A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Five: 5 Healthy and Affordable Ingredients for Fast Meals

Remember when you were a kid and meals just came to you? If your parents or caretaker were nice, they’d swap or completely remove foods per your request (or crying like I did). Now we’re older, and if we want to eat healthy, we have to rely on our own food prep skills to feed ourselves right.

Most of my childhood meals were not very healthy or cooked from scratch (its ok, Mom, I understand and still love you), but I do miss those easy days sometimes.

In an effort to prepare healthy, wholesome meals for Kelley and me, I have turned to the frozen and canned food aisles for help. I know, I know, most canned foods have a lot of sodium and other unnecessary ingredients, but if you search hard enough (I do with every trip to the store), you can find some healthy items.

Obviously, there are more than five things you can find that are healthy and easy to prepare, but “five” and “Friday” just work better together. “Friday Eleven” doesn’t sound right to me, and “Friday Fifty”, well, that would be a long post!

If you know you’ll be pressed for time soon (or always), pick up these products on your next grocery trip (I didn’t have my own pictures, so I grabbed some off the internet):

1. Frozen Vegetables – I buy enough to fill my freezer and by the time the week is through, it’s empty again. Look for “Fiesta” or “Italian” blends that include beans for extra protein and fiber. Look out for added sauces and other seasonings, these can turn healthy veggies into unhealthy veggies!


2. Canned Fish in Water – Tuna, salmon, kipper filets, sardines, etc. all provide quick access to healthy fats and protein. Beware of the kind in oils and other sauces; these add a lot of sodium and other unhealthy ingredients. Unless you don’t mind, check for the words “Skinless and Boneless” on the can or foil package, otherwise you’ll have some extra prep work! Drain, fill with water, and drain again to help remove some extra sodium before using.

3. Salsa – I go through jars of this stuff every week. Great as a salad dressing or quick flavor-enhancer when mixed into steamed veggies. Read ingredients!! I’ve seen sugar, corn syrup, gums, and other thickeners added to salsa…..then it goes back on the shelf.

4. Healthy Salad Dressing/Marinade – I’ve mentioned the Smoked Tomato dressing by Drew’s; this can turn any plain food into something bursting with flavor. Beware; low fat varieties may be high in sugar and vice versa. The shorter the ingredient list, the better….usually.

5. Goat Cheese – It seems random, but you don’t need much of this tangy, low fat cheese to really enhance the flavor of your food. The standard calories per ounce are around 70 to 80 when bought as a log; this is a calorie savings of 20 – 30 per ounce when compared to typical cheddar or other hard cheeses.

Kelley's favorite...

I prepared a healthy lunch with these ingredients by putting the fiesta blend in a large bowl and steaming in the microwave. Then I mixed a can of drained and rinsed boneless-skinless salmon in water, salsa, smoked tomato dressing, and a dollop of goat cheese into the hot veggies until well combined. You can add any herbs and spices you like, but I used cumin, cayenne, and cilantro….just eyeball it.

This is my only pic of the dish.  Note to self: Take more pics!!

It took about 10 minutes total after including the can opening, allowing hot things to cool (sorry, hands), mixing, and clean up. The result was a very tasty and healthy lunch for Kelley, our work friend, and me; not bad for serving 3 people in such a short time. Just double the recipe for leftovers or a big family to feed.

This weekend we’re watching our niece and showing her some of the cooking I do (per her Mom’s request).It will be fun to help teach a younger generation some healthy food tips; great practice for when we have our own!!. I’m trying to think of something fun, safe, and easy that she can help with.

Do you have any ideas on what activities to do with kids in the kitchen?


  1. Thanks for this! In 1.5 months, I'm heading down to Wilmington to take a summer intensive physics course and will be *living in an apartment* WITHOUT a meal plan (!!!!). As you can tell, I'm super excited! I love frozen everything, because (a) lots of things (like berries, ice cream, pop tarts, etc.) are yummy frozen and (b) I have this absurd fear of things going bad and me giving myself food poisoning. :P

    1. No meal plan? Sounds like you'll have a good taste of freedom!

      Hope these help you make some easy, tasty, and healthy meals in the apartment. I love the frozen stuff too....hard to beat it!

      Physics....yuck...good luck!!