Healthy vs. Quick – The Busy Cook’s Dilemma

Ok so here’s the challenge that always presents itself for my family starting right around this time; how do you find the time to eat healthy meals when you’re run-off-your-feet busy? My husband runs a seasonal business, Treks in the Wild, doing canoe and kayak rentals here on the Grand River in Brantford, Ontario, plus running multi-day canoeing and backpacking trips to northern Ontario (learn more at, shameless plug I know! 😉 As you can imagine, this time of year is pretty hectic for all of us, especially since I also have to try to keep up with my own Be The Best U clients! So lately I’ve noticed the time crunch again, some nights already we’ve both been too tired to cook and done take out :-S But relying on take out, even if you can manage to find choices that are healthy, can get to be really expensive! So I decided as a reminder to myself and to help any of you out there who struggle with finding the time, energy, or motivation to cook after a long day, I wanted to list a few very quick, easy, healthy recipes for every meal of the day that you can fall back on when times get crazy:


Smoothie – OK pretty obvious choice but the easiest way to get in almost all of your fruits and veggies for the day in a quick, convenient way! My favorite is a scoop of plain protein powder, 1 tbsp. of natural sweetener like honey, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 2 cups spinach, 1 cup almond milk, 1/8 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. chia seeds, 1 tbsp. oat bran. That keeps me full for hours and gives me an amazing energy boost!

Cold Cereal – Again a no-brainer just read the labels to make sure there are no harmful preservatives (see The Bad, the Not-So-Good and the Truly Awful blog post), check that it has enough fibre and not too much sugar. The way I recommend to my clients is to have ½ cup of high fibre cereal like All Bran, ½ cup of a slightly sweetened cereal of your choice (I usually eat one from Kashi or Nature’s Path) with 1 cup of milk of your choice and 1 cup of berries.

Hot Cereal – The easiest way is to use packets of ready to eat quick oats that are sweetened and flavored. Just check the label for sugar content and make sure it has no artificial sweeteners, some brands have weight control or diet versions that have a low sugar content but replace it with sucralose. The brand I buy is Nature’s Path, very few ingredients and tasty! Also if you’re a fan of steel cut oats or Red River cereal but lack the time to cook it, make it overnight in the crock pot, and in the morning your breakfast is already to eat!

Eggs – any way you cook them is great, boiled, scrambled, over easy, in an omelet, just make sure to take it easy on the added fats and if you can, add in lots of vegetables!


Any of the options above are great for a quick lunch as well as:

Wraps – probably our favorite way to have something quick, sometimes it’s full of leftovers from the night before, other times it’s just salad with cottage cheese or beans, but it’s a delicious way to make a quick portable meal. Just remember to always buy whole grain and to use the small wraps if you’re trying to lose weight or cut back on carbs.

Soup – always a great choice when you’re on the run, but be careful, most canned soups contain your daily allowance for salt in one can! We usually take the time to make homemade soup which doesn’t take long, you literally cut up the ingredients and dump them in the pot and let them simmer pretty much unattended for an hour or more. Then we freeze what we’re not going to use immediately into individual serving sizes and eat for lunch!

Salad – another no brainer, so easy, just put in any lettuce you choose (the darker the leaf the better), then top with the vegetables you like, add so extra ingredients like beans, cottage cheese, leftover quinoa or rice, nuts, seeds, fruit, then top with a homemade dressing or simple oil and vinegar mixture and you’re done. Plus it’s extremely healthy, as long as you steer away from fat laden dressings.


Again, any of the breakfast or lunch options are fine, but some other quick choices are:

Pasta – I think everyone should have at least one super quick, easy pasta recipe memorized and have all the ingredients on hand just in case they are running late. My husband’s is Puttenesca, mine is Pizzalioi, both delicious and take no longer to prepare then it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta!

Cooked Chicken – you can buy one for pretty cheap usually at any local grocery store, if you pick up a bag of salad and a whole grain baguette, you have a ready-to-go dinner!

Frozen Fish – have some in the freezer and all you do is run the bag in a sink full of luke warm water and in no time its thaw and ready to cook. Plus fish needs very little cooking time, under 15 min., or if you like shrimp you can buy the cooked variety that’s already peeled as well and after it’s thaw you can eat right away or add to pasta, a stir fry, a grill basket to warm up and voila! A healthy dinner in minutes!

Hope that gave you a few ideas on what to cook when you’re busy, I’m going to try to compile a list of what to have when you eat out that won’t derail your healthy eating efforts! Happy cooking!


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