Everyone is “busy” these days. Lately, I’ve heard several variations of the following from those close to me: “I’d love to eat healthy, but… I’m too busy!”
Stop. Close that freezer. Put down the frozen dinner. Toss out that takeout menu. All you need is a little help from your new “best friend foods,” which will make it easy for you to eat healthy, no matter how long you worked, how tired you feel, or how busy you are. They’re loyal and will keep you grounded no matter what craziness life throws your way. And, unlike your other friends, they’re never too busy for you.
Meet your new circle of friends:
Opening a perfectly green, perfectly ripe avocado is among the greatest of life’s simple pleasures. Avocado is nature’s butter: rich, creamy and decadent. Avocados are nutritional powerhouses, packed with protein, vitamin B6, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fats. They help lower cholesterol, control blood pressure, reduce inflammation, promote eye health, and fight free radicals in the body.
Add avocado to your quinoa salad for a match made in healthy heaven, or mix it into a smoothie for a creamy texture, or simply blend it with some lemon juice and herbs for a great sauce for salads or pasta noodles. Mash it in a bowl with a fork, some cilantro, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and Cayenne for a quick homemade guacamole.
It's packed with protein (including all nine essential amino acids), fiber, iron, lysine, magnesium, riboflavin, copper and manganese. Plus, it’s gluten-free! Quinoa cooks in just minutes and is so versatile – add anything you want to it, mix it together and, voilà! Make a big batch of quinoa on a Sunday night, put in the fridge and then take it out when you’re hungry for an easy breakfast (add almond milk, cinnamon, raisins, nuts and/or fruit), or lunch (put it in a glass Mason jar (no BPA that way!) and take to work as a salad mixed with whatever veggies and dressing you have) or dinner (warm over the stove with some garlic, coconut oil, coconut milk, curry powder and veggies for a quick curry or pour some pesto on top).
While this form of hemp is totally legal and totally edible, warning: it IS addictive. These tiny seeds are packed with flavor and add a great crunch to any meal. Hemp seeds are unparalleled in terms of their omega 6 and omega 3 ratio. They’re also a great source of plant-based protein, with all of the essential amino acids the body needs. To use, just add 1 to 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds to pretty much any meal. Also try hemp protein for an easily digestible boost to your morning smoothie, or use hemp oil for an extra omega-3 boost to your salads or main courses. How about a quinoa salad with some avocado and hemp seeds, for example?
Remember chia pets? Weren’t they cute? Chia seeds may seem cute and innocent – teeny black or white seeds that look like poppy seeds hanging out at a health food store near you – but they're in fact powerful forces of nature. Chia seeds boast a nearly perfect ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 oils and are a great source of fiber and protein. They help regulate blood sugar levels by ensuring a slow release of carbs and slow conversion of those carbs into glucose so they make sure your energy levels won’t fluctuate. Make a bowl of chia pudding in the morning (or call it a chia “porridge” if you psychologically have trouble eating dessert for breakfast) and you’ll be satiated for hours.
Before you go to sleep at night, mix 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with around 1 cup of almond milk or your favorite nut milk, a date or your favorite sweetener, some vanilla, cinnamon or other spices and some dried fruit or nuts if you’d like. Stir, then place in the fridge. When you wake up, magically, there will be a big bowl of delicious tapioca-like pudding waiting for you! Eat as is or top with fresh fruit for an extra energy boost. Chia pudding also makes a great dessert or mid-morning or afternoon snack.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae and, while I admit that “algae” doesn’t sound like a delectable menu item, trust me. Once you get past the idea of eating bright green food, Spirulina will change your life. It's given to undernourished children all over the world because it is so high in protein and other nutrients and is easily absorbable by the body. A little bit goes a long way with Spirulina, so adding just a teaspoon or tablespoon per day gives the body so many nutrients. Mix spirulina into salad dressing, mash into your homemade guacamole, or throw into a smoothie. Or try mixing avocado with spirulina, a banana and some vanilla for a delicious – and extremely fast – snack or dessert anytime.
Make sure your Nori is actually black, not green. That means it’s raw and ready to infuse your body with its amazing nutrients like iodine, protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, E and even vitamin B12, plus calcium, zinc, iron, selenium and copper. Nori boosts metabolism and is part of an alkaline diet. Plus, Nori rolls are among the easiest go-to meals to make. Cook some brown rice one day when you have a bit of time, then place in the fridge. Grab your nori sheet, fill with some rice, add tahini or almond butter, whatever veggies you have on hand, roll, and eat in burrito form (less messy). Or you can cut this wrap into beautiful pieces that will make you wonder why you ever paid so much money to order from that Sushi joint down the street.
Lentils, particularly the red variety, cook in just minutes, are easy to digest and are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Sautée some garlic and onions in coconut oil, then add carrots, sweet potato, red lentils and some spices (turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon, coriander, cumin… pick your faves). Cover with water and simmer until the lentils and veggies are soft. It makes for a quick, hearty stew, and keeps for days in the fridge. You can even eat it cold rolled into a nori wrap or served over a bed of quinoa or rice.
Pâté may SOUND fancy, but it’s actually among the easiest meals to prepare and is great for eating on the go. Just take your favorite nuts (nut butters are OK, too) or seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds…) and blend with some fresh veggies, herbs and spices until you get a pâté-like thick paste that is packed with protein and nutrients. Scoop your pate onto a bed of greens for a filling salad, serve on rice cakes or crackers, cut zucchini into thin slices then roll around your pate for some zucchini “sushi” or throw into Nori sheets, romain leaves or collard greens for an easy wrap. A few of my favorite combos: 1) sunflower seeds, sundried tomatoes, basil, celery, zucchini, chives, 2) carrots, almond butter, ginger, lemon, coconut aminos (or tamari) and dulse, 3) walnuts, coconut aminos (or tamari), olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and (optional) lentils or 4) pumpkin seeds, hemp oil, carrots, cilantro, coriander, cumin, Cayenne, avocado. Make sure to soak your nuts for optimum digestibility.
OK, so this item isn’t a “food,” but I recommend you befriend it ASAP. I love my Vitamix, which is a turbo-charged blender. It's not cheap, but trust me: it's a small price to pay for a loyal friend that will change your life for the better.
Liquid nutrition is essential for our “busy” lifestyles. With the flip of a switch, we can create smoothies, soups or purées that will power us through our busy day. (See? I told you, there’s that ubiquitous word again!)
Make a protein-rich green smoothie in the morning and you’ll get everything you’ll need for the entire day in one glass. Or throw all the vegetables in in your refrigerator and pantry into a pot, simmer, then blend together for a thick, creamy meal that keeps for days in the refrigerator and reheats in minutes. (For a creamy consistency, I use sweet potatoes, lentils, nut butters, or almond or coconut milk.)
Or make a quick raw soup, aka "a savory smoothie," packed with fresh veggies that will keep nicely for hours. Blending makes everything easier on our digestive system, usually the first victim of stress when we’re “busy.”