Chopping, cutting, slicing, and dicing fruits and vegetables just sounds so time-consuming, doesn’t it? Sure, sometimes it is nice to take time to prepare a healthy meal for ourselves, leisurely in a quiet kitchen. But let’s face it- many of us don’t have time for that with our busy schedules which leaves us either confused for how to prepare a healthy meal with no time, faced with the reality we need to set aside a food prep day on the weekends, or worst of all, we cave in and just choose something unhealthy.
The Secret to Saving Time: Streamline Your Meals in Just One Hour
Despite the challenges that may come with eating a plant-based, or even an overall clean diet, even if you’re not completely plant-based, there are still ways you can eat healthfully without sacrificing your time. The key is to streamline your meals. What does that mean? It means to set aside one small chunk of your day and prepare a whole day’s worth of food.
Here’s how to do it:
Take 30 minutes to one hour a day (this is usually easier to do at night after work) and prepare a breakfast and lunch for the next day while you’re prepping or making dinner for that night. So you’re always taken care of for dinner, and breakfast and lunch the next day, all with just being in the kitchen half an hour to an hour a day.
Check this out for meal ideas that can all be done in an hour:
Breakfast (Takes 10-15 minutes to prepare/prep the night before):
Overnight oatmeal is easy enough, or you can soak your oats overnight in a jar or bowl, which makes them cook in just under 5 minutes the next morning. Other options include cooking them in the slow-cooker, cooking your oatmeal at night and reheating in the morning, or even preparing a big slow-cooker full of steel cut oats and have enough for the rest of the week for reheating in just 30 seconds each morning.
You can even put them in an almost empty nut-butter jar, and let them soak overnight to absorb the delicious flavor! Add chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut yogurt, flax, goji berries, raisins, figs, or mulberries. Get creative!
If you love smoothies as much as we do, we don’t suggest you make them the night before, but go ahead and get all your ingredients ready. Put any powders, nuts and seeds in a container, and then put all your fresh ingredients in the blender. Place in the fridge and in the morning you’ll just need to add your non-dairy milk, powders/nuts/seeds, and any frozen items or ice you want.
If you just really aren’t into oatmeal or smoothies, that’s okay! Try a breakfast sandwich instead, which can be made as healthy or as generic as you like. Choose from either whole grain sprouted bread you buy or make yourself, or a homemade grain-free or nut-based bread (which is great to keep on hand) as the healthiest options, or if you’re short on time, frozen whole grain and frozen gluten-free waffles from organic, non-GMO brands will even work. Avoid most shelved refined grain bread products which often have a host of ingredients you’ll want to avoid. Make your sandwich with your favorite nut butter, some all fruit-based jam or fresh fruit like berries and a sliced banana. Sprinkle on some cinnamon, put your sandwich together in a baggie or wrapped up, place it in the fridge, and you’ve got a healthy grab and go breakfast that will keep you full for hours the next day.
Now it’s time for lunch….
After your breakfast has been prepared for the next morning in just 10-15 minutes, move on to lunch. Here are some options that are easy to put together:
Here are more lunch options that might generate some quick-fix ideas as well.
A Quick-Fix (but Hearty) Salad
Since we know avocados are a true superfood that’s good for our hearts, we love to enjoy them as much as we can. Lucky enough, they make easy go-to salad toppers that will keep you full and do not take long to put together. Try our Easy Avocado Salad, or top your salad with some salsa, seeds of choice, and any fresh cut veggies that you have. If you don’t have time to chop veggies yourself, buy them pre-chopped at the store if you can afford them, or just toss everything in a food processor and in 15 seconds, you’ve got fresh veggies cut, sliced and diced with just the press of a button. Try another great option using low-fat hummus: Superfood Salad that allows you to use whatever nutritious ingredients you have on hand. Need a healthy dressing that’s fast to make? We’ve got you covered. Take these Five Ingredients That Make an Amazing Vegan Salad Dressing that you can make in seconds and keep on hand all week.
It might not seem exciting, but soup is so filling and easy, not to mention one of the sneakiest to make healthy. It doesn’t have to come out of a can to be healthy either. Try making it in a huge slow-cooker one night. Turn it on high and cook for an hour. Then, remove, leave in the fridge or portion into containers, and the next four-five days, just reheat on the stove for a few minutes to finish cooking, or opt for the microwave for 2-3 minutes instead when it’s time to eat. If you’re in a pinch and have to buy pre-made options, go with tetra-pack soups instead of canned as the healthiest, low sodium option. Putting together a soup once or twice a week is also simple since you can do other things while it cooks in the cooker. You can also cook it completely on the stove in around an hour as well without having to reheat/cook it as long the next day at meal time(s). See all of our soup recipes here.
The So-Not-Boring But Easy Sandwich
Who said a sandwich had to be simple or boring? If you didn’t enjoy a Breakfast Sammie (above), take advantage of this opportunity at lunch. If you’re going low-carb, just opt for some flourless (also called sprouted grain or sprouted seed bread) that’s found in the frozen food aisle. These are higher in protein and much lower in carbs than refined bread and completely flour-free. If you don’t care a thing about carbs and just want a good sandwich, choose whatever bread you like (though we do suggest choosing one at least with whole grains.) Make a sandwich in five minutes flat with nothing more than hummus, tomatoes and avocado slices such as in The Cracked Sandwich, or even just stick to a good peanut butter or almond butter and whole-fruit jam sandwich. Another option is to try a Chickpea Curry Salad on whole grain bread if you’re not into hummus and avocados or nut butter.Just keep in mind, if you ate a sandwich at breakfast, opt for something else at lunch to vary your eats and meals. If you’re interested in a new take on sandwiches, keep some homemade or whole-food based veggie burgers on hand and make a veggie burger sandwich or wrap instead.
What About Dinner?
It shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes to put together both breakfast and lunch (unless you’re making that yummy batch-made soup, which is literally doing the work for you). So, use the next 30 minutes to make your dinner. You have so many options when it comes to dinner.
Try learning How to Make a Real Food Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less, see 10 Easy Vegan Recipes Everyone Should Know How to Make for ideas, make some stir-fry, or have some of that soup in your slow-cooker, make a batch of quinoa in just 15-20 minutes (or brown rice or even oats) and top with some steamed or roasted veggies (which can be made on a pan while you prep your other food), or toss together a healthy, hearty salad if you didn’t already have one.
Most all of our dinner recipes can be made in 30 minutes to one hour, so use the time you have to let one thing cook as you prepare your breakfast and lunch, and you’ll only wash dishes and cook just once a day! Eating healthy (and plant-based) could not be any easier so you can save those lounge-worthy baking and cooking days for the weekend and give yourself a break during the week.
What’s your easiest tip to streamline meals?
Lead Image Source: Steve Johnson/Flickr