You guys are just fabulous, do you know that? Thanks for such a positive and overwhelming response to my last post. To all those who took the time out to send me a personal message, I really appreciate the gesture. Thanks for the encouragement. Means a lot.
So, here’s part two of the eating better journey, as a follow up to my last post and to give you an idea about how I ‘plan’ my meals. It’s not really as complicated or as intimidating as it seems. If I can get by with minimal planning (in spite of being the greatest klutz and fail memory person of all times), anyone can do it! It all boils down to one thing, planning your grocery/fresh produce purchase.
Preparing for the week:
Grocery/fresh produce shopping is done on Fridays. I try to make a list of things if I can, so that I don’t forget things I really need (like salt, oil, etc. Yep, I have run out of essentials mid cooking). As far as fresh produce is concerned, I try to buy what’s local/seasonal. It’s a joke though, because the only things that I find local (on a regular basis) are eggplant, koosa (baby marrow/baby zucchini) and tomatoes. Most of the other stuff is imported from countries across the globe. But one good thing about that is that we don’t have to buy the same bunch of veggies week after week. There is something new to try all the time.
Prepping (chopping, soaking, etc.) is done the previous night and I cook fresh every morning.
Things like yogurt and dry snacks like pori/murmura/puffed rice, makhana, popcorn are packed the previous night as well. If I have muffins, cookies, crackers or cupcakes (I try my best to make them at home), those are packed the previous night too. This saves time in the morning.
Over the weekend, I prepare sauces and chutneys for using over the week. The usual suspects are pesto, chunky marinara and a green chutney. These are almost always available in my fridge. I make just enough to get us through a week so that I don’t have to bother freezing them.
I also boil eggs, cook chana, rajma etc over the weekend (if I remember to and have the time to do it).
Dosai/idli batter is prepared over the weekend too. I soak on Saturday mornings and grind it by evening and leave it to ferment overnight.
Having a bag of frozen mixed veggies, frozen bananas, grapes, pineapples etc., tinned beans is a great backup option. When you are running late or just want a quick one pot meal, these frozen veggies come to the rescue as you don’t have to spend time chopping them. Frozen fruits work great for making a quick smoothie or nice cream for those sudden hunger pangs or a quick brekkie ans use tinned beans for making a quick salad.
I wash greens like spinach, mint, lettuce etc. over the weekend and let them air dry all day before storing them in the fridge.
If you are pressed for time, cooking quinoa, millets, pasta etc. in batches is a good idea too.
I also have a stash of store bought whole wheat parathas in hand at all times. I love the ID whole wheat parathas (it’s the only one I buy). Big Basket stocks them in India.
- Breakfast –
Breakfast is a compulsory affair at home.
Our breakfast spread is pretty standard – a loaded sammich or oatmeal/chia pudding or poha or dosai/idli. My husband isn’t a fan of eating sweet things in the morning, so I usually end up making two kinds of breakfast on days when I take chia pudding/oatmeal. However, since I prefer overnight oats, it’s actually just one thing to do in the morning.
If I am making a sandwich, the prep for the filling like chopping veggies (except onions), soaking beans, etc. is usually done the previous night.
The usual breakfast accompaniments are fruits and green tea (on weekdays) or chai/coffee over the weekend.
The toddler gets a little bit of everything that’s made (nothing is specially made for him) and also has a cup or dairy or non-dairy milk. He loves the mildly sweetened variety of soymilk. I was giving him regular dairy milk mixed with dates syrup but I recently learned that it’s no use since the calcium in the milk inhibits the absorption of iron.
On days when I want something light and easy (but filling), I opt for a smoothie breakfast.
- Mid-morning snack –
My husband doesn’t take anything. For the toddler and me, it’s a fruit like apple, pear, pom pearls, etc. or slices of carrot, cucumber. If I have hummus in hand, I get that along with the veggies. Yoghurt sweetened/topped with fruits is another usual option.
The little guy also carries a pack of SunBlast organic juice if we have it at home. They’re super convenient to pack.
- Lunch –
Lunch used to be phulkas/sabji or dal or a one pot rice dish but I have switched to salad lunches for most part of the week. If I grill veggies, I pack that with a couple of phulkas and yogurt for the boys. If it’s a raw salad, I make a dal or sabji and some roti for them separately in addition to the salad. If I don’t have the patience or time to make phulkas, I make a one pot millet dish (along with a raita or yogurt) for them.
At least one lunch over the weekend is a proper South Indian meal.
For the post meal sweet craving, I have dates, figs, or a fruit like mango/strawberry, etc. handy. If I am still not satisfied, I have a piece of dark chocolate.
- Mid-afternoon snack –
This is mostly just for the toddler. It’s mostly a cupcake, muffin or some biscuits for him. I have a cup of coffee without sugar (my only one for the day) in the afternoon.
- Pre-dinner snack –
This is just for me because I’m super hungry the minute I get home. I usually have a banana/apple with nut butter or a cup of buttermilk or some nuts or some masala pori/puffed rice.
- Dinner –
Dinner on most days is a very simple & light affair that takes minimal effort. Soups, dal (with phulkas for the boys), dosai and whole grain pasta or a runny millet khichdi is our go-to.
I love a good stir-fry or baked veggies too.
If I have leftovers, I just try to ‘fancify’ it and make a meal out of it. For example, leftover cooked beans or veggies becomes tikkis, leftover soup is used to knead dough for chapathis, etc.
Moving on the not-so-clean-eating part, we do indulge in whatever we feel like eating over the weekend. However, we have been consciously trying to not make up for all that we’ve missed over the week by stuffing ourselves with junk.
I have not reached a stage where I can completely say no to sugar. So I do indulge in a piece of cake or a sweet treat once or twice a week. But for most part, what I have mentioned above is the meal plan I have been following.
Some general pointers –
- Pinterest is my go-to for salads, salad dressing, recipe inspiration.
- Infused water is a great way to keep yourself hydrated (while also getting other benefits depending on the infusion). This is also a good idea if you don’t remember to drink enough water on a daily basis.
- Almost everything we eat has some amount of carb in it. So try to opt for foods rich in fibre, protein etc. as most of these have carbs too. You don’t need rice or bread to complete every meal. I save the carb loading for the day to one meal a day (preferably breakfast or lunch).
- Switch to wholemeal options, brown rice, millets, etc. if you think you can’t completely give up on carbs for every meal.
- If I have leftover sabji/dal, etc, I try to incorporate it in breakfast. Sabjis make for good sandwich fillings and dal, chutney can actually be spread on your dosai or sneaked into your omelette or parathas too.
- You can make overnight oats/chia pudding for a few days in advance and leave it in the refrigerator and just top it with fresh fruits the day you want to have it. I haven’t done this but it’s a good option if you want to get done with the prepping in one go.
- Always have sugar-free cereals in hand. They come handy when there’s nothing else to eat for breakfast.
- Pro Tip: Record your journey online/ on social media. It has been tremendously helpful in making me stick to the plan because I always have the ‘you are being watched’ feeling.
I hope this post is useful to get you started and as always, please feel to share your suggestions/ideas so that I can get better at this.
PS: I am not associated with/paid for by any of the brands I have linked to in the post.