Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, nutrition

Healthy Shelf Stable Essentials

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?

Shelf Stable Essentials

Here are a few of my favorites healthy shelf stable essentials.

  1. 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!)
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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!

Health & Wellness, Time Management, Uncategorized

The UnFancy Recipes

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.

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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:

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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.

If you don’t have a convection oven, never fear! You can either roast your chicken and veggies side by side on the same rack and use an “instant starch,” OR you can use a steamed/sautéed veggie option. And if all else fails, a bag of salad is a great go-to option for the veggie choice (just be careful with the dressing, since they are often loaded with excess sugar).

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!

Health & Wellness, Time Management

Home Cooked with Takeout Effort

When I talk to friends and family (or crowd source on the internet) about the biggest hurdles they face when it comes to eating healthy, the most common reply is lack of time. In this country, busy had become a badge of honor and it seems like we are all burning the candle on both ends more often than not. I hear the words “we have no choice but takeout” far too often. It certainly seems that way when you get out of work at 4:30, have soccer practice for kid #1 at 5 and a baseball game for kid #2 at 7:30. Is there really any other option than a drive through for dinner?

I’m here to tell you yes, there is. Now before your think that I’ve taken the express train to crazy-town, hear me out. One of the things that I can do really well is serve healthy food without fail every night of the week. I got good at this out of necessity: when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease it was well before the whole gluten free craze that we see today. I suddenly didn’t have the option to “grab something quick” on the way home from work (or on the way to some activity) anymore. If I didn’t cook, I literally didn’t eat.

I like food. And eating regularly is kind of important to me. Nobody likes hungry Alasen.

So, necessity is the mother of invention. I had to figure out how to keep myself fed, and my only option was to make it ALL myself. Every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everyday.

What’s so great about this? Through years of trial and error, crazy work schedules, two kids under 3, and all the other stressors that we face out there, I’ve refined my “cook everything at home” life into meals that are healthy, taste great, and can be on the table in 30 minutes or less. I have meals that we can make and be eating that take less time than ordering takeout. They take less time than hitting a drive through and less time than delivery. (Go me!)

Part of my goal as your Nutrition Doula is to teach new moms how to do this too. I want to show you how you get to the point where your script is reversed: where going out to eat is the hassle and making food at home is the easy or lazy meal. So I’m working on several series of recipes and blog posts that explain exactly how to make these types of meals. I hope you can replicate them with some success!

My first set of Home Cooked Meals in Takeout Time starts with the world’s easiest shredded chicken. Let me know what you think of it!