Does meal planning conjure up images of being hunched over your kitchen table, surrounded by post-its and recipe books, feeling pretty stressed? It doesn't have to be like that. In Women's Health magazine online this week, I explain how food prep is your secret weapon to getting a balanced diet, reducing food waste and saving money.
Here's my tips, and you can read the full article here.
Have a few go-to recipes
My most versatile sauce has got to be salsa verde. This green sauce is vibrant in colour and flavour and will liven up everything from scrambled eggs to roast chicken. Buy a bunch of soft herbs, like parsley, basil or mint, and chop the leaves together with a clove of garlic, some capers and a couple of anchovy fillets. Add a teaspoon of mustard, a glug of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Tweak the flavours until you find the combination you like.
Find your hero ingredients
My kitchen cupboard essentials are easy-to-store, tasty staples that you can combine with a seasonal shopping basket to whip up all sorts of delicious meals and snacks. My favourites are:
Canned pulses – choose cannellini beans, for a change from chickpeas. Use them to bulk out a stew, salad or soup. Blitz with olive oil, lemon juice and chilli flakes to make a healthy dip for veggies or a quick sandwich spread. Or replace the chilli with frozen berries and tahini to make a fruity version that’s great on toast for breakfast.
Miso paste – miso is packed with umami flavour. Choose an unpasteurised version for probiotic benefits. You’ll need to store it in the fridge, but it lasts for ages. Think beyond soup - mix miso into a salad dressing, drizzle over vegetables before roasting or use in a marinade for fish or chicken.
Tahini – don’t let this sesame seed paste sit in your fridge going to waste. Spread it on sourdough, blend it into hummus or a smoothie for extra protein, or mix with natural yoghurt as a sauce for falafel.
Design a balanced plate
The easiest way to balance your meals is to think in thirds.
1/3 lean protein and good fats – just limit red meat to twice a week
1/3 healthy carbs, with a focus on gut-friendly grains and pulses
1/3 vegetables and fruit – eat the rainbow. To hit your five a day, add one portion to breakfast and snacks, and two portions to dinner
Each food group has its own merits, and by combining them you’ll feel strong, energetic and nourished.