I had an interesting conversation with my friend Dave* a few weeks ago.
Dave had asked me what he could do to lose 10lbs. Knowing Dave frequents drive-thru's and buys a lot of convenience foods on the go, I suggested he start making his own food.
He said "I know I should, but, with my schedule, I can't cook all the time. I just don't have the time."
I asked him which fast food place was closest to him. He said Wendy's and estimated that it was about 5 minutes in the car, if he didn't hit the light, and he included walking to and from his truck that's parked outside.
I said to Dave "Okay, so it's 5 minutes there. and back. That's 10 minutes. Then there is waiting in line. Let's say there is no line and you get to place your order within the first minute. and let's say the burger is ready in 5 minutes. That's what? Under 20 minutes, if you can eat it quick?"
Dave nodded and said, "yeah that's about right."
"It takes about 5 minutes to make a PB&J -- and that's infinitely more healthy than a burger. And you save at least 15 minutes in your busy schedule. Even if you have to buy the PB&J at a gas station, you're still probably 5 to 10 minutes ahead" I explained.
We ran over every scenario and it was quickly evident to us both that fast food really isn't that fast. Even if Dave stopped at Wendy's or Taco Bell on his way home from work, it would still take him AT LEAST 10 minutes, but probably more like 15 minutes --- and there are oodles of meals Dave can make at home in that time.
I put this list together for Dave -- and am now sharing it with you. Since I created this list, Dave hasn't eaten out in close to two weeks and reported not only feeling better, but that his pants are also fitting looser, and he isn't exercising.
20 (Healthy) Meals that are Faster than Fast Foods
Simple Stir-Fry: Combine equal parts soy sauce with sugar and set aside. Cook frozen mixed stir-fry vegetables according to packaging instructions (microwave!). Toss with soy sauce mixture and serve over a plate of cooked rice (you can buy brown rice that cooks in a minute or two).
Basic Burrito: Spread a thin layer of vegetarian refried beans (or regular cooked beans) into a tortilla or wrap. Add salsa and any leftovers you have such as rice, quinoa, vegetables or greens. Roll up and voila!
(Easy!) Pad Thai: Toss cooked (and still hot!) rice noodles or pasta with 2 tbsp smooth or crunchy peanut butter and a dash of hot sauce. Cook frozen mixed stir-fry vegetables according to packaging instructions (microwave!) and toss with noodles. Garnish with crushed peanuts if desired.
Fast Fajitas: Mix fajita seasoning packet with water as directed. Cook fresh or frozen bell peppers until cooked, but still crisp. Toss with fajita mixture and cook as directed. Slap into tortillas and voila!
Tasty Tofu Scramble: Break a block of firm tofu into chunks. Mix with 3 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 big squirt Dijon mustard, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp turmeric and ½ tsp cumin and cook until warm, stirring frequently. Add a splash of non-dairy milk if it starts to stick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add salsa, leftover veggies or beans to expand this dish.
Pita Pizza: Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce or pizza sauce on a pita. Add any toppings you like: vegetables, faux cheese, faux meat — even leftovers. Bake 5–10 minutes at 350 F. Don’t be afraid to try crazy combinations!
Quick Quesadilla: Smash a cooked sweet potato into a tortilla or wrap. Add beans, cooked greens and/or corn and fold over. Heat each side in a skillet if desired. Serve with vegan sour cream and/or fruit-flavored salsa over top.
Corn Soup: Cook 1 lb. frozen corn according to directions (microwave!). Blend into a creamy soup with 1/4 cup non-dairy milk and voila! Chipotle powder or hot sauce takes this soup to a fiery new level!
Salsa Soup: Place 1 cup black beans, 1 cup salsa and 1½ cups vegetable broth in a blender, pureeing until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan, add 1 cup frozen corn, more black beans as desired, 1/2 tsp cumin and hot sauce to taste. Cook until thoroughly warm. Crumble tortilla chips over top and serve. Fresh avocado and/or cilantro also make a nice addition.
Better BLT: Combine vegan bacon with lettuce, tomato and vegan mayo, avocado slices or hummus between two slices of bread or toast. You can also use a wrap.
Aztec Salad: Combine 1 cup corn with ½ cup black beans, ¼ cup cooked quinoa and fresh tomatoes. Squeeze lime juice over top. Serve warm or chilled. This can also be served over lettuce with tempeh slices or in a wrap. (Recipe from happyherbivore.com).
Chickpea Teriyaki: Combine 1 can chickpeas with ¼ cup teriyaki sauce, 1 tbsp hot sauce and 1 tbsp sugar (optional) cook over medium heat until the chickpeas turn brown and the liquid absorb. Serve over greens or rice with fresh pineapple or mango salsa. (Recipe from happyherbivore.com).
Salsa Chickpeas: Combine 1 can chickpeas with 8 ounces of salsa. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until liquid has absorbed. Eat with lettuce wraps and sliced veggies. (Recipe from happyherbivore.com).
Chili Macaroni: Combine 1 can of vegetarian chili with cooked pasta and a little tomato sauce if desired. Corn and/or fresh avocado slices make a nice addition. You can also add hot sauce to spice it up.
Oatmeal: Cook 1 serving plain oatmeal according to directions. Mix with 4 to 8 ounces of plain soy yogurt. Add fresh fruit such as berries or banana slices and nuts, such as sliced raw almonds, on top. Drizzle with agave nectar or pure maple syrup. You can also add seeds, dried fruits or ground flax seeds.
BBQ’ed Baked Potato: Slice baked potato in half and smother with vegetarian baked beans. Serve with a side of frozen greens cooked according to package (microwave!).
Two-Minute Tacos: Combine 2 cups TVP with 2 cups hot water and 1 packet taco seasoning, stirring to incorporate. Once TVP has reconstituted (all water has been absorbed), make tacos or a taco salad.
Tangy Tempeh: Cut tempeh in half. Boil in water for 10 minutes. Drain, pat dry and smother in a tangy barbecue sauce. Serve on a bun with pickle slices and a side of cooked mixed vegetables.
Happy Hummus Wrap: Line a tortilla or wrap with red pepper hummus. Pile in fresh veggies such as sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, celery and white mushrooms, all sliced thin. Roll up and enjoy.
PB&J: when all else fails!
I also suggest cooking one day a week -- it's great! It saves so much time!