Eat Well to Be Well: Meal Prep for Busy Lives

By Sophia Gerontakos

The number one priority in maintaining health and wellbeing is what you eat.  Our bodies run on  specific nutrients and without quality sources of these we simply cannot function well.  Vitamins, minerals and amino acids are needed for every biochemical pathway, for energy production and for the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters, so what we eat plays a critical role in both our physical and mental health.

Over time numerous diets have claimed to be the ‘healthiest’ and ‘best’ but when we look at most of those found to be associated with good health and longevity (e.g. Mediterranean and some Asian diets) the commonality is that they all consist of

unrefined, unprocessed whole foods and high percentages of plant foods including plant-based proteins (which generally also all happen to be excellent sources of fibre).  So ultimately, this means food prepared in your own kitchen.

Now in this modern day most of us do not have time to spend in the kitchen preparing three home-cooked meals a day.  However, this doesn’t mean we can’t eat well.  I myself am living by a rather large and fast-paced schedule, maintaining a clinic practice as a naturopath and massage therapist, doing an Honours degree and working part time hours in a hospital, not to mention getting a bit of social and leisure time in.  I’m not a slow-living type of lady.  But I still eat well.  Because I know that if I don’t eat well I can’t maintain this lifestyle, and all the things I’m dedicated to wont be sustainable if I don’t nourish myself at the same time.  There are many different ways to establish good eating patterns in your life, and I just wanted to share my own experiences and what works for me. 

My general rule is that if I eat a decent breakfast and one really good meal a day I’m doing well.  And I will often prepare breakfast and a meal to take with me at the same time in the morning in about 20-30 minutes.  I think most of us can and probably do, spend at least 20mins in the kitchen in the morning so this is an achievable goal.  It works for me as I am not the type to allocate one of my weekend days to meal planning and prep.  Sundays are way too precious for that!

So in the morning, I’ll pop an egg or two on to boil and usually have the steamer out and doing veggies for my take-with-me meal. Breakfast becomes a piece of sourdough with avo and egg plus some green leaves or steamed asparagus/zucchini (if I happen to be steaming anyway) or I’ll add some extra pumpkin or sweet potato to the steamer for mash with hemp seeds (and/or other seeds) and an egg for breakfast. 

If eggs are not your thing you can mash white beans (tinned – rinse well) with curry powder (add a little water or almond milk if necessary – you can also have this already done in the fridge – only takes a minute or two to prepare a batch for a few breakies during the week), add a little salt and have that on toast (option add avo and seed sprinkles). Breaky jars/snack jars are also great to-go breakfasts/lunch’s.

At night, even if I get home late I know I’ll be up for at least an hour before hitting the sack so I will sometimes pop a piece of fish in the oven for the next day or some roast veggies or grill a piece of tofu that way I only have to throw together a salad or steamed veg in the morning while my egg boils or while I’m prepping breaky.  The night before doesn’t always happen though, especially when exhaustion sets in so I’ll often spend the extra ten minutes in the kitchen in the morning grilling a piece of tofu and making a salad (you could just as easy grill a piece of chicken if thats your thing or just throw some legumes/nuts/seeds/quinoa/buckwheat/falafel in a salad or with steamed veg instead).  My go too take-with-me meals are baked fish with steamed veg (steam veg in the morning and throw a sliced clove of garlic in the last 2-3 mins of steaming – when done mix veg with a dollop of butter and some salt and pepper and you’ve got garlic butter veggies yummo!); or grilled tofu or tempeh with a salad which could have anything and everything in it including some seeds and/or walnuts.  You might be noticing that hemp seeds go on pretty much everything (they are great protein AND omega-3 plus super tasty).

If I’ve got some quinoa or buckwheat on hand (these only take 15 mins to cook too – just boil for 15 minutes and rinse after this) I’ll throw that together with roast veg/green leaves/feta cheese and some dried herbs/lemon juice/olive oil – another staple take-with-me meal.  My take-with-me meals will end up either being lunch or dinner depending on the days schedule.  Since that’s only one veggie meal I will also throw some greens in the nutribullet (blender will do fine) while I’m prepping breaky for an extra serve of greens/veggies for the day.  It takes less than five mins to throw a couple of greens/piece of fruit and a spoonful of hemp protein in the blender and pour it into something to take with you, and you’ve got another 1-2 serves of veg plus fruit right there while your toast cooks. Easy!  A smoothie is a great way to cover your vitamin/mineral/antioxidant daily requirements with an extra couple of serves of fruit and vegetables. 

I’ll also occasionally cook a big meal (on one of the rare evenings when I’m home at a reasonable hour) which will provide a couple of extra meals for the week or  a meal to pop in the freezer (always good to have a couple of home-cooked meals in the freezer for emergencies) – lentil curry is a popular go-to for me.

I also try to have snacks on hand – if you are only taking one (good) meal for the whole day eat snacks such as mixed nuts, protein balls, nut bars, energy bars (we have a great variety available at HotH) to keep your blood sugar stable.  I don’t usually have time to make my own snacks (but when I do its great!), I often buy ready-made ones. Read the ingredients there are plenty of options out there that only contain nuts, seeds, dates etc with no additives.

So that’s it, give yourself 30 mins in the kitchen in the morning and you’ve got a days worth of nourishment, delicious whole foods that will nourish you and set you up to feel good even through the busiest of times.  It doesn’t take many extra minutes to double up if you are prepping for your partner too and you can alternate days that each person does the food prep. 

Think of it as an investment in yourself, an act of self love – the way we spend our time is reeeeeally important!  Most of us wouldn’t bat an eye at scrolling through social media for 30 mins so why not spend a little time doing something that will nourish your mind and body.  Making your own food is a rather therapeutic act of self-care and a great way to start your day.

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