As the novel pandemic has shaken up our lives, it has created much stress in many areas. One of those areas that has impacted many of us is the need to cook more often from home. Meal-making may be a challenge, especially for those who are not used to cooking. However, it can be viewed as an opportunity to create better health by taking control over over what we are feeding ourselves. The purpose of this article is to help provide some guidance in the kitchen and perhaps the adoption of some new healthy habits to nurture yourself and your family.

Cooking with Flexibility

I’m going to share with you the concept of cooking with flexibility. What does this mean? It can mean a few things: using what you can easily source or what you already have, cooking for more than one meal, and finding healthy snacks that may be used multiple times throughout the week. In this article, I’ll cover the overall concept of cooking with flexibility.

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Protein Flexibility

Supermarkets and grocers throughout the United States are having trouble keeping up with the demand of their customers. What this means for many is that chicken, beef, and other protein staples are not regularly available, and if they are, there is likely a limit on how much you can purchase. The first aspect of cooking with flexibility is choosing a protein that is readily available. Ground beef isn’t available, but ground chicken is? Try making chicken tacos, or a white meat chili. There also may be a protein available that you haven’t tried before, such as bison, or lamb. Let’s take ground lamb for example! It’s extremely versatile in its use, incredibly delicious and nutrient-dense. Two favorite ways to use lamb is either as a burger or atop veggies in a bowl. Don’t like lamb? No worries, this concept extends to any other protein, including beans and legumes!

Beans and Legumes as Protein Sources

Beans and legumes are inexpensive, easy to cook in bulk, and truly an all-purpose protein. They can be used as the main star in a dish (just like you would use the chicken, beef, or lamb), as a side, as a dip, or even incorporated as they are into a soup, salad, or omelet.

There are mainly two ways to purchase beans and legumes, canned or dried. Canned is already cooked, is a bit more expensive, and likely has lost some nutrients from the canning process (or even exposure to chemicals from the can itself). Dried is less expensive and carries greater nutrient-density, but requires soaking and cooking. From a health perspective, dried is the superior choice. If you own an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, you can make a week’s worth of beans in about 30 minutes. If you don’t own a pressure cooker, they’re just as easy to make on the stove top, but will take a bit longer. Regardless of how you cook them, you may purchase some beans and legumes in bulk (maybe a few pounds), soak them overnight, cook, and freeze in mason jars.

Cook Once, Eat Multiple Times

Now that we’ve covered utilizing what you can easily source or using what you already have, let’s discuss how to cook for more than one meal. Getting more servings out of what you are cooking can save both time and money.  For example, if you plan ahead to make a casserole for dinner, and you have a family of four, purchase enough ingredients to make eight servings, and that way, you can double the recipe when you make it and enjoy the meal again, either for lunch the next day or dinner the next night. I utilize this technique in my meal-planning for clients, as well as in my own personal meal-planning. It streamlines planning and prep time and it can save so much time and energy by not having to make a new meal every day. Leftovers usually can be stored for up to three days in a sealed container in the refrigerator. You may also freeze leftovers to use later that month.

Healthy Snacks

I encourage you to choose veggies or fruits whenever possible for a quick, healthy snack. You can dip veggies into guacamole, or spread some almond butter onto apple slices. A handful of walnuts or a simple trail mix can be a nutrient-dense way to provide the body with healthy fats from nuts. Eat a handful of nuts to ward off hunger. Healthy fats can help hold over the appetite until dinner.

Creative Flexibility

I often use the concept of flexibility in the kitchen by omitting or substituting ingredients. If you have a recipe where you don’t have all of the ingredients, or don’t like some of the ingredients, you may substitute something else for what you don’t have, can’t source, or don’t like. No green pepper, but have onions? Sure thing! Recipe calls for chia seeds, but you just have oats, that may work just fine! Have a dairy sensitivity? Omit the cheese.

I encourage you to see what you already have in your house and use the concept of cooking with flexibility to cook smarter, not harder. Whether you’re new to the kitchen, simply looking for recipes to spark inspiration, or are serious about meal-planning, I invite you to sign up to receive my free 5-Day Immune Support Meal Plan. It includes recipes and a grocery shopping list to help relieve stress around mealtimes. Or you can find many healthy options online or on Pinterest. Stay safe and happy cooking!

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xo Neeley at Your Epic Genetics

This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and living and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment.

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