The holidays are always a blur: holiday parties, school concerts, family gatherings, shopping, and vacations make us consider giving up on our health goals completely!
Instead, give yourself the gift of taking some shortcuts and holiday hacks to take some of the pressure off so you can relax and be merry [because nobody wants a scrooge in the kitchen].
Clearly, we are very pro-cooking around here, but sometimes taking shortcuts can turn a potential take-out night into a total kitchen win. For example:
- Grab a rotisserie chicken and incorporate it into soups or chilis so you can reap the benefits of high-quality protein without spending extra time cooking it. Shred the chicken and stuff lettuce leaves with a squeeze of lime for lunch.
- Start with your favorite frozen pizza dough, then add your favorite jarred sauce and vegetable toppings plus a sprinkle of flavorful cheese to make it a meal!
- Buy pre-chopped produce, especially those hard-to-manage vegetables (ahem, squash) that are more time-intensive to prepare. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and roast for a side dish or added to salads during the week.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Batch cooking (not quite the same as “bulk prepping”) is an efficient way to keep up with your healthy eating goals no matter what time of year. It essentially means cooking more than what you need at that moment so you can take advantage of having all of your cooking tools and gadgets out (read: it’s much more time efficient in the long run!). Not to be confused with leftovers or bulk prep – where you eat the exact same thing each day – batch cooking usually refers to one component that you can repurpose in a new way later. For instance:
- Need rice or quinoa for your Monday night meal? Make a large batch so you can easily incorporate it in salads and grain bowls all week long.
- Making hard-boiled eggs? It takes the same amount of time to make six as it does to make two. Enjoy as a snack, crumble into salads, or mash with some avocado.
- Baking sweet potatoes? Make a few more than you need and you’ll have the base for an easy, customizable lunch ready to go. You can also purée or mash the flesh for baked goods and use in place of pumpkin in a recipe.
- This cookbook would make an amazing Christmas gift for yourself! Or a gift to someone else. But in Cook Once, Eat All Week, the author lays out 26 weeks worth or batch cooking plans for you – so you due the main prep all at once, but mix it up a little each day to ensure your family is not getting bored with the exact same meal every day.
Sheet Pan and One Pot Meals
Raise your hand if your least favorite part of cooking is the clean up! We feel you! Make it easier on yourself by searching for one-dish meals to seriously cut down on time spent doing the dishes. Here are a few to get you started:
- Create baking pockets by lining foil with parchment then crimping for perfectly roasted fish that stays juicy, never dry.
- Roasting your favorite protein with seasonal produce is a tasty no-fuss way to incorporate a few servings of vegetables into a meal
- Still haven’t learned how to use your Instant Pot? Now would be a good time! You can get frozen proteins to the table fast with a safe and simple pressure cooker. A simple 12-minute recipe: frozen protein [like chicken thighs] + favorite jarred tomato sauce + a jar of olives = yummy cacciatore that will have everyone running to the table for dinner. If you use plant-based protein, like dried chickpeas, just soak the dried beans overnight and be sure they are covered with fluid [jarred sauce + some broth] before cooking in Instant Pot.
Whatever you do to save time, remember that your nutrition mentality should not be “all or none.” Enjoy some treats, but balance it with healthy, fresh foods. Drink some water, take a few deep breaths, go for a crisp walk, and enjoy that holiday cookie party!
Be Well, Be Empowered