10 Essential Ingredients for Quick and Healthy Meals

Photo credit: happyworker

No more excuses! Healthy eating and ditching all the crud that’s gumming up your energy and soul are totally painless activities once you make them a priority. Here are 10 essential ingredients that will maximize your chances of success. Stop loading your body with processed garbage, take a fast field-trip to your local grocer, and start cloud surfing your way to health euphoria. Always have on hand:

1. Bagged Salad Greens. Salad doesn’t have to take hours of prep or your life savings to enjoy. Get a bunch of tasty, dark, salad greens, and enjoy them daily with low-fat dressing. (Have you had Trader Joe’s Wasabi Arugula? OH MY!!!)

2. Low-Fat Salad Dressing, or Olive Oil + Brown Rice Vinegar in a 2:1 ratio. Even the cutest of tushes need salad dressing on their greens. If I wasn’t already married, I’d consider a union with Trader Joe’s Light Champagne Vinaigrette. But when it’s out of stock in my fridge, a dash of olive oil, brown rice vinegar, and sea salt are perfect for dolling up the lettuce mountain.

3. Canned Beans: Garbanzo beans are especially great because they don’t usually require rinsing. Just drain and toss them on a salad, into a stir-fry, burrito, or stirred into soup. Or blend any can of drained beans with 1 cup salsa for a fast bean dip or sandwich spread.

4. Quinoa: (“keen-wah”). When you’re rushed for dinner, brown rice–or even white rice for that matter–takes way too long to cook. Quinoa is not only a great rice substitute rich in fiber and protein (and a gluten-free food), but it only takes 15 minutes to cook. Get pre-rinsed quinoa if you can, or rinse the seeds vigorously in water before cooking to remove the saponins. Quinoa is a seed that’s eaten like a whole grain, and can even be mixed with fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and non-dairy milk for a fast breakfast the next morning.

5. Berries: Fresh or frozen. Raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are so full of life-extending compounds while also being rich in fiber and low in calories, that you’re better off opting FOR these sweet little miracle makers at meal or snack time. Toss them into breakfast cereals or smoothies, atop salads, or eat them by the handful. Sure feels better than the sugar crash of a Snicker’s!

6. Non-Dairy Milk: Fortified almond, coconut, hemp, oat, or soy milk have all the calcium & vitamin D of dairy milk, less sugar, better taste, fewer calories, and don’t cause mucous production, inflammation, and weight gain the way dairy milk does. Enjoy unsweetened almond milk with 45 calories & 0 grams of sugar per cup or original coconut milk beverage–include it in smoothies, pour into onto a bowl of high-fiber breakfast cereal, or add it to coffee or tea. Mmm!

7. Broccoli: The florets are so full of antioxidants, cancer-fighters, and hormone regulators, and they’re not a particular threat to pests. So, conventionally grown broccoli isn’t riddled with pesticides (Read: you don’t have to buy organic broccoli). Steam, roast, stir-fry, curry them (cook with curry powder and light coconut milk, see below), or dip them in bean dip for a satisfying snack.

8. Canned Light Coconut Milk: Light coconut milk (1/2 cup or more) and curry powder (2 tsp) can turn any veggie or veggie combo into a gourmet curry dish. Add beans for protein and serve over quinoa.

9. Kale: Rich in blood pressure busting chlorophyll, immune-boosting antioxidants, and calcium that’s absorbed twice as well as dairy calcium, kale is a true powerhouse. Toss it into smoothies, stir-fries, or bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes with a touch of olive oil and salt (stir after 15 minutes and return to the oven) for a crunchy veggie side dish even kids will crave.

10: Dark Chocolate: A few squares powerfully satisfy your sweet tooth and are loaded with antioxidants. Work from a large bar each week so you aren’t resorting to the Oreos in the cupboard to satisfy your post-meal sweet craving.

For more ways to incorporate these butt-busting powerfoods, snag a copy of my TJ’s Skinny Dish! book this fall! Other grocery essentials that make healthy eating easy breezy?

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