We live the fast life these days. Technology and our overbooked schedules have pushed us up to warp speed.
In addition to fitness, healthy home cooking has fallen by the wayside. An estimated 1 out of 5 meals are eaten in a car. And what we get from the takeout window usually isn’t very good for us. Our growing waistlines testify to this.
Our children are suffering in particular from this: A recent USDA study concluded that the increasing number of meals kids eat away from home contributes to the rising problem of childhood obesity
So is there a solution? You bet. Healthy fast food. No, it’s not a contradiction. You can get healthy food in a rush. But it will take some strategy, planning – and yes – a little more effort and time on your part. (I said “fast” not “the fastest food in the west”.)
One of my goals here at FitFamilyTogether, is to give you everything you need to make fitness a big part of your family life. And food strategy is part of this package.
That’s why I’m putting information here on how to make healthy fast food. Because . . .
4 Reasons to Choose Healthy Fast Food
1. When you get healthy food, you get the right fuel to keep you energized for fitness activities. This way it’s easier to be more active.
2. It’s a terrible thing to undo all your hard work of hiking up a mountain, biking around town or playing soccer by running out for McD’s because you don’t have the time or energy for a proper meal.
3. It’s cheaper. When you prepare things at home, you save lots of money.
4. It often tastes better. After years of good eating, it’s hard for us to enjoy the food at most restaurants since they are too salty. You may find the more you eat at home, your tastebuds change as well.
So here are my tips for getting healthy food – fast!
Healthy Fast Food Tip #1: Cook At Home
You may think it takes too long to put a good meal together, but I beg to differ. Develop some fast favorites a la Rachel Ray. You’d be surprised at how many healthy meals can be put together for maybe only 10 minutes more than it takes to get take out.
While I have a few tips for eating out, most of these are about making it easier and faster to eat at home. Because ultimately, when you cook at home, you’ll have more control over what you eat.
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to cook for yourself and your family. But if it’s a skill you don’t have, just start and learn.
Here are a few great food resources to help you move this forward faster:
- Kathy Maister’s website www.startcooking.com is a wonderful place to learn basic cooking techniques.
- Greg and Laura Everage’s website www.familyeats.com is packed with recipes and equipment reviews. Greg told me he started this to help get more families around the table.
- George Mateljan’s www.whfoods.com (The World’s Healthiest Foods) is packed with nutritional information as well as excellent healthy recipes.
-Aimee Wimbush-Bourque’s Simple Bites is a wonderful mix of nourishing, healthy and pretty simple recipes, food lore and more.
- Leanne Ely’s www.savingdinner.com puts together wonderful, healthy recipes with menuplanning, shopping lists and organizing tips to make it all easier. (I love her pistou recipe!)
And I’ve posted lots of recipes here that I will continue to add to.
Some of my favorite meals-in-a-rush?
- Egg sandwiches. And these are not the usual egg sandwiches.
- Spaghetti – I use the Barilla Plus spaghetti that has whole grains and protein from lentils in it. Chop up some frozen chicken sausage, toss in some spinach or kale with your favorite jarred sauce and you’ve got it made.
- Hamburgers. Here’s my secret: I use free-range beef from my neighbor or bison meat. Then I grate up an apple, squeeze out the juice and add it in to the meat. Saute up some chopped mushrooms, red onions and spinach to serve on top. Easy and nutritious!
Healthy Fast Food Tip #2: Develop Standby Recipes
I have several recipes that I don’t even have to think about as I cook them. I just plow through them. Find a few recipes that your family enjoys and then make them regularly. Make them until you can do it while you help your son with his math. Blindfolded. (Okay, skip the blindfold)
Healthy Fast Food Tip #3: Stock Your Pantry And Freezer
As you can see from tip #1, I keep some good stuff around in the house. I’ve got frozen bison meat/free-range beef in the freezer, spaghetti, tomato sauce, canned beans, and more.
Keep a well-stocked kitchen and you can put something together in a pinch.
Healthy Fast Food Tip #4: Cook For An Army
I rarely cook for just one meal. I always cook for at least 2-3 nights, maybe more. This way I don’t have to worry about dinner tomorrow. And I usually have enough to put in the freezer for emergency nights.
For example, my lentil soup recipe is tops when it comes to stocking the freezer.
In the summer, we often grill up enough meat for several days on a Sunday, cook up rice and pasta on the fire outside and then for the rest of the week we eat pasta salad, salad and sandwiches. No hot kitchen – easy.
Healthy Fast Food Tip #5: Use A Crockpot
This is where slow is fast. I have some favorite dishes I put in my crock pot in the morning and by evening, I’ve got dinner.
My fastest to prepare favorite meal like this is curry goat. Here’s my delicious and easy curry goat recipe.
Healthy Fast Food Tip #6: Bring With You
When you’re an active family on the move, it’s tempting to purchase food where you end up – from the ski lodge, at the end of a hiking trail, from the beach hotdog stand.
Doing this occasionally can be fine – and fun. Regularly? You’ll break the bank and undo your family exercise for the day.
The solution. Bring your own food with you. Get used to bringing a cooler and water bottles everywhere you go. Pack cold cuts, cheese, bread and make sandwiches. When you’re skiing or sledding, bring a thermos (we bring two) with your own hot chocolate and tea.
We bring pre-prepared dried cups of soup/noodles that you just add hot water to. Many ski lodge cafeterias have boiling water for free. Or bring a thermos of it. (Hot, noodly soup is lovely on a mountain top in the fall!)
Buy nuts and dried fruit in bulk from a coop or natural foods store and mix them yourself for a cheaper and healthier substitute for snackbars (less sugar and fillers). Good Ole Peanuts And Raisins (GORP) is delicious on the trail.
Hint: Get raw, unsalted nuts and toast them in the toaster oven yourself. Less salt and oil. Cheaper, too.
Healthy Fast Food Tip #7: Get Take Out Strategically
Okay, sometimes you’ve got to order out. We do that. But even then you don’t have to sacrifice your sweat-soaked hours for a greasy burger. Order chili. Order a bison burger. Get a burrito. Get beef and broccoli from the Chinese takeout.
These still can’t compare to home-cooked meals – way too much sodium and still more fat. But they’ll do.
Also, go smaller. Split one order of fries among the whole family. Don’t supersize your drink (we often mix one small sprite with our water) and simply keep the burger down to a single.
Just paring things back a bit can make an important difference.
Healthy Fast Food Is Possible
Put these tactics to work and you’ll make sure your family fitness activities aren’t pushed out the door with a fast food order. Make the time, plan and make the commitment.
You’ll find how much more you enjoy the food you cook yourself – and the results.
What are your strategies for getting more healthy fast food into your family’s bellies? Please share.