How to eat healthfully even when you’re short on time

I am a born planner.  If a leap of faith is required or I’m forced to think on my feet I will manage, but I must admit that I much prefer being prepared before entering most situations.  I’m a true believer in setting a strong foundation and making sure that I have the right tools for the job.  Of course the best laid plans can crumble, however if there is something that you can do to better prepare yourself, why not give yourself the best chance to succeed?

I look at healthful eating the same way.  If I don’t have the right tools (don’t know what I’m going to make), ingredients (have to go to the grocery store at the last minute) or time and energy (because I came home late from work) then I will undoubtably make bad decisions.  I will pick up fast food or be so famished that I cannot even stand to wait one minute for food to cook (worse yet, if I don’t know what to cook), or I will eat chips or cookies or something that I can grab quickly that is high in fat or sugar (do yourself a favour and don’t even keep these in the house).  So again I ask, why not show yourself some love and give yourself the best chance to make good, healthful choices?

I’ve found that focusing my energy and attention on three main objectives help to maximize the return on my investment towards healthful eating.  Below are my three objectives and they direct how I fuel my body weekly:

  1. Planning
  2. Prepping
  3. Capitalizing on time & energy when it is plentiful and conserving time & energy when it is scarce

Planning

This starts on Thursday night for the following week.  On this night, the next week’s meals are scheduled and the grocery list is made from this menu.  As it’s cold out now, I get groceries before work on Friday morning and leave them in the car while I’m at work.  Since I have to be up for work anyway, why not maximize my time by waking up a little earlier and getting this weekly task out of the way before the weekend starts?  When it’s warmer out I will return to Saturday morning grocery shopping but for now, this helps me get a bit more time out of my weekend.

This week’s menu is as follows:

  • Lunches (Monday to Friday) = Chili tomate rice + spicy black beans + avocado +spicy mustard sauce
  • Dinner on Monday = Creamy scalloped potatoes + asparagus
  • Dinner on Tuesday = General tao chick peas + broccoli + red pepper + rice
  • Dinner on Wednesday = Buffalo broccoli + celery + carrot sticks
  • Dinner on Thursday = Vegan mac & ‘cheese’
  • Dinner on Friday = Butternut squash soup

Some extra notes on planning meals:

Since I’m getting groceries on Friday, meals that require the freshest veggies are scheduled earlier in the week.  This is why the asparagus and broccoli are on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday.  Meals for which the veggies do not need to be as fresh or that include veggies that will last longer are scheduled later in the week.

As I’m now more comfortable with vegan recipes and balancing my meals so that I’m satiated, I’ve added a new task to the mix: using the same veggies in multiple recipes throughout the week.  Broccoli is in two recipes and butternut squash is in three.  Not only does this ensure you are using up your veggies before they go bad, it also saves you from buying more items.

Prepping

I try to prepare as much as I can before actually getting to the cooking process.  This can be pre-chopping veggies before cooking; immediately before cooking or even days before.  Where possible I will even chop the veggies as soon as I get home from the grocery store and before putting them into the fridge.  This week, I did just that and chopped the carrot and celery sticks for Wednesday.  It also provides snack-ready veggies.  I like to do this with fruit as well (mangos for instance, providing they are ripe).  This preparation means that in those times where I find myself heading to the fridge, I have options that are just as convenient as chips or candy (assuming you had those in the house).

The other thing I like to do just prior to cooking is measure out all the ingredients.  This is especially helpful for baking which in most cases consists of a set of wet ingredients (which I put into the mixer) and a set of dry ingredients (which I whisk together in a separate bowl).  Now in the case of cooking this would mean pre-measuring all of the spices and putting them in a small bowl – great for when your recipe calls for multiple ingredients that use the same measuring spoon.  I also pre-measure any liquids so they are ready to be added to the recipe – which again makes the actual cooking process go by faster and avoids having to wash the same measuring cup more than once during the actual cooking process.

Capitalizing on time & energy when it is plentiful and conserving time & energy when it is scarce

I used to prepare just my lunches for the week on Sundays, but lately I’ve been extending that to dinners and sometimes even breakfasts.  There are many people that swear by preparing everything ‘fresh’ the day of and eating it immediately after cooking to obtain the most benefit and flavour from food.  Well here’s the thing, after a long day of work I am not motivated to spend time in the kitchen prepping and cooking a meal, but I do want to eat something healthful and provide my body with the best fuel possible.  It’s great if you are willing to prep and cook everything when you get home from work; but I know that I would not be motivated to do that and would instead make some quick unhealthy meal for dinner.  However, I can motivate myself to follow through with my goal by making that healthful meal as easily attainable as possible.  I’m far less tired on Sunday afternoon than I am on Monday night and in most cases I have more free time on Sunday afternoon than I do on Monday night.  The best return on my time and energy on Sunday is to give myself a fighting chance for Monday to Friday.IMG_0967

On Sunday afternoon for approximately 2 hours, the below was prepared for the week.

  • Lunches (Monday to Friday)
    • cooked chili tomate rice
    • cooked spicy black beans
    • mixed spicy mustard sauce
  • Dinner on Monday
    • chopped sweet potatoes & butternut squash for sauce
  • Dinner on Wednesday
    • chopped celery + carrots (this was actually already done on Saturday)
  • Dinner on Thursday
    • cooked ‘cheese’ sauce
      • 2 containers were filled – one placed in the fridge for this week, one frozen for a later date
  • Dinner on Friday
    • cooked butternut squash soup
      • 1 large container was filled and placed in the fridge for this week, 3 small containers were frozen for a later date

That 2 hour investment means the meals for the week can be ready in less than 20 mins*

*minus the scalloped potatoes as they have to bake for longer

  • Lunches are completely prepared for the week and need only to be packed the night before or morning of (Side note: I used to pre-package in 5 containers for the week but I found it took up too much space in the fridge, plus I like to use my bento box)
  • For dinner on Monday the veggies need to be boiled/steamed, potatoes chopped then baked
  • For dinner on Tuesday the veggies need to be boiled/steamed, rice and chick peas cooked (Side note:  I pre chopped broccoli before but I lost and it got all crumbly so I don’t pre-chop this guy anymore)
  • For dinner on Wednesday the buffalo broccoli needs to be seasoned and baked
  • For dinner on Thursday the pasta needs to be cooked and the sauce warmed
  • For dinner on Friday the soup needs to be warmed

 That 2 hour investment also creates some BONUS meals for a later date:

  • 3 individually sized butternut squash soups are now in the freezer to be eaten when someone is snackish or to be used as another weekday meal
  • an extra container of ‘cheese’ sauce is ready and only pasta needs to be cooked for a quick meal
  • Tuesday’s dinner of General Tao chick peas is also likely to yield some leftovers.  These will also be individually packaged and frozen like homemade “tv dinners” for a later date

After 2 weeks of prepping, by week three there are enough ready-made meals in the freezer to not have to cook anything new for one week.  This results in considerable time and money savings as week three’s grocery trip usually requires only a few add ons.  Plus, these extra meals in the freezer mean that any other time you feel hungry but too tired to cook something from scratch, you always have a healthy option at your fingertips that requires little effort, yet maximizes nutritional benefits.

Incorporating these three objectives into my meal planning helps to save time (during the week) and money, but more importantly it provides the right tools to make the most healthful choices when fueling my body.  Premium fuel means more energy, more efficient use of that energy and most important; self love and happiness.

5 and 1/3 days of vegan meals

 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I’ve been eating since deciding to live a vegan lifestyle, which lead me to this food journal…

And just to clarify:

  1. No, I’m not finding it difficult to find things to eat.
  2. Yes, I’m still able to enjoy my favourite dishes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and certainly does not include all of the snacks, coffees and teas that I consumed.  My hope is that it will satiate your curiousity and maybe even give you some cruelty free meal ideas.  Sunday may seem like an odd place to start, but it’s once of my favourite meals and I couldn’t help sharing it.

DISCLAIMER:  I’ve already started eating some of the food in the photos or the photo is of the leftovers after I’ve finished clearing my plate because, well honestly, I am horrible when it comes to taking photos of my food before I eat it.  Sometimes I just want it to GET. IN. MY. BELLY!

Sunday

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Dinner = Fries Supreme; yukon gold potato fries. lettuce. tomatoes. salsa. jalapeños. Tofutti sour cream. fresh cilantro. nutritional yeast flakes

Monday

Breakfast = coffee+almond creamer. smoothie; beet stalk and leaf. orange juice. 1 banana. chia seeds. Vega coconut almond protein powder
Lunch = Deconstructed Sushi Bowl; white rice. carrots. cucumber. avocado. tamari sauce. black sesame seeds. sea weed.
Snacks = 1/2 cortland apple. banana+chia seeds. sesame seed bagel+ maple peanut butter
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Dinner = chick’n nachos; Gardein chick’n strips. bbq sauce. Tostitos scoops. tomatoes. salsa. green onions. lettuce. Tofutti sour cream. jalapeños. fresh cilantro. nutritional yeast flakes.

Tuesday

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Breakfast = oats. quinoa flakes. currents. coconut flakes. pumpkin granola. peanuts. soy milk. Vega coconut almond protein powder. coffee+almond creamer

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Lunch + Snacks = same as Monday (above photo is of the sushi bowl, mixed and ready for face stuffing)
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Dinner = jambalaya; vegan chipotle sausage. chili style diced tomatoes. vegetable broth. peaches & cream corn. carrots. pobleno pepper. brown rice.

Wednesday

Breakfast = oats. quinoa flakes. currents. coconut flakes. pumpkin granola. peanuts. soy milk. Vega coconut almond protein powder. coffee+almond creamer

Lunch + Snacks = same as Monday

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Dinner = white rice. Granny’s callaloo. falafel (sounds weird I know… West Indian + Mediterranean in one dish, however it was quite delicious)

Thursday

Breakfast = carrots. cucumber. 1/2 cortland apple. vegan friendly cookies. coffee+almond creamer

Lunch = same as Monday

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Dinner = shepherd’s pie; yukon gold potatoes (mashed). lentils. canned peas+carrots. Gardein beefless ground

Friday

Breakfast = oats. quinoa flakes. currents. coconut flakes. pumpkin granola. peanuts. soy milk. Vega coconut almond protein powder. coffee+almond creamer

Lunch + Snacks = same as Monday

image

Dinner = Coconut rice. purple yams. broccoli. plantain. cumin-lime black beans.

 

fini!

Quick Meal Prep Tip

Pre-pack breakfast in ready-to-go containers.

 

IMG_0879I’m not a fan of overnight oats as I have ‘a thing’ when it comes to the texture of my food.  Weird, I know because I do like oatmeal but the overnight oats are just a little too soggy for my liking.  I just had this idea while I was packing up my lunch for tomorrow; why don’t I also prepare all the ingredients for my morning oatmeal in a bowl so I would need only to add the soy milk and pop it into the microwave in the morning?

My next thought was, since I am now using my bento boxes for lunch, and have an excess of small containers I used to use for my snacks, why not repurpose these to prepare oatmeal for the rest of the week?  It’s like the Quaker Instant Oatmeal packets you loved as a child (and well into adulthood).  Bonus, you can cater the toppings to your heart’s desire.  Granola, dried fruit, protein powder, chocolate chips, chia seeds, peanuts, almonds; the possibilities are endless.  Plus, if you’re like me you also enjoy snacking on breakfast food in the evening.  So why not have a couple of these guys ready for when you’re feeling snackish?  I’m not saying it’s the healthiest but it’s certainly a better alternative to cookies or ice cream and almost as convenient.

Tips for Beauty Product Junkies

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions.  Sometimes I feel like they can put too much pressure on you and that you may not necessarily be trying to make a change for the “right” reason – or at least not for a reason that will provide for the most motivation to maintain that change.  For example, if I were to set a goal to eat more vegetables because I feel like I need to set a goal for the “new year, new me”, I would be far less motivated to attain that goal than if I set it because I wanted to have more energy and eat more healthfully.  Do you see what I mean?  At least from what I’ve learned thus far about what motivates me, I’m more inclined to meet my goal for the latter.

The other reason I’m not too keen on New Year’s resolutions is because I feel that if you want to make a change for the better, then why wait until the new year?  Why wait at all?  It’s funny because we are in such a rush to do other things; arriving at our destination when driving, impatience when Netflix is lagging, anxious about occupation or life goals and where we are ‘supposed to be’, yet we have no issues putting off even the smallest personal change until tomorrow or next week or next year.  We tend to reflect on the past year and plan for the next during the holiday season; just remember that planning and setting goals can be done any time throughout the year or your life.

My recent decision to make more cruelty-free choices has caused me to look deeper at other decisions, how they affect me and the world around me.  One conclusion drawn from this reflection is that I would like to consume less.  Now, over the next year and well, forever.

So now we arrive at the heart of this post:  I am a product junkie!  There.  I said it.  I’m positive that I’m not the worst, but the underlaying issue is the same – It is not necessary for me to consume as much as I do.  That’s it.  So simple.  Now what can I, and you if you share this problem do about it?  I’ve been thinking about this for a little while and I’ve noticed 5 areas where I can improve and limit product consumption:

  1. Remove Temptation.  I was previously subscribed to all of my favourite sites for online shopping; and I had a lot of favourites!  Some mornings I had 10-15 emails in my inbox from various sites.  My motivation for subscription?  FOMO (fear of missing out).  I did not want to miss out on a sale or deal on a product that I needed.  Here’s the reality of the situation:  I either did not have time or did not care enough to make the time to go through those emails everyday.  Most days, I deleted them without even reading them.  If I went through them, I would find loads of things I just absolutely ‘needed’ despite the fact that I had never even imagined ever needing them prior to opening the email.  The worst are those ‘Spend $50 to get this other item that you most definitely do not need right now but isn’t it so perfect I could certainly find a use for it because it’s so cute or solves a problem that I don’t even have right now’ emails.  Do yourself a favour and unsubscribe from emails.  The product you need is rarely on sale at the time that you need it, plus these notifications are likely causing you to spend so much more that it negates any possible discount you were getting on the item you actually needed!
  2. Go through your stash periodically.  As a product junkie I just LOVE to try new products.  Even if I already have something that works well enough, I’m constantly searching for that holy grail item.  This means that I have baskets and boxes full of partially used products in various cupboards and drawers (below).  IMG_0824.JPGLet’s be honest with each other here, you do this too.  Like me, you probably don’t even know what or how much you have.  It’s important to go through your stash periodically.  Monthly, every six months, every year; whatever it is – just go through it.  If you don’t do this, you are most certainly hoarding multiple products that serve the same purpose – and worse still, buying more.  Don’t keep items that don’t work for you.  Give them away or do a product swap with your friends.  Just because it doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else.  Both you and your friends can satisfy the need to try new products without even spending another dime.
  3. Set a budget for your beauty products.  Don’t forget to track how much you spend.  It’s almost impossible to really see how much you are consuming without looking at its monetary value.  There are tons of tools out there to help you do this whether you prefer old school printables or digital tracking.  I use an app called AceBudget2, but a simple Google or Pinterest search will reveal a wealth of options.
  4. Do your research.  Yes, it can be time consuming but it’s free and can save you money.  I always check for product reviews on multiple sites whether it’s YouTube, the actual site I am purchasing the product from, Amazon or searching on Google before making a purchase.  Of course you have to take reviews with a grain of salt – some of them are sponsored or the product was supplied for review free of charge.  Also note that time is precious and many people will not review a product if it is good.  They are already using it and are happy with it, therefore less motivated to go on a website to write a positive review.  Alternatively in the case where reviews are sponsored or the product is supplied by the vendor for free, the reviewer may be more motivated to speak positively about the product.  In any event I like to learn about the product before I purchase it and the more information the better.  Although you should not take reviews at face value, you can get a general consensus of what people are saying about the product.
  5. Shop around and get samples.  It is so easy shop around online.  Whether you are searching for a specific product on the weekly flyer app Flipp or searching various online sites, it’s a small investment of time that can result in considerable savings.  Many stores and beauty counters provide free samples for you try.  Although I’m not a fan of in-store shopping, if you don’t mind returning to the store to purchase the full size, you may want to take advantage of this option.

 

I Am Not My Hair But My Hair is Me

20140327_101545As a teenager (not unlike most young girls) I struggled with self-esteem and self confidence issues.  I knew that I was awesome on the inside but I didn’t feel the same sense of awesomenes about my outsides.  A large part of this had to do with my hair.  Yes, my hair.  Which may seem ridiculous to some of you yet remains the truth.  For the record I don’t think my complex is a ‘black girl issue’, nor a ‘mixed girl issue’, it’s just a girl issue (and probably a guy issue to some extent, though I doubt they would be so inclined to admit it).  My complex stemmed from a lack of knowledge and experience caring for my hair and to a large extent a lack of representation in the media. Magazines, TV, Film all displayed images of beautiful women (black, white, asian or otherwise) with long, straight hair.  If their hair was curly it was that curling iron, self-inflicted type of curls – not my tight, coily curls.  This was the ideal beauty and being a naive, impressionable young girl, an ideal I felt I should strive for and so I relaxed the crap out of my hair.  That’s what my hair dresser said I should do, that’s what everyone around me did, and that was all I knew.  Today’s young girls probably don’t know just how lucky the are to grow up with youtube, instagram and hell even google for that matter.  They are unaware of how amazing it is to have quick and easy access to these resources and how awesome it is to easily find real women they can identify with.

So let’s proceed.  I relaxed my hair.  Every three months I sat at the hair salon, ALL DAY, got my scalp burns, paid my $60 and left with beautiful, straight, flat hair.  Perfect, I thought at the time.  Of course I could never blow my hair out the way my hair dresser did and sure enough after about a month, I was back to ponytails (blech.. which of course I felt was ugly).  Now for whatever reason, one night when I was 15 and getting ready to go to the movies with my friends, I decided not to blow dry and flat iron my hair (most likely because of time contraints).  I found some gel and used a quarter of the bottle on my hair, for fear that it would dry into a pouf-ball and embarrass me.  I was left with defined, springy curls.  This was the first time I questioned my decision to have ‘beautiful straight hair’ or rather it was less of a decision and more of the fact that I didn’t really think about it.  My thought process: “This looks fine I guess and I have to go anyway”.  After receiving a few compliments that night, I looked at myself in the mirror when I got home and thought, “Maybe this is better than alright?”.  I decided to try it out at a school dance shortly there after.  Again, a few compliments, but the reality was I couldn’t sustain that gel overload all the time as it dried out my hair to a straw-like quality, nor did I like the crunchy leaf feeling it left behind.  I quickly gave up on the gel and returned to ponytails.  In hindsight, how much better than the gel was the heat damage I was inflicting on my hair with the constant blow drying and flat ironing?  But let’s move on.

I had always wanted to colour my hair, but never had the courage for fear that my hair would break off.  Heaven forbid I should have short hair, I mean how ugly would that be?  Nevertheless I tried to colour my hair with box colours three times in a three month timeframe.  Why three times?  Well, my natural dark hair colour didn’t budge of course, so I kept trying again, and again.  Although the colour didn’t change, I was making some progress; damaging my hair.  After a while I felt my hair was so dry an unmanageable that I asked my hair dresser to relax it.  Contrary to what I had hoped, this did not help at all.  In fact, the breakage was so uneven I could do nothing with my hair and after two week’s time, I decided enough was enough.  It was summertime, the summer before I started university, and the first day I had off of work, I called my hair dresser up and said, “I’m coming over and you are cutting this all off!”.

I didn’t tell my mom.  I didn’t tell anyone for fear that they would try to persuade me not to do it and I would lose my resolve.  I went straight over to her house before I changed my mind.  When I got there, of course her first instinct was to try to deter me.  Let’s keep in mind that I was reluctant to ever let her even trim my ends for fear of losing length, Length, LENGTH!  “Do it.” I said, staring her dead in the eyes.  She went to work and in what seemed to me like in eternity but was probably only about 20 minutes, it was gone.  She gave me the mirror and braced for impact.  I looked at it.  Slow blinks.  Ran my fingers through the three inches of curls left on my head and I kid you not, I have never felt so relieved in my life.  It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my head and my heart.  I felt liberated.  I felt free.  I felt beautiful.  Most important, I felt like me for the first time, well ever.  How ironic is it that as soon as I stopped trying so hard to get my hair to be something it wasn’t to make myself happy, I finally feel happy?  I thanked her and hugged her.  This was actually the last time she did my hair.  She had been relaxing it since I was about 7, and she moved away shortly after this last appointment.  I walked home on cloud nine.

As silly as it sounds, this hair cut was like a metamorphosis for me.  It was the start of self-acceptance and the beginning of a reliazation that I was more than fine just the way that I was, I was beautiful.  I am beautiful.  Also, who knew that these lovely curls were under there the whole time sans hair gel? Geeze, sure would have saved me a lot of time and agravation getting ready all those years.  My hair grew back in the next year and a half and even in the inbetween stage when it was no longer shaped but too short to pull into a ponytail, I rocked it and I loved it.

I still didn’t know how to care for my hair though.  I became a product junkie.  I tried anything and everything and spent hundreads at a time whether at the salon or the beauty supply store.  At the salon, I bought whatever the stylist recommended, because she should know right?  At the beauty supply store, I bought whatever bottle had the best description.  I coloured my hair, a lot.  I love colour and I enjoy expressing myself through colour.  But all of this dye damage meant I should have been paying even more attention to the health of my hair and it’s care, but I didn’t.  All the while, I listened to everyone else’s suggestions without asking my own hair, “What do you need?”.

Fast forward to a little over a year ago.  I went through my hair product cupboard for the millionth fa-fillionth time, and thought, “There has got to be a better way”.  Putting my research skills to good use, I started reading books and web pages dedicated specifically to curly hair and came across the Curly Girl Method and The Tightly Curly Method.  I tried both of these regimines and neither worked exactly the way I wanted.  So then I decided to take certain aspects from each that did work for me and put them together.  This landed me and no shampoo, co-washing and leaving conditioner in my hair.  This was good, but it could be better and then a few months later I found myself searching youtube.

Wow!  What I discovered was shocking and amazing.  Apparently it is a ‘thing’ to go natural, as well as to have a ‘big chop’.  I found natural girls who had done this only 5 years prior and had much longer hair than me.  WTF!  I was about 10 years ‘natural’ (didn’t even know there was a terminology for this either) and my hair had appeared to stop growing.  In reality it didn’t stop growing, it was just unhealthy and breaking off as it grew.  That voice in the back of my head awoke again “length, length, length’.  I was fixated.  Although now I’ve accepted that this fixation wasn’t all bad, because it forced me to start listening to my hair.  It forced me to really look at it and ask, “What do you really need?  Moisture? Protein? Strength?”.  It put me in a position to look for solutions to these specific issues, whether it be something homemade or store bought.  My hair started to thank me with health, and I began praising its awesomeness again.

I made a decision not to colour my hair as the combination of dye damage and not yet using the right line up of products would prove to be too many independant variables for my experimentation.  But over the last few months, I have been itching to colour and a few weeks ago I decided or rather realized: I really don’t care about length.  I am more than fine with short, medium or average length hair.  I care about colour.  I like colours.  I love colours and I want them on my hair!  They are an expression and extension of me and I am doing it.  Since I am happy with my hair regimine now (to be shared in a future post for anyone interested) and I have made a promise to myself to keep up with said regimine, bring on the hair dye.

This weekend I bleached, toned and coloured my hair all by myself (YAY!).  Pictures to follow on my instagram (@jveroniq) this week, as my hair is deep conditioning in a plastic cap at the moment.  For anyone wondering, all of the blonde, caramel, pink, purple, chocolate brown, red, blue, green colours that I had in my hair over the last 10 years were all done by a professional.  This is the first time that I mixed colours and developers and dyed my hair myself.  Another learning lesson: box colours don’t work for me.  I will always mix my own colours from now on.  Result:  The hair on my crown is now purple and fuschia and I simply cannot wait to wear it in my frohawk tomorrow.

Here’s the bottom-line of this long ass story.  Love the skin or hair your in.  You will gain little from wanting someone else’s hair and you will benefit greatly from understanding your own before you try to emulate someone else’s hair.  How many times have you done this?  You look at another woman and think to yourself “Her x looks amazing, I want it.”.  It’s easy to succom to this initial feeling, but ask yourself first, “What do I want?  Do I really want that?  Why do I want that?”.  I am all for self-improvement, but it should always be paired with self-awareness.  Isn’t the ultimate goal happiness anyway?  You may find that you are already happy as you are.