And what if you don’t particularly like the holidays or are lonely at a time when everyone else seems to be with friends and family?
Whatever your situation or outlook, December can be a challenging month fraught with bad food choices.
Plan + Prep = Peace
With all the activity swirling around me, I find it comforting and centering to open my refrigerator and find quick, filling, tasty choices to help get me through the day.
Here are two of my favorite basics to easily prep and keep at the ready. They aren’t fancy recipes, but I hope they help you make some healthy choices with minimal work.
Leggo that Eggo
Let’s start with breakfast. At the best of times, breakfast can be a challenge, much less when you have a lot going on! If you don’t leave sufficient time in your morning routine to make breakfast, you’ll start your day feeling rushed and defeated. One super easy way to turn breakfast into a fast grab-and-go win is Egg Cups.
“Well, okay, but that sounds incredibly boring!” you might say. And you’re right! That’s the starting point. Below are some ways to spice them up. I like putting the ingredients right in the cups instead of mixing them with the egg whites because it means one less bowl to clean and you can mix it up and make a few different types at one time.
- Add 2 teaspoons bacon crumbles or diced pre-cooked sausage and 1 tsp. of shredded cheese to each muffin cup before pouring in the egg whites.
- Press a piece of ham into each muffin cup, making a little cup to pour the egg whites into.
- Dice up some bell peppers or mushrooms and add 2 tsp. to each cup before adding the egg whites.
- Put a generous pinch of chopped spinach in each cup.
When it comes time for breakfast, you can grab a few egg cups and either eat them cold or throw them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm them. If I have time to sit down, I like to put them on a plate, add some salsa and shredded cheese, and then warm them.
*I’ve recently discovered that my oven is off by about 10-15 degrees, so my cooking times are often off. But I don’t love telling people to go by strict timing guidelines anyway because everyone’s oven may be a little different. I’ve found this usually takes about 20-30 minutes, unless you fill your oven with four pans of them like I do and it takes twice that time! You can tell they’re ready when they look set and a knife comes out clean when you poke them.
Keep Abreast of Things
Lean chicken breast can be a great staple of a healthy diet, but it can get boring eating grilled or broiled chicken all the time. With a little help from your slow cooker, you can add flavor without adding too many calories and end up with a stockpile of shredded chicken good for a variety of uses. I like to freeze single portions of the chicken to pull out at any time and warm up to eat on their own or add to a recipe.
Pull the chicken out of the slow cooker with tongs, shred it with two forks, and then stir it back into your cooking liquid for about another half an hour to get some more flavor. Here are a few of my favorite things to add to the chicken:
- Salsa (Red or Green)
- Frank’s RedHot Sauce
- Barbecue Sauce (if the barbecue sauce is very thick, you can add some water or chicken broth to thin it out a bit so it doesn’t burn as it cooks)
There’s a ton of ways to enjoy the chicken once it’s cooked:
- Just eat it plain!
- Make tacos or roll it up in a piece of lettuce if you want to avoid the carbs.
- For a buffalo chicken salad, add ¼ c. of light mayonnaise or Greek yogurt (or a mix of the two) per pound of chicken cooked in hot sauce.
- Make nachos! Nachos get a bum rap as a meal because when people think of nachos they think of those huge portions you get in a restaurant. I measure out one serving of tortilla chips (or two servings if I have the calories to spare in my day or am feeling indulgent), top them with my chicken and some additional salsa, and then measure out a single serving of shredded cheese to melt on top.
- Top with a fried egg.
- Serve on a bed of fresh spinach.
Hopefully these meal prep basics will give you an easy, healthy alternative to all of the unhealthy food land mines that are everywhere around us during this season.
Happy cooking and happy holidays!
A few times a month, members of Lisa’s Cooking Club get together to prep food for the week.