Effort-free and healthy
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
One of the top questions I get when I speak at health conferences and workshops is, “But how do you have time to make healthy food all of the time?”
Sure, sometimes the “I don’t have time” excuse is exactly that – an excuse. The truth is, there really isn’t always time to follow a recipe or run out to the store for exotic ingredients just for the sake of trying something new. It’s a wonderful thing to explore in the kitchen and take time to prepare a meal, but the reality is it’s just not always practical.
So, that’s my answer: I don’t always make the type of meals you see on my site or in the pages of my book, “The Gluten-Free Revolution.” Often, I’m eating food that is fairly basic and can easily fit into the jam-packed days I have ahead of me. But that doesn’t mean I compromise healthy in an effort to achieve convenient. Here are a few of my favorite everyday meals that require simple ingredients and little prep work, Bonus: They’re all healthy and gluten-free!
Eggs: They might seem like a no-brainer, but they are a simple way to add a bit of protein to your morning routine. Boil ‘em the night before for an on-the-go nosh or scramble them with a bit of sea salt and ground pepper. Toss in garlic, onions, chopped mushrooms or fresh herbs for a tasty kick. Pair your eggs with a slice of gluten-free toast topped with mashed avocado or a side of leftover roasted potatoes and veggies from dinner (see below).
Smoothies: They are my go-to when I have a busy morning, and that’s because I can pack a lot of nutrients into one cup. Pair a handful of fresh spinach or baby kale with a ripe banana, one cup of frozen fruit and one cup of dairy-free milk, like almond or coconut. Add a scoop of flaxseed meal for a fiber boost or natural peanut butter for a dose of healthy fat.
Salad: Another one that seems like an obvious choice, but salads are an ideal option when you are seeking to prep a quick meal that can easily be made the night before and taken to work. Start with dark, leafy greens like romaine lettuce, spinach, kale and/or arugula, then add fresh veggies, like raw bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli slaw and onions. Throw on four to five ounces of a protein source, like grilled chicken, steamed fish, beans, tuna or tofu. Then, choose a few “extras,” but only one or two, like a few slices of avocado, two ounces of cheese (e.g. goat or feta cheese), 1/4 cup black olives, a scoop of sunflower seeds or sprinkling of dried fruit. I love to make a salad interesting by topping it with something unexpected, like fresh sliced strawberries or peaches, sprouted beans, flax seeds or jicama. As always, choose two tablespoons of a light salad dressing, such as a vinaigrette or fat-free dressing, or simply use seasoned vinegar or lemon juice in place of a traditional salad dressing.
Hummus plate: My quickest go-to lunch is a large scoop of hummus paired with fresh-cut veggies, leftover grilled fish or chicken, a few black olives and a side of gluten-free crackers. I get a little bit of everything, and it’s ready to eat in five minutes!
Protein + veggie + starch: I tell people this all the time – my husband doesn’t have to eat gluten-free, but he regularly eats the same gluten-free meal I do simply because of the type of food we eat. What that means is we often choose one-ingredient food items – potatoes, chicken, fish, veggies, fruit, etc. – that are naturally gluten-free. Our favorite dinner is a pairing that includes a protein (grilled fish, steak, chicken, etc.), veggie (steamed broccoli, sautéed green beans, grilled asparagus) and a healthy starch (baked sweet potato “fries,” roasted baby red potatoes or brown rice). It’s a simple equation that works every time!
Baked stuffed potatoes: One of my all-time favorite dinners is a baked Idaho or sweet potato stuffed with veggies like spinach, chopped broccoli, mushrooms and onions. I top it off with slices of leftover chicken or beans and a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese, plus a little sea salt and ground pepper, then enjoy every bite!
- Apple slices and natural peanut or almond butter
- Fresh cut veggies with hummus
- KIND bars (kindsnacks.com) or Larabars (larabar.com)
- Homemade trail mix
- A square or two of chocolate and tea
All of these ideas are my way of showing you healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated, nor is it realistic to expect a gourmet food experience. I love to try new recipes and spend a day in the kitchen experimenting, but these everyday ideas are proof that healthy eating is doable and sustainable even when life gets busy.
I’m curious: What’s your go-to healthy meal? Email your ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at email@example.com.