Hi friends! I was recently reminded that many of you who prowl the interwebs looking for recipes are just starting out on the journey toward a healthier way of living. With that in mind, I'm rolling out a multi-part series with the tips and practices I wish I'd known when I was just starting out. (Of course, I prowl the interwebs for recipes every day and consider myself a lifer, so I'm hopeful you other lifers will get something out of this too.)
This list is for those of you who who have found yourselves intrigued by the prospect of reclaiming vibrant health, fighting disease, or finding your perfect weight through a whole foods, plant-based diet, but it's also for those who may have tried it and had trouble in the past---whether because of feeling overwhelmed, or fighting food cravings, or any of the other reasons this journey can be difficult - especially without good, simple advice. It usually helps to go back to the basics, and I find myself returning to them regularly.
Step 1: Find your formula.
This is both the most basic and most impactful thing you can do. Figure out what easy thing you can always throw together to eat for any meal, and make sure you always have those ingredients on hand. These aren't the "fun fancy recipe" components - these are the running-late-in-the-morning-no-time-for-lunch-screaming-toddler-at-dinner formulas. For me, it goes like this:
- Breakfast: I always always always have bananas and peanut butter in the house. This combo makes a pretty perfect breakfast. Yes, it's best if you can make your smoothie and start your day with greens, but this is a powerful meal that will keep you going all morning. I eat it in the office when I'm really running late.
- Lunch: Salads are the best here, and my big bowl helps. For when I'm really in a rush, though, salads can take a while to eat. That's when I turn to the 4 components I always have on-hand: microwaveable brown rice (in your grocer's freezer!), black beans, greens, and salsa. You can put the rice bag, can of beans, bag of greens, and jar of salsa in your lunch bag and throw it all together at work in a microwaveable bowl. The greens wilt, the beans heat, the salsa spices, and it's pretty freaking delicious. Vary this however you like--different grain, different green, different bean, different sauce. Find the formula that works for you, and switch it up when you get bored.
- Dinner: Of course, you can always repeat lunch here, or go a little fancier with different kinds of bowls, which usually come together quickly. I keep two easy dinners on hand, so it can always be Taco Night or Stir-Fry Night. Taco Night consists of my lunch components (see above), plus corn tortillas and diced avocado - I keep the tortillas in the freezer so they're always around. If I'm feeling fancy and can spare a few minutes, I crisp the tortillas in the oven and saute some onions. Stir-Fry Night uses whatever veggies are in the fridge plus a simple sauce (ideas here, here, and here or find a healthful store version) plus the aforementioned microwave rice. Of course, I prefer to make a fun dinner - there are so many recipes to try! - but weeknights can be busy enough without the added pressure of being creative in the kitchen.