Buying and Cooking Fresh, Healthy Meals

Components of a Healthy Meal:
A healthy meal includes all of the food groups. Protein, fruits or veggies, healthy starch, dairy (may be optional). When planning your next meal, start with a basic menu of 3-4 items (only 1 of which is a starch).

Healthy Meal #1: Chicken, rice, and green beans.
At the grocery store, select lean cuts of fresh chicken (breast is leanest), brown rice and fresh or frozen green beans. Next, use fresh ingredients to cook the menu items. For example, slice onions, green peppers and tomatoes to cook with the chicken or as a salsa. Cook your rice with tomato sauce and diced vegetables, and steam your green beans with fresh, chopped garlic. So for the same price as chicken nuggets, Rice a Roni and canned green beans, you have a healthy, fresh meal!

Healthy Meal #2: Spaghetti, meat sauce, tossed salad. (Skip the garlic bread).
Choose healthy pasta, such as whole wheat or veggie. Select a lean meat, such as 90% lean sirloin, ground chicken or ground turkey breast. Choose dark, green leafy veggies and a variety of colored veggies for your salad.  Consider making your own pasta sauce from canned or fresh tomatoes (it is really easy). Add diced onions when cooking your ground meat. Add diced vegetables to your pasta sauce (green peppers, mushrooms, carrots, onions, chopped spinach, etc). You can even make your own salad dressing (olive oil and vinegar with Italian seasoning or fresh squeezed lemon juice with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper). Not only is it this option healthier, but it tastes better too!

Healthy Meal #3: Quesadillas and guacamole salad.
Select your protein for the quesadilla, such as chicken breast or beans (black, pinto). Choose whole wheat tortillas and shredded cheese of choice. Cook the chicken in salsa to add liquid and flavor. Saute mixed veggies to add to the quesadilla (zuchini, onions, mushrooms, carrots, peppers, etc). These can also quickly cook in the oven at 450 degrees with a little olive oil and seasoning (it saves you from standing by the stove). With all the other ingredients, you will not need as much cheese inside the quesadilla. Make your guac salad with onions, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, fresh lime, etc. If you use beans and cook the veggies ahead, you can throw the meal together in minutes! It is delicious and filling!

Keep a variety of fresh fruits and veggies in your refrigerator so that you can easily add them to your menu. Healthy dairy items are also great, fresh ingredients to add to any meal, such as low fat sour cream, plain yogurt, etc.

Eating fresh does not have to be more expensive; it just takes a little planning. Your family will love it! And so will your body!

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I am a Physical Therapist and Ergonomics Consultant, based out of Columbia, SC. My passion is to write about and speak about pain/injury prevention. I started Pain Talks as a consulting business in 2018.

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