HEALTHY FOOD HACKS » + printable guide
watch the video
the article Making healthy food choices is much easier if you take some time to plan ahead. To know what groceries you need for your meals, and what snacks are the quickest and tastiest for snack-attacks. Below are 11 hacks and tips that I use to help me make the most nourishing choices, but just use whichever tricks you think would help you the most.
We have also created a free PDF to help you with your weekly meal planning. This PDF has room to plan your morning, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And it also has space to add notes and list any groceries you might need to grab during the week.
Combine the weekly meal planner with our free grocery shopping list to make sure you have all the ingredients on hand for your meals and snacks.
The weekly planner was one of the tips I shared in the video, so let's get to the other 10 tips!
1. You Eat What You See
When it comes to food, that saying "out of sight, out of mind", is rather true when it comes to food as well. If you want to eat more fruit, keeping them on the counter in clear view might help. Instead of tossing an orange or apple in you bag, take some time to peel or cut it, put it in a container, and leave in on your desk to enjoy when you're hungry. Having them ready to go and in plain view also makes it more likely that your partner or children will eat it. Swap out your usual snacks, like chips or crackers, for a more nutrient dense one, like nuts or seeds.
It works the other way around too. If you open your pantry, and treats are the first thing you see, you're more likely to grab those than to keep hunting for a healthier snack. Move more wholesome choices, like dried fruit or trail mix in front of the more indulgent treats.
This is not to say the foods tucked away are forbidden! Here at PUL, we welcome a healthy relationship with foods and don't believe in restricting. We just find the strategy above helps us to make more mindful choices when enjoying the treat foods, as opposed to having it be an impulsive grab.
The same goes for fluids. Placing water or tea in front of where we work or study reminds us to take a sip and stay hydrated.
2. Fresher for Longer
To go with tip #1, we're more likely to snack on vegetables, like carrots and celery, if they're already chopped up and waiting for us in the fridge. But have you ever noticed that sometimes your prepped veggies lose their crunch, dry up, or develop a slimy film?
There is a quick and easy way to avoid that! Just store them in a glass container with water. It helps to keep them crispy and fresh, and they keep for a longer time. Just don't forget to change out the water every few days.
Concerned that pre-cut vegetables might lose some nutrients? There are 3 factors that contribute to nutrient loss: heat, light, and oxygen.
Because the veggies will be stored in the fridge, the first two points are not a concern. The exposure to oxygen can affect the amount of Vitamin C and sometimes Vitamin E, but what you don't lose are all the other incredible nutrients, like B Vitamins, minerals, and fibre. The benefits of eating ready-to-go vegetables, even with less Vitamin C, far outweighs not eating the vegetable at all, or choosing less wholesome convenient food instead.
3. A Need for the Seed
Nut butters are already pretty nutrient dense, but there is a way to pack them with even more good stuff.
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, and pumpkin seeds. Mix it all up, and store in the fridge. It's delicious on toast, mixed into oatmeal, or stuffed into dates as a snack.
If you don't want to add it to a nut butter, the seed mix is also great for sprinkling onto smoothies or parfaits. Bonus: it makes the foods look so much more vibrant and wholesome!
4. The Mystery Ingredients
You might have heard about this smoothie hack: fill a few containers with your favourite smoothie ingredients, and keep them in the freezer. When you're craving a cold and creamy smoothie, pop everything into a blender with some plant milk, and voila! A quick snack is ready to be enjoyed! It's a great tip for using up fruits that are at their ripest, but have you ever noticed that you can get stuck in a rut, prepping the same smoothies over and over again?
There are two ingredients you can add to your next smoothie mix to pump up the nutrient profile:
1. 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.
2. White beans: these are packed with protein, fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Trust me, you won't even know that they're in there.
If you are looking for a twist to your smoothie, give these two a try.
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 have 650 units (1)! Robin and I try to have a handful each day, either in oatmeal or a smoothie, on a parfait, or just as a snack. Fresh berries can be expensive in the winter months, so opt for frozen ones. In some cases, frozen berries are even more nutrient dense then fresh!
Ooh, another tip! If you're able to load up on berries in the summer months, freeze away as much as possible, so that you can enjoy them in the fall and winter.
6. Spice Up Your Life
Second berries, herbs and spices are the most antioxidant rich foods. Make healthy food even more wholesome by spicing them up! A bowl of whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce and broccoli, for example, has 150 units of antioxidants... but if we add 1 tsp (5 g) of dried oregano to that, the number doubles to 300 units (1)!
Spices also add a flavour burst that can help you to reduce the amount of oil, salt, and sugar you use in a recipe!
7. Herbs in Cubes
We use a lot of fresh herbs in our recipes, and despite my best efforts, sometimes these plants just die. Luckily, the leaves of some herbs, like rosemary and thyme, can be picked off the branches and used as a spice. You can also salvage living leaves by picking them off the plant, chopping them up and placing them in an ice cube try with water. Alternatively, you can also blend them with equal parts oil and water and freeze them in an ice cube tray as well. Once they're frozen, you 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 will still have their flavour and nutrient profile if used within 1-2 months.
8. From Big to Small
Lately, I've been adding spinach to LOADS of my cooked dishes. The big pile of greens cooks down to a super small amount, and can be snuck into dishes like curries, stir-fries, soups, and more. As with other veggies, there are pros and cons to the raw and cooked forms. Raw spinach offers higher amounts of certain nutrients (folate, Vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin and potassium), where are cooked are higher in other nutrients (Vitamin A and E, some caretenoids, protein, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron).
The long of the short: enjoy both cooked and raw, and don't shy away from cooked. It's such an easy way to get a load of nutrients onto your plate and into your body!
9. Create a Snack Arsenal
Snack attacks can happen at any time. To encourage making wholesome choices, have three super quick snack ideas in your arsenal that only take 2 minutes to whip together.
Here are my 3 quick and dirty snacks:
1. Medjool dates filled with nut butter
2. Sliced apple dipped into unsweetened plant yogurt with a sprinkle of cinnamon (and optional maple syrup)
3. Hummus on crackers with some arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes, and/or olives
Having a go-to arsenal of crazy easy and wholesome snacks is going to help prevent decision fatigue and is going to provide a nutrient-dense energy boost.
10. Plan Ahead
There is no doubt about it, planning our meals helps us to make sure we make wholesome choices, avoid food waste, and gets us excited snd inspired for the upcoming week. It's only natural to not stick to it 100% of the time, but having a rough idea planned out will increase the chances that we'll be sticking to it at least some of the time.
Post it on the fridge to serve as a reminder and invite family members to contribute to it.
11. Make a Contribution
If you're heading to an event or party, and you aren't sure what food options might be available, whip up your own wholesome contribution that others can also enjoy. 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
Bring something that others will appreciate, but something you can also nibble on to help you feel a bit more balanced.
There you have it! Some of our favourite tips and hacks to nutrient-pack your meals and snacks. Be sure to get your free PDF, to help you plan for the week. Happy eating!
Additional References (1) Dr. Gregor. "How Not To Die." Becoming Vegan: the Complete Reference on Plant-Based Nutrition, Book Publishing Company, 2014.
Psst: » Find this book in our shop!
Want To Learn More?
Read this previous nutrition article called HOW TO GAIN WEIGHT >> healthfully, on a plant-based diet
What About You?
What are your favourite nutrient hacks? Let us know in the comment below or share your recipes with us on Instagram with the hashtag #pickuplimes.