When it comes to healthy eating, for me, it’s not just about time, but also about energy. When I’m low on inspiration, my mind can only process one-track things. Therefore, I need a rotation of one-track meals or snacks in order to avoid junk food.
I need cut-it-up-and-throw-it-on-the-pan food.
Some evenings, I don’t have the energy to orchestrate a symphony of different pans, spices, and cutting board stations. Some days, the only thing I can successfully accomplish is not frying something into oblivion.
Some meals or snacks call for being as basic as possible with some added heat.
The following three items I pick up on every grocery run because they don’t spoil fast and fit the bill perfectly for low energy days.
When we lived in Chicago, our apartment was right next to a Cuban restaurant — that’s where I discovered fried plantains. Better yet, they are simple to make, too.
If you’ve never had a plantain, it’s like a less sweet banana with more starch. They are staples in many parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, but I’ve found them in many grocery stores here in the United States, too.
Since plantains are not usually ripe at the store, I let them sit out for a few days until they’re about as blackened as the picture above. To cook, I first cut them into about 1/2 inch slices. Then I turn the heat to medium and pour just enough olive oil into the pan for the slices to slide around in. Plantains cook fast and will brown on both sides in just over five minutes.
To make this a sweet and savory snack, I sprinkle salt over the plantain slices once plated.
A classic, I know. But if you need a reminder, here it is: eggs are high in healthy protein, low in cost, and fairly simple to fry on a pan.
Additionally, I’ve discovered that the “local” or “free range” eggs that advertise “happy chickens” with names like Sally and Petunia, actually taste better, too. The yolks are richer.
Maybe try some family-owned farm eggs to see if it enhances your overall egg experience. Sometimes the carton comes with small newsletters, too, that will keep you updated on the chickens.
Breakfast for dinner is my highest recommendation after a rough day — fried eggs, bacon, and maybe some plantains. You can spend the evening eating comfort food and reading any egg carton literature you may have available.
This is a staple from my Grandma’s house. I’ve just changed it slightly.
I cut Yukon Gold potatoes in to thinner slices than I would the plantains. Then I fry them on medium heat in olive oil until they are begin to brown on both sides. They take longer than the plantains to cook through all the way, so make sure you have a bit more time (one potato might take around 15 minutes).
My grandma used to put just salt and pepper on them, but since I have a spicier palette, I also sprinkle on some paprika and cayenne as well. To make it a whole meal, I might add some frozen sausage to the pan and maybe an egg from Petunia the chicken.
Where are the Veggies?
There’s no vegetables on this list, because unlike some people, I have to prepare veggies in order to eat them. They have to go in a curry, stew, or complicated salad. At the very least, they have to be roasted.
In short, I’m not one of those people who snack on raw carrots.
On average, I probably eat a doctor-approved amount of veggies, but again, the above list is for days when inspiration is low and I need something simple and filling.
To reiterate, this is a list for days when I feel like ordering a pizza, but fry up some potatoes instead. I know it’s not as nutritious as a kale and pumpkin seed salad, but it will do me better than heavy gluten and cheese (though I concede that pizza is delicious).
Food Rotations for Low Energy Days
If not plantains, eggs, or potatoes, then ideally you have something to keep in rotation for low energy days. Feeling sluggish and eating junk food can be a positive feedback cycle of continuing low energy, so hopefully I’ve given some realistic ideas for breaking out of that cycle.
These pan-fried eats won’t make you feel ultra healthy nor ultra junky. You’ll probably land somewhere in between, which is sometimes a necessary compromise when you just can’t do it all.
Finally, if you have any other ideas for easy (healthy-ish) eats, please send them my way, as I’m always looking for more.