Too busy? What a Dietitian Eats with No Time and an Empty Fridge

Too busy to make healthy meals & exercise?

Suggested activity:
Make a list of things more important to you
than your health and the health of your family.

Have you been using the “I’m too busy” excuse a lot lately? I could be too… but I know I would feel more stressed and even more tired if I was eating poorly and not making time to exercise. In this post I want to help you tackle 2 barriers to healthy eating: busy schedules and running out of fresh food (cause you’re too busy to get to the store, of course).

I know you’re all busy right now… so am I. I’m actually writing this post at 9:00 PM on the train ride home from a Junior League of Philadelphia meeting in the city (yay for multitasking). Between teaching, advising, office hours with students, meeting with clients, grading diet analysis projects, holiday volunteer work, exercise and attempting to relax, it can seem there isn’t much time to cook healthy meals.  But then I remember my slow cooker!

This past weekend after traveling to New England for the Thanksgiving holiday, I didn’t return home until Sunday evening. This meant I had no time to prep food for the week and for Monday and Tuesday, Tim and I were relying on pantry and frozen items before I could make it to the grocery store later today. For us, because we stock our pantry & freezer with the right things, this doesn’t mean microwave meals and take out! We use the ingredients at hand and pull out the trusty slow cooker. It’s one of my best friends during the holidays and when I have an overly busy week. Here is a sample of how it was used to make healthy meals Monday and Tuesday, as well as other ideas when your pantry is looking bare and you’re pressed for time.

Monday & Tuesday breakfast: Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Pumpkin and Peanut Butter.

Simply add the following ingredients to the slow cooker and set on low for 6 hours:

1 cup of steel cut oats (aka old fashioned oats-rolled/quick won’t work)
4 cups non-dairy milk or water
1 can puréed pumpkin
6 tablespoons peanut butter (or other nut butter)
Optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Tip: less will stick to the sides if you put all ingredients in a glass bowl and fill the crockpot up to 1 inch below the top of the bowl.

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Monday lunch: Lentil Wrap

Leftover lentils were in the freezer that I thawed overnight with some frozen spinach. I added some seasoning (garlic powder, cayenne and black pepper) and put them in an ezekiel brand tortilla wrap for lunch and added an apple and some carrots as snacks (they keep in the fridge for a while).

Monday Snack: Smoothie

Frozen banana, and frozen strawberry/mango/pineapple mixture with a ½ cup of almond milk

Monday dinner: Pasta & Veggies

I am loving black bean pasta right now! If you haven’t seen it yet, I first found it at Organnons on Durham road in Wrightstown, but have since seen it at Giant and recently got a bulk package at Costco! It is a great pasta replacement with the same calories as normal pasta but 25 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, many minerals, and one ingredient: black beans. I threw sauce together with garlic, a large can of organic diced tomatoes*, a can of tomato paste*, and dried basil, oregano and crushed red pepper. I sautéed up some frozen kale and broccoli and there you have a balanced dinner!
*When buying canned tomatoes I choose Muir Glen or Trader Joe’s as they are not lined with BPA. Low sodium is best!

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Tuesday lunch: leftover black bean pasta & veggies

Tuesday Snacks: Apple, Roasted Soy Nuts, Clementine

Tuesday dinner (and lunch today!): Slow-Cooker 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili (modified from my original recipe).

My husband and I always have dried beans and lentils on hand. They are less expensive and don’t have tons of sodium, or a risk of BPA lining the cans. When I woke up in the morning I boiled 1 cup each of dried black, pinto, and kidney beans and let them sit while I got ready. Before leaving for work I threw the following in the crockpot and set on low for 8 hours.

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chopped onion
Beans (drained)
½ – 1 additional cups water
1 large can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup frozen corn
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp: oregano, cumin, black pepper

When I got home I added half a bag of frozen spinach, stirred and it was ready for dinner!

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If you don’t have one, a slow cooker is a great addition to your Christmas list… or something to treat yourself to while you are shopping for everyone else 🙂

Still nervous to try one? Here are 7 answers to common slow cooker questions from Real Simple Magazine!
http://www.realsimple.com/m/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/slow-cooker-tips

What are your favorite healthy recipes when your low on time and resources? I am always looking for new ideas!

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