The simple truth is that we eat ourselves into almost all of our chronic health conditions. The diseases of modern civilization, such as obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, auto immunity, and even depression, can often be tracked back to our eating patterns. For thousands of years selecting proper ingredients and cooking was a respected skill that was learned and passed on in order to assure the health of the community. Much of that basic knowledge has been cast aside in the name of convenience and our perceived lack of time. The average American watches five hours of television per day. Many of us watch more television about cooking than we actually spend preparing meals ourselves! All of us can also identify with the simple fact that illness is not convenient. The pain, lethargy, and ill mood that accompany our poor food choices rob us of the pleasures we should be enjoying in our lives. There is nothing convenient about that! So what do we do?! We are busy, overscheduled, and stressed. Usually, we just want to come home and grab something quick we can throw in the microwave so we can have some time to ourselves. Very simply, we need to make cooking easy and enjoyable again.
Tip #1: Get a knife and know how to use it!
Ok, that sounds almost sinister, but this tip may be the most important. If you don’t even own the basic equipment for healthy and convenient cooking it all just falls apart. Buying a quality chopping knife, keeping it sharp, and learning the basics of knife skills will save you an incredible amount of time and frustration. Plus, a dull knife can be downright dangerous! If you put it on a holiday or birthday wishlist someone may find it to be a wonderful gift for you. That’s what happened to me! (thanks, Nan). This basic principle about a good knife should apply to all the basic kitchen equipment, pots, pans, etc.
Tip #2: Stock up on the basics
Becoming a master of the 10 minute healthy meal means you need the basics on hand. Free up some freezer space and buy pre chopped frozen vegetables and medleys of all varieties. Buy an assortment of nuts and healthy fats, such as coconut milk and coconut oil, avocado oil, and ghee. Ready to go proteins can be frozen seafood (I love the Trader Jo’s seafood medley), canned wild salmon or sardines, and frozen steaks and fish fillets. Have your basic spices organized. Remember that the composition of any given meal should be a lot of vegetables (at least a couple cups), some healthy protein, and some healthy fat. You can throw frozen vegetables, a can of coconut milk, some canned wild salmon, and some Thai curry paste in a wok and have a delicious curry in half the time it would take for someone to deliver it! Beef and fish steaks can be cooked beautifully without thawing and can be ready in 10 – 15 minutes.
Tip #3: Rock the Crock
For quick and easy it is hard to beat the slow cooker. Even tough and cheap cuts of grass fed meat can be made tender and delicious with some diced onion, carrots, spices, and broth. I’ve assembled crock pot feasts in under five minutes in the morning and returned home 12 hours later to the smell of a glorious meal that seems like it took all day to prepare (and it did, it just didn’t require any work fro me!). If you google search paleo, primal, or healthy slow cooker recipes you will find more than you could ever hope for.
Tip #4: Keep it simple, genius!
None of us are born as genetically perfect cooks. It requires experimentation to discover what we like. Experimentation takes time and time is what everybody complains they don’t have. So, choose a couple of recipes you can alter on the fly and prepare in under 15 minutes for each meal. Breakfast ideas may be an egg scramble with pre cut mushrooms and frozen spinach or a smoothie with greens, ½ avocado, frozen blueberries and a high quality protein powder. Lunch could be a quick salad assembled from precut choice vegetables and some sardines or leftovers from last nights dinner. You get the concept, get very good a quickly preparing a few key dishes that you find satisfying and delicious. Expand your repertoire as boredom sets it or you have the time.
Tip #5: Preparation, preparation, preparation
Ok, if I’m writing a blog on how to quickly cook why am I discussing preparation? Doesn’t that take time? Yes, of course. But, all of us have time in our week where instead of watching Andy Cohen discuss an episode of the Real Housewives we could actually grill 6 chicken breasts for the week, or make a batch of bone broth in the slow cooker, or make a savory Thai peanut sauce that can go well with almost any protein and make a meal in 2 minutes. Try to take an hour or so once a week to prepare yourself for the business of the coming week. Fundamentally, we need to nourish ourselves and that requires a little for thought.
Tip #6, final tip… don’t reinvent the wheel
We all have friends and relatives who know how to cook. Maybe we should actually ask them about it? One of the wonderful consequences in the popularity of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Funtional medicine, the Paleo movement, the Primal movement, etc. is that there is a lot of information out there on cooking healthy and quickly. Some quick resources I’ve found invaluable and inspiring are:
Marksdailyapple.com (I read this almost every day)
Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s Whole 30 movement
Dr. Mark Hyman, all of his books are great, he is a true Functional Medicine pioneer in terms of making nutrition accessible to the masses.
Gary Taubes books (essential reading!)
Dr. David Ludwig