Modern life is busy. I often feel like the proverbial one-woman band, simultaneously beating a big bass drum, while blowing into a horn, and kicking my legs in the air. In addition to doing everything associated with this website, including recipe development, shopping, cooking, writing, photography, coding and maintenance, I’m mother to two extraordinarily active kids and an ever-growing cadre of pets, a wife, and (many evenings) one happy couch potato. Most of my days are spent on overdrive and there are moments when I find myself suddenly wondering.. when the (bleep) did I last eat..? I am STARVING. Although I do occasionally succumb to the lure of ordering out, eating out, or even (gasp) picking at food I just know I shouldn’t, here are some ideas for things you can throw together that won’t compromise your diet.
Not just for kids anymore, and not just with jelly either. Keep a jar of unsalted peanut butter on hand – always. It is incredibly healthy, filling, and goes with all sorts of things. My friend Jim even makes smoothies with it. Pair it with preserves, honey, sliced banana, low-sodium bacon (cooked of course), granola, you name it. Along the same lines, always keep a supply of unsalted rice cakes (yes, I know they taste like coasters but they do make a good base for PB and whatever), as well as unsalted matzoh on hand. I either freeze homemade salt-free bread for emergencies, or many markets nowadays sell salt-free loaves that also freeze beautifully. I buy Garden City Low Sodium Lavash Roll-Ups, which I mention frequently because they are just so darn good, at Whole Foods market, and keep those in the freezer as well. Which brings me to:
#2: Wrap Sandwiches
My latest greatest concoction is a whole wheat veggie wrap. I take a Lavash, spread it with hummus, sprinkle liberally with paprika, then top with shredded carrot and chopped parsley. Roll it up and you’re good to go. I served a whole tray of them at a recent party and they were gone before you could say Bob’s your uncle (and that was with a bunch of salt-eaters, so you know they must be tasty). Try wrapping up cut or shredded veggies and sprouts, marinated tofu, bits of leftover grilled or cooked meat, rice, well – pretty much anything. And of course, you can always make a mean egg sandwich.
#3: The incredible edible EGG
Hence, number three. Eggs rock. They are delicious, protein-rich, and take just seconds to prepare. Hard-boiled, soft-boiled, scrambled or fried, sunny-side up or down. It makes no difference. It’s all good! Pair them with low-sodium toast and bacon for breakfast anytime. Or wrap them around some low-sodium Swiss cheese and sauteed veggies for an easy omelette.
#4: A word about SALADS
Okay, let’s be honest, when it feels like your stomach is eating itself and you’re half-crazed with hunger, how many people are thinking “oh boy, a salad would really hit the spot”? Let’s see a show of hands. Okay, well I’m counting just the three of you out there, because the rest of us are thinking about real food. Seriously though, salads are about as easy as it comes, require absolutely no cooking, and can even be purchased ready-made, washed, bagged and begging to be thrown into a bowl and consumed. There are a ton of delicious dressings in the RECIPE INDEX, so go grab some veggies!
With ten minutes, a handful of ingredients, a stove-top and griddle, you can have a hearty and completely satisfying (if ever-so-slightly decadent) breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The only complaining you’ll hear is when you run out. Don’t forget to keep a bottle of real (and I mean from a tree) maple syrup on hand at all times.
You might sense a theme going on here, and if so, you’re right. Most breakfast foods are fast, and rightfully so, because few people have time most mornings to prepare a three-course meal. So anything breakfast-y tends to be pretty instantly gratifying. As discussed on the LINKS page (on the toolbar above), shredded wheat and granola are both sure bets when it comes to cold cereal. Keep a box or bag stashed in the cabinet at all times, and splurge whenever you find a new kind you can eat. It’s fun to experiment and it lessens the boredom of eating the same thing over and over. And as every toddler knows, cereal doesn’t have to be eaten out of a bowl with milk. Throw some in a bag and munch on it instead of something salty. Make your own snack mix using cereal, chocolate chips, unsalted nuts, dried fruit, and unsalted pretzels. Or try mixing some granola with yogurt & fruit for a treat.
My kids are sweets fiends, but fortunately a lot of their cravings are directed into the healthy realm via fruit. I doubt they’re buying my oft-quipped line about raisins being “nature’s candy,” but they do know what they like and they like the good stuff. Keep a selection of fresh produce out on the counter and you’ll find yourself reaching for it daily. Another great thing to buy is dried fruit – especially if you live near a bulk food shop, natural food store or wholesale warehouse like BJs or Costco. Even if you don’t, most supermarkets sell a selection of dried fruit mixes and it’s fun taste-testing them all. Apple and fruit sauces are also great, can be made ahead of time and stored, or purchased and kept in the pantry for such emergencies. Nowadays they’re even selling fruit purees in pouches (and they’re not just for babies either). Toss one in your purse or pocket for a quick pick-me-up. Canned fruit (juice-sweetened only, of course) and those little plastic fruit cups also make a great snack, either alone, with yogurt, cereal, or stirred into a bowl of oatmeal. My all-time fave? Diced peaches, oatmeal, and a little maple syrup or brown sugar on top. Yum! Last word: SMOOTHIES.
#8: Baked Potatoes
If you own a microwave and a potato, you can have a light meal ready in ten minutes. Take said potato, scrub ‘er up good, pierce all over with the tines of a fork, stick in microwave and set timer to 10 minutes. Many newer microwaves even have a specially-labeled “baked potatoes” button. Could it be any easier? Top with unsalted butter, sour cream, fresh herbs, low-sodium Swiss cheese, salt-free salsa, the list goes on….
Keep a couple cans of low-sodium tuna in the pantry. Not only can you make a simple tuna salad with this, but you can also stir it into pasta, combine with veggies, melt under cheese on a Lavash or rice cake, and more. If you like shrimp or those small (low sodium) scallops, keep a bag of the frozen, cooked kind in your ice box and you can have a meal going speedy quick. Frozen fish fillets are also a great option and can be defrosted fast under cold running water.
Chips are kind of like chocolate: have you ever met someone who didn’t like them? And if so, did you trust them? You can buy unsalted potato chips, tortilla chips, even pretzels at most major grocery stores nationwide. I’ve discovered Terra Chips now makes three types of kettle-cooked chips, two of which are flavored (BBQ and lemon-pepper), all of which are amazing. I eat a ton of unsalted tortilla chips and salsa, especially during the warm months, but pretty much year-round. Check out all the dips and salsas in the Recipe Index.
#11: Cheese and crackers (and fruit)
We keep a box of Nabisco “Hint of Salt” crackers or unsalted melba toast and low-sodium Swiss cheese on hand at all times. Pair with crunchy grapes, apple or pear slices, some wine, and you’ve got yourself a lovely little meal.
When all else fails, there’s always pasta. Countless shapes and sizes to keep you amused, all you need is a pot of boiling water and about 10 minutes. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and other natural foods stores sell no-salt-added jarred pasta sauce, as does the Healthy Heart Market. I often forgo commercial sauce in favor of tossing my pasta with a little unsalted butter, some freshly ground black pepper and a teensy sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. MMMM-mmmm. There’s nothing better.