In this article I want to focus on simple recipes and tips to help you prepare healthy and nutritious meals without effort. I’ll show you real examples of meals, snacks and desserts that you can easily put together yourself, without having any special cooking skills.
Food has a tremendous impact on overall health but it seems that we don’t give it the importance it deserves. Most of us are confused about what is or isn’t healthy to eat for us, and since we’re surrounded by so many unhealthy choices, it has become very hard to say no to most of them.
I’m one of those people who believe that eating healthy shouldn’t be hard, and with this article I want to show you how to navigate the real food equation. We’ll discuss what real food is, buying strategies and best ways to prepare healthy meals at home.
What is “Real Food”?
Simply put, real food is food that doesn’t come from a factory and doesn’t contain ingredients that are impossible to read. Real food doesn’t promote insulin resistance, inflammation, allergies, strange hormonal reactions, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes or cancer … But you already knew this.
Real food is food that nourishes your body with nutrients every time you eat it. It’s food that promotes a healthy hormonal response, food that comes with plenty of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and healthy fiber. Real food is food that gives you energy or helps you recover after a long day. Real food is colorful, natural and smells nice. But you knew this too, right?
In an attempt to help you navigate the real food equation, I’ve put together a list with my best tips and suggestions. Use this template to identify real food, while staying away from all the unhealthy options out there.
Check-out “what to eat” and “what to avoid” sections below:
What To Eat
- choose whole foods
- choose unprocessed foods (or processed as little as possible)
- make healthy fats a priority
- raw plants and lightly cooked vegetables
- nuts, seeds and their derivative butters and oils
- as many plants as possible, choose organic if possible
- fewer fruits and more vegetables overall
- naturally fermented foods (great source of vitamins and probiotics)
- make cruciferous vegetables a priority: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc
- frozen veggies and fruits can be a great option, they’re affordable and very convenient
- use as many spices and herbs as you like
- eat plants from the allium family: onion, scallions, shallots, leeks, garlic, chili (all these are great for your immune system)
- various nuts and dried fruits, in various combinations
- choose only raw smoothies, avoid supermarket variations
- traditional cheeses without any kind of additives (things like cheddar, parmesan, brie, comte, le brique, ficelle, munster, all are true examples)
- choose breads that are fermented naturally, and that don’t contain hidden ingredients (additives, flavor enhancers, fillers, etc)
- always wash the plants correctly, especially things like citrus fruits or bananas (or buy them organic)
What To Avoid
- avoid highly processed foods or foods that have been treated with very high heat (kills all the enzymes, destroys vitamins and phytonutrients, or any kinds of prebiotics)
- avoid grains as much as possible (or at least eat in moderation)
- avoid legumes like peanuts and soy, as well as all their derivatives
- avoid additives and preservatives in anything
- avoid refined seed oils or products that contain them
- avoid added sugar or sugar replacements (beware for hidden sugar)
- avoid GMO products
- avoid most salad buffets unless they sell freshly made salads, otherwise can contain hidden ingredients (preservatives, refined seed oils, others)
- avoid highly pasteurized and homogenized dairy products
- avoid pastry (with or without fillings), pizza, veggies with added refined seed oils, anything cooked in refined seed oils
- avoid coffee drinks that come with any kind of toppings (sugar alert!)
- avoid all products with ingredients that you cannot read yourself (or their name contains numbers)
Read more: How to stock you pantry with healthy vegetarian and vegan foods
Simple Recipes That Anyone Can Make
We’re all busy, I get it. That’s why I want to share with you lots of ideas for simple meals and snacks, recipes that you can prepare right now (providing you have all the ingredients).
You don’t need prior cooking experience in order to make any of these recipes and in fact, for most of them you don’t even need a kitchen. Another thing you don’t need are expensive ingredients, and certainly you don’t need a lot of time.
Stay with me because it’s going to be fun!
Here are, in a nutshell, the principles behind these simple recipes:
- should be easy to prepare by anyone, without special tools or cooking experience
- all the meals, desserts and snacks should taste awesome
- should be prepared using real foods, without any kind of additives and preservatives
- nutrients dense foods, processed as little as possible
- we’ll focus on recipes that are low in carbs with plenty of healthy fats and quality proteins
- without added sugar, refined seed oils or refined flours (except occasional bread and some pasta)
On the same topic: Check-out my simple Guide to Healthy Food Choices
As you’ll see, most of the recipes are self-explanatory and only require a few ingredients, with some of the recipes asking for basic cooking skills. We’re talking minor things like cooking a few veggies in water, cooking rice, pasta, mashed potatoes or boiling a few eggs.
I strongly believe that you don’t have to be a cook to make a healthy and tasty meal. Trust me when I’m saying that things can’t get more simple than this.
And since I want to keep everything simple and fun, we won’t discuss portions, quantities or calories. You’ll have to use your own judgment, based on your personal context and needs. If you ask me, I believe in eating as much as I need, when I need it, without counting calories. But that’s my story, might not be the same for you.
Now that you know what are the principles behind these recipes, I guess it’s time to move on to the recipes section. Just to make it easy for you to follow, I’ve grouped the recipes into 3 categories, as follows:
- Snacks and Desserts
- Swedish Buffet meals
- Lightly Cooked meals
Snacks and Desserts Ideas
These recipes are designed to be so easy to put together, that you don’t need any kind of cooking experience. In fact, for most of them you don’t even need a kitchen.
Instead of complicated and boring recipes, we’ll focus on combining together a few simple ingredients and eating them just like that. Occasionally you’ll need to cut or slice something (like an apple, nuts, or dried fruits), sometimes you’ll have to mix a few ingredients together in a bowl, but that’s pretty much it all the work you’ll have to do here. We won’t bake anything or cook anything using heat.
I’ve also tried keeping the carbs level down, while prioritizing ingredients that come with plenty of healthy fats, quality proteins, as well as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and fiber. It’s safe to say that most of the recipes are low-carb and some of the recipes are keto friendly.
Think of these recipes more like templates, all of them can be adapted according to your liking.
Check-out these Desserts and Snack suggestions:
- Green Olives (salty) + Walnuts
- Walnuts + Dried Figs / Medjool Dates + Chocolate Squares
- Full fat cream (creme fraiche) + Frozen Berries (blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, any combination)
- Watermelon + Galia Melon
- Fresh Blueberries + Fresh Raspberries
- Coffee + Full Fat Creme + Dark Chocolate (85%, 2 squares)
- Dried Figs + Dried Mango + Coconut Chips + Banana Chips
- Dried Figs + Walnuts + Coconut Chips + Dark Chocolate (85% or more)
- Pine nuts + Cashew nuts + Walnuts + Pecans + Macadamia + Pistachio + Dried Figs / Medjool Dates (optional)
- Walnuts + 90% Dark Chocolate + Dried Figs / Medjool Dates + Black Coffee (optional)
- Walnuts + Dried Mango
- Walnuts / Pecans + Banana slices + Dried Figs
- Walnuts / Pecans + Raisins + Coconut Chips
- Dried Mango + Walnuts + Dark Chocolate (85% or more)
- Cashew Butter + Raisins + Dark Chocolate squares
- Cashew Butter + Almond Butter + Fresh Blueberries + Walnuts
- Cashew Butter + Walnuts + Frozen Cranberries or Raspberries
- Almond Butter + Cashew Butter + Raisins + Walnuts or Pecans
- Cashew Butter + Almond Butter + pinch of Himalayan Salt + Dried Figs + Banana + Spices (Cinnamon, Cardamom, Vanilla)
- Apple (grated) + Carrots (grated) + Banana slices + Spices (cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla) + Raisins + Walnuts + Celery slices (optional) + Cashew Butter + pinch of Himalayan salt
Swedish Buffet Meals Ideas
Swedish buffets are all about sharing the food on an open table, and letting your imagination go wild with different combinations. We’re talking about things like cheeses, boiled eggs, dried fruit, raw veggies or fruits, even some bread or a pretzel, and combining them into nutrient dense meals.
You can make creative sandwiches, you can combine several ingredients into a buddha bowl kind of meal or just eat them from a simple plate. It’s always up to you!
Check-out these Swedish Buffet suggestions:
- Pretzel or Butter Croissant + Cheddar cheese
- Bananas + Walnuts + Dried Figs + Dark Chocolate
- Dried Figs / Medjool Dates + Walnuts + Camembert / Brie cheese
- Butter Croissant + Camembert / Brie + Boiled Eggs + Raw Plant (lettuce, spring cabbage, peppers, chili, tomatoes, apple slices)
- Butter Croissant + Fresh Blueberries + Cheddar cheese + Bell Pepper
- Pretzel + Cheddar Cheese + Bell Pepper + Pickles + Radishes (slices)
- Emmentaler or Comte cheese + Dried Mangoes + Dried Figs / Medjool Dates + Walnuts
- Baguette or Loaf bread + Cheddar cheese + Baby Spinach (fresh) + Chili + Bell Pepper
- Baguette + Bell Pepper + Cherry Tomatoes + Baby Spinach + Cheddar or Brie cheese
- Baguette + Cheddar cheese + Salad Mix (Cabbage, Carrot, Leeks) + Fresh Berries (Strawberries or Blueberries)
- Mozzarella cheese + Dried Mango / Medjool Dates + Raw Veggies (Cucumber, Tomato, Chili, Bell Pepper)
- Apple slices + Mozzarella cheese
- Bread slices + Green olives (salty) + Camembert or Brie cheese + Raw Cucumber, Bell Pepper, Tomatoes
- Bread slices + Cheddar cheese + Kalamata olives + Cucumber + Bell Pepper + Garlic or Scallions
- Bread slices + French Soft Cheese (brique, camembert, ficelle, munster) + Cucumber + Bell Pepper + Cherry Tomatoes + Garlic + Shallots
- Sourdough Bread + French Soft Cheese (brique, ficelle, brie) + Mozzarella cheese + Avocado + Cucumber + Tomatoes + Bell Pepper + Garlic
Simple Cooked Meals Ideas
This last section goes one step further, adding to the mix things like lightly cooked vegetables, cooked rice, boiled eggs or pasta (not too much, I promise). You don’t need any kind of special cooking skills to boil your broccoli for 2 minutes, or to cook your favorite rice in water. Everyone knows how to cook pasta, right?
Check-out these Simple Cooked Meals suggestions:
- Boiled Veggies (sweet potato, celery sticks, cauliflower, carrots) + Cheddar or Brie cheese
- Mashed Potatoes + Kalamata Olives + Bell Pepper + Raisins + Soft or Hard Cheese
- Lightly Boiled Veggies (Broccoli and Carrots) + Mashed Potatoes or Boiled Potatoes + Avocado (slices)+ Fresh Garlic + Tomato Sauce (Italian) + Fresh Dill + Bread (a few slices, optional)
- Red Beans (canned) + Kalamata Olives + Brie cheese + Chili or Shallots
- Green olives (sliced) + Green Peas (boiled) + sour cream (creme fraiche) + Cheddar
- Red Beans (canned) + White Beans (canned) + Cheddar cheese + Bell Pepper + Cucumber + Fresh Dill + Shallots (sliced)
- Lightly Boiled Cruciferous (Broccoli + Cauliflower) + Mashed Potatoes + Boiled Eggs
- Green Peas (canned) + Green Chili (hot) + Brie cheese + Olives (Kalamata or Green) + Bread (optional)
- Mashed Potatoes + Green Olives (sliced, salty) + Brie cheese
- Italian Pasta + Feta Cheese + Grated Parmesan + Broccoli (lightly boiled)
- Italian Pasta (Penne) + Feta cheese + Lightly Boiled Broccoli + Avocado (few slices) + Feta cheese
- Italian Pasta (Capellini) + Feta cheese + Avocado (few slices)
- Red Beans (canned) + Shallots (slices) or Red Onion (slices) + Leeks (slices) + Bell Pepper + Kalamata Olives + Bread (low-carb, not too much) + Boiled Egg (optional)
- Lightly Boiled Broccoli + Bread slices + French soft cheese (brie, camembert, ficelle, caré, muster) + Bell Pepper (slices) + Onion (slices) + Leeks (slices)
- Lightly Boiled Broccoli + Cabbage Slices + French soft cheese (brie, camembert, munster, etc) + Bell Pepper + Shallots + Leeks
- Mashed Potatoes + Avocado slices + Boiled Eggs + Green Olives (salty) + Optionally pickles, chili, fresh dill, lemon juice (for avocado)
- Red or White Beans (canned) + Brie or Camembert cheese + Chili (hot) + Pickles + Kalamata or Green Olives
- Mashed Potatoes + Vegan Balls (IKEA) + Cheddar cheese + Fresh Berries
- Rice (Basmati or Jasmine) cooked with leeks, carrots, mushrooms, salt + Pine Nuts + Green Olives
- Lightly Boiled Cruciferous (Broccoli + Cauliflower) + Carrots (slices) + Bread (slices) + French Soft Cheese (brie, camembert, munster) + Mozzarella cheese + Raw Onion (slices) + Bell Pepper (sliced) + Cucumber (sliced) + Dried Figs
- Lightly Boiled Cruciferous (Broccoli + Cauliflower) + Bread slices + Avocado + Garlic + Bell Pepper + Cucumber + Brie cheese + La Brique cheese
Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to prepare. These days we have access to all sorts of ingredients, from plants to cheeses, to spices, fresh or frozen, in any season. This simply means that you can put together nourishing meals without too much effort.
But in order to prepare healthy meals, you need to use healthy ingredients. And one way to make sure that you’re buying healthy food is to follow my real food guidelines above.
Real food is nutrient dense food, while unhealthy food is always devoured of nutrients and highly processed. As long as you’re eating real food, you need not worry about portions or calories. Eat as much as you like, your body will adjust itself after a while.
Use these recipes as a starting point for putting together your own combinations, based on the ingredients you have available and/or your way of eating. Feel free to adapt any of them to your liking, by adding or removing ingredients as you find fit.
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What are your favorite pantry recipes? What are your best tips for preparing healthy and delicious meals? Let’s get the conversation going in the comments.