Tips for wholesome eating
Making wholesome food choices is generally much easier when we've taken the time to plan ahead. This includes planning what satisfying meals or snacks to prepare, figuring out what groceries we need, and accounting for what foods are most accessible or convenient for our situations. Below are 11 hacks and tips that we use here at PUL to help us save time and make nourishing choices. Feel free to use whichever tricks are the most appealing!
To help get organized, see our printable weekly meal planner. This meal planner has room for us to plan our breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. It also has space to add notes and list out any groceries we might need to grab during the week.
Consider combining the weekly meal planner with our free grocery shopping list for some organized inspiration for tasty meals and snacks.
Now, let's get to the top 11 healthy food hacks!
1. We eat what we see
If we're trying to make wholesome food choices, seeing these items in a clear view might help some of us. Rather than tossing a whole orange or apple into the lurks of our bag, we can take some time to peel or cut it, put it in a container, and leave it out on a desk to enjoy when we're hungry. Having meals or snacks ready to go and in plain view also makes it more likely that a partner or child will eat it. Some satisfying and nutrient-dense snack ideas to leave out for short periods include cut-up fruit or veggies, dried fruit or trail mix, and hummus or nut butter with seed crackers. For fluids, we can place water or tea in front of where we work or study reminds us to take sips and stay hydrated.
Another strategy to make nutrient-rich choices more accessible is by placing them in convenient places within the pantry or fridge. If we open our pantry, and treats are the first thing in sight, we're more likely to grab these than to keep hunting for a more nutritious snack.
Here at PUL, we welcome a healthy relationship with foods and don't believe in restricting. In our experience, making wholesome choices more accessible and convenient has worked wonders rather than explicitly hiding less nutrient-rich foods. By having wholesome foods out in the open, we'll likely find that our bodies crave these foods more rather than less nutritious options.
2. Fresher for longer
To go with tip #1, we're more likely to snack on veggies, like carrots and celery, if they're already chopped up and waiting for us in the fridge. Our prepped veggies tend to lose their crunch or dry up after being in the fridge though. To avoid this, we can store them in a glass container with water. This helps to keep them deliciously crispy and fresh for a longer time. Change out the water every few days to ensure it stays as clean as possible.
Some of us may be concerned about chopped veggies losing their nutrients. There are 3 factors to consider in this case: heat, light, and oxygen. Since the veggies will be stored in the fridge, heat and light aren't a concern. Exposure to oxygen may affect the amount of vitamin C and sometimes vitamin E. Even with slightly reduced amounts of vitamin C and E, pre-chopped veggies still have other wholesome nutrients such as B vitamins, minerals and fibre.
3. A need for the seed
Nut butters are already nutrient-dense on their own, but we can pack them with even more good stuff if desired! To do this, take a partial jar of nut butter, and add a mix of seeds, such as toasted sesame seeds, chia seeds, roughly ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or pumpkin seeds. Mix it all up, and store it in the fridge. The mixture is delicious on toast, mixed into oatmeal, or stuffed into dates as a snack.
A mix of seeds is also great for sprinkling onto smoothies or parfaits. Plus, it makes the foods look so much more vibrant and wholesome!
4. The mystery ingredients
Some of us might have heard about this smoothie hack: fill a few containers with our favourite smoothie ingredients, and keep them in the freezer. When we're craving a cold and creamy smoothie, we can then conveniently pop everything into a blender with some plant milk. It's a great tip for using up fruits that are at their ripest, but after a while, we may notice that we're stuck in this rut, prepping the same smoothies over and over again. There are two ingredients we can add to our next smoothie mix to pump up the nutrient profile without altering the taste:
- Frozen zucchini: they're great for people who can't tolerate or don't like bananas in smoothies. They add a similar creaminess, without the banana flavour.
- White beans: these are packed with protein, fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants.
5. Highest in antioxidants
Although they say "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," it's more likely that's something berries are capable of doing. They are the foods highest in immune-boosting and disease-fighting antioxidants.
An apple has 60 units of antioxidants, but a cup of berries has 650 units! Apples are still delicious and make for a great nutrient-rich snack, but berries may be more accessible or enjoyable for some of us! Here at PUL, we often try to enjoy a handful of berries each day, either in an oatmeal, a smoothie, on a parfait, or just as a snack. Fresh berries can be expensive in the winter months, so opting for frozen ones is a great option. In some cases, frozen berries are even more nutrient-dense than fresh!
6. Spice it up
In addition to berries, herbs and spices are packed with antioxidants. A bowl of whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce and broccoli, for example, has 142 units of antioxidants. If we add 1 tsp of dried oregano to that same bowl of pasta, the number doubles to 260 units! Spices also add pleasant aromas and flavours to food which can help us reduce the amount of excess oil, salt, and sugar used in a recipe. It' a win-win!
7. Herbs in cubes
We use a lot of fresh herbs in PUL recipes. Despite our best efforts, sometimes our plants just die. Luckily, the leaves of some herbs, like rosemary and thyme, can be picked off the branches and used as a spice. We can also salvage living leaves by picking them off the plant, chopping them up and placing them in an ice cube tray with water. Alternatively, we can also blend them with equal parts oil and water and freeze them in an ice cube tray as well. Once they're frozen, we can pop them out of the tray and store them in an air-tight container in the freezer, to use in soups, stews, sauces, and stir-fries.
Herbs won't freeze in a way that retains their former glory, but they'll still be packed with flavour and their nutrient profile if used within 1-2 months.
8. Cooked vs. raw
There are pros and cons to the raw and cooked forms. Raw spinach offers higher amounts of certain nutrients, like folate, Vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin and potassium. On the other hand, cooked veggies are higher in other nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin E, some carotenoids, protein, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron.
Long story short, enjoying both cooked and raw veggies are great. Veggies are a wholesome way to get in loads of nutrients onto our plates and into the body, whether they're cooked or raw!
9. Create a snack arsenal
Our bodies will naturally crave snacks when hungry. To encourage making wholesome choices, we can have super quick snack ideas in our arsenal to whip together. Here are a few ideas:
- Medjool dates filled with nut butter
- Sliced apple dipped into unsweetened plant yogurt with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and optional maple syrup
- Hummus on crackers with some arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes, and/or olives
Having a go-to arsenal of convenient and wholesome snacks will help prevent decision fatigue and provide a nutrient-dense energy boost.
10. Plan ahead
There's no doubt that planning our meals helps us make wholesome choices and avoid food waste. It's only natural to not stick to it 100% of the time, but having a rough idea planned out can increase the chances that we'll be sticking to it at least some of the time.
Our free weekly meal planner PDF can be coupled with our free grocery shopping list as mentioned at the beginning of the article to make sure we have all the necessary ingredients on hand to stick to our plan. Post it on the fridge to serve as a reminder and invite family members to contribute to it!
11. Make a contribution
Sometimes we may be heading to an event or party unsure of what food options might be available. In this case, we can whip up our own wholesome contribution that others can also enjoy. Consider bringing something that others will appreciate and can be nibbled on together. Here are some ideas:
- a huge batch of filling and comforting soup
- a platter loaded with crackers, dips, fruits, and veggies,
- hummus pinwheels that can be stuffed with fresh or roasted veggies
There you have it! Some of our PUL favourite tips and hacks to nutrient-pack our meals and snacks. Wholesome and nutritious eating can be fun, delicious, made a little easier with the help of some of these tips. Be sure to try our printable weekly meal planner to help plan for the week if desired. Happy eating!