What’s in a Dietitian’s Shopping Cart? Part 2: Quick Meals

Aug 23, 2013
Tagged with: What’s in a Dietitian’s Shopping Cart? Part 2: Quick Meals

Even as a dietitian I find it hard to grocery shop every once in a while. What do I want to eat? What will I actually cook? What is healthy AND flavorful? All of these questions run through my head when I’m on my way to the store. It is on these days that I use my quick and easy meal list which I have memorized over time. It is always a good idea to have a handful of recipes that you can recollect on the spot. This may be even more important if you have a physical disability that causes you to fatigue quickly. You don’t want to be trolling down every aisle to find what you need or to get ideas for your next meal because that is just wasted energy. I invite you to take a peek into my shopping cart and try out some of the recipes I use when I’m stuck in a grocery store rut.

I always start out in the produce section where I buy non-starchy vegetables which will be used as my side dishes. That may include a salad with sliced veggies (mixed greens with bell pepper, onion, avocado, cucumber, tomato…) or steamed vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke…). Every once in a while I will buy starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. Why does it matter if the vegetable is starchy or not? Well, starchy veggies have a lot more carbohydrates which you want to limit especially at dinner. Carbohydrates in the body are used to make energy; however, if your body does not need that energy then those carbs are stored as fat. If I am having rice or pasta (also high in carbs) with my meal, I will balance that out by filling the rest of my plate with low carb veggies. If you are not preparing any other starchy item, go ahead and get that sweet potato because it is packed with fiber, vitamin A and C.

I then move on to the rice and pasta aisle. It is very important to get whole grains when buying these items. Whole grains are high in fiber and do not spike blood sugars like its enriched flour counterpart. I usually go for the rice instead of the pasta (personal preference). My favorite brand of rice these days (as you may already know if you read Part 1) is the Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Brown Ready Rice. It only takes 90 seconds to cook in the microwave. This is a great option for someone who may rely on the microwave for much of their food preparation.

Other great starches that contain a lot of fiber are beans and peas. So this will be the next aisle we visit. Dried beans are great because you can monitor how much salt you use. They are a bit more work because you have to soak them overnight. For this reason, they don’t fit into my quick meal list. Canned foods are great too; you just need to watch the sodium or salt content. I recommend that you choose the low sodium or no salt added option. This way if you do need more salt, you can just add it at the dinner table which will most likely result in less salt used. The frozen aisle is also a great place to find peas. I love to get the steam bags of frozen sweet or snap peas. All you do is put the bag in the microwave for a few minutes and voilà! Just make sure that you don’t buy the ones with sauce on top because that can have a bunch of bad fat and calories.

The final area in the grocery store that I visit is the meat aisle. I usually buy some sort of lean meat like chicken, pork loin, sirloin, lean ground beef or fish. My favorite ways to cook meat without adding fat is to bake or broil. If you have trouble handling a baking dish, try using a small disposable aluminum pan and be sure to pull the rack out with an oven mitt so you’re not reaching into a hot oven. A toaster oven may be a better fit for you if you have trouble with ovens. Another great way to prepare the meat is by sautéing it in a skillet pan that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. This way you won’t have all of that added fat like you would with butter or oil.

So there you have it; a quick trip through the grocery store that loads your cart with plenty of healthy food items which build nutritious, quick, and flavorful meals. A couple of more challenging recipes that I use include the Warm Tortellini and Cherry Tomato Salad and the Pantry Pasta with Black Beans, Kale and Spicy Chicken Sausage. I have included these recipes in Part 1 of my What’s in a Dietitian’s Shopping Cart? series.

Are there any specific barriers that you encounter when trying to eat healthy? Do you have trouble getting to the grocery store or navigating your way around the store? Is the thought of fixing your own meal overwhelming? Let me know what you think.

Author: Carleton Rivers