A Total Beginner’s Guide to Quick And Healthy Meals At Home

All the stress might make you want to indulge in a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, but there are healthy meals that can actually help elevate our moods.

Green veggies like spinach, brussels sprouts and broccoli are not only filling, but they are packed with folate, a B vitamin that assists with the production of serotonin, the chemical in the brain that affects our mood.

Try them fresh, steamed or even roasted with a little olive oil and seasoning.

Looking for a way to alleviate depression?

Put down the ice cream and pick up some yogurt or kefir.

A study by the University of Virginia Health System found that the probiotics in these foods may help reduce negative thoughts.

Feeling sluggish? Grab some whole grains for an energy boost!

Foods such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole grain bread are also high in fiber, so they won’t leave you crashing like foods high in sugars.

If you are craving something sweet, have a few bites of dark chocolate. It contains caffeine and flavanols that improve cognition.

Forget the frozen dinners. Many healthy foods last a long time, are easy to store and can be made into healthy meals. Canned vegetables or fish can be rinsed to remove the salt.

Frozen veggies without sauces are usually low in sodium, and frozen fruits and veggies are good sources of vitamins.

Long-lasting foods

  • Brown and white rice
  • Canned fish, like tuna and salmon
  • Canned and dried beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee, instant coffee, and tea
  • Frozen berries and fruit
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Mayonnaise
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil, corn oil and butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Powdered milk
  • Quinoa, faro and bulger
  • Regular and whole wheat pasta
  • Rolled oats
  • Your favorite sweet or candy

Cook ahead: Make a big pot of your favorite chili or homemade soup. You can use pasta, rice or canned beans, plus canned or frozen veggies. Freeze in individual containers, and then when you need a meal but don’t want to cook, you’ve already done the work.

Fresh foods first

Use fresh foods before using frozen or shelf-stable foods like canned foods, pasta and dried beans.

When getting to the grocery store is a hassle, you don’t want anything to go to waste. These foods will keep at least two weeks, some up to a month, in your refrigerator. Menu planning will help you save money and time at the store.

Two-week foods

  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Green or Red Peppers
  • Kale
  • Lemons
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Swiss Chard
  • Yams

Expired verses “Use by” dates

Check the dates on the food in your cupboards. Many foods are fine to eat after the printed date, although they may not be at peak flavor and freshness. Confirm the printed date is a “use by” date, not an expiration date.

Take salt seriously

Many packaged, canned and frozen foods have lots of added salt, but there are always lower sodium choices so check the labels.

For main courses, try and stay below 400 milligrams of sodium per serving.

For side dishes, stay below 250 milligrams of sodium, and below 150 milligrams of sodium for snacks.

Aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

Broccoli Rice Salad

1 can rinsed or low-sodium tuna (optional)

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli, or fresh cooked

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 cups cooked long-grain brown rice

1 cup carrots, shredded

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing, more if needed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon low-sodium seasoning, such as Dash salt-free seasonings (formerly called Mrs. Dash)

Cook rice according to package directions. Rinse with cold water to chill. If using tuna, rinse in a colander with cold water and drain. Mix all ingredients. Chill. Serve with crusty bread or crackers. Serves 4.

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