Do you find it tricky to eat well when you're in a busy season with little or no time to cook? What tends to be the first real food thing to go? For me, it’s usually the veggies.
But I’ve finally landed on a few nutrient-dense quickies that my family will actually eat and that have been saving my bacon (and time!) in the kitchen, and I'm sharing them with you here. (If you’re currently short on time for reading, just skip down to the heading “Nutrient Dense Quickies.” ;-) )
Let’s face it –there are days and weeks (frankly, sometimes months or even years!) when we’ve got so much on our plate (pun fully intended) that there’s little-to-no time to spend hours and hours preparing nutritious foods from scratch. Especially when you’re already following a specific dietary protocol that requires a bit more effort than the average.
The beauty is that when you prioritize keeping your fridge/freezer and pantry stocked with real, nutrient-dense foods, you have an advantage when it comes to eating well, even when your bandwidth is maxed out.
I’m currently in such a season. Spring is like that, with a big push both to wrap up the bulk of our homeschooling for the year and to get the garden in. This spring we expanded our garden to include a cabbage patch and an apple tree guild, which took considerably more energy than I'd anticipated! And by necessity I've traded time in the kitchen for time in the garden. In fact, looking back, I can probably count on one hand the number of meals I’ve actually cooked in the past few weeks, and of those none have taken more than 30 minutes of prep.
But even in this busy season, we've managed to eat well. Here are the top 3 quick & easy veggie options I’ve been relying on to keep us in nutritious food. (Stay tuned: next week I’ll talk about protein.)
Nutrient-Dense Quickies: Vegetables (No cooking required!)
Keep these on hand and in less than 5 minutes you’ve got veggie options on the table that require minimal preparation and no cooking!
1) Fermented Veggies
I love these for many reasons, but the main ones are:
- They pack a nutritional punch in every bite—populating your gut with probiotics (aka, good bacteria) that supports a healthy immune system, increasing the vitamin content of the fermented vegetable, and supplying your gut with active enzymes that support healthy digestion.
- They last a while in the fridge (unless you eat them at the rate we do!).
- No cooking required! Just open the jar and dish ‘em out onto the plate.
- My family’s current favorites are Wildbrine’s Dill and Garlic Kraut (tastes like dill pickles!), Wildbrine’s Red Beet and Cabbage Kraut, and Bubbies Sauerkraut. I love these options because they’re absolutely delicious and even my most picky eaters will eat them. And, importantly, they meet my criteria for quality, store-bought fermented veggies, which are:
- The veggies are both raw and fermented (meaning you’re getting the live food enzymes and gut buddies).
- Ingredients are heavy on salt, not on vinegar.
- No added sugar.
- If you’re interested and inclined to ferment your own veggies, you need to go follow my friend Julie Majors @realfood.littlerock. She’s a pro! And she’s passionate about educating folks on nutrition and the medicinal benefits of real food.
2) Organic Spring Salad Mix
When in doubt, get a salad out. ;-) Ideally, I'd be pulling salad greens from my own raised veggie bed, but realistically we always need more salad greens than we're ready to harvest at first. So until my own are coming in, I’ve learned to keep a large container of store-bought organic greens in my fridge. Typically a 16-oz container will last us about a week and supply several meals.
- Salads can serve as an easy base for a variety of meals. Fill a bowl with salad greens, then top with your preferred protein: a few that are often in my rotation are fajita chicken, egg salad, tuna salad and taco beef.
- If needed, depending on your protein, drizzle a little olive oil and Balsamic vinegar on top, or a quick homemade dressing such as one of these.
- If you’re feeling fancy, add chopped avocado, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, chia seeds, sliced strawberries, diced pear or apple, etc. Just remember—it doesn’t have to be complicated to be nutritious and delicious!
3) Raw Carrots and Celery
Maybe this is obvious but it’s worth mentioning…I always keep them raw carrots and celery on hand because they're so easy to cut up and dish up on a moment’s notice! Ideas to boost their curb appeal:
- Serve with hummus or a homemade veggie dip.
- Arrange them in a colorful display on a cutting board. I've found the more colorful the variety on the board the more likely my crew is to eat it, especially if there’s a dip involved. ;-).
- In the warmer months, we do a charcuterie-style dinner about once a week, with cold cuts like ham, turkey, and salami surrounded on all sides with carrots, celery, and/or other seasonal veggies. It’s amazing how many more raw veggies my kids will eat when they’re laid out in plain sight for the taking!
Which of these options do you already incorporate into your meal plan on a regular basis or do you think would be most appealing to your family? Share in a comment below!