Wednesday, March 5, 2014

10 healthy foods you can prepare in advance to make 5 minute meals

Somehow over the last few years my taste for food has drastically changed. I don't know how it happened, but it seemed to be a slow progression. Maybe my tastebuds matured for healthier foods? I don't know. :)

Ten years ago I used to eat mostly pasta {lots of pasta!}, Lean Cuisines, tons of bread and prepackaged snack foods, and I never ate veggies unless they were from a can. And no joke, eating a salad for dinner was actually felt like some kind of cruel punishment {I almost can't believe it now!}. It wasn't until seven years ago after working for a real restaurant that I learned more about cooking and started to fall in love with good food. I started to love real vegetables!!

Then, after doing the Original Food Diet in 2012, I'd say my love for real food grew even stronger. I branched out into all kinds of squashes, mushrooms, grains, and even tofu. And it was fun. :)

And at the very end of 2012, sometime around the week after I found I out I was pregnant with #5, my appetite changed and all I could stand was bread and processed carbs {mainly in the form of Cool Ranch Doritos}. I usually don't get too sick when I'm pregnant, mostly just nauseous, but for that pregnancy, my even my beloved salad {favorite food ever} went out the door. I didn't even want to smell a vegetable. :) My appetite gradually got better, but I couldn't eat anything like I usually did.

Thankfully, few weeks after the baby was born my regular {weird} appetite started to return {hallelujah}, and since I've been nursing, I've been trying to eat a very balanced diet with more indulgences than I would usually enjoy so that I can keep my calories higher. :) 

With my hands full these days, I have to figure out ways to make foods in big enough quantities to last at least a meal or two. :) I like lunch to be easy and fast! :) But still be good food too, you know? Most of the time I eat what I feel like I need- usually a protein and a veggie or a carb. Also, If I'm eating real food, I try not to limit my quantity of food like I would with a processed portion.
Here are ten of my favorite foods I can prepare in advance for easy, healthy lunches that work for me in this season:

1. Rice.
I love short grain brown rice, and basmati made in our rice cooker. We buy both in bulk at Sam's Club and Costco. ;) Rice goes with or in nearly everything, so I don't season it until I use it. :) Salsa is a favorite rice topper at our house. If you are only eating real foods, I think you can eat 1 cup a day and be satisfied.

2. Quinoa.
I cook this in my rice maker now, and it's so easy to make several cups and store it in the fridge. I usually add garlic salt to taste. It's also a good source of protein. I like the red version! I get a big scoop out for lunch with a veggie or a protein to go with it and I'm good. :)

3. Sweet potatoes.
I much prefer baked to microwaved when it comes to potatoes. I stick several pierced ones in the oven at 400 degrees, all wrapped in foil individually and cooked until tender {about 45 min- 1 hour} and they are amazing to eat throughout the week. They need nothing added to be fantastic. :)

4. Tuna.
I love tuna because it's full of protein, and is still so light! I like a little seasoning on plain tuna like lemon pepper or something like citrus grill seasoning. :) Just open a can when you need it for an easy portion.

5. Ground turkey.
I mentioned before I make several pounds of this at one time and use it through the week. I like to freeze the smaller portions the first day I make it so that it tastes fresh and we can add it into whatever we like. I really like the 93/7 ratio for turkey.

6. Avocado.
God's natural butter. I never thought I would love avocado, but I do. Seasoning is good, but not required. I love mixing it in plain with my grains for a filling, amazing meal. I usually buy 5 a week, and my husband and I eat them like they're dessert. :) If you keep them in the fridge, hard green ones will last all week.

7. Chicken breast.
I love precooking my chicken for meals {tutorial here}, but when I was pregnant I couldn't handle the smell or taste of reheated chicken, so I bought the store version of precooked grilled chicken breast strips. I'm finally back for it now, but I still keep the store version on hand for whenever I need it. I'm all for whatever works for you when it comes to staying on course with healthier foods! :)

8. E. Texas Caviar.
It's been a while since I made this, but it's one of my favorites to keep on hand. The main problem with it is that it never lasts long enough. ;)

9. Beans
I'd say beans are the dietary staple at our house. We don't use lots of meat {we do like sandwich meat and the ones above!}, but beans are always a easy option. Soak them in a crockpot the night before, then rinse and turn them on with lots of water in the morning and they'll taste great by dinner!! I have tried lots of seasonings but I think just plenty of salt is the best.

We also keep a few 7 lb. cans of Bush's pinto beans on hand for fast food if we're in a pinch. I can't tell you how many times those big cans saved us from eating out. :) Even though they're way more expensive canned, $3.50 for lunch is so much better than $23.50 for lunch. :) A single can of black beans makes a great meal alone, too. Like the chicken, do what works for you! Canned is okay sometimes! :)

10. Salad.
Oh, sweet salad. I love it. I usually eat cabbage mix because it's so filling and $1 lb. and it is so good. I was so thankful when I could eat acidic dressings again. I usually eat Olive Garden dressing from Sam's Club, or raspberry vinaigrette with no corn syrup on it. :) Salad is always super easy to make in a hurry, and you can prepare a big batch of it every couple of days to make it even easier.

And those are my 10 favorites at the moment. I'm over the moon that I'm getting back to my old diet! And I'm so excited about summer coming- I'm thinking of all those fresh vegetables and I can't wait to enjoy them {unlike the preggo version of me last year!}.

What are your easy, go-to healthy foods?

What's a food you like to prepare in advance for a quick meal?

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