It’s Sunday night. You spend an hour planning meals on pinterest and you are certain that this week you will eat healthier.
It’s Monday. You have no time to shop and your plan from Sunday goes out the same door you open for the pizza delivery guy.
It’s Tuesday. You finally get around to grocery shopping and stock up the fridge with tons of awesome fruits and veggies.
It’s Wednesday. You forgot you had dinner plans when you shopped on yesterday and so the fresh food will have to wait another day.
It’s Thursday. You ate yogurt for dinner because you forgot two of the spices that the roast needed, so it never made it into the crock pot.
It’s Friday. The kids had soccer and gymnastics, you had planned to pack sandwiches, but the day got away from you, so you pick up burgers between activities.
It’s Saturday. The fridge is still full, but the veggies are starting to look a little wilty, and you’re wondering, can you really eat meat that has been in the fridge uncooked for four days?
It’s frustrating to plan meals, buy food, and hope to eat well, only to have your plans crumble day by day. But fear not, there is hope. And today, I’ve gathered the top fitness and nutrition experts who know how to create lasting success to give you our best tip on how to feel less overwhelmed in the kitchen and get more awesomeness into your belly.
Whether you’re new to healthy cooking or a regular at-home-foodie chef, these tips will help make cooking and eating well more simple, more automatic, and more fun.
Create habits that fit with your life — Georgie Fear
“Healthy cooking is like many other behaviors; it’s made up of smaller habits we can form one at a time. Once they become automatic, it’s easy to continue. Specific habits I would work on to cut the overwhelm down are
- Shopping regularly and with a system (like an itemized list or general guideline to bring home x pounds of meat and x pounds of fruits and veggies).
- Know quick and easy ways to turn the supplies on hand into meals in a short time. Even if you have nothing prepped ahead of time, a stir fry, omelet and toast, salad or sandwich can be made in 10 minutes or less if you have the right things on hand.
- Find small windows of time to prep ahead. Don’t look for 3 task-less hours on your weekend because most of us won’t find them. Look for small bits of time, like 2 minutes while your oatmeal is in the microwave. You could wash and cut a carrot into sticks in that time, put handfuls of crackers into plastic bags to take to the park, rinse a bag of grapes, or wrap potatoes in foil to bake later.
- Have go-to recipes your family likes and use them often. You don’t have to know 200 delicious recipes, just 10 standby’s will do to provide adequate variety.”
Georgie Fear is a registered dietitian and professional nutrition coach and the author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. Website: www.askgeorgie.com
Think simple & plan for leftovers – Lauren Koski
“My advice would be THINK SIMPLE. I’m not a cook. At all. When I first started trying to cook healthier meals on my own I would get so overwhelmed reading recipes that I would sometimes say screw it and make Mac and cheese!
Healthy doesn’t have to mean complicated! Some of my favorite meals are the most simple. Tonight for example, we had ham/cheese sandwiches that I baked in the oven with sautéed veggies on the side. It was so simple and delicious.
Another great tool is the crockpot, it’s hard to mess up too much with the crock pot (although not impossible, I’ve done it a few times!) and if I had a second tip it would be to make enough for leftovers, which is easy in the crockpot!”
Lauren Koski is a habit based nutrition & weight loss coach, advocate for sanity in motherhood, and founder of Mom’s Done Dieting. Website: www.momsdonedieting.com
Master one recipe at a time – Maria Brilaki
“The fastest way out of feeling like cooking is a big deal or a chore is to just make it a habit, so you no longer have to think about it, or debate with yourself about doing it. Cooking will become second nature.
Cooking may feel stressful, esp. if you’re new to it. Instead of doing it in a super-fast speed like a pro, you’re in the kitchen looking for the recipe, following it step-by-step, unsure about whether you’re performing each step right.
Not to mention you had to go grocery shopping, recipe at hand, struggling to find all those different ingredients at the store. Doesn’t sound like fun to me!
Now imagine you’ve done this dish 20 times. Do you still need a recipe? No. You know the steps by heart. It’s easy. You flow from one step to the other. Instead of taking 30 minutes to prepare the food before putting it in the oven, it now only takes 15.
When grocery shopping you know where to find each ingredient and have no trouble remembering what you need.
So if you’re new to cooking, I recommend you avoid the mistake of starting with multiple dishes, and instead choose one recipe and stick to it until you can cook this dish like a pro. Once you reach that level, you can then expand to other recipes. It’s ok if this process takes 6 months – healthy cooking will be paying dividends for life so you’re in no rush.
Expanding earlier to different recipes will slow down the habit-making process of cooking the first recipe. Cooking will keep being overwhelming making you less likely to do it and more likely to give it up altogether. Not what you want, right?”
Maria Brilaki is the founder of Fitness Reloaded, where she helps over 100,000 monthly visitors to make better, healthier choices without the fads. Website: http://fitnessreloaded.com
Find a spouse to cook for you…. Or start small – Marc Halpern
“I always push for planning meals for the week and putting a shopping list together. However, a confession: I’m not a natural planner. I struggle with it, even though I know its right. My wife loves to plan our meals, plan the shopping trip, and cook new dishes. So, if you haven’t found a spouse yet, please put in your online dating ad “needs to be a planner and foodie”.
If you struggle with it like I do, start small, like plan one day out of the week or even one meal. The best advice I can give with this is to not stress about it. If you find yourself without a plan and its dinnertime, make what I call a “shit-show plate”. Whatever you have in the cabinet or fridge, some concoction can be made. Laugh about it, enjoy, and it may even turn out to be a keeper. For example, last week we moved so our options were limited. I sautéed onions, cracked eggs right into the pan, whipped it around with a plastic fork, and enjoyed with some hummus I found in the fridge. Delicious!”
Marc Halpern is a personal trainer, strength coach, and Registered Dietician who lifts heavy things and eats real food. He is co-founder of practical strength. Website: www.findtimeforhealth.com.
Precook and prechop (or better yet buy it pre-chopped) – Allyson Signaigo
“I’m a big believer in pre-packaged green salad mixes and pre-cut frozen and fresh veggies that normally make the chopping feel like a whole separate habit! Make room in your budget for these and the ease will pay off.
Also, Foundation Foods. These foods are your go-to’s that you can build a meal around. Chicken, shredded beef, roasted veggies, quinoa, beans, boil in the bag rice, potatoes. Do some minimal prep work to get these things pre-cooked for the week so that when you come home from work exhausted, at least you’ve got the makings of a decent meal right in the fridge!”
Allyson Signaigo is the founder of Allystrong, maker of awesome (free) workout videos posted on her facebook page, and a fitness and nutrition coach at One by One Nutrition Habits. Website: http://allystrong.com/
Create your basic 8- Ashley Palmer (me!)
“Most families stick to a few basic recipes, and repeat them over and over, and that’s ok. Yet when we start eating healthy somehow a switch flips and we think we need to try something new every day for the rest of our lives.
Yes, variety is good, but so is consistency. And if you’re cooking once a week and giving up the rest of the time because it’s become too complicated, it’s probably not a bad idea to start smaller.
Start experimenting with one or two recipes that sound delicious and simple, something you would love to repeat. Continue adding new recipes every few weeks as it feels easy.
After a while, you’ll have your “basic 8” recipes that you can reuse over and over again. Stick these on the fridge for an easy reference, and rotate through them every couple weeks. (I tend to use 4 each week and rotate every 2 weeks.) The best part is, if you have recipes that you love and are simple to make, you won’t likely get sick of them. Once you do want a change, replace one recipe at a time with something new.
Fill in the other nights with simple meals (for me that would be omelets or a quick salad), something fancy and new you’ve always wanted to try (meaning what I find on pinterest), or leftovers.
With a staple of 8 recipes that you reuse over and over (four per week), you can free your mind up from planning 7 nights a week of recipes, and focus on trying just a few new things without the stress and struggle of trying to “do it all”.”
Ashley Palmer – Registered Nurse, Nutrition Coach and founder of Youtrition. Website: right here. You’re on it!
Now it’s your turn: What is your favorite healthy cooking tip?