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Tales of the laziest (healthy) cook in America

More times than I can count I started a diet by surrounding myself with cookbooks, meal plans and recipes spread out in front of me, resolved to eat nothing but healthy food as prescribed by whatever diet I was following that week. I’d make shopping lists pages long of specialized ingredients to make these healthy culinary wonders. This was followed by an hours long trip to the grocery store to fulfill the list. I’d get home, put it all away, completely exhausted and overwhelmed … and promptly grab a spoon and start eating peanut butter directly out of the jar.

One of the keys to successful weight loss and healthy living is removing obstacles. For me, those pages-long shopping lists, complicated and time-consuming recipes and religiously following someone else’s meal plan were an obstacle. I certainly wanted to eat better; I had the best of intentions, but the reality of making a from-scratch dinner every night was a huge obstacle for me.

You see, I am The Laziest Cook In America.

I just don’t want to go through the hassle of cooking something every night. I don’t have the energy, I frequently don’t have the time and I almost never have the ambition. I’m sort of a path-of-least-resistance cook. If it ain’t easy, it ain’t happening in my kitchen.

What I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey is that being a lazy cook is not an impediment to being a healthy eater. Nor does it mean that you eat out all the time. On the contrary, I’m also extraordinarily cheap.

No, what it means is that I make smart use of healthy convenience foods. Those are the items that you find in the produce section: washed, bagged salad greens, baby carrots, snap peas, pico de gallo, etc. Other healthy convenience foods are all over the grocery store: frozen black bean “burgers,” already-made quinoa and cranberry salad from the deli, and single-serving 90 calorie “fiber” bars (at my house they’re called dessert).

I get just a little bit crazy when I hear people say that it’s too time-consuming to eat healthy food because you’ve got to buy fresh produce frequently, make complicated dishes and buy specialized ingredients. It’s so much easier to grab dinner on the run or swing by the drive-thru. No! My idea of a healthy dinner couldn’t be any easier. It goes something like this:

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Grab a huge handful of pre-washed salad greens, dump a half-cup or so of deli-prepared tabbouleh on top of it, cut up some cherry tomatoes or maybe a bit of cucumber (or whatever veggies are laying around) and throw that on it. If I’m really lucky there are a few kalamata olives at the bottom of a jar in the fridge. Were you timing me? What was that, maybe two minutes? You couldn’t order pizza that fast! This is one of many salad variations I have in my handy little repertoire. I don’t have to think about it very hard because I buy all the healthy components for these dishes all the time. They may vary from season to season – apples in my steel cut oats most of the year, but in the summer it’s blackberries or peaches – but for the most part it’s essentially a formula.

I still have all of the cookbooks, and I even use them on the rare occasion. But my healthy eating plan is one that any lazy cook can replicate.

Whether you’re as lazy as I am or not, one of the most important lessons to learn about healthy living is that you play to your strengths and you manage your weaknesses. Being a lazy cook is obviously a weakness for me (and by extension my family, poor dears). But by accepting that fact about myself and figuring out a way to make it work for me I lost 120 pounds and kept it off for more than six years. My dinner won’t end up on the cover of any fancy food magazine, that’s for sure. But it’s quick, easy and it allows me to meet my health and weight goals every day. Now that’s enough to make even The Laziest Cook In America excited!

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