Many people start eating in a more healthful way coinciding with the start of the new year.  Perhaps it’s part of a new year’s resolution or recovering from holiday indulgences.  While I recommend the Whole30, almost any dietary change that promotes health will have you eating a lot more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods.  In fact, if the program you’re following does not, it might be worth reconsidering if improved health is what you’re looking for.  

I laud you on your New Year’s resolutions but realistically it is common to fail in spite of the best intentions.  To increase the chance of new dietary habits enduring, focus on removing barriers that make it more difficult to sustain new habits.  A barrier that comes up frequently in regards to diet is the amount of time spent on food preparation.  While it is easier and much less time-consuming to eat processed edible food-like substances from a box or a restaurant, making your own fresh food gives you control over the quality of the ingredients, connects you in a more intimate way to the food you are eating, and allows you to eat in a way to maximize your health and well-being.  Most people already have their schedules maxed out with work and/or school, maybe kids, maybe pets, some form of physical activity, and all of the routine challenges of maintaining a successful day-to-day life such as keeping clothes clean, paying bills, and maintaining a modicum of personal hygiene.  Throw in social networking, email, and working through a streaming video que and there ain’t no way there’s gonna be enough hours in the day to cook something.  The new health-promoting diet that requires daily food preparation may become the proverbial straw.

Well here’s a few ideas to alleviate some of the time pressure for preparing your own delicious and healthy food at home:

  1. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables.  I was pretty stoked to find chopped onions and peppers in the frozen section of my local coop.  These items are commonly called for in recipes.  You can also find other vegetables or non-seasoned vegetable mixes that can be put directly into a stew or a stirfry.

  2. Buy a slow cooker.  These appliances are relatively cheap.  Throw meat, veggies, and seasonings into it in the morning, set it to low, and arrive home hours later to a warm, prepared meal ready to be served.  There’s a multitude of paleo slow cooker cookbooks out there and many recipes that can be found on the internet.  While a little prep work is required, you don’t have to be working on dinner when you arrive home after work, ravenously hungry.  When that hunger meets a conspicuous absence of healthy food, a well-planned diet can fall apart.  That bag of (fill in name of processed unhealthy unallowed food here) may easily derail a well-intentioned diet plan to satiate untameable hunger.  Don’t let it happen to you.

  3. Use the salad bar.  A caveat to this one is that the expense can add up quickly but in a pinch I have bought pre-cut vegetables from a salad bar to use in a recipe at home.  You can also use the salad bar as intended by making a salad for yourself.  Consider making a second or third one to use in the next 1-2 days if your salad bar is located somewhat out of the way from your daily routine.

  4. Buy pre-cut meats.  Oftentimes you can buy stew meat or stir fry meat that is cut into appropriate size pieces for making one of those dishes.  

  5. Purchase minced garlic in a jar.  Freshly minced garlic remains superior but measuring your pre-minced garlic in a spoon and dumping it into a pot takes so much less time it may be worth it to you.

  6. Cook in batches.  If you’re making a recipe, consider doubling or tripling it and set some aside for later.  Put it in the fridge if you’re planning on consuming it within the next few days or the freezer if considering eating it much after that.

  7. Keep cooking.  As you fall into the habit of preparing your own healthy foods at home, your skills will grow and preparing fresh food will become faster for you over time.

These tips can be helpful in decreasing the amount of time it takes to prepare a healthy meal at home.  You may wish to employ these tactics only when extremely maxed out on time or more frequently.  How often you wish to use them is up to you and perhaps they become the de facto methods utilized in your kitchen.  Employ them as you see fit.  The more important thing is to consistently eat a reasonably healthy diet.