By RACHEL LAYTON

Lately, I’ve been on a quest to find healthier food alternatives.

It’s kind of consumed my free time as I’ve looked for ways to eat healthy, on a budget, and somehow with my crazy schedule.

What have I learned? Gosh, nothing too crazy that I didn’t already know. However, there are some tips I’ve picked up that make things a little bit more realistic.

BUY WHOLE FOODS

This seems straight-forward but being a victim of the throw-away-generation, my first thought at Whole Foods when seeing the microwave-ready spaghetti squash was SO tempting. Didn’t even realize that buying the whole spaghetti squash is way more cost effective and it yields the same thing. It’s pretty easy to cut it in half, put it in oven for 40 minutes and then scraping out the “noodles” for your meal. Think in whole foods, it saves money.

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PLAN MEALS OUT IN THREES

Planning meals out in general is a good idea but with all the other planning I do in my life I find myself slipping in this area. If you’re like me, you get sick of eating the same thing for five days straight — not to mention by day five, that chicken just isn’t the right consistency anymore. My solution? Plan three meals that are similar (I like Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and have similar ingredients. At our house, this looks like a healthy taco salad, turkey club sandwiches (on gluten-free bread or tortillas), and a spinach and onion strata. The items in common are:

  • spinach
  • GF bread/tortillas
  • onion
  • tomato
  • salsa
  • green/red peppers

Planning for these three meals helps the variation factor and makes prep way faster. On the off days, we eat leftovers from other healthy meals we’ve prepared or we eat light and make a salad (with items in common).

FROZEN FRUITS + VEGGIES

I’ve realized how quickly a meal can come together with the steam-ready veggies in the bag. Same for breakfast items with frozen fruits. You can usually get a giant bag of either item and only use what you need. It’s not as fresh, but it serves the purpose, especially for the in-between meals.

  • Also — if you happen to fancy a certain item (for us it’s strawberries), look for them “in-season” and stock up. Clean them, cut them up, and freeze them.

STAY ORGANIZED

I know my boyfriend has a tough time not eating items he finds in the fridge when he’s hungry. The reason this comes into play, is say he eats the last of the homemade guacamole for lunch when I had planned to use it as a spread on sandwiches that night. Then you’re in a recipe bind. Staying organized and keeping things together that will go together as a meal (possibly in a drawer or on a certain shelf) helps when you’re rushed and reaching for all the items of a recipe. You’re bound to forget something if you’re in a hurry, so keeping it in the grocery bag is also efficient for some items.

RECIPE-ING

So — since this is all about food, I HAD to share one of my favorite new recipes that has been a huge win at our house.

TURKEY MEATBALLS + MUSHROOM RICE

Meatballs: 1lb ground turkey breast; 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats; 1/2 cup minced onion; 2 cloves of garlic (minced); 2 tbsp low-sodium Worcestershire sauce; 2 tbsp ketchup; 1 large egg white; GLAZE — 1/4 cup apple cider; 3 tbsp raw honey; 4 tbsp Dijon mustard;

Mushroom Rice: 1/2 cup onion; 2 cups of Bibb lettuce; 2 cups of mushrooms; 1 clove of garlic (minced); 90 second brown rice

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Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor add turkey, oats, onions, garlic, Worcestershire, ketchup, and egg white. Do not overmix. Roll the mix into eight individual balls and place them into the holes of of a standard 12-hole muffin pan. Make a glaze by whisking together the apple cider, honey and mustard in a small bowl and set half of the portion off to the side. Brush the top of the uncooked turkey meatballs with the glaze and put them in the oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the remaining over the cooked muffins. Cook for 15 more minutes. Transfer muffin pan to a cooling rack and let them rest for 5 minutes. Put rice in microwave for 90 seconds. In a pan, saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms, then add lettuce. Put the rice in the bottom of your bowl, put the mushroom mixture on top, and top with the turkey meatballs. Enjoy!

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Rachel Layton writes a blog called The Soul Miner. Used by permission.