Tips for selecting healthy convenience food that makes meal time easier, but still tasty and nutritious.
This year I have been on the hunt for healthy convenience food to help save time, but still eat food that allows me (and Brian) to feel great. With two busy schedules, we are always looking for quick and easy ways to eat healthy.
I’ll be honest in saying the past several months have been a little weird in the scheduling department for Brian and I. After moving out of our old house, then into Brian’s parent’s house while our current house was in the final stages of the renovation project we then moved into the house and right into exciting work projects and lots of travel.
Because of all this excitement, I have had to lean on convenience food more often than ever before! But I’ve been learning, that eating convenience foods, does not mean eating unhealthy foods.
Many of you have asked me questions about healthy convenience food on instagram and facebook, so I knew you would appreciate hearing what convenience food I turn to and what I look for.
When it comes to meals I typically try to build things around the three main macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Eating a combination of all three macronutrients at most meals and snacks allows me to stay focused, full and satisfied, and avoid “hanger.” Eating this way doesn’t just work for me – it works for lots of people!
Here are foods I look to for each category (this is not a complete list, these are just foods I personally eat regularly):
Protein: chicken, fish, tofu, hemp seeds, tempeh, edamame, quinoa, Greek yogurt, eggs
Carbohydrates: vegetables (starchy and non-starchy), fruit (I have berries almost daily!), whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, millet, oats, etc), maple syrup, granola, dried fruit, freeze dried fruit
Fat: Peanut butter, almond butter, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, eggs
I should also mention that most foods contain some of each macronutrient, so they can really fall into multiple categories.
While keeping “how I build meals” in mind, I then think about which component of the meal I am going to use a shortcut for (healthy convenience food!). Healthy convenience food I look for frequently are pre-chopped vegetables, frozen vegetables, microwavable whole grains, frozen meals that include a protein and vegetable, and salad mix.
I received free samples of this product but was not compensated for my time.
Have you tried Mann’s Nourish Bowls? They are pretty tasty, come together quickly and only require adding eggs then microwaving. I loved the flavor options and the fact that they come with SO many vegetables. I tried the breakfast version, but there are options that would work well for lunch and dinner too.
Because these are fresh rather than frozen, they do need to be consumed shortly after purchasing.
I think these fall under the “pre-chopped vegetables” category because they are essentially scrambled eggs with vegetables in them. This is something I make at home pretty frequently, so purchasing the Mann’s Nourish Bowls simply saves me the time of washing and prepping the fresh vegetables. A convenience breakfast that is still packed with amazing and healthy ingredients.
Frozen whole grains
These are a great option to have on hand to quickly add to a meal. I love brown rice as a whole grain side dish, but I understand that sometimes it can be challenging to make the perfect brown rice and sometimes time just gets away from you and it’s nice to have something that is ready in 5-10 minutes rather than 40 minutes.
Another microwaveable whole grain option are the Now Foods Q-Cups.
I received these as a free sample as an ongoing partnership with NOW, but I genuinely LOVE using these cups when time is short. They are ready in about 5 minutes! I also like tossing them into Brian’s lunch for him to have on hand as a lunch component for days when he needs a little more than what I packed him. This is a great convenient option at home and on the go!
Some microwaveable whole grains come with seasonings already added, but I typically look for plain options so I can add my own seasoning. This makes them more versatile so they pair with more meals, and it allows you to season them exactly how you like.
Maybe I am late to jump on the salad mix bandwagon, because I didn’t learn about using these as a salad base (just leave out the extra dressing and toppings if you don’t want them!) until I was in my dietetic internship.
One of my preceptors shared that she would purchase a bagged salad mix (some don’t come with the dressing and toppings) and divide it into lunches for a couple of days a week so all she had to do was top the pre-chopped and washed vegetables with protein and healthy fat. This is an easy way to get a variety of vegetables into your diet because you don’t have to purchase the entire head of lettuce, head of cabbage, bunch of kale, bag of carrots, pound of Brussels sprouts, etc to get a nice variety of nutrition, flavor and texture.
It’s also helpful for reducing food waste because you are purchasing a controlled amount of produce you can easily make a plan to eat. If you had to purchase the entire amount of all the vegetables included in these bags of salad, it may be much more challenging to consume everything before it went bad.
While I am typically only looking for a meal component sometimes I need the entire meal to be taken care of. In that case, I try to pick something with vegetables and protein so I can add healthy fat and whole grains on my own.
Not too long ago I wrote an entire post outlining 3 Things To Look For When Buying Convenience Food. You can read the post for all the details, but the things I consider are:
These are things that work for me when time is short and I need a little help in the kitchen, but I am curious to learn about you. What do you look for when purchasing convenient food items?
Based on this post, here are a few similar ones you should check out.
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