As warmer weather approaches the motivation and time to make meals can change. Summer is short! Let’s spend time outside enjoying the warm breeze, appreciating the blooming flowers and less time cooking in a hot kitchen!
As a dietitian, I encourage simplifying how we think about meals. Meals ideally provide us with energy to allow us to feel satisfied. They should also be tasty and enjoyable. Consistent with Canada’s Food Guide I recommend most meals to include each of the three food groups: A vegetable and/or fruit, a grain or starch such as rice, bread, or potato as well as protein such as meat, egg, yogurt, or pulses. How can we spend less time cooking and more time enjoying summer, while still achieving nourishing energizing, tasty meals?
Use convenience foods
Fresh, whole foods can provide our body many nutrients we need with less sodium, sugar, fat and other additives. However, some processed foods can really help to speed up meal prep.
- Ready-to-eat produce like snap peas and mini carrots as well as fresh salad/coleslaw or bagged greens can allow us to easily enjoy fresh vegetables.
- Frozen fruit and vegetables are less perishable and are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Enjoy them hot or cold.
- Canned salmon or tuna can create a versatile protein source. Include into a wrap or sandwich, flake into a salad or make patties. Rotisserie chicken can be added into a variety of dishes. Remove the skin if desired. Canned pulses such as kidney beans are also a convenient protein source as they are already cooked.
- Canned soup can be used as a base for a unique creation. Add frozen vegetables, no salt added canned diced tomatoes or broth, cooked pasta or rice or canned lentils while heating. Not only does this reduce the sodium by adding more portions but also makes for a hardier meal.
Cook once and eat twice
- Cook double the amount of protein to enjoy leftovers. How about chicken with potato and roasted vegetables one day, using leftover diced chicken into stir fried vegetables on rice the next day! Those leftover roasted vegetables could make a salad with added greens and vinaigrette. A starch like rice can be used as a grain-based salad or into a soup for Day 2 use.
- Bulk prep salads or fresh cut vegetables and store in an airtight container to make them accessible to grab as needed.
- Make a full recipe that serves 4 people even if cooking for 1-2 to enjoy again. Some dishes like soup and pasta taste even better in the next day or two!
- Prep 2-3 portions of oatmeal or fruit and yogurt parfaits and store in the fridge for a quick breakfast.
- Cook and freeze portions of your favorite recipes: soup, chili, one dish casseroles, burritos, muffins, and pancakes all freeze well. Once 2-3 portions of a few meals are frozen, we now have a variety of options.
- A quick and easy meal doesn’t need to involve following a recipe or even much cooking! Choose what you have on hand! Have breakfast for supper, supper for lunch, lunch for breakfast…whatever feels enjoyable! Here are some ideas for any time of day:
- Oatmeal topped with Greek yogurt and thawed frozen strawberries
- Whole grain English muffin toasted with cottage cheese with a side of carrot sticks
- Scrambled egg with a microwave baked potato topped with salsa, with a sliced apple
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk
- Shredded rotisserie chicken with defrosted rice mixed with salsa and corn, side of coleslaw
- Canned salmon on whole wheat crackers with a lettuce salad topped with almonds and chickpeas.
Eating should be a joyful experience. Let’s simplify food prep and enjoy our short Winnipeg summer!
Amber Miller Blanchette is a Registered Dietitian at the ACCESS Fort Garry Primary Clinic.