I know how challenging it is to be “busy.” I feel like I’m doing a billion things at once: running to and from class, finishing-up homework, working, blogging, socializing, and the list goes on. Let’s be real, cooking is at the bottom of my priority list, even though my health is at the top. Due to years of competing in bikini competitions, healthy eating has become mundane to me and eating healthy seems like a chore. However, I keep reminding myself that it’s not! Just because I refuse to go to extremes anymore, doesn’t mean that I should quit everything cold turkey (I actually used to eat cold turkey lol!).
In reality, health is still my priority, but for different reasons than before. I used to just focus on one moment at a time, or one competition or photoshoot at a time. Saying no to everything that sounded delicious because I needed to be “fit enough” or “in a caloric deficit” to ensure I’d get the false attention I desired ( I talk about this more in my last post: 9 reasons why the fitness fantasy world is no longer my reality). It was daunting, miserable, and exhausting, and not to mention, completely unhealthy. Now I get to focus on my longevity and health, which is leading me towards many fun recipes and ideas as I continue leaning into my new lifestyle.
Forewarning- it’s NOT always easy and NOT always convenient. However, because I am connected to my body and committed to creating a healthy balance in my life, I take easy steps in that direction. I’m creating opportunities for me to feel great by taking conscious care of my body.
Preparing a few things in advance like meat, fish, and veggies guarantees that I always have something easily-available to eat without sabotaging my health. Cooking does not have to be time-consuming or complicated, and here are a few hacks I use to keep my time in the kitchen efficient (and enjoyable!):
1. Opt to bake in the oven or use a crock pot because it’s super efficient and all the food comes out together if you time it properly. For example, I bake frozen mixed veggies for 45 minutes at 400 degrees and salmon for 25 minutes at the same temperature, so I put veggies in the oven first and then salmon 20 minutes later. Then everything is ready by the time I’m ready to eat! Anything can be baked (meats, veggies, potatoes, even rice!) and it is super simple and fast because you can place multiple things in at one time.
2. If your lean proteins taste bland, don’t be scared to add seasoning. I buy salt-free seasonings and add my own sea salt that way it’s easier to mix and match seasonings and not have the food be lacking salt or hyper-salted.
3. On that note, do not be scared of sodium (contrary to popular belief, it’s not the devil). Use a combination of sea salt and table salt (up to 2,300 milligrams per day). Sea salt and table salt are different in their taste, texture, and processing. Sea salt is said to have small amounts of calcium, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, and iron, while table salt has added iodine which supports healthy thyroid (Mayo Clinic). Overall, I like to add sea salt on cooked food because I find that it’s saltier, but that’s just a personal preference.
4. If you’re proteins still taste bland, bake fish/chicken/meats with veggies like carrots and broccoli in the same dish. The two aromas creates a flavorful concoction as the moistures absorb into one another.
5. Sweet potato is seriously a dessert and it can be made in so many different ways! It’s also a good source of carbohydrates. If you want crispy sweet potatoes, bake them at 400 degrees on a cookie sheet on the top shelf until desired crispiness. If you want soft mushy sweet potatoes, bake them covered with aluminum foil in a baking pan for about 40 minutes at the same temperature. Also topping them with nut butters, cinnamon, and/or honey makes them even more of a dessert, but if you like savory tastes like I do, eat them with ketchup!
6. Same cooking instructions apply for veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, etc. Uncovered= crispy veggies; covered= soft veggies.
7. My favorite combination for baking vegetables and white potatoes is salt, garlic powder, and a drizzle of olive oil. For salmon and chicken, I use salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and half a squeezed lemon.
8. Don’t forget raw veggies too! Certain vitamins and minerals may get destroyed by heat and boiling vegetables can leach out the water-soluble vitamins which get lost in the cooking water. Raw fruits and veggies, however, retain more water providing more hydration and energy for our bodies. So incorporate salads and smoothies as well (plus they’re fast and easy to make!). My favorite smoothie combo is almond milk, berries, a few baby carrots, spinach, banana, and chia seeds!
9. If you opt to fry food, the best cooking oil is extra-virgin olive oil as it has the lowest oxidation rate out of all the oils. Oxidation promotes free radicals which are chemicals that are highly reactive and have the potential to damage cells when exposed to high heat (which is why fried food isn’t the best option). Although coconut oil is deemed healthy, it shouldn’t be used at heats higher than medium either.
10. Roasted nuts are delicious and they are a good source of Omega-3 fats. Toss them in olive or coconut oil, sprinkle a little sea salt, and bake at 350 until desired crispness. They can be eaten by themselves, tossed in salads, blended in smoothies, or put on top of yogurt!
I feel extremely fulfilled when I cook delectable meals at home, even if it’s just lunch for myself. Earlier today I had a roasted chicken salad with lightly fried asparagus and mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, and avocado, topped with feta cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinegar (then half-way through I added salt because Team Savory over here!).
Similar to beauty, a perfect meal is in the eye of the beEATER. So get creative, try new things, and don’t be scared to make “mistakes.” Those mistakes usually turn into the best meals or at least a what-not-to-do list for next time. Happy cooking!
Hi, I’m Mary and after recovering from an eating disorder and healing my body, mind, and spirit, I started my online platform Mary’s Cup of Tea, to inspire women to find their own inner peace and unconditional self-love. Now, I travel to beautiful places and eat yummy foods while sharing my heart with you through my writings, videos, and online courses. Welcome!