Drive-thru hamburgers, microwavable pizza pockets and bags of chips—these are the foods that probably come to mind when you think of convenience. For busy people on the run, convenience usually means fast food fare, pop in the microwave processed foods, and grab and go packs—foods typically laden with calories, fat, refined carbs and sodium—and low in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.
But it’s time for a food attitude adjustment; convenience is not just limited to low-nutrient food choices. Plenty of healthy foods can be easily stored and whipped up in minutes in the time it would take you to pick up takeout. The supermarket is home to a number of convenient whole foods that can help you turn out healthy meals in minutes; here are my top picks.
1. Fresh fruit. The world’s original “fast food”, fresh fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, peaches and oranges comes with natural grab and go packaging.
2. Bagged salad greens. Just toss a bag of pre-washed salad greens into your shopping cart and you’ve got a quick side salad for dinner. Or make salad your entrée by adding chopped cooked chicken, fresh vegetables and a splash of olive oil.
3. Fish fillets. Top an individually frozen fish fillet with herbs, garlic and lemon, throw it under the broiler, and serve it with a side of grains and salad for a quick, tasty meal.
4. Whole grains. Place whole grains such as quinoa, bulgur, brown rice and wheat berries into a rice cooker with water (according to package directions), push the button and walk away. Then toss the steamed grains with cooked lean meat, herbs, garlic, and chopped vegetables for a delicious, nutritious dinner.
5. Yogurt. Throw a cup of yogurt into a briefcase or enjoy it as an after-dinner treat.
6. Frozen vegetables. While there’s nothing better than fresh vegetables, if you’re in a rush just pop frozen vegetables into the microwave and you’ve got a healthy sidedish in a flash.
7. Canned beans. Rinse a can of beans to remove sodium by up to 36 percent and stir them into salads, sidedishes, soups, and stews.
8. Canned tomatoes. Stir a can of low-sodium tomatoes into pastas, soups, sauces, stews, and casseroles for fast comfort food.
9. Nuts. A handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts or peanuts makes a perfect nutrient-rich complement for lunch on the run.
10. Oatmeal. The perfect solution for breakfast; just pop it into the microwave and add milk, nuts and fruit.
By Sharon Palmer, RD