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“There’s nothing to eat!” I have heard this exact predicament more times than I can count. Not only have my children spoken these lovely little lines to me but many of my friends, co-workers and family have done so also. Therefore, I decided it was a good idea to tackle this issue that seems to be a recurring theme in many households.
The first part of any mission for food is to undertake a reconnaissance mission to see what you have available to work with. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of options that you may not immediately think of. Make sure to check for fresh, frozen and packaged items. Check the freezer, the refrigerator, the pantry and possibly even your kids lunchboxes (because you never know what goodies may be hiding in there!).
Once you have made your cursory first round to get an idea of what your current stock looks like, you then need to take a more in depth look. What you are looking for are the following:
When I say protein, I am not just talking about meat. Of course, all meats are protein but they aren’t are created equal nor are they the ONLY source of protein. I say this as a vegetarian for almost the entirety of my life and even a vegan for a short period of time.
Look in your stash for things like:
- frozen meats
- fresh meats
- legumes and beans
- edamame and/or soy
- cheese (although it is high in fat, so keep this limited when possible)
- flaxseed, chia and/or quinoa
- whole grain rice and beans (this winning combo makes a complete amino acid profile, which is what really determines how our bodies process the nutrients we put into them, and it’s extremely cheap to boot!)
When I say carbs, please don’t immediately think only of the starches in this category. Things like potatoes, rice and pasta are great go-to’s if you have them, but they aren’t the only things you can search for. Not only that, but they aren’t necessarily the best option either. What I really want you to be on the lookout for are things that you don’t normally think of when you hear the word “carbs,” such as:
- Fresh or frozen veggies like corn or peas
- Fresh or frozen cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cauliflower (the colored cauliflower is pretty awesome also!)
- Leafy greens like spinach (yes this one doubles as a carb and a protein), kale, romaine, chard or arugula
- Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes (much higher in fiber)
- Fresh or frozen fruit like apples, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, kiwi, melon or bananas
When you are on the hunt for fiber, of course it is a great thing to keep the staples of most American households in mind, such as whole grain rice or pasta. However, there are so MANY more options in this category to look for. There is a good fiber content in the following foods that you may have at your disposal:
- Beans and legumes (these play a double roll as they are high in protein too)
- Dried and/or frozen peas
- Teff flour
- Roots such as jicama and burdock (one of my absolute favorite foods that I will get into more about later!)
- Apples, as long as the skin is intact
This is a VERY important thing to keep in mind when creating a meal out of nothing. The more colors on your plate the more diverse the nutrient profile. This is important because it means that you are diversifying your diet to the point where you are getting all of the nutrients that you need to remain in balance. In all of the previous categories, try to make sure that you looks for a wide variety of colors to play with, even if they are veggie chips and not fresh veggies. As long as they are not colored foods due to food coloring, it counts!
Throwing it all Together
Once you have ascertained what you are going to use, you then have to decide how you are going to prepare it. Depending on your food options, there are many ways to do this. I call this “making shit up on the fly,” which is an ingrained F&B terminology stuck in my head. I suggest the following options to make shit up on the fly:
- A simple salad with extra protein
- Stir fry is always a winner and easy to throw together
- Super Nachos (my personal favorite and so easy to prepare)
- Ingredients needed for Super Nachos:
- A can of any style beans with no salt added(I usually use black beans or pinto beans)
- Any leafy green veggie (I try to use spinach whenever possible)
- Fresh tomatoes or out of the can
- Sour cream
- Shredded cheese
- Chips (preferably the whole grain variety – I usually use a combination of Veggie Flaxseed and Black Bean Quinoa chips that I keep on reserve)
- Put everything on a pizza pan or any pan really. Then toss that bad boy in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes to melt the cheese
- Take it out and serve family style
- Ingredients needed for Super Nachos:
I try to make things as simple, quick and healthy around my house, so a dish such as this comes in handy if I don’t have much time or nobody can make a decision as to what they want.