually, but with the addition of a spouse and a little human, a meal planner has been close to life-changing. even if you don’t have kids and/or living alone, you should give this a try at the beginning of your plant-based/healthy eating journey. Almost all of these planners have free trial periods, so you can decide which one to go with. You can get $10 off any PlateJoy subscription with the code IVYCHAN10.
Tip #3 Be Practical
I mean, yes, I do try elaborate, gourmet recipes which require hours of preparation; I still experiment with my gram’s old recipes (I veganize old Turkish/middle eastern yummies:)), but I don’t do that every day of the week. Especially because the little one’s preferences keep changing, and these days, he will NOT, for the life of me, eat what we are eating. When you get the habit of cooking regularly, you can make a great meal in 15 minutes. You just need to keep it simple, instead of complicated; practical, instead of fancy. My husband LOVES my bok-choy and tempeh stir fry, and it barely takes 15 minutes.
Tip #4 Canned/bottled can save the day
Before I say anything else, for the sake of the environment, I want to say this:
PLEASE consider buying in bulk and/or packageless. In the United States, even some vegetables in the stores are wrapped in plastic! Isn’t that the weirdest thing? Why do we wrap cauliflowers in plastic? Or cucumbers? It’s such a shame. If you have packageless stores in your area, please shop packageless/zero waste. Look at this site to see if there are packageless stores in your area, or where you can buy things in bulk.
That said, prioritize and pick your battles. That tempeh that my husband loves? It’s a packaged food. I can make my own tahini, but I rarely do. Some days I make our own plant-based milk, and I don’t use store-bought for my little one, but that two tbsp of plant-milk we use in our morning coffee /tea or latte is bottled, store-bought milk. And yes, I use canned beans and chickpeas all the time. Canned foods are often thought to be less nutritious than fresh/frozen foods, but research shows that this is not always true. In fact, studies show that foods high in certain nutrients maintain their high nutrient levels after being canned. What is more, depending on their content, they are much less processed than many other foods Americans regularly consume.
We are lucky these days. “Back in my time”, back home, I had to make everything from scratch. Now we have flax milk- flax milk!- at neighborhood markets, healthy veggie burgers, all kinds of spreads. I AM a label-reader, I have found amazing brands (Eden, Artisana, and Three Trees are among these great brands. We buy them from Vitacost or Imperfect Foods when they are on sale. Eden Foods, the oldest organic food company in North America, was the first company to remove BPA from their canned products.). Yes, do read the label, and always get cans that say BPA free; buy things in glass containers if you can afford it (or when things are on sale) as glass is healthier for you and the environment (It’s 100% recyclable); but, if a canned product will help me make Mexican salads, bean soups, or hummus when I am time-constrained, I’ll take it.
Simply, my motto: Do your best, and pick your battles.
If you are still not convinced, have a look at what the good doctor (Dr. Michael Greger) prescribes.
Tip #5 Feel free to use frozen veggies and fruits
In an ideal world, I buy everything fresh from a local farmer. In our reality, we don’t have farmers’ markets in every town, and most products we buy from the grocery store will have lost their nutrient value by the time they arrive from wherever they have been harvested. In contrast, frozen vegetables and fruits retain much of their nutrition. In other words, in some cases, frozen foods have more vitamins and minerals compared to fresh because fresh foods lose vitamins and minerals over time while freezing preserves nutrients! Frozen produce can be used in smoothies, soups, or steamed, in salads, for example. I keep several bags of frozen wild blueberries, frozen spinach, haricot verts, and other veggies in the freezer for quick use or when they’re not in season. My mum always had frozen produce in the freezer when we did not have good quality fresh produce back home. I also use Smoothie Box for yummy smoothies and smoothie bowls.
Again: Do your best, and pick your battles.
Tip #6 Find a common denominator
Sometimes, you find really great recipes that work for everyone, but it’s now always the case. Both my husband and I love big, quinoa salads with legumes and avocados. He likes his soy sauce, and I like my tahini dressing. So I make two different dressings, but the base is the same. We both love my pumpkin bread smoothie, but he likes smoothies more liquidy, easily drinkable, and I like the pumpkin smoothie in a bowl. I pour my smoothie first, then add more liquid into his. We both love veggie burgers. I like mine with lots of greens, he likes his in a sandwich. Cooking is just like relationships: As long as we agree on the base (our main components of the meal), differences will only make life more fun;)
Tip #7 Wash, cut, freeze beforehand
Doing some prep work ahead of time makes it all easier all week. Using PlateJoy, I know what produce I will need, in what order. Usually, right after the grocery shopping, I wash and cut my veggies before I even put them in the fridge, and store them in Pyrex containers so they’re ready for use. The products I use for my green smoothie(check the bottom of the linked page for recipe) are always stored together in a glass container: Cut celery, lemon, and so on. I store herbs in small glass jars, in water, with the lid on, either in the fridge, or on the countertop, depending on the herb. (Proper storage is crucial). There are also certain meals we consume every week, and so I prepare these ahead of time: I prepare a big naked salad and store in the fridge in an airtight glass container; I batch cook quinoa and store in the fridge; wash and store apples and pears (the little one’s favourites). I even sometimes make dressings ahead of time, so I can have my steamed/roasted veggies with a dip/sauce the moment I am about to get hangry.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Feel free to comment below, or DM me any time with comments or questions, either here, on IG, or FB. It’s almost summer here, everyone. It’s the season of smoothies, juicy fruits, and huuuuuge salads! Yum <3
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Editor’s note: The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programme.
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