I always tell my clients that one of the most important factors in living a healthy lifestyle is to start meal planning. If you put the time and effort into planning and buying the groceries you’re more likely to make healthy meals from scratch rather than grab something quick and unhealthy in a pinch. Sit down for 20 minutes each week and plan your meals for the following week. Look at the recipes you plan to make, and create your grocery list.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few tips that help me decide what to make each week:
- Choose recipes based on your weekly schedule. Don’t choose a new recipe to try on a busy evening where you have to take your kids to hockey or you have a late meeting. Instead, choose something that you’re familiar with, and ideally that’s quick and healthy (ie. a pre-roasted organic or free-from whole chicken with a salad) and save your experimental meal for an evening where you don’t have something going on.
- Choose your meals according to what’s on sale. Using Flipp (my favourite app for checking the weekly sale flyers and price matching), go through your local grocery store flyer and choose recipes based on the sales that you see. For example, if shrimp is on sale, try my Thai Shrimp Noodle Salad. If avocados and bell peppers are on sale, plan to make black bean fajitas.
- Choose one evening each week to try something new. Flip through cookbooks, food blogs, Pinterest and health magazines (Alive & Sage are a couple of my favourites, and they’re free at health stores!) for inspiration on new recipes and ingredients to try. This will not only expand your knowledge of healthy ingredients and meals, but you’ll become a better cook – practice makes perfect!
- Shop your fridge & pantry. The other day I discovered that I had 4 bell peppers leftover from my last Costco shop that needed to be eaten ASAP so I decided to make stuffed peppers. I’d never made them before, but I knew I wanted to avoid buying any additional ingredients. I looked at what else I had in the fridge: quinoa, salsa, avocado…I searched for recipes on Pinterest using those ingredients and found a recipe for Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. They turned out really well, and now I have a new easy, healthy recipe in my weekday meal repertoire (see my adapted version below).
- Choose recipes that will make multiple meals. I often choose a big slow cooker soup or stew to make on Sundays because I usually have more time during the day to prep and cook. This past Sunday I made my Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup and it was so nice to have dinner for Sunday & Monday done by 5pm!
If you want to make some positive changes towards living a healthier lifestyle, start with meal planning. Being healthy means getting into the habit of preparing your own healthy, fresh meals from scratch and the only way you’re going to make healthy food taste good is if you practice! Get started this week with my version of stuffed peppers. This recipe is perfect if you have about 30 minutes during the day or after school to prep. You can pre-stuff all the peppers, head to your yoga class and than just pop them in the oven 45 minutes before you’re ready to eat!
Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from The Garden Grazer
4 large organic bell peppers
3/4 cup dry organic quinoa
1 1/2 cups organic chicken or veggie broth
15 oz. can organic black beans (or 2 cups pre-made Slow Cooker Black Beans)
1 cup organic frozen corn, thawed
2 green onions, diced
2/3 cup salsa
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp.parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chilli powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups grated aged white cheddar cheese
1 avocado, diced
Hot sauce (optional)
Cook quinoa according to package directions with 1 1/2 cups broth.
While quinoa is cooking, halve bell peppers and remove stems, seeds and ribs. Rinse and drain black beans, thaw corn, and slice green onions.
In a large mixing bowl, add cooked quinoa and all other ingredients except bell peppers and stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place pepper halves in a lightly sprayed 9×13″ baking dish, and generously stuff them with the quinoa filling. Lightly press down to compact and fill all the crevices (if making ahead, place the stuffed peppers in the fridge until ready to bake).
Cover with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes. While peppers are cooking, grate cheddar cheese.
After 35 minutes, remove foil, sprinkle cheese on top of peppers and bake uncovered for 10 minutes. Serve with diced avocado and a dash of hot sauce. This dish pairs so nicely with a sweet root vegetable like roasted acorn squash or oven-baked sweet potato fries. Enjoy!