Healthy living isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be super difficult, especially when it comes to staying on top of your diet and exercise.
One of the most stressful and difficult components of a healthy life is eating healthy meals. But when it comes to eating healthy, one of the quickest fixes is switching to a “make-it-yourself” approach. Cooking food for yourself is more often than not the cheaper, healthier, and better solution to eating out all of the time.
To help you transition to homemade meals on the regular with total ease, follow these four simple healthy cooking hacks.
1. Prep Your Meals
You’ve probably heard it before, but meal prepping is one of the easiest ways to alleviate the stress of eating healthy. So what and how should you do it?
Sunday is usually the best day to prep (if you work Monday-Friday) because it’s the weekend and it’s the day before the work week starts so you can guarantee freshness of your prepped food.
Cook out your lunches (and even dinners, if you’re feeling extra organized and ambitious) for the next 3-5 days. You can cook a week’s worth of chicken, and then cook different types of side dishes and grains so that you have 5 days of pre-cooked, delicious and inexpensive lunches. This helps your pocket, and your waistline. Often times when we eat out for lunch, the fastest, most convenient option isn’t always the healthiest. Even if you stick to grabbing a salad on-the-go, dressings are not always portioned out, leaving you with a highly caloric and fat contained salad. Prepping, though, allows you to portion out your own meals, and cook what tastes good to you while keeping everything good for you.
2. Stick to Cooking What You Know
It doesn’t take much to cook a healthy and delicious meal. One of the easiest ways to take the stress out of cooking healthy is to not pressure yourself into feeling like you have to prepare some elaborate, Instagram-worthy dish every time you get into the kitchen. The basics are often the best. Start with a healthy grain like brown rice or quinoa (which are both extremely easy to cook while you’re prepping your other ingredients), then choose a meat (chicken is one of the best due to it’s low fat content), then pick some veggies to roast or steam up, and voila! You’ve got a perfectly healthy, balanced, inexpensive, and, most importantly, tasty meal.
3. Frozen Fruits and Veggies Can Be Your Friend
What’s that? Are you telling me to buy frozen over fresh?
Well, in the case of fruits and veggies, yes! While it may be a tad more expensive to buy frozen versus their fresh counterparts, frozen fruits and veggies last longer so you don’t have to worry about eating them all at once or throwing out spoiled food produce all the time.
And don’t worry about a nutritional tradeoff – research actually suggests that frozen fruits and veggies to contain more nutritional value than the fresh ones. This is mostly thanks to the way that fresh fruits and vegetables are picked. Often, fresh fruits and veggies are picked a few days before their optimal ripeness so that they can be transported to grocery stores, and during the transit process, they can finish ripening in transit and on the shelves. This deprives them of obtaining their full nutrient value. Frozen fruits and veggies, on the other hand, are often picked at peak ripeness and immediately frozen, so they can end up retaining more of their nutritional value.
4. Make a List When Buying Groceries
The final hack might just be the most simple of the bunch, and yet the one that most often goes forgotten. One of the easiest ways to take the stress out of cooking healthy is to actually think ahead about what you want to cook and to make a grocery list ahead of time based on your meal planning. That way, when you shop, you already have a clear strategy in mind.
When you shop without a list, you tend to expose yourself to impulse buys. Even if you have a general idea about what you want or need to buy, since you’re not sticking to any set list, it’s easy for things to make their way into the basket that you originally didn’t plan to buy. (Think tempting buys like ice cream and potato chips.)
Stay prepared by taking a look at some healthy recipes online or in a cookbook, writing down what you need, and physically checking everything off as you shop to leave little to no room for error and impulse.