How to Eat Healthy with Little or No Cooking

by Mira

By Mira at Wizzley. How to eat healthy when you have little time or don't feel like cooking. Healthy food options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

I started out here on Wizzley with a bunch of recipes, partly because I like food that tastes good, and partly because I believe in eating healthy. Unfortunately, I don't always have time to cook. So here are some of my tips for what you can eat to stay healthy and maybe even lose some weight! Hope they come in handy on these scorching summer days, when you might find it unbearable to cook, and on any days when you may want to cook but find you have little or no time for it.

I realize my food choices and the way they are spread out through the meals or snacks of the day -- which for me, if I can help it, are breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks -- are not for everyone. You may or may not eat meat, may or may not eat fish, may not believe in grains or be gluten-intolerant, may or may not like to eat a lot of dairy products, and so on. So feel free to incorporate into your diet only what appeals to you.

Breakfast Ideas

I believe oatmeal is a wonderful option for breakfast, not only for its own health benefits, but also for the nice combinations it invites. You can serve it with strawberries and whipped cream (or, better, Greek yogurt -- and honey, if you like: the combo is fantastic), with dried fruit like plums or dates, with cranberries, with part dried fruit and part cherries, part dried fruit and part apricots, and so on. I wanted to take photos and write about all the benefits of the various combinations, but haven't managed to it. I do have an article up, however, about the health benefits of oatmeal and cranberries: Why Oatmeal Is Good for You.

Oatmeal with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

And then try: Oatmeal with Greek Yogurt and Honey
Oatmeal with Strawberries
Oatmeal with Strawberries
© Mira at Wizzley

The funny thing about oatmeal is that it doesn't need all the sugar it's packed with in cereal boxes, or the brown sugar those who are health-conscious add when they add their blueberries and other fruit. If you add sweet dried fruit, minutely chopped, you'll find that the result will satisfy your sweet tooth. You may even discover, as I have, that you like the taste of oatmeal on its own, without any fruit or sugar.

So oatmeal is one option. Another option I like for breakfast on some days is an apple or pear and an avocado. As I have explained in other articles, the healthy fats in avocado (omega-3 and omega-6) help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. And apples contain fiber and phytonutrients which bring a whole host of health benefits – read about them here in my article 10 Reasons Apples Are Good for You.

Like many people, I also eat eggs. With tomatoes and cucumbers, and a bit of cheese. We have telemea cheese here in Romania, which I find -- or maybe I have been culturally conditioned to think so -- particularly well suited to this kind of breakfast. I may also have for breakfast (ever since I started looking into diversifying my options) boiled chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with a tomato. And to drink: orange and grapefruit juice.

Or I could have two slices of bread with eggplant spread (but that involves some cooking), with a tomato on the side again. (I'm rather fond of tomatoes, and it turns out they are really healthy, too.) 

First Snack

I like mashed potatoes, and that's not really cooking. I mean, it's easy to peel them, cut them, and leave them to boil. I then add either milk, or only butter, or both, depending on the mood. I found mashed potatoes go great with a number of salads: cabbage / beets / lettuce / endive salad, etc.

If you're pressed for time, you can buy cabbage salad. Or at least here in Romania you can, because it's very popular. Also beets with horseradish. All very healthy options. Of course, if you like cabbage a lot and plan to eat a lot of it, or feed a large family, you can buy a cabbage, cut it in half, and chop each half on the day you plan to eat it. Endives are also very easy to prepare. I eat them with a little bit of oil and balsamic vinegar.

Smoothies
Warm butternut squash and avocado smoothie (with honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg)
Warm Smoothie
Warm Smoothie
Fruit purée with Galia melon, pineapple, lime juice, apple, avocado, honey, and mint
Fruit purée #2
Fruit purée #2
Fruit purée with Galia melon, kiwis, apple, avocado, honey, and mint
Fruit purée #1
Fruit purée #1
Delicious mango, strawberry, banana smoothie (with whipped cream, honey, and coconut milk)
Delicious Smoothie
Delicious Smoothie
Fall smoothie with butternut squash and plums (with honey and nutmeg)
Fall Smoothie
Fall Smoothie

Lunch

For lunch I may have baked fish, with Romanian garlic sauce. I absolutely love it, although I think I dunk it in way too much water and lose a lot of the flavor this way. It's certainly much tastier in a salt crust.

Neither feel like cooking to me, but each involves using the oven – hence heat. But if you can stay away from the kitchen, it's worth it: you only need to step in quickly wash trout, cut head and tail, add water and oil (you can skip the lemon juice), put it in the oven, then come back after 10 minutes to turn the fish on the other side, and again after 30 minutes to remove it from the oven.

Garlic sauce is more labor intensive, but judging by my palate, store-bought beet-and-horseradish salad (if you can find it) will go well with baked trout. It needs something rather pungent in one way or another.

Or you can steam some broccoli or other frozen vegetables, and cover them with tangy cheese. My favorite option here are shavings of Parmesan or Grana Padano. But I'm getting excited and this is meant to be about eating healthy without heaving to cook. Still, steamed veggies with cheese are a quick and healthy fix, so that's another option of you don't want to cook the fish.

I like to cook all kinds of creamy soups, but those take time.

Romanian lettuce, tomato, green onion saladWhat else? You can make salads. I took many photos of salads and have several articles -- about their health benefits -- waiting to be published. I should probably look into that. Some of my favorite salads involve lettuce or endives, tomatoes or bell peppers, cucumbers, walnuts, tuna, and sweet corn. The lettuce + tomatoes + cucumbers (+ green onion) combination is really common over here in Romania. If you add cheese then it will be really filling.

Another salad I like is a classic Romanian recipe: apple, carrot, and celery root, grated, mixed with mayo -- I make the mayonnaise myself. Other people use oil and vinegar instead of mayo.

                                                       Or you can try mashed beans for protein. I usually eat store-Apple, carrot, celery root salad, with mayonnaise. Romanian recipebought mashed beans because the Romanian recipe involves a little more than just boiling them and seasoning them with salt, pepper, and garlic. But I have to try to make them the simple way, too. We boil them in a pressure pot with some vegetables, mash the beans while keeping some of the broth, and the chop onion and garlic, and add that too.

I eat mashed beans with the same cabbage and beet salads. On those days when I don't cook / don't buy cooked food / don't eat out, I adapt my meals to the healthy options that I can find easily in one of the largest Romanian supermarkets.

If you like meat, then you can buy grilled chicken breast (or whatever meat type and cut you prefer) and serve it with tomatoes. I do that, too, sometimes, and it's all the food I need for lunch.

Also, if you haven't head eggs for breakfast, you can have eggs with tomatoes and cheese now, for lunch, if you wish. Minimal cooking.

If you're still hungry, you can have fresh pineapple chunks.

Second Snack

I may have two slices of wholegrain bread with some spread and smoked salmon. Very healthy, except, perhaps, for that spread. When I don't have that in the fridge, I use butter. I really like butter myself. Of course, I only use very little. And I have these slices of bread with tomatoes again, or on their own. But I don't do the salmon very often because I also eat trout rather often when I don't have time to cook.

Another thing I try not to overlook are nuts, especially as I really like almonds and pistachios. (And make sure to have walnuts in salads, where I can enjoy them much better.) I also like pumpkin seeds. Those, however, take a lot of time to eat. If I have that time, I enjoy it. There are many other seeds I like, and I can buy them ready to eat, husk-free. Sunflower seeds are really popular over here. They are cheap and healthy. Every now and then I have some of those, too.

Apples and CheeseOr I may have apples and cheese.

If I want something sweet, I might have sesame flour with honey. Really delicious!

And all throughout the day, I drink a lot of tea. That's another topic entirely.

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I made a postcard with 30 foods which help reduce high blood pressure. Here they are: almonds, avocados, bananas, beets, blueberries, broccoli, dark chocolate, Ceylon cinnamon, egg whites, low-fat dairy, garlic, ginger, grapes, hibiscus tea, kiwis, lentils, lettuce, oatmeal, oranges, peas, cayenne pepper, baked potatoes, pumpkin, sesame & sunflower seeds, salmon, soy foods, spinach, tuna, watermelon.

Dinner

If I can't have pasta, I may have two slices of bread with butter and bell peppers. Or another serving of that salad with veggies, tuna, walnuts, and sweet corn, which I really like.

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Third Snack

I love fruit, so my third snack can be two kiwi fruits. I read that kiwis actually promote a good night's sleep. They contain vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium, among other vitamins and minerals. Or I may have an apple. Or again some sesame flour with honey.

So these were some of my current ideas for healthy eating with little or no cooking, inspired by Pam's (Dustytoes) post in the forum today on sharing ideas for surviving a heat wave.

My food choices tend to change all the time. Also, I do like to cook, so when I have time for that my diet changes quite a lot from what I described here.

Taste of Romania

If You DO Have Time to Cook . . .

Now if you do have time to cook, and I got you a little interested in Romanian cooking, I recommend Nicolae Klepper's book Taste of Romania. You'll find a whole range of recipes, from easy ones like eggplant salad (spread) to Romanian lamb haggis (which I find delicious). The great thing about this book is that he chose really nice versions of the Romanian recipes he included. Some are very common dishes, dishes you'll find in our homes at Christmas and Easter (such as stuffed cabbage rolls, or our version of the Italian pannettone), and others are fancier recipes -- like trout with almonds and sour cream -- you may find in restaurants. In fact, he did get a lot of recipes directly from various chefs he met in Romania.

Alain Braux's How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food: A Practical Guide

Lower Your Cholesterol with Tasty Food

Alain Braux, a French chef in the Nouvelle Cuisine tradition, has written a wonderful book called How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food: A Practical Guide. It will quickly give you some essential tips for how you need to change your diet to stay healthy and keep your cholesterol down with food. It's all very easy, no complicated recipes or waffling -- the book does hold your attention. It teaches you to think about food differently, and, most of all, it shows you that it's easy to put the advice for a healthier diet into practice.

And You?

What are some of your healthy ideas for quick meal fixes on hot summer days, or when you simply don't have time to cook?

Updated: 07/15/2016, Mira
 
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Mira on 02/14/2016

Yes, fish and veggies makes for great meals!:)

frankbeswick on 02/13/2016

Carp is an ancient European dish valued by monks, who bred it for their meals. Fish and vegetables, what more could you want?

Mira on 02/13/2016

:) Baked carp with onions and other veggies. I don't like carp that much but my parents got a good deal on several carp and so that's what we cooked (me and Mom).

sheilamarie on 02/13/2016

Your meals sound delicious, Mira. What's for dinner tonight?

Mira on 12/10/2014

That sounds like a wonderful meal, Frank. I love olives, too.

frankbeswick on 12/10/2014

I have just made soup in the soup maker, using mainly home grown vegetables: parsnip and potato, with some tomato and paprika as seasoning. It tastes great, just ideal for the nasty December weather that we are having here. So tomorrow, weather permitting, I will spend the morning at the allotment, resurfacing paths with wood chip and then return to home made soup and bread. I make my bread with no added sugar for health's sake. Sometimes I add raisins. I will have olives, which I love, as dessert. There are no unnecessary calories in that meal.Sadly, I cannot grow olives in England, at least not my part of it.

Mira on 12/10/2014

Soups are great. They're healthy and they can taste great, too, if you add a lot of vegetables.

WordChazer on 12/09/2014

I'm on a bit of a sandwich thin, pitta bread or cracker bender at the moment. For the last week I haven't been able to eat dry crackers because of my cold and cough, so I've switched to soup and pitta bread. A very acceptable alternative, keeps me from snacking mid afternoon and even fills me up enough that I don't want supper either. I've not tried coronation egg, but mum makes a killer diller coronation chicken and no shop-bought mix even comes close. I'm not a big bread fan either.

Mira on 12/08/2014

I'll have to try coronation egg sandwiches. Do you make those too? I wanted to look up coronation chicken, and ended up looking coronation egg recipe instead. I like dry crackers with various soups. Regular bread just doesn't work that well :)

WordChazer on 12/07/2014

Dry crackers are an easy one for me. Or pitta bread with egg mayo or coronation chicken. Green smoothies or hard boiled eggs are also favorites.


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