Healthy Foods For the Cooking Challenged

I like to spend a good chunk of time on the weekends preparing food for the week. Planning ahead and having easily accessible foods makes life easier (and healthier). Yesterday I made salad dressing

 

I just find this stuff fun and relaxing, but talking to my mother the other day, I was reminded that not everyone likes to cook. When you don’t like to cook, you probably rely on convenience foods. These tend to be loaded with sugar, fat, or salt. Or all three. Plus 1300 other ingredients you probably can’t pronounce. So what should you do if you want to make a healthy change but can’t cook?

Woman eating salad

Try these strategies:

Learn to make a couple of healthy things, then make big batches to use throughout the week. Do you own a slow cooker/Crockpot? With minimal time and effort you can prepare a variety of soups (vegetable, bean, barley, chicken), stews, meats, or vegetables. Throw the ingredients in the pot, walk away, come back when it’s done, and put the leftovers in glass containers for later in the week. Easy, healthy, not much cooking involved.

You can also do this even if you don’t have a slow cooker. Soups really are pretty simple, and after you cut up the vegetables and pour in the (premade organic) broth, you simply have to let the ingredients simmer. How about a casserole? Try Sante Fe Casserole from Healthy Tipping Point, it’s got brown rice (you can even buy the quick-cooking five minute kind!, canned beans, pre-shredded cheese, and a few veggies that you simply chop up and saute.

The Internet is rife with healthy and quick recipes. If you can find 2-4 that you like and can make, rotate them throughout the month, serve them with different veggies (frozen and microwaved, if you like) each time, and you’re good to go! Just be certain that you make enough that you have plenty for the week. (Or be super tricky and freeze some portions so that you can eat them even later!)

Use convenience foods, but pick healthy ones.

Okay, so you’re not even willing to chop and saute an onion, or beat a couple of eggs together. You’re going to eat convenience foods and that’s that.

The least you can do, then, is pick convenience foods that have some nutritional value. Read WebMD’s list of Top 12 Healthy Frozen Dinners for ideas on frozen meals to purchase. Remember that pretty much any prepared food is going to be higher in salt content, including these healthier choices:

  • McDougall’s Right Foodsmeals. I admit, you do have to heat up water or use the microwave to make these. You can probably handle it, though.
  • Meals fromAmy’s Kitchen. This company provides veggie pizzas, tons of vegetarian and vegan frozen meals, healthier frozen burritos, and a variety of veggie burgers, plus soups in the soup aisle.
  • Sauces and soups fromNewman’s Own, Pacific Foods, and Seeds of Change. These companies provide products that have ingredients you can pronounce (for the most part; all packaged stuff is limited in some ways) and no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats.
  • Instant brown rice
  • Chopped and prepped salad and coleslaw mixes (please buy a salad dressing without HFCS or trans fats!)
  • Chopped and prepped fruit mixtures
  • Nuts and seeds and dried fruits from the bulk bins at your store
  • Quick cooking oatmeal
  • Organic yogurt (preferably plain; add your own fruit)

Plate of rice in front of a young woman leaning against a kitchen counter

Have a cooking party. Do you have friends who like to cook? What about having a get together where you each provide the ingredients to cook a healthy meal (or just contribute money if the grocery store intimidates you) and make a bunch of healthy dishes together? Make it fun and drink wine, eat, and divide up the leftovers at the end of the night.

If you do decide to do this, ask one of your friends who likes to cook to teach you a couple of easy things to do so you feel comfortable trying it at home. Try to make it a regular affair so everyone gets to learn new, healthy recipes!