A large bowl full of roasted potatoes

Growing up, I always imagined a more adult, sophisticated version of myself in the kitchen. I saw fresh ingredients in the fridge and herbs that spilled over their planters on the windowsill. Mint and basil would be right above the pots and pans that would magically never need to be washed. In reality though, as I’ve gotten older, cooking is usually rarely about aesthetics. Eating healthy is a process.

As I’ve gotten older, cooking is usually rarely about aesthetics. Eating healthy is a process.

The process of making sure you eat nutritiously requires you to think up something to cook when you get home. You are probably tired and unmotivated to make anything other than the out-of-the-box macaroni that is in the back of the cabinet. As I become more comfortable in the kitchen, I’ve realized cooking doesn’t have to be a kale-induced battle. A few simple steps is all it takes to keep my meals nutritious when a fast-paced lifestyle takes on a whole new meaning.

It’s the age of meal prep.

At the beginning of the week, set some time aside. Crack open a bottle of wine or sparkling water for company, crank the tunes and tune into the at-home chef you always imagined you could be. 

Plan out your meals on the calendar or make a recipe that yields a large batch to be frozen and reheated, like casseroles or even DIY pizzas you can take a slice or two of. For more fresh options during the week, turn to simple food prepping.

Gather up ingredients: greens, potatoes and a bulk food like quinoa or rice. Chop, cook and keep them in reusable containers in the fridge. When you get home late after work or are on-the-go, scoop into a bowl or wrap and heat. You’ll be set to go on your next adventure or relax on the couch with the next episode of whatever you’ve been streaming.

Convenience is key.

Don’t get frustrated that you can’t make it to the local farmer’s market or grocery store. When in a rush, what matters is having healthy ingredients on hand. Luckily, there are plenty of grocery delivery services. Grubmarket brings fresh food to your doorstep from local farmers. Thrive Market has all your organic pantry staples at wholesale prices. 

When in a rush, what matters is having healthy ingredients on hand.

Don’t be afraid of a little snack.

Snacking has earned a bad rap. Keeping yourself on track to eat nutritiously while also working with a busy schedule might mean snacking on something extra. Doing so is essential to not ditching dinnertime and falling head-first into the cookie tray your co-worker brought in. (Sometimes, however, we just can’t help ourselves.)

Quick snacks anyone can tag along with them for a hectic day include protein bars, yogurt or granola. You can even make your own granola with oats, nuts, cinnamon and time in the oven!

Keep it simple.

Can’t manage the time to make your own granola or chop sweet potatoes for the picture-perfect power bowl before the week starts? Buy pre-cut veggies (butternut squash and broccoli are great examples). Though it may not be as budget friendly as buying whole produce, pre-cut veggies work in a pinch and many are available in a steamable option. What is more plain and simple than a trip to the microwave?

Sometimes a nutritious meal is a meal.

When running behind and making something from scratch may feel completely out of reach or anxiety-inducing, remember that a nutritious meal somedays is just a meal. Don’t stress. Reach for a simple salad or even the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While you may think that your favorite preschool snack with grapes isn’t the most nutritious, the light-hearted meal still manages to have protein, fat and fiber, all of which support a healthy diet.

Remember that a nutritious meal somedays is just a meal.

When you have time, don’t be afraid to take it.

Have fun! Making a delicious meal to both satisfy the mind and body may seem daunting at times. Yet, it is also time for yourself and, perhaps, whoever you are also cooking with to take stock of the day. Take time to reflect on what will be the most satisfying meal. Maybe it’s something plant-based, a spicy dish or the recipe your mother wrote out on an index card and you have yet to try.

With cooking comes mistakes, but remember, like a child baking cookies, messes are half the fun. Let’s bring that joy back to the kitchen, whether or not we always have the time to. If we do that, then not only will the meals be nutritious but delicious and fun to make!

What are your go-to meals for when you are in a hurry? How can you make nutrition a priority even when you are busy?

Image via Emily L. Blake, Styling via Katherine Warnock, Darling Issue No. 7

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