6 Rules for Eating Nutritarian When You’re Busy

By Kim Murphy from Nutritarian Life

One of the most common complaints I get about eating to live or going plant-based is this: I’m too busy to cook. And I totally understand this. It’s why I tried and failed my first go around with Eating to Live. I was a busy mom working outside the home, 60-80 hours a week and I just couldn’t keep up. Actually I couldn’t keep up with what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing. I felt like there was some sort of perfect ideal I was supposed to achieve to be doing it good enough. And I hadn’t yet figured out batch cooking, quick and easy recipes, and safe store bought foods. So after 3 months of first going plant-based, I had achieved many goals – I lost weight, felt great, had more energy, and my skin glowed. But I wasn’t able to keep up with all the cooking I thought I had to do constantly so I slowly fell off the wagon.

I fell off the Eat to Live Wagon because I didn’t know how to make it work with my busy life

Of course in the years since that first attempt, I gained a lot of weight, lost a lot of energy, and was just looking, well, old…. Then, in April 2018 my Dad lost his battle with Alzheimer’s and I started to realize I needed to take better care of myself if I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me. And that started with nutrition.

At first I didn’t want to go all in. In fact, it took me several months before I committed 100% to eating to live again. I re-read several of Dr. Fuhrman’s books and was reminded of why a Nutritarian lifestyle was the only way to prevent chronic diseases, lose weight, and have a lot more energy and zest for life. I want to live life to the fullest!

However, my reluctance had more to do with my perception of how much time it took to cook and prepare meal after meal. I had a family of 4, so this wasn’t just cooking for me. I knew I would have to find many more quick and easy meals that the whole family would like AND I needed shortcuts to save time so I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

6 tips to help you Eat to Live EVEN if you are busy!

#1 – Food prep 1-2 days a week

You need to find 1-2 days where you can spare a few hours to do all or most of your prepping for the week. You can do this on a Saturday or Sunday or you can split it up to be 2 days for shorter periods of time. It doesn’t matter when, it just matters that you get some basics cooked and prepped for the week – it will save you so much time and energy to do it all at once instead of day after day.

What should you do on those prep days?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Wash and store your fresh fruit; you can even put them in individual baggies to take to work for snacks
  • Wash and store all your fresh veggies you plan on using in salads or dishes
  • Meal prep your salads in individual containers for the week (leave off dressing so the salad doesn’t get gross)
  • Make a batch of no-oil hummus
  • Batch cook some breakfasts like:

○ Chia Seed Breakfast Puddings

○ Bags of steel cut oats soaked in plant-milk (1/3 cup oats & 1/3 cup milk)

○ Both will keep in the fridge for the whole week

  • Cook a big pot of bean based soups like:

○ 3 Bean Chili

○ Slow Cooker Red Lentil Soup

  • Cook a batch of Brown Basmati Rice in an Instant Pot
  • Cook 1-2 Nutritarian Desserts like:

○ Peanut Butter Cookies (made from lentils!)

○ Chocolate Cherry Cookies

○ Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake

Prepping saves time and energy

You will be amazed at how much you will get done in just a few hours and have ready to go for the whole week. Breakfast can be grab on the way out of the house. Salads can be meal prepped and ready to go for the whole week as well. Then when you get home if you are too tired to cook you can just heat the bean soup you made or quickly steam some veggies over the rice you already cooked. Desserts are already made as well so you can have a healthy snack or dessert after dinner!

#2 – Frozen fruits & vegetables are just as good as fresh

I LOVE all the steamable bags of vegetables we have these days. You don’t even have to take them out of the bag. Just throw the bag in the microwave and cook for a few minutes and you have perfectly steamed vegetables! Just make sure you are buying plain vegetables without any sauce, salt, or oil added.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at the time of harvest so they retain all of the nutrients just like fresh. WAY better than canned.

They also have things like chopped onions, chopped bell peppers, tri-color pepper strips & onions, chopped celery & onion, mushrooms (sometimes!), butternut squash and more that are great time savors when cooking so you don’t have to chop!

Meal prep is done and these are perfect for soups and other dishes. The great thing about frozen is you can buy a lot to have on hand and they don’t go bad. I hate when I buy a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables only to have them go bad before I use them. It’s such a waste!

I keep a lot of frozen fruit on hand to make Fruit and Green Smoothies for my husband and they can also be thawed and used as oatmeal or salad toppings.

#3 – Salad bars are my savior when busy

Now, when it comes to me and being able to eat a salad for lunch every single day, I actually prefer to have someone else do my meal prep. This is something I learned from my husband and it saves us a lot of time.

We both like A LOT of choices and toppings for our salads. And meal prepping and keeping stocked on everything we both wanted kind of got out of control. So our lunch is at….Kroger.

Yup, our Kroger has a full salad bar and it is GREAT. Luckily our salad bar is only 3 minutes from our house, so that makes it really easy to pop on over. They charge by the pound which helps me to make sure I’m getting my full 1 pound of raw veggies in each day, like Dr. Fuhrman says to do.

Does this cost more? Well… maybe a little, but considering all the money we were wasting when we had to throw stuff out it’s better for us. And plus, we are BUSY and this is a great time saving tip.

Find a local place that has a good salad bar – check local grocery stores and buffets to see what they offer. But make sure you don’t cover your salad with a non-compliant dressing. I either use straight balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar or I’ll use my own dressing. You can make your own nut based dressings or find compliant ones like the Maple Grove Fat Free Dressings or purchase Dr. Fuhrman’s dressings from his website. I like to keep it simple and prefer just flavored vinegars!

#4 – Keep your pantry stocked with the basics

You can throw together just about anything if your pantry (and freezer!) is stocked. Those are the items to always have on hand and that aren’t going to go bad. Look for canned products that are low sodium or no salt added and BPA Free can liners. Organic brands are usually lower sodium and BPA free, but read the labels to be sure.

Here are a few things I try to keep on hand:

  • Canned beans – black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, northern beans
  • Canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste
  • Pasta sauce
  • Whole wheat or bean flour pastas
  • Vegetable broth cartons
  • Nuts – cashews, almonds, walnuts (no salt added & raw)
  • Pitted dates & raisins (for dessert recipes!)
  • Steel cut oats and old fashioned oats
  • Flavored vinegars, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Tons of dried spices & herbs! (oregano, garlic powder, basil, chili powder, etc)
  • Uncooked brown basmati rice, black rice, and/or wild rice
  • Uncooked quinoa
  • Vanilla Extract (real, not imitation)
  • Whole grain bread &/or tortillas/pitas
  • Whole grain corn tortillas
  • Dried lentils – green, red, or brown
  • Ground flax seed
  • Nut butters
  • Cocoa powder
  • Almond flour or whole wheat flour

#5 – Simple quick and easy meals

Sometimes life happens and you just need something that’s quick and easy to throw together at a moment’s notice. If you have your pantry and freezer stocked, then you have lots of options! Here are a few go to’s when I need a quick dinner that will please everyone:

  • Spaghetti Marinara is an easy go to. Use whole grain or bean pasta, low sodium sauce, and you can even top with some steamed veggies like broccoli, carrots, or squash. I’ve even chopped up fresh kale or spinach and mixed it in to the sauce. The kids never know!
  • Black bean street tacos. Warm up some canned beans, steam some corn kernels, and spoon into whole grain corn tortillas. Top with salsa, guacamole, lettuce, chopped cilantro, and/or chopped onion. Whatever you have on hand!
  • Chickpea Salad Sandwiches
  • Beans & brown rice
  • Steamed veggies over rice or quinoa
  • Sweet potatoes topped with beans & salsa
  • Burrito Bowls – beans, rice, salsa, romaine lettuce, guacamole, corn, cilantro
  • Pita Pizzas – whole grain pitas topped with pasta sauce, veggies, & baked at 250º for 20-25 minutes.
  • Quick veggie stir fry w/veggie broth and low sodium soy sauce

#6 – Safe store-bought convenience foods

There are starting to be more and more GREAT options for eating plant-based and convenience meals. And I’m not talking about fake meats & chikin’ nuggets. Those are not healthy and loaded with oil and salt.

If you are lucky enough to live near a Whole Foods, Engine 2 is a great brand that is 100% whole food plant based, no oil, and low sodium. It was developed by Rip Esselstyn (Dr. Caldwell Esselsytn’s son), who created The Engine 2 Diet. They have lots of great options like Raviolis, Burritos, Soups/Stews, Bean Burgers, Hummus, Pasta sauces and more. If you aren’t near a Whole Foods, you can order many of the items on Amazon!

Read labels to check for oil, salt, dairy, and sugar

There are also lots of other brands you can find at most local grocery stores, but just make sure you read the labels and check for oil, salt, dairy, and added sugars. Not all items within the brands are 100% compliant, so read labels! Some good brands are Amy’s, Kashi, Healthy Valley, and Imagine Foods. You can find many of these in the frozen food & soup sections so you can have quick heat and eat meals on hand. Check that they are low sodium, whole grain, vegan, and little to no added oils or sugar. You want to recognize all the ingredients as foods you know. If there are words you don’t recognize, steer clear! Unfortunately, most cereals are not compliant. Engine 2 Cereals, Ezekiel Brand Cereals, Grape Nuts (not flakes), Shredded Wheat (no sugar added), and Arrowhead Spelt Flakes are a few good brands for a quick breakfast. Top with a cup of fresh or thawed berries, 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed, unsweetened almond or soy milk and breakfast is done!

Eat to Live in a Ways that work for YOU

Don’t feel like you have to become a gourmet chef locked in the kitchen all day. There are so many options from prepping 1-2 days a week, quick meals, local salad bars, and safe frozen/convenience meals that can help you save time and stress! The way you balance how much your cook/prep and how much you use convenience options is up to you. Just make sure you are reading labels so that you aren’t getting extra unwanted ingredients like oil, salt, and sugar – those are the hidden ones that can sneak into otherwise “healthy” foods and sabotage your success.

Lastly, Eating to Live is worth it and you may have a learning curve in the beginning as you start to learn how to cook a few main staples, prep, and navigate the grocery aisles armed with new knowledge. But the energy, health, and longevity you will achieve very quickly will motivate you to keep going and learn new recipes!

If you want to learn more, check out Nutritarian Life.