Eating healthy when you don't have time to cook..?

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Just looking for tips from those of you who face the same issue. I work 2 jobs and I'm always on the go. I rarely cook bc im too tired and it's always late when I get home so it's faster & easier to get take-out or put a frozen pizza in the air fryer. Are there really any frozen options that are "good" and not just pretending to be good? I just don't see myself having any time to dedicate to cooking or meal prep so I'm just looking for ideas for healthy eating on the go and quick options!
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  • Gayleepoo
    Gayleepoo Posts: 1 Member
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    Me too it is so hard to food prep
  • Corina1143
    Corina1143 Posts: 3,228 Member
    edited January 17
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    Voila frozen dinners are better than some.
    Frozen meats, veggies, canned veg, ready cook rice,
    I bought a pound of lean turkey, divide it in 4, cook it. Partner with a bread pocket. 4 quick and easy turkey burger lunches.
    A roast takes a while to cook, but lasts a while. (Maybe in the crockpot while you sleep)
    Baked potatoes are easy, if you have an hour for it to cook.
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 13,700 Member
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    How do you define "good" versus "pretending to be good?" Anything take-out probably has lots of oil and salt. Are you looking for balanced meals that include vegetables, or just something to fill you up?

    Sandwiches might work some days. Basic nut butter and banana is quick. Sardine and onion would be a good option. You can make a batch of tuna or egg salad that will last several days. Baked tempeh or tofu with a bit stack of romaine lettuce would be good - add red onion for extra flavor. Avocado would be good with those sardines.

    I've rediscovered pressure cooking. You can make beans without soaking, but they have "less gas" if you soak them, and then they cook very fast. Black beans in four minutes. Chickpeas in twelve. You can cook beets in 15-20 minutes.

    I don't have a microwave, but if you do you can partially cook a sweet potato in there and finish it in the oven for a quick meal. Add cottage cheese and black pepper.

    Quinoa cooks very fast. Add a can of beans, and you've got a couple meals.

    The possibilities are vast. If you can make a little more time to cook, you can make more elaborate meals.

    Some groceries have decent prepared food. One in my town has two kinds of lasagna, tamales, and an array of delicious regular offerings and seasonal specialties.

    I lived on rice and beans in grad school. They can cook while I am doing something else. Make a huge batch and reheat when needed.
  • Sett2023
    Sett2023 Posts: 158 Member
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    No need to complicate things, if you don't have time/desire to cook: you can eat healthy also on the fly.

    * eggs and legumes (olive oil: a little drop in a pan, then use a foil of kitchen paper to spread it and remove all the excess; legumes from the tin, simply remember to rinse them very well; a pinch of salt. If you have time/desire, you can add also an onion or scallion for more taste and so eliminate the salt, but it's ok also without) + mais tortillas or basmati rice (they sell a precooked version, 2 minutes in microwave et voilà, you can do it while you cook eggs)
    * cheese directly from the fridge, and tomatoes; a pinch of oregan, few drops of olive oil and vinegar, a pinch of salt + tortillas etc as above
    * tuna (canned) and lettuce or other vegetables salad pre-washed (if possible, re-rinse it, but not strictly necessary. In groceries you can find julienne carrots, all kinds of lettuce, mix also, there's literally everything, obv. if you shop once a week you'll have to remember to consume before lettuce, carrots last a week without problems etc, you'll see) + the same as above
    * salmon (canned): ditto as above.
    All things you can also use for filling sandwiches, wraps etc, if you prefer/have to bring at work.
    Add always a fruit, and you'll have your vegetables, your fish, proteins of different kinds etc.
    * For eating at home, there are also a lot of ready soups, not all are horrible, read the labels and choose the less-sodium etc, usually two minutes in micro or pot and here you go (add a grain as croutons or likes, in a bag, no cooking, and if you like also some chunks of parmesan or emmenthal or other cheese, and again, complete meal in two minutes, less time than frozen pizza. Add a fruit, perhaps also some nuts and you're ok).
  • frhaberl
    frhaberl Posts: 145 Member
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    Not sure where you live and if these are available to you, but here are some of my quick meal options:
    Salad kit (I get mine at Costco) with precooked chicken breast strips (also from Costco).
    Shredded chicken and cauliflower rice bowl (frozen from Costco)
    Wrap made with a high fiber tortilla
    Soup (I meal prep these using some combo of pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or other quick protein, canned beans, canned tomatoes, boxed chicken broth, and veggies (sometimes pre-cut)).
    Apple slices with protein powder mixed into some Greek yogurt and sprinkled with granola.
    Protein pancakes with peanut butter and bananas (I meal prep and freeze my pancakes, but you can buy them precooked and frozen)
    Leftovers- this kinda falls in the meal prep category, but I do cook frequently and always make and package up extra servings for lunches or quick dinners.
  • COGypsy
    COGypsy Posts: 1,283 Member
    edited January 17
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    I just keep a bunch of frozen food around. When it's time for lunch or dinner, I get a scoop from a couple of bags of vegetables and a scoop from some kind of frozen meat, top with sauce and microwave until warmed through. I usually have that with ready rice or ready pasta. Bonus--dishes are also extra fast since you've only dirtied a fork and bowl!

    I just remembered my other go-to - bagged salad kits. Defrost protein from freezer, add sauce or seasoning if desired. Dump a bag of salad mix into large bowl. Toss with dressing, top with protein and dinner is done. I sometimes add tomatoes or cucumbers, but honestly, it doesn't change anything enough to be worth the trouble and mess.
  • history_grrrl
    history_grrrl Posts: 216 Member
    edited January 17
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    It is time-consuming to cook! I teach at a university, and once the semester begins, I really struggle with this. I’m trying meal planning for the first time - planned a week’s worth of meals on Saturday, got groceries, cooked on Sunday- and now I have dinner portions of a few different dishes in the freezer for a week. Yay. I made a Spanish chicken and rice dish, beef chili, and rice. But it took hours and hours and was exhausting. I had no energy to make the hummus and tabbouleh I had also planned. I hope to keep it up, though.

    The other things I’ve experimented with: 1) meal delivery service. I did a trial run with a company in my province that delivers very tasty meals that are mostly prepared and then flash-frozen. You basically put the hunks of frozen stuff in a pan and heat it for 10-15 minutes, and voila. The meals are really good - paella, chicken tagine, etc. - and each one has about two servings. A bit pricey, but I might try them again.

    2) There are some places in my area that sell baked goods but also prepared savoury items like soups and pot pies (which come in single-serving and big sizes), plus quiches and some dishes like lasagna and eggplant parmigiana that typically serve 3-4. I found one that delivers. The prices are reasonable and the food is great. I typically get things I’d never make at home, like butternut squash soup and chicken pot pie. The only drawback is they don’t have nutrition info for some things. Also they have delicious dessert pies, especially the sour cherry and the dark chocolate pecan, so I have to be super careful - but those also come in a single-serve option. And you can get a single slice of cheesecake!

    I also always have certain things on hand for when there’s nothing else to eat: boxes of Annie’s shells and cheddar (use a bit of plain yogurt if you’re out of milk), ravioli from the grocery store in the freezer that cooks in 4-5 minutes, a pack of grocery-store samosas that are surprisingly good and great with plain yogurt, and frozen vegetables (peas, Brussels sprouts).
  • TracyL963
    TracyL963 Posts: 91 Member
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    I brown the meat in a non-stick pan, and chop veggies the night before. Then I dump this in a crockpot in the a.m. before work.

    Unstuffed Pepper Soup
    6 servings
    RECIPE BY Cooking Light
    1/2 pound ground round
    2 cups chopped green / red bell pepper
    1 cup chopped onion
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth
    1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
    1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato soup, undiluted (I prefer Progresso Tomato Basil less sweet)
    1 1/2 cups hot cooked white rice . Use Minute Rice and you can add this to the crockpot when you get home.

    Alternate directions: Heat a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add chopped bell pepper and onion; cook 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in black pepper, less-sodium beef broth, diced tomatoes, and tomato soup; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Spoon 1/4 cup hot cooked white rice into each of 6 bowls; top with 1 cup soup.
  • springlering62
    springlering62 Posts: 7,970 Member
    edited January 17
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    We do aquafit several evenings a week and I like to get fast dinners on the table as soon as we get home.

    My fastest options are:

    A taco kit and chicken breast. Put the chicken, taco powder and salsa in the crockpot in the a.m. While taco shells are heating, shred the chicken. Serve with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes.

    Diced or shaved beef, browned with toasted onion seasoning in a hot dry skillet (no oil), served on a crusty roll with a slice of cheese.

    Diced chicken, browned in a hot dry skillet, remove, add a bag of fresh mixed stir fry veg and a tbsp of water to the same skillet, cook til crispy soft, add back the chicken, and either add the sauce (Taylor Farms have reasonable calories) or your own low cal soy or teriyaki or honey/ginger balsamic. Serve over microwave frozen cauliflower rice.

    Lavash Pizza: lay a sheet of Josephe’s oatmeal flax lavash on a baking sheet, brush with a serving of tomato paste (the tube pastes are great timesavers!!!), sprinkle with pizza seasoning and top with thinly sliced log-type mozarella (tastes better, costs less, and lower call than preshredded). Top with choice of slivered prosciutto (kitchen scissors make short work of this) or turkey pepperoni, and stick under the broiler for a couple minutes. Voila! A large and tasty pizza for well under 400 calories.

    Our fast side dish of choice? A bowl of greens topped with a couple ounces of halved cherry tomatoes. Under 15 calories.

    Another fast side dish: boil water in a kettle. Pour over couscous and maybe a little broth concentrate. Cover. Wait a few minutes, fluff, add pine nuts if desired, and serve.


    Grilled cheese and tomato soup (I add a can of diced tomatoes)

    Pan fried prosciutto (in dry pan), on toast with melted Swiss.

    Blackened fish tacos: stick some thawed tilapia or whatever in a dry pan with blackening seasoning, push it around til it browns and breaks up, serve in taco shells.

    Any of these can be done in 15 minutes or less, and are healthy, most are high protein, and all are tasty. Otherwise, why bother?


  • rileysowner
    rileysowner Posts: 8,264 Member
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    Slow cooker meals. Since I am Keto I just put a roast or a bunch of ribs or chicken in the slow cooker, and I have meat for days. Divide it up when finished, it cooks while I am at work. Freeze single serving portions if there is too much to eat in 3 days. I will sometimes have some salad green on the side, and I have lots of meals.
  • springlering62
    springlering62 Posts: 7,970 Member
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    Oh! A tip my European daughter gave me.

    If you need to boil water for spaghetti etc, do it in an electric kettle and pour into the cook pot. Soooo much faster than boiling on the stove.
  • HoneyBadger302
    HoneyBadger302 Posts: 2,013 Member
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    I don't have time to "meal prep" which takes hours - not something I have time to dedicate to right now between my day job, my business, my house, and my pets (particularly my working lines puppy who is very high energy and starting training in an intense sport).
    For me, I keep some meal-service meals in the freezer. Here in the SE US, I've been getting Chef Eatz, which has several options for meal types (regular balanced choices, or their Athletez meals which are more customizable such as low carb and avoid any kind of sauce), and they are delicious, and healthy, and high quality foods used in their meals. They are the perfect size for me too, unlike most grocery store meals that are full of junk, swimming in sauce, and you'd need to eat 2 or 3 for a meal.
    I order a big box of meals, and then freeze most of them - then, if I'm running late, tired, or going to be on the road (but have access to a microwave somewhere), I just grab one of those and can be rest assured it's good food.
    In the past I tried Factor and another one, but they were so heavy in the sauces and much of the calories came in the form of sauces which was annoying to me.
  • loulee997
    loulee997 Posts: 273 Member
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    Just looking for tips from those of you who face the same issue. I work 2 jobs and I'm always on the go. I rarely cook bc im too tired and it's always late when I get home so it's faster & easier to get take-out or put a frozen pizza in the air fryer. Are there really any frozen options that are "good" and not just pretending to be good? I just don't see myself having any time to dedicate to cooking or meal prep so I'm just looking for ideas for healthy eating on the go and quick options![/quote

    Quick and somewhat healthy:

    I sometimes buy the little baby potatoes. Cut them in half, spray with olive oil. Salt or pepper. Throw into air fryer for 12 minutes or so.

    Frozen unbreaded shrimp. Spritz with olive oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Air fryer. If frozen, 10 minutes. You can sprinkle other seasonings. I just like black pepper. But you could sprinkle other things on them.

    Air Fryer Sweet Potato---1 medium sweet potato. Poke with holes with a fork or paring knife. Spray with Olive oil. Cook in air fryer for 25 minutes at 400. Cut open. Spritz with zero-calorie butter spray and sprinkle with cinnamon. Although--depending on your day, you can also use drizzle brown sugar, maple syrup, or real butter on it. Moderation is healthy.

    AIR FRYER SCRAMBLED EGGS--https://www.thefoodhussy.com/air-fryer-scrambled-eggs/

    FROZEN STEAK IN THE AIR FRYER--https://www.thefoodhussy.com/frozen-steak-in-the-air-fryer/


    You can also air fryer corn on the cob, carrots, broccoli.


    But quick and dirty, you can thrown in some frozen chicken fingers with some broccoli and make a mixed dinner fairly quickly.

    Some frozen chicken fingers are not bad calories or healthy wise in moderation.
    For example, 'Real Good Lightly Breaded Chicken Fingers' are breaded with chickpea flour. They have 23 grams of protein. Tyson's Naturals, Simply Smart, Just Bare--are all healthier breaded chicken fingers.


  • AdahPotatah2024
    AdahPotatah2024 Posts: 1,557 Member
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    Peanut butter sandwich 🥪
  • perryc05
    perryc05 Posts: 217 Member
    edited February 13
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    Amy's tinned soups are good. Wholemeal crackers and hummus. Potato cooked in airfryer with grated cheese and some canned chili or beans.

    I usually spend 1/3 of a day cooking on the weekend and load my fridge and freezer up with single serve microwavable meals.
  • nossmf
    nossmf Posts: 10,066 Member
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    Back when I was a bachelor willing to eat the same thing over and over, on Sundays (no work) I would fix up large batches of 2-3 meals while watching TV, measure out individual servings into Tupperware style containers, and throw into the fridge. Throughout the week when I got home from work, just grab a Tupperware, toss into the microwave while I change out of my work clothes, and eat.

    This works with most meals, but the easiest-to-prepare ones:

    Stir-fried chicken with veggies and rice
    Chili
    Spaghetti
    Hamburger Helper entrees
    Tacos (once chopped up, put the cheese and veggies into individual sandwich bags)
  • foldinthecheese
    foldinthecheese Posts: 27 Member
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    I think there's a difference between not having time to make meals, and not being able to wait for meals to cook.

    For example, if you don't have time to make meals, but do have time to let them cook, there's a lot you can do. On the other hand, if you get home at 6pm and need to have food on the table by 6:15pm that's much more difficult.

    I will often roast vegetables when I don't have the time to make meals. It may take 45 minutes from start to finish, but I only spend about 5 minutes dealing with the food.

    Packaged cauliflower florets, packaged mini peppers, potatoes and sweet potatoes (sliced or whole), etc. Just put them on a roasting pan, spray with some oil, and 30-45 minutes later take them out and enjoy. I usually do this for lunch since I work from home. Finish a call, throw the item in the oven, join another call, and the food is ready as soon as that call is done.
  • lisawhite1b188
    lisawhite1b188 Posts: 16 Member
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    Eating healthy with a busy schedule can be challenging, but it's definitely possible! Here are some tips:

    Meal Prep: Set aside some time each week to prepare healthy meals and snacks in advance. This will save you time during the week and ensure you have nutritious options readily available.

    Quick and Easy Recipes: Look for simple recipes that require minimal ingredients and cooking time. Stir-fries, salads, smoothies, and wraps are all great options for busy days.

    Pack Snacks: Keep healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, yogurt, or cut-up veggies with you so you're not tempted to grab unhealthy options when you're on the go.

    Balance Your Plate: Aim for a balance of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and fiber in each meal to keep you satisfied and energized throughout the day.

    Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and avoid mistaking thirst for hunger.

    Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. Eating mindfully can help prevent overeating and make sure you're nourishing your body properly.

    Plan Ahead: Plan your meals and snacks for the day ahead of time so you're not scrambling to find something healthy when hunger strikes.

    By incorporating these strategies into your routine, you can maintain a healthy diet even with a busy schedule.