Alright, let’s talk about nutrition that can stay on a shelf. Healthy shelf stable essentials.
With many grocery stores having empty meat, produce, and dairy sections (and even frozen foods!) it’s easy to think that you have to revert to eating a diet that’s high in refined carbs and low in veggies.
And let’s be real: you know a few weeks without a lot of fiber or micronutrients can leave us feeling shitty. Not to bash mac&cheese, but there’s better options than that and ramen noodles available.
So what can you get that’s both shelf stable and good for you?
Here are a few of my favorites healthy shelf stable essentials.
Brown Rice:This contains carbohydrates (the good ones) for energy and fiber to help your digestion. It’s also packed with essential vitamins: B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium. All are needed for proper biological functioning (meaning, you need this stuff to feel good!)
Black Beans (or your favorite kind): A great source of fiber, they also provide protein and vitamins like folate and vitamin K. Canned beans are fine. But if you find that you are sensitive to them (i.e. gassy), you may want to buy bulk dried beans instead. If you prepare them by soaking and then using a pressure cooker, the lectins in the beans break down, which makes them much easier to digest. Added bonus: dried beans are super affordable!
Sardines: My favorite shelf stable protein option! These little guys are packed with protein, healthy omega 3 fats, calcium, AND they have the lowest mercury content for fish. I highly encourage you to give them a try. They are super similar to canned tuna in flavor. You can prepare them just the same!
Greens Powder: Yes, I’m a strong advocate for eating actual food. Sometimes, that’s not possible and here’s where greens powders like the two pictured here come in. These are packed with phytonutrients that go missing when we aren’t eating a large amount (and variety) of veggies. Get a scoop per day to help offset that.
Honorable mentions for healthy shelf stable foods are: canned and jarred veggies that still taste great like diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pumpkin, and corn; olives and olive oils; avocado oil; nuts and seeds like chia, hemp, almonds, walnuts; and coconut.
Let’s not forget about snacks! Check out my list healthy snack suggestions here.
What are some of your favorite pantry items? Comment here to let me know!
Ahhh snacks. We generally love them. But these little things have the ability to either make or break our healthy eating journey. When you are eating the right type of snacks, the type that fuel your body rather than tax it, they are great! But too often, snacks are made up of “not food” – highly processed or nutrient lacking stuff that can set us up for failure for the rest of the day. When you snack on refined, processed “food-like substances” you end up triggering blood sugar spikes (and subsequent drops), which wreaks havoc on your hormones. This sets you up for cravings and for overeating at meal times, not to mention the hungry feeling you get when your blood sugar drops rapidly.
So if we want to be only eating “good” snacks, what the heck are those then? First, we want our snack to be as close to the whole food as possible (think whole apple is better than apple sauce is better than apple flavored cereal). We also want our snack to be a balance of fat, protein, and carbs. You want at least two of the macronutrients represented in your snack. So instead of just an apple, pair an apple with nut butter (carb and fat). This is what helps to keep our blood sugar stable and what allows us to feel full for longer. Here are some examples of what good snacks look like:
Apple slices and nut butters
Apple and cheese slices (remember to go for the organic and full fat cheese)
Veggie sticks and hummus (favorite veggies at our house are baby carrots, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, bell pepper slices, mini sweet peppers, zucchini sticks, cucumber slices – there is a ton of variety possible here!)
Any of the veggies above and guacamole
Banana and peanut butter on a sprouted grain bread
A handful of nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc)
Dates stuffed with nut butter or goat cheese
Aaand now I’m hungry…
Hopefully the examples above help to show how your are pairing a quicker burning carbohydrate (the fruit or veggie) with a fat or protein source to get the most bang for your buck out of your snack. After all, you are taking time out of your (extra busy) day to eat, so let’s make that food work FOR you instead of against you!
Now to talk about all the other stuff that is constantly marketed as snack food to us. Much like Voldemort is HeWhoShallNotBeNamed, these should actually be called ThingsThatAreNotReallyFood. In this category, I am talking about stuff that is highly processed, high in sugar and refined carbs, and low in nutrients. The list includes stuff like chips, pretzels, goldfish (yeah, I went there), GoGurts or those sugary low-fat Yoplait things, granola, candy bars (actually, in the long run snickers do NOT satisfy), 98% of the “health” food bars on the market, cookies, little debbie anything, breakfast bars, pop tarts, the 100 calorie packages of XYZ junk food, fruit snacks, cereal, and the list goes on.
Maybe some of you are annoyed that I listed some of your go-to items on the list. But here is the #truthbomb: these foods are not doing anything for your overall health and wellness. They aren’t helping you to fuel your body and your day so that you have the energy you need to live your life. They may taste good for a minute, but there is mountains of evidence that they are damaging to your health in the long run. They make it harder for you to eat healthily later in the day, they recondition your tastes to make you crave more junk, and with that reconditioning, they take the enjoyment out of actual good nutritious food. This is an area where I say moderation is NOT a thing, you really don’t want to eat this type of junk at all. If your honest with yourself, you probably already know this deep down. #sorrynotsorry
And now that I’ve lost half my readers, lets talk about the secret weapon to staying on track with your health and nutrition goals: the emergency #snackstash
If you have been working on your nutrition overall, you know how frustrating it is when you are caught late at work, or traffic hits, or errands with the littles take 1000x longer than expects and you are out of the house and STARVING. It’s even worse when you also have ultra hungry kids with you. So you go looking for something to eat NOW and you try to make the best selection from what is available, but only have bad options. Or what’s even worse is when you are so hungry, you can’t even care anymore about what you eat as long as you eat it. This situation is incredibly frustrating and I know that I’ve often felt pretty crappy afterwards, not only because the food isn’t the greatest, but also because I “messed up” or “slipped up” or had no “willpower” to resist.
To prevent this from happening, we want to keep a set of “emergency” snacks with you at all times. I accomplish this in two ways: I have a special snack drawer at work that I keep stocked with a bunch of shelf stable options and I have a set of go-to items that I always keep in the diaper bag (or my work bag if I’m out without the kids). Here’s a picture of my snack drawer at work and some of the options I keep with me when running around with the kids.
When developing your emergency #snackstash you want to keep a couple things in mind. If you are getting shelf stable options, you want to find things that are as unprocessed as possible (like the Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and the olives). Finding a high quality protein powder “meal replacement” mix can also be a good idea for work, especially if you work in an unpredictable environment like I do (where if something breaks at 4pm, you may have to stay until 9).
The second, and probably more important thing to realize when creating the #snackstash is that a LOT of whole food items that we refrigerate actually do not need to be refrigerated continuously. Things like small apples, cuties, and bananas can be taken around in a bag and survive easily due to their exterior skiing. Fresh veggies like snap peas, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes will be 100% fine unrefrigerated for 24 hours (or longer), so you can tote those with you. The baby bell cheeses (the ones with the wax coating) are good for up to 8 hours outside of the fridge (which is one of the reasons they are so popular with hikers). You can also get a mini insulated container for stuff like hard boiled eggs. You can also bring along individually sized packets of hummus, guacamole, and nut butters to complete your snacks on the go!
One more note on the #snackstash – as busy moms, we are probably pretty used to carrying around snacks for our kids. I want to encourage you to look at those snacks as well and change them out if they fall into the unhealthy category. To be blunt: if the snack isn’t healthy enough for you to be eating, it’s not healthy enough for the kiddos either. My go-to options for our girls (ages 5 and 2) are fruit and veggie blend pouches, Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and baby bell cheese. With kids, you don’t necessarily have to change out all of their snacks at once (although sometimes that rip-the-band-aid-off approach is the least stressful). You can introduce a new healthy option every few days to see what they will like. As you are introducing new options, use up whatever the unhealthy option is and when it’s gone it becomes “Sorry, we are out of XYZ. What would you like instead?” #juststopbuyingit
Whew, that was a LOT of information in one post. I hope you found it helpful! Please comment below and let me know what you think. And once you have created your emergency healthy snack stash, take a picture and post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc and tag me so I can see your hard work! Use #snackstash and #nutritiondoula so I can find it – good luck and have fun!
This is the second post in my Home Cooked with Takeout Effort series and it is going to focus on what I call Un-Fancy recipes. Too often, when we look for recipes online we find something that sounds too complicated, has too many ingredients, and takes too long to make. We don’t have an hour and 10 minutes on a weeknight to juillene carrots or chop up 10 different vegetables. We don’t have the time to brown the roast on all sides in ghee before cooking it for 20 minutes per pound. Then on “good days” where we actually do make a recipe we found online, we end up with too many dishes to wash, portions that were too small, and specialty ingredients that we don’t know how to finish before they go bad. So we feel like we wasted our time and money. All this often has a detrimental effect on our confidence in the kitchen “I’ll never be able to do that” or “I definitely don’t have that kind of time” or “Its ultimately a waste overall”
Here’s the secret though: most of us who cook regularly do not make things that are listed on a foodie blog. We cook in an Un-Fancy manner. We cook in a way that doesn’t seem worthy of posting online because the ingredients and steps are so simple. We use a standard “formula” to answer the “what’s for dinner?” question and go from there. It’s all very unglamorous. But it’s also very easy to learn, to implement, and to keep doing regularly.
This is my standard formula for a meal: make one protein, one starch/grain, and one veggie. I try to make sure the veggies are double the weight of whatever protein I am making. Thats it. The table below lists out examples of what falls into each of these categories.
Now that we understand the formula, how do we keep it from getting “boring”? The secret here is keeping a few staple ingredients on hand and having several go-to spice blends. A huge hang up with recipes in general is that they cal for 1/2 teaspoon of 4 different spices, 1 teaspoon of 2 additional spices, and a tablespoon of 3 different sauces. Measuring out all of that (and even having all of it on hand) is a huge PITA (pain in the @#$) and time consuming. Having staple spice blends on hand eliminates this problem, while keeping your food super flavorful and delicious (and healthy to boot!). Here’s what I keep on hand in our kitchen:
In addition to the spice blends, you want to have a few staple cooking ingredients on hand. These are a way to flavor your food without a lot of hassle. Keeping this list short helps you to use everything regularly. Using these regularly also has the added benefit of helping you learn how to use them efficiently and effectively to add flavor to meals. Here is a list of our family’s staple ingredients: olive oil, avocado oil, jar of minced garlic, apple cider vinegar (ACV), basalmic vinegar, lemon juice (get a glass bottle for way less hassle and many more uses than squeezing lemons), lime juice (optional, lemon works in most cases), amminos (healthy substitute for soy sauce), and avocado oil mayonnaise.
Ok, now how do we make this all work out to be easy meals that take you less time to make than takeout or delivery? Well, if you have a convection oven at home, you’ve hit the JACKPOT of easy home cooked dinners. In a convection oven, you can cook items on every rack in the oven at the same time. I will often place whichever baked chicken thighs we are having on the top rack, a pan of veggies on the middle rack, and a pan of carrots or potatoes (for the starch) on the bottom. The whole meal takes 35 minutes to be done once its in the oven, but it takes YOU only the 5-10 minutes of prep time to be actively “cooking” in the kitchen.
Here are a few pictures showing how we usually combine items from the Un-Fancy Recipes. I encourage you to try this out ONE TIME this week. Swap out ONE take out or fast food run with one of these. When you do it, let me know how it worked!
It’s no secret that breakfast can be a struggle with new moms. (Heck, its a struggle for MOST people.) In pregnancy, you may be dealing with morning sickness. When the baby is finally here, you may be so sleep deprived that you can’t remember if you ate or not. You only have one hand to make something with anyway, since the other arm is home to a new (and totally adorable) little resident. So maybe you grab something prepackaged to eat with one had (pop tarts anyone?) or maybe you get a few sips of (now cold) coffee down.
Once the baby turns into a little human, aka toddler, you’re trying to keep them from dumping out the cat food while rushing around getting yourself ready and packing their bag. Or maybe you’re making them whatever they loved yesterday, only to watch it end up on the floor because clearly they wanted the thing they hated yesterday instead. ::cue tantrum::
Although we “know” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (because they keep saying it, right?) all of the stress in a busy morning combined with not enough sleep (there will come a day when night waking is in the past, but today is not that day) causes us to either skip it entirely or rely on whatever we can grab from the pantry (hello GoGurt and cookies) or the drive through (come to me you beautiful venti caramel macchiato). Breakfast for a new mom is often an afterthought. And by letting it stay this way, we are setting ourselves up for a day of hunger, cravings, mood swings, and the like thanks to imbalanced blood sugar.
The thing is, you don’t have to go from eating a stale doughnut from the break room at work on the regular to organic, pasture raised egg frittatas with a side of heritage pork sausage (nitrate free, of course) over night. There are plenty of small and sustainable changes you can make wherever you are along the spectrum to make breakfast a better meal for you overall. Once you’ve mastered one change (swap out that doughnut for a greek yogurt), you move on to the next step (swap the yogurt for eggs). Through step wise implementation like this, you will be able to make long and lasting changes.
Even with a minor swap, you can begin to feel the benefits of a good breakfast right away. Getting great nutrients into your body for your first meal sets up your body chemistry to either support you or fight against you for the remainder of the day. Solid nutritional breakfasts can help you control cravings all day long, prevent that 2pm slump, and even help you get to sleep better at bedtime. With that in mind, here are the top 3 things to be working towards for a great breakfast:
Make sure there is a balance of protein and fat in the meal
If you are going to be reducing sugar in any place in your life, breakfast is the place where you will get the most “bang for your buck” When you have a lot of sugar at breakfast, you start the day off pumping a ton of insulin into your body to metabolize all the sugar you just ate. This creates a chain reaction where you have blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day. This also stops you from burning any stored fat for energy and can mess with the hormones that tell you if you are hungry or full.
Here are examples of typical grab-and-go items that are often used for breakfast that have a ton of extra sugar in them: nonfat flavored yogurt, granola, granola bars, cereal with nonfat milk, instant oatmeal packets (flavored), premade meal replacement drinks (think carnation instant breakfast or slim fast), a special k bar or similar, etc.
Do not feel bad if these are your staples! But do try one or two of the healthier options on this list: full fat greek yogurt (vanilla if you need a flavor), plain full fat yogurt (better choice than flavored, add frozen berries), plain instant oatmeal (again add berries), Kind bars (the ones that are 5g of sugar or less per bar), a protein shake, a green smoothie, hard boiled eggs, and/or a piece of whole fruit.
Once you have swapped to the healthier items above or if you are ready to take your breakfast nutrition even further try some of my favorite #momlife breakfasts listed below. These all meet my personal breakfast criteria: they can be made in advance in a batch for the week or can be made in less than 5 minutes (including dish cleanup), they can be eaten with one hand, they are a great balance of nutritionally dense food and will keep you full, they taste amazing, and they have no added sugar.
So go ahead and try some (or one) or these for a week (or day). Pay attention to how you feel after a few days. Do you have fewer cravings? Are you full for longer? Do you have more energy? If you experiment let me know how it goes!
*to make the Paleo Protien Pancakes, we use this pancake mix and add one scoop of this protein powder. You get 10g of protien per pancake, and they are delicious! I like to make a large batch on Sundays so I can give the kids 2 cakes (no syrup) during the week for an easy breakfast for all of us.
This recipe is absolutely perfect for the end of the week during the summertime. It’s a light, refreshing meal so it goes over great on those extra hot summer days. It’s also an amazing way to use up leftover veggies from earlier in the week. I love this recipe because it packs a good amount of veggies into it without having to cook a ton of different things.
The recipe calls for 6-8 cups of chopped veggies. You can split these up in whatever way you prefer (and use whatever you have on hand). This allows you to throw together a healthy dinner without any additional trips out for special ingredients. I like to choose several different colors for the veggies, so the salad looks as great as it tastes.
Here is a list of the various veggies we have used: artichoke hearts, asparagus, baby spinach, bell peppers (raw or grilled, any color), broccoli (blanched), carrots (blanched or cooked), celery, cucumber, egg plant, fennel, jicama, olives, onion, grape or cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini. You can use any kind of veggie that is a family favorite as well!
1 16oz bag of pasta (we like roti best, because the dressing and spices stick well to it)
6-8 cups of diced vegetables (the more variety the better!)
Chop any vegetables that need to be diced and set aside. Juice and zest the lemon. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain using a calendar and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. (Pro tip: if you have any hard raw veggies that need to be blanched like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower you can place them in a bowl and pour the boiling pasta water over them to do the job while you are rinsing the pasta).
In a large bowl, whisk the avocado oil mayonnaise and the apple cider vinegar together. When the mixture is smooth, add in the avocado oil and lemon juice and blend thoroughly. Add the Herbs de Provence, pepper, and salt and whisk the dressing until everything is well blended.
Add the shredded chicken to the bowl with the dressing and stir until the chicken is well coated. Add the pasta to the bowl and stir until the chicken is evenly distributed and the large chunks are broken up. Mix in the veggies. Add the lemon zest over the top and enjoy!