Quinoa Cakes

15 Food Hacks to Consider

Sometimes it’s the simple little changes that make a HUGE difference. One thing that I love about changing our food is that it can change so much more in our lives, from less sickness to more energy to deeper connection. Here are 15 food hacks from my podcast guests to bring more health and ease to kitchen and table.

Start your day with a green smoothie

I’ve been really focusing on getting my 10–14 servings of veggies every day. Starting with a green smoothie means I back in a bunch of fruits and veggies first thing. Plus, I’ve been doing this for years, and I just have more energy when I do. But I’m not the only one: Jen Hansard bought a box of spinach and tossed a bunch in a blender along with some fruit. She blended it and served it up—in colored sippy cups. She and her kids LOVED it. Jen found her smoothie replaced her craving for coffee in the morning right away.

Prep smoothies for the day.

Starting your day with a green smoothie is great, but you don’t have to stop there. Éva Rawposa drinks several throughout the day. She blends them all up in the morning to keep in the fridge. Make a little too much? It’ll be good the next day.

Pro tip: Pull your smoothie out a little while before you want to drink it so that the temperature isn’t too extreme.

Know what’s for dinner.

Patricia van Essche shared one of my all time favorite tips, which she got from her mother: Know what you’re going to have for dinner in the morning. I tell people to write it on a Post-it in the morning. Patricia adds that really makes sense because when you get to that bewitching hour in the evening and you’ve run out of patience and you have so many things to do, knowing what is for dinner is one less thing to figure out—and you can prep ahead.

Have prepped ingredients on hand to streamline prep.

Keep your freezer stocked with prepped ingredients. Denise Costello buys prechopped onions and keeps them in the fridge. She also gets frozen cubes of ginger, garlic, and basil to make meal prep extra quick. It makes setting up a meal in her crock pot even quicker.

Stock your kitchen with the right tools.

I couldn’t live without my Vitamix, but too much stuff in the kitchen causes drama. These are Steph Stiavetti’s top must have kitchen items: 9 or 10-inch solid stainless steel frying pan, a non-stick frying pan of about the same size, a really good spatula, a wooden spoon, a hand (immersion) blender, a solid chef’s knife and a good cutting board.

Expand what kids eat by starting with what they already like.

Dealing with picky eaters? Start with what your kids like. Build meals based on food they already like, at first. If your son likes carrots, make a new dish with carrots. If your daughter likes pasta or pizza, start playing with adding more veggies, and making the processed parts from scratch.

Model healthy eating.

As moms, we can get caught up in trying to get our kids to eat healthy foods, and food battles can make meals stressful. Mom and health coach Sara Fins suggests starting with modeling healthy eating. This isn’t a quick fix, but as kids see you eating something again and again, they start to get curious, and they want to try what you are doing.

Unplug to make time for cooking.

Creating—and sticking with—a schedule makes sure we have the time to cook. Any busy mom entrepreneur knows that creating a schedule with that time can be hard. Parrish Wilson unplugs from social media to give herself extra time in the day. Try it—and use it for cooking or whatever else you need to be more in FLOW.

Cook once, eat twice.

Great meals don’t have to be complex. Julia Sarver recommends simplifying your meals. That means less time prepping—and cleaning up. And she loves to cook once, and eat twice. Sometimes that means batch cooking, but often it means steaming a little extra asparagus or cooking a little more salmon than you need. Later in the week, toss your protein into a salad or chop up extra cooked veggies for a rice bowl or omelet. Leftovers don’t have to be boring!

You don’t have to make homemade everything.

Lilly Steirer loves seasonal and local food and makes a lot of things from scratch, but she also recognizes that the value of time together at the table. She recommends focusing on coming together instead of on making everything or having everything be something you grew. Pair store bought hummus with carrots and a salad that you made from your garden or the farmer’s market. Let your meal be a celebration, time to come together and relax. You may come to find making food relaxing, but if you don’t you can focus on eating the meal as a relaxing thing.

Upgrade any meal with the world’s simplest sauce.

Make almost any food taste better with the world’s simplest sauce—compound butter. Here’s how Steph Stiavetti does it: Just mix some sort of flavor—garlic, chopped herbs, spices—into butter. Mush it together, roll it up in plastic wrap. Then when you need it, add a bit to your hot food.

Create quinoa or rice bowls for balance, flexible meals.

I’ve talked about how I use rice bowls as an easy, adaptable meal, and I love Maria Quintana-Pilling’s suggestion of a quinoa version. Grain bowls are very adaptable—you can use different grains, proteins, veggies and seasonings. And if you put the different components in separate bowls, it’s easy to adapt for different nutrition needs and tastes.

Learn a few techniques to make meals easier.

While some people are all about go-to recipes, Rachel Sherwood suggests learning a few simple techniques from stocking a pantry to how and when to season foods. Pair that with some guidelines about foods that taste great together and you are well on your way to making meals shine. Once you know techniques, you can be a lot more confident (and efficient) in the kitchen whether you have a recipe or not.

How you eat is as important as what you eat.

To really nourish yourself, you need to look at food, but also at lifestyle and mindset. Nina Manolson urges women to stop focusing only on the “right” food and think about sitting down to eat, instead of standing at the kitchen counter or on the run in the car. If you are stressing over getting so many things done or not cooking good foods because nobody has been grocery shopping, that needs to change. What happens if you let go of the story that you don’t have time to eat and sat down at the table for a meal?

Be mindful in the kitchen.

Get excited about the foods you choose. Eat in season. Know your farmers. Choose fresh ingredients to enjoy the scent and flavor. Nutritionist Sara Bradford wants people to appreciate the smells, colors, and textures of what they eat. She encourages moms to turn on music that makes you happy, to bring your kids to the farmers market and into the kitchen, and to really appreciate what is in front of you.

Denise Costello agrees. She believes that good energy comes through our food, so she sets herself up to create. She turns on her music, gets a cup of tea, and lights a candle to set the mood. If you do just one of those things, try turning on music you love.

Start simple!

This list isn’t meant to overwhelm you. Take a look and see which idea you feel pulled towards. Work on that one first. When you feel like you’ve got that one covered, move onto the next most meaningful one. There are no shoulds here. Let your gut and heart guide you. You know what needs to happen next.

I always love to hear what makes an impact on your life. Head over to the Plan Simple Meals Facebook page and let me know your favorite hack and how you are using it in your life.