I’m excited to kick off this new series focusing on super practical tips for healthy living. How we cook has a huge impact on how we eat. So how can we eat more veggies, cook something different every day and spend less time cooking?

I grew up being physically active and eating home cooked meals with very little processed foods. But, in my teens and early twenties, I was overweight. I weighed 35 pounds more than I do now. Over the years, nothing has made the biggest impact on my weight and my health than the changes I’ve made to eating.

On my road to healthy eating, I’ve run into a lot of challenges with cooking – maybe you’ve had these issues too.

  • I don’t have any special cooking training or skills. So every meal took a lot of time and effort
  • Chopping vegetables takes a lot of time so when I’m in a rush, I use less vegetables in my cooking
  • Making large amounts of food (like stew, soups, chili) ahead of time is a great strategy particularly for packed lunches but I often got tired of eating the same thing repeatedly and recooked vegetables just aren’t as appealing as freshing cooked
  • Often by the end of the week, some vegetables would be unused and therefore wasted

Here are 3 tips to help you eat more veggies, make fresh meals that you can change to suit your daily mood and make them in less time with less waste:

  1. Prep Veggies Just Once (Not at every meal)
      • Choose a day when you are less rushed ie. Sunday to prep most of the vegetables you plan to use for the next 3-5 days
      • Wash, trim, cut and refrigerate vegetables in airtight containers
      • With some of the harder vegetables that you usually cook ie. broccoli, carrots or cauliflower, partially cook (ie. blanch or lightly steam or boil) and drain well before storing
      • Prepare the veggies as much as you need to so they can be tossed into a pan or salad (or eaten just like that)
      • Vegetable side dishes that can last 3-5 days, make ahead of time ie. Japanese light pickles, carrots tossed with dressing, chard salad with dressing
      • Just doing this, can save so much time and stress and make it easier to eat more vegetables!
  2. Mix and Match Variety is the spice of life! Prepare a variety of vegetables so you choose different combinations at each meal. Buy and prepare veggies in these three categories (adapted from Dr. Terry Wahls’ Diet):
    1. Leafy greens
      1. Variety of lettuce, kale, arugula, chard, etc.
      2. I find packaged, organic, prewashed leafy greens very convenient for this
      3. Use paper towel to control the moisture and help keep the leaves fresher for longer
    2. Colourful
      1. Bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, beets, purple cabbage, yams
      2. Blueberries, blackberries
    3. Sulfur
      1. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale
      2. Onion, garlic
  3. Use Visual Cues in the Kitchen Keeping healthy habits have less to do with will power or personality and more to do with environmental cues. Our behaviour is largely driven by our environment, particularly visual cues. It’s amazing how the sight of a plate of donuts in the lunchroom can automatically lead to us reaching for a donut – even when we weren’t hungry. We can use visual cues to help us choose healthy foods too:
    1. Store prepared vegetables in see-through containers in the fridge so they are visible and keep them “front and centre” in the main part of the fridge (not in the vegetable drawer where you can’t see them)
    2. Keep healthy foods on the kitchen counter where you cook so it’s easier to add to dishes
      • Roasted nuts and seeds
      • Fresh herbs in water like parsley, cilantro, green onions, basil, chives
      • Bowls of lemon, lime, fruits

Prepping vegetables ahead of time can save so much time in our daily cooking and can help us to eat more vegetables as a result. Having at least three varieties of vegetables (leafy greens, colourful and sulfur vegetables) helps ensure balanced nutrition and allows flexibility in meals. Lastly using visual cues with these healthy foods helps encourage us to choose these foods every day. Healthy eating is a life long journey but starting with preparing vegetables is the best way I’ve found to consistently eat nutrient dense meals. I hope you got a few ideas to add to your meal prep!

Next week I’ll give you tips on planning proteins and starches for your meals. See you then!

In health,
Dr. Carin