When There’s No Time to Cook, Choose Healthy Vegan Convenience

vegan convenienceWhipping up healthy vegan meals isn’t necessarily difficult or time-consuming. But what about those days when you don’t have enough time—or energy—to spend even 15 minutes chopping up vegetables or you are running from work to a meeting and need dinner right now?

Fortunately, convenience can be found in healthful packages. While some vegan convenience foods are just like their non-vegan counterparts—stripped of fiber and packed with sodium—it’s not true of all of them. Some of these products cost a little bit more than made-from-scratch choices, but others might even save you a little bit of money. Especially if they keep you eating at home rather than at a restaurant.

Keep these foods on hand and you can always have dinner ready in a hurry.

Trader Joe’s frozen grains: Choose individual packages of brown rice or of a medley of red, brown and wild rice. These cook up in the microwave in 3 minutes. I keep them on hand for emergencies—like at the end of the week when my supply of bulk cooked food has run out.

Frozen vegetables: The downside is that they don’t taste quite as good as fresh veggies. The tradeoff is that they are just as nutritious—sometimes more so, according to some studies—and almost always cheaper. They are also super-fast to prepare. I always have spinach, collards and corn in the freezer. They’re especially easy to toss into bean soups. Or sauté them in a little bit of oil with garlic and dried herbs to wake up their flavor.

Canned or prepared beans. Cooking beans from scratch saves lots and lots of money. But if you forgot to soak or you don’t have a pressure cooker or you simply need to have beans right now, canned beans can save the day. Dress them up with sautéed onions or just a little bit of salsa or taco seasoning and you can have dinner in minutes. If you prefer a fresher taste, look for the new Better Beans in the refrigerated section of stores. They’re already seasoned so you can have chili or Cuban black beans with absolutely no fuss.

Hummus: It’s good to always have on hand because hummus does so many things. You can dress a salad with it for an instant meal or make a quick wrap or serve it over a baked potato and top with chopped veggies.  Wild Garden hummus comes in packets and jars so it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

Baked and seasoned tofu or seitan. Chop and heat and add these to a salad or a wrap for an instant protein-packed meal. Since they are already marinated and seasoned, they are super-convenient. Upton’s Naturals line of veggie meats are lower in sodium than many comparable products and are a good fast choice.

Pre-prepped veggies: It’s a sign of the times—suggesting that people want to eat more at-home healthy meals, but don’t always have time to prepare them—that these foods are appearing in growing numbers in the produce section of the grocery store. Look for kale that is washed and torn into pieces, shredded cabbage, and peeled and cubed winter squash.

If you have favorite healthy vegan convenience foods that make your life a little easier, please share them in the forum.

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